The Life and Romances of Cleopatra

Meeting between Cleopatra and Octavian after Battle of Actium, 1787-1788 by Louis Gauffier (1761-1801), oil on canvas, cm 83,8 x112,5 cm, 18th century
The Meeting between Cleopatra and Octavian after the Battle of Actium, 1787-1788, by Louis Gauffier (1761-1801), oil on canvas, cm 83.8 x112.5 cm. De Agostini / A. Dagli Orti / Getty Images

Cleopatra lived from 69 B.C. to 30 B.C.


Ruler: Queen of Egypt and Pharaoh.

Husbands and Mates of Cleopatra

51 B.C. Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII become Egypt's rulers/siblings/spouses. In 48 B.C. Cleopatra and Julius Caesar became lovers. She became the sole ruler when her brother was drowned during the Alexandrian War (47 B.C.). Cleopatra then had to marry another brother for the sake of formality, Ptolemy XIV. In 44 B.C. Julius Caesar died. Cleopatra had her brother killed and appointed her 4-year-old son Caesarion as co-regent. Mark Antony became her lover in 41 B.C.

Caesar and Cleopatra

In 48 B.C. Julius Caesar arrived in Egypt and met a 22-year old Cleopatra, rolled in a carpet, supposedly. An affair followed, leading to the birth of a son, Caesarion. Caesar and Cleopatra left Alexandria for Rome in 45 B.C. A year later Caesar was assassinated.

Antony and Cleopatra

When Mark Antony and Octavian (to become Emperor Augustus) came to power in the aftermath of the assassination of Caesar, Cleopatra took up with Antony and had two children by him. Rome was upset with this dalliance since Antony was giving parts of the Roman Empire back to their client Egypt.

Octavian declared war on Cleopatra and Antony. He defeated them at the Battle of Actium.

The Death of Cleopatra

Cleopatra is thought to have killed herself. The legend is that she killed herself by putting an asp to her breast while sailing on a barge. After Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Egypt, Egypt became just another province of Rome.

Fluency in Languages

Cleopatra is known to have been the first in the family of the Ptolemies of Egypt to have learned to speak the local tongue. She is said to have also spoken: Greek (native language), the languages of the Medes, Parthians, Jews, Arabs, Syrians, Trogodytae, and Ethiopians (Plutarch, according to Goldsworthy in Antony and Cleopatra (2010)).

About Cleopatra

Cleopatra was the last pharaoh of the Macedonian dynasty that had ruled Egypt since Alexander the Great left his general Ptolemy in charge there in 323 B.C.

Cleopatra (actually Cleopatra VII) was the daughter of Ptolemy Auletes (Ptolemy XII) and the wife of her brother, as was the custom in Egypt, Ptolemy XIII, and then, when he died, Ptolemy XIV. Cleopatra paid little attention to her spouses and ruled in her own right.

Cleopatra is best known for her relations with leading Romans, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and the manner of her death. By the time of Ptolemy Auletes, Egypt was very much under Roman control and obligated financially to Rome. The story is told that Cleopatra arranged to meet the great Roman leader Julius Caesar by being rolled into a carpet, which was presented to Caesar as a gift. From her self-presentation, however much it may be a fiction, Cleopatra and Caesar had a relationship that was part political and part sexual. Cleopatra presented Caesar with a male heir, although Caesar didn't see the boy as such. Caesar took Cleopatra to Rome with him. When he was killed on the Ides of March, 44 B.C., it was time for Cleopatra to return home. Soon another powerful Roman leader presented himself in the person of Mark Antony, who with Octavian (soon to become Augustus), had taken control of Rome. Antony and Octavian were related by marriage, but after a short time with Cleopatra, Antony stopped caring about his wife, Octavian's sister. Other jealousies between the two men and concern over the undue influence Egypt and Egyptian interests were having on Antony, led to open conflict. In the end, Octavian won, Antony and Cleopatra died, and Octavian took out his hostility on Cleopatra's reputation. As a result, however popular Cleopatra may be in the arts, we know surprisingly little about her.

Also, see a Chronology of Cleopatra's Life.

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Gill, N.S. "The Life and Romances of Cleopatra." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Gill, N.S. (2023, April 5). The Life and Romances of Cleopatra. Retrieved from Gill, N.S. "The Life and Romances of Cleopatra." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).