Cleopatra The Last Egyptian Pharaoh  

Posted by Stella Clark

Cleopatra The Last Egyptian Pharaoh Image
Cleopatra! What a life! What a woman! What a nose! Like all the greats, she is known to one and all simply by the one name. Her's was a life that was set to dominate world events in the most dramatic of fashions. I blame the parents, from the day she graced the world with her presence, she was informed that she was a goddess, she believed herself to be divine. There were going to be stormy waters ahead. She was the first of the great Divas, her modern sisters Beyonce, Britney and Mariah pale in comparison. Perhaps she influenced them, but she took her influence from the gods themselves, using Isis and Aphrodite as her blueprints. Reinventing herself more than Madonna, Cleopatra was her own best publicist/historian, she had a mood and a costume for every occasion, enchanting the masses with mighty pageantry.

She is one of the most enduring figures in history, yet she is also one of the most elusive. Bizarrely and maddeningly, we still do not know what she actually looked like. Her beauty is feted but other accounts assert her to be beautiful as opposed to a beauty, we have no idea, we are not even certain whether she looked Greek or Egyptian. Much of the blame for the lack of sources can be apportioned to Octavian who ordered that all images of her be destroyed, he also spread tales about her which blurs the line between fact and fiction regarding her.

We know it began hairy, her beauty was a product of the union of a brother and sister, dodgy beginnings to say the least. At the tender age of eighteen, Cleopatra became joint monarch of Egypt along with her twelve year old brother, Ptolemy XIII who she bizarrely later married. Cleopatra didn't like to share anything, she attempted to depose of her younger brother/husband, but in the end it was her who was left fleeing the country with her younger sister. Gone but not for good, she spent her exile in the desert rallying Arab tribes to her cause. Meanwhile, however things were going a tad pear shaped back in Alexandria for Ptolemy XIII. Four thousand Roman legionnaires arrived in the port, led by none other than Julius Caesar himself. Ptolemy fled lively, Julius moved into the palace and began doling out orders. Cleopatra however, was not going to be so easily jilted; famously she smuggled her way into the palace in a rolled carpet. As it was unfurled, the beautiful Cleopatra gracefully emerged, capturing an audience with Caesar and his heart. Ptolemy was understandably rather furious; he had lost his sister, co-ruler, wife and kingdom. He waged war on Alexandria, it proved to be a rash decision, he lost the war and found himself at the bottom of the Nile.

Cleopatra was now the sole ruler of Egypt, albeit with serious Roman backing. Caesar believed that he would be able to use her as a puppet, he had obviously not really got to know her that well. She willingly married her eleven year old brother, Ptolemy XIV to appease the Alexandrian lobby whilst at the same time becoming pregnant in a hurry by Caesar. Their son, Ptolemy Caesar was born in 47 BCE, he became better known as Caesarion meaning Little Caesar. The little guy was something of a pawn between the two, Cleopatra realised that she required the support of Rome to keep her in control of Egypt, while Caesar had seen at first hand how the Egyptian people worshipped Cleopatra, that together they could unite Rome and Egypt and that Little Caesar would rule the whole shebang. However, it definitely was not solely a marriage of convenience, for Caesar brought his mistress back to Rome, although it shocked society, for Caesar was already married. He established her in his home, where she lived in rather a rock and roll fashion. She fashioned herself as the new Isis, refused to worship Roman gods, lived in opulence and basically scandalized Rome. The celebrity couple's exuberance was cut short however, with the assassination of Julius in 44 BCE by a conspiracy of Roman senators. Cleopatra fled Rome with the four year old Caesarion. She was in a perilous position, Caesar had not made any provisions for her, she returned to an Egypt that was ravaged by plague and famine. But Cleopatra was nothing if not capable, she quickly set about murdering her brother Ptolemy XIV and establishing herself and her cherished Little Caesar as co-regents.

In the wake of Julius Caesar's assassination, Rome was flung into a bloody battle of succession with Mark Antony's Second Triumvirate (consisting of he, Octavian and Lepidua) emerging victorious. He summoned Cleopatra to Tarsus in modern day Turkey under the dubious pretext of quizzing her about her loyalty. Cleopatra seized upon the opportunity, she arrived in the port of Tarsus with a magnificent fleet, sporting silver oars and purple sails. Cleopatra ensured that she made maximum impact, dressed as Aphrodite, being fanned by Erotes clad boys and Neried handmaidens. It worked, Mark Antony was bowled over, falling deeply in love with the Egyptian Queen. Cleopatra had marked him well, he was fond of wine and women, was vain, setting himself up as Dionysus and claiming to be ancestor of Hercules. The meeting became more than the cementing of a political alliance, it burgeoned into a marriage of two gods, their union would indeed change the order of the universe. Once again, Cleopatra brought the most powerful man in Rome back to Alexandria, once again he did favours for her (including killing her sister Aristone) and once again she fell pregnant quickly, giving birth to twins in 40 BCE, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene.

Mark Antony though had learnt well from the mistakes of Julius Caesar, he returned to his wife, Fulvia in Rome, leaving Cleopatra in Egypt, the two would not meet again for four years. Fulvia brought her own problems however, she had fallen foul of Octavian, but somewhat fortunately she died, giving Mark Anthony the opportunity to patch things ups with Octavian by marrying his sister, Octavia Minor. However, it was obvious that Mark Anthony was still quite smitten by Cleopatra, for when he went to war with the Parthians, he sent for her to meet him at Antioch. They exchanged gifts, Mark Anthony giving Cleopatra huge tracts of land while she opened up her bounteous coffers to him. In the subsequent war however, Mark Antony was fairly battered, he fell into the open and protective arms of Cleopatra, returning to Egypt with her in 35BCE, spurning Octavia who remained loyal to him and making Octavian furious. The die was cast, Mark Antony decided there was no going back, he married Cleopatra and at the Donations of Alexandria he began doling out parts of the Eastern Roman Empire between her and her children. Cleopatra never one to be behind the door, began to set her sights on becoming Empress of the world.

However, Octavian beat the lard out of Mark Antony at Actium in Greece and then pursued his retreating forces into Egypt. Mark Antony, believing Cleopatra to be dead, killed himself; Cleopatra followed suit a few days later preferring death than to see the Romans march victoriously through the streets of Alexandria. To the end she remained enchanting, calling for an asp to be brought to her, the Egyptian religion proclaimed that death by a snakebite would secure immortality. Her death marked the end of the Egyptian Monarchs, and so a culture that had spanned thousands of years ended, Egypt was conquered and inaugurated as a province into the Eastern Roman Empire. Cleopatra was the last Pharaoh of Egypt.

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This entry was posted on 2 March 2010 at Tuesday, March 02, 2010 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the .