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The Pharaohs

Cleopatra VII
Birth name: Cleopatra Netjeret-merites ("Cleopatra, Goddess, Beloved of Her Father")
Rule: 51 - 30 BC (last ruler of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, Graeco-Roman Period)
Noteworthy relatives: Ptolemy XII (father) Ptolemy XIII (brother), Ptolemy XIV (brother), Arsinoe (sister), Ptolemy XV Caesarion (son)

 

King Philip of Greece had a talent for war. He conquered city after city throughout Greece, uniting it into one kingdom with himself as its king. His next plan was to go after the Persians, but he was assassinated before he could do so. His son Alexander became king next, and he did carry out his father's plan. "Alexander the Great" invaded and conquered the Persian Empire, which at the time included Egypt. The Egyptians hated the Persians so they were pretty keen on Alexander.

In time, Greece became a huge empire of its own. When Alexander died, his empire fractured into three major kingdoms, each ruled by the family of one of his army commanders. It was the family of Ptolemy I that ruled over Egypt. It would turn out that the Ptolemaic Dynasty would be Egypt's final dynasty.

 

The woman we think of as "Cleopatra" is actually Cleopatra VII. She was 100% Greek but is believed to have been able to read, write, and speak Egyptian. She was married to her older brother Ptolemy XIII and they ruled Egypt together, although they hated each other. He tried to have her killed but Cleopatra was tipped off and she fled to Syria. She returned with an army and the two had a stand-off with neither side willing to budge. At about the same time, the Roman dictator Julius Caesar arrived on the scene. He sided with Cleopatra and killed Ptolemy XIII. Cleopatra and Caesar became romantically involved and had a son named Ptolemy XV Caesarion. She followed Caesar back to Rome and stayed there until his death. Then she and her son returned to Egypt to rule.

After Caesar died, there was a power struggle between his adopted son Octavian and his friend Mark Antony. Cleopatra became romantically involved with Mark Antony and they hoped to create an enormous kingdom of Egypt and Rome together. In 31 BC the feud between Octavian and Antony erupted into a battle at sea off the coast of Greece. Antony and Cleopatra ditched the battle and fled back to Egypt, defeated. The following year Octavian came to Egypt to assume control of Egypt. Cleopatra didn't want to be humiliated by being paraded through Rome as a prisoner, so she killed herself, supposedly by letting an asp bite her. Egypt was now part of the Roman Empire and was thereafter ruled by emperors, not pharaohs.

Watch: "History vs. Cleopatra"