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Cleopatra(klēəpă`trə, –pā`–, –pä`–), 69 B.C.–30 B.C., queen of Egypt, one of the great romantic heroines of all time. Her name was widely used in the Ptolemaic family; she was Cleopatra VII. The daughter of Ptolemy XIIPtolemy XII
(Ptolemy Auletes) , d. 51 B.C., king of ancient Egypt (80–58 B.C., 55–51 B.C.), of the Macedonian dynasty, illegitimate son of Ptolemy IX. He is also called Ptolemy Neos Dionysus.
..... Click the link for more information. , she was married at the age of 17 (as was the family custom) to her younger brother Ptolemy XIIIPtolemy XIII,
61?–47 B.C., king of ancient Egypt (51–47 B.C.), of the Macedonian dynasty; son of Ptolemy XII. On the death of his father he was under the guardianship of Pompey.
..... Click the link for more information. , and the two inherited the crown in 51 B.C. The force and character of the royal pair was, however, concentrated in the alluring (though apparently not beautiful), intelligent, and ambitious queen. She led a revolt against her brother, and, obtaining the aid of Julius CaesarCaesar, Julius
(Caius Julius Caesar), 100? B.C.–44 B.C., Roman statesman and general. Rise to Power
Although he was born into the Julian gens, one of the oldest patrician families in Rome, Caesar was always a member of the democratic or popular party.
..... Click the link for more information. , whose mistress she had become, she won the kingdom, although it remained a vassal of Rome. During the war, her young brother-husband was accidentally drowned in the Nile. She then married her still younger brother Ptolemy XIVPtolemy XIV,
d. 44 B.C., king of ancient Egypt (47–44 B.C.), the last of the Macedonian dynasty, but for his sister, Cleopatra. He was a child when his brother Ptolemy XIII drowned. Julius Caesar married him to Cleopatra in 47 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. , but she followed Caesar to Rome; there she bore a son, Caesarion (later Ptolemy XVPtolemy XV
(Ptolemy Caesarion), 47–30 B.C., son of Cleopatra and (almost certainly) Julius Caesar. He became joint ruler with his mother, but played no role in the great and tragic events that brought Egypt and Cleopatra to their doom.
..... Click the link for more information. ), who was said to be his.
Returning to Egypt after the murder of Caesar and the battle of PhilippiPhilippi
, ancient city, E Macedonia. Inhabited by Thracians and then Thasians, it was renamed (probably 356 B.C.) by Philip II of Macedon, who developed and fortified it. Near the city was fought the decisive battle in which Octavian (Augustus) and Antony defeated (42 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. , she acceded to the summons of Marc AntonyAntony
or Marc Antony,
Lat. Marcus Antonius, c.83 B.C.–30 B.C., Roman politican and soldier. He was of a distinguished family; his mother was a relative of Julius Caesar.
..... Click the link for more information. to meet him at Tarsus. She famously arrived (42 B.C.) on a gilded, purple-sailed barge, reclining on a divan and luxuriously attended. Intending to demand an account of her actions, he fell hopelessly in love with her. Cleopatra, conscious of her royalty and even her claims to divinity as the pharaoh's daughter, seems to have hoped to use Antony to reestablish the real power of the Egyptian throne. They were married in 36 B.C. Most of the Romans feared and hated Cleopatra, and Octavian (later AugustusAugustus
, 63 B.C.–A.D. 14, first Roman emperor, a grandson of the sister of Julius Caesar. Named at first Caius Octavius, he became on adoption by the Julian gens (44 B.C.) Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus (Octavian); Augustus was a title of honor granted (27 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information. ) undertook to destroy the two lovers. Antony and Cleopatra were defeated in a battle off Actium in 31 B.C., and, returning to Alexandria, they tried to defend themselves in Egypt. When they failed, Antony committed suicide by falling on his sword. Cleopatra, faced by the cold and unmoved Octavian, also killed herself. Her schemes ultimately failed, but her ambition, capability, and remarkable charm have left a great impression on history. Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, based on Plutarch, describes the tragic end of the queen's career, and Dryden's All for Love: or, The World Well Lost is a reworking of Shakespeare. Caesar and Cleopatra, the comedy by G. B. Shaw, deals with the early years of her story.
See biographies by J. Lindsay (1971), M. Grant (1973), L. Hughes-Hallett (1990), J. Fletcher (2008), D. W. Roller (2010), and S. Schiff (2010); J. Samson, Nefertiti and Cleopatra (1987); D. Preston, Cleopatra and Antony (2009); A. Goldsworthy, Antony and Cleopatra (2010).