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Cleopatra: The Last Pharaoh of Egypt

Well-educated, a world ruler, and an established diplomat. These are difficult feats to accomplish in any era, but somehow Cleopatra did them all, thousands of years ago. This is the story of how a woman came to lead Egypt.

Cleopatra’s dad, Ptolemy XII, led an ancient Greek dynasty that took over Egypt in 305 B.C. He favored Cleopatra over all her other siblings. When she was 18 she was crowned queen even though she was not the oldest. She co-ruled with her brother Ptolemy XIII as king and she as queen. It was very common back then for people to get married to their family members. Even though Cleopatra did not want to share the throne, she still married to honor traditions. The young king wanted the throne for himself and war raged. They both fled to different parts of Rome and quickly allied themselves with powerful people. Cleopatra turned to some of the most powerful men in Rome, one in particular, Julius Caesar, to help her regain full power in Egypt.

Caesar and Cleopatra had a huge age difference. Caesar was about 30 years older than Cleopatra and was also married. They had an affair, and out of love he lavished her with gifts and gave her almost anything she wanted. In 47 B.C. Cleopatra’s brother and co-ruler drowned in the Nile River. She then married her 12-year-old brother Ptolemy XlV following tradition.

She and Caesar had a son, named Caesarion. Their relationship ended in 44 B.C. when Caesar was killed by enemies he had in the Senate. Cleopatra remained in Rome until they placed a new ruler, trying to get Rome to recognize Caesar as the rightful ruler. They would not. She returned to Egypt where historians think she had Ptolemy XIV poisoned. With all her siblings out of her way, Cleopatra then had the Egyptian throne to herself. Cleopatra then became the pharaoh of Egypt.

Even though Caesar was dead, Cleopatra’s relationship with Rome was far from over. A Roman general named Mark Antony, who was one of Rome's co-leaders, demanded an audience with Cleopatra. They both agreed to continue the Egypt-Rome alliance. They met in modern-day Turkey in 41 B.C.. Cleopatra is thought to have arrived in very high style with, “carefully chosen costumes, divine associations, expensive textiles, jewels, and music,” writes art historian Diana E.E. Kleiher. The pharaoh meant to impress the Romans and she did a magnificent job. She then had a long affair with Antony, who then moved to Alexandria to be with her.

The success of their relationship led to both of their demise. Anthony's co-rulers and his people sought war on him for what they thought to be Egypt interfering with Roman affairs. The war went on until 30 B.C. when the Egyptian pharaoh realized that Antony's troops were going to be defeated. She and Antony then locked themselves in her royal mausoleum and she said that she would stab herself so Antony stabbed himself in response and ended up dying in her arms.

Cleopatra tries to negotiate with Octavian, one of Antony’s co-rulers, but she later finds out that he intends to take her captive and parade her around like a prize. She again locked herself in her tomb with a few of her servants and killed herself, most likely with poison. With Egypt’s ruler gone, Egypt was open for the taking. Soon after, Rome now had rule over Egypt, and Cleopatra's dynasty was over.

Cleopatra was one of the most powerful women in history. Her intelligence, ability to capture the attention of others and power allowed her to take over Egypt and obtain her ultimate goals. She succeeded at a time when no one wanted to see a woman succeed.

[Source: National Geographic]

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