C – is for Cleopatra VIII

‘Cleopatra VII Philopator was born in 69 BCE and ruled jointly with her father, Ptolemy XII Auletes. When she was eighteen years old, her father died, leaving her the throne. Because Egyptian tradition held that a woman needed a male consort to rule, her twelve-year old brother, Ptolemy XIII, was ceremonially married to her. Cleopatra soon dropped his name from all official documents, however, and ruled alone.

Mark Antony and Cleopatra became lovers and would remain so for ten years. She would bear him three children and he considered her his wife, even though he was married, first, to Fulvia and then to Octavia, the sister of Octavian. He eventually divorced Octavia to marry Cleopatra legally. Although traditionally regarded as a great beauty, the ancient writers uniformly praise her intelligence and charm over her physical attributes.’

Cleopatra tried to get Octavian’s support for her children’s succession to power, but was unable to come to an agreement with him. In 30 BCE, Marc Antony killed himself, reportedly because he’d been told that Cleopatra had been killed, and when yet another attempt to keep power failed, Cleopatra killed herself.

Egypt and Cleopatra’s Children After Cleopatra’s Death

Egypt became a province of Rome, ending the rule of the Ptolemies. Cleopatra’s children were taken to Rome. Caligula later executed Ptolemy Caesarion, and Cleopatra’s other sons simply disappear from history and are assumed to have died. Cleopatra’s daughter, Cleopatra Selene, married Juba, king of Numidia and Mauretania.

Fun tidbits: She was a highly educated person. She knew at least a dozen languages. She was also a published author, writing at least two treatises on medical subjects, the predominant discipline of her era.

She was a naval commander. As a royal personage, she was skilled in the arts of warfare, and twice led her fleet in battle.

She did not die by the bite of an asp. The Egyptian asp (cobra) is several feet long and generally not fatal. She probably died by poison, as the sources consistently say, but may have left a suicide note fabricating the story of death.



‘’ Written by Joshua J. Mark, published on 02 September 2009 under the following license: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms.




One response to “C – is for Cleopatra VIII”

  1. Excellent post and so interesting to read.

    Yvonne via the A to Z /

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