Cleopatra VII was born in 69 BCE in Alexandria, Egypt. The name 'Cleopatra' is Greek for father's glory... 'honoring or glory' is 'cleo', 'klos' and 'father' is 'patros' and is the female derivative of Patroklos. She was born into the dynasty of the Ptolemies who had ruled Egypt for three hundred years, descended of the Macedonians. Not only was Cleopatra a brilliant woman who spoke nine languages, she was a political marvel who used every advantage she could to promote the prosperity of her lands. She took calculated risks and aligned herself astutely for a girl and a woman who, under extreme circumstances, managed to escape assassination and defeat time and time again by her wits. She is arguably the foremost influential woman ruler of the ancient world, and like many women of history, is a victim of conjecture and portrayed as everything from a lustful harlot, to a well-intentioned ruler, to a cunning bitch.
A middle daughter of six children born to the ruling Auletes Ptolemy, she had two older and one younger sister, and two younger brothers, both of whom she married as consorts in due custom with Egyptian law at the time. Cleopatra came into ruling power in 51 BCE, when her father died and left the power to rule to her, then in her eighteenth year.
As every Egyptian queen was required to have a male consort that was either their brother or their son, she married her brother Ptolemy XIII, though she ignored him as a ruling party and excluded his name from documents and minted coins. Cleopatra was in a hot contest for rule with the more powerful officials of her court, and when they made a move to support her brother solely as ruler, themselves as regents, Cleopatra fled the country.
It was only when Caesar came to Alexandria, inciting riots and causing Ptolemy XIII to flee and installing himself in the palace did Cleopatra return to her home, rolled in a carpet, disguised as a gift for Caesar. It is said that she seduced Caesar and convinced him that she would be a stronger ally than her brother, and thus Caesar reinstalled her as co-ruler. This didn't last long though, as an attempt to destroy Caesar by penning him in was led by Ptolemy XIII's regent eunuch Pothinus . Ptolemy's twenty thousand soldiers were unable defeat Caesar's four thousand some legionnaires and cavalry, as they kept control of the Pharos (the great lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world) and thus controlled the harbour. During this war Cleopatra's younger sister, Arsinoe, whom it was believed that she was close to,(as she had accompanied her in her exile,) fled the palace and was declared queen by the opposing forces. Cleopatra's brother drowned while trying to escape Caesar's forces. Cleopatra married her younger brother, then eleven years of age and was left as sole ruler of Egypt, in theory, at least.
Caesar and Cleopatra spent a great deal of time together following the Alexandrian war, and they toured the Nile for two months. On June 23rd, 47 BCE, Cleopatra bore Caesar a son, Caesarian, whom he openly claimed. Caesar returned to Rome in 46 BCE and brought Cleopatra along a few months later, installing her in his home openly. Romans, being distrustful of such a strong foreign influence on their proclaimed dictator of the next 10 years, made their opinions known of Cleopatra. She was 'oriental,' very un-Roman and not popular, nor was she accepted in Rome to the level of which she was undoubtedly accustomed, though she lived lavishly. When Caesar was disposed on the Ides of March, 44 BCE, Cleopatra was forced to flee back to Alexandria, as it was postulated that both she and Caesarian's life was in danger. Caesar did not mention either Cleopatra or Caesarian in his will, instead, naming Octavian as his successor, who was later to become Cleopatra's mortal enemy. After returning to Alexandria, Cleopatra had her co-ruling younger brother assassinated, and made her son Caesarian her consort.
Cleopatra, now waiting in the wings, had to focus on the second triumvirate and how that would play out between Mark Antony, Octavian and Lepidus. When Antony invited her to Tarsus (Turkey) and Octavian appeared to be very ill and failing, she made her choice, and went in full retinue to seduce Antony, appearing to him as Venus. They spent two years together in Alexandria until Antony returned to Rome in 40 BCE. That same year, his wife Fulvia died, Cleopatra had his twins (one boy and one girl), and Antony married Octavian's sister, Octavia, in an attempt to smooth relations with him. Although they had children, the first was a girl and Antony sent for Cleopatra to join him at Antioch, having been separated some four years.
In Antioch, Antony officially recognized the twins and named them Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene. He gave a gift of land to Cleopatra important mainly because it allowed Cleopatra to take Egypt's riches and build a fleet of ships, a fine bargain for all.
The fleet of ships Cleopatra gave to Antony was defeated by the Parthians in 36 BCE, and she went with supplies and reinforcements to meet Antony in Syria. Antony did not return to Octavia in Rome, but went on to be with Cleopatra in Alexandria, which caused Octavian to continue to provoke him. Antony had a successful campaign against Armenia in 34 BCE, with Cleopatra's help, though it was his last.
Antony and Cleopatra were more of an alliance than ever, and he minted silver Roman denarii with her image. Cleopatra referred to herself as the incarnation of the New Isis, her long adored goddess. Antony sat upon the Egyptian throne, and their children, along with Caesarian were bestowed royal titles and lands. In 31 BCE Antony divorced Octavia, and Octavian, seizing the moment and public sway, published Antony's will. Octavian then proclaimed war against Cleopatra. In Actium, Octavian's navy trounced Antony under Agrippa's command, on September 2, 31 BC, forcing Antony back to Alexandria, where he was later defeated. Antony committed suicide by falling on his own sword, leaving Cleopatra, not for the first time, without a champion. Octavian made it clear to Cleopatra that she would be paraded through the cities which she had ruled as a slave, just as her sister Arsinoe had been. Cleopatra, as always, was master of her own fate, and ended her life by taking an asp to her breast on August 12th, 30 BCE, at the age of thirty-nine, thus securing immortality as she died by a snake bite in accordance with Egyptian religious belief. Soon after her suicide, Caesarian, then seventeen and a perceived threat to Octavian, was strangled. Her remaining children were raised by Octavia. With her died the end of the rule of the Pharaohs, and the beginning of the rule of Egypt by Roman Emperors...
Cleopatra was the last Pharaoh.