Cleopatra Study Guide

Biography, Timeline, and Study Questions

Cleopatra Bust from Altes Museum in Berlin, Germany.
Cleopatra Bust from Altes Museum in Berlin, Germany. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Study Guides > Cleopatra

Cleopatra (January 69 B.C. - August 12, 30 B.C.) was the last pharaoh of Egypt. Following her death, Rome took over as ruler of Egypt. She was not an Egyptian, however, despite being pharaoh, but a Macedonian in the Ptolemaic dynasty that a Macedonian Ptolemy I Soter started. Ptolemy was a military leader under Alexander the Great and possibly a close relative.

Cleopatra was one of several children of a descendant of this first Ptolemy, Ptolemy XII Auletes. Her two older sisters were Berenice IV and Cleopatra VI who may have died early in life. Berenice staged a coup while Ptolemy Auletes was in power. With Roman backing, Auletes was able to regain the throne and have his daughter Berenice executed.

An Egyptian custom that the Macedonian Ptolemies adopted was for pharaohs to marry their siblings. Thus, when Ptolemy XII Auletes died, he left the care of Egypt in the hand of Cleopatra (aged about 18) and her younger brother Ptolemy XIII (aged about 12).

Ptolemy XIII, influenced by his courtiers, forced Cleopatra to flee from Egypt. She regained control of Egypt through the help of Julius Caesar, with whom she had an affair and a son named Caesarion.

Following the death of Ptolemy XIII, Cleopatra married an even younger brother, Ptolemy XIV. In time, she ruled along with another Ptolemaic male, her son Caesarion.

Cleopatra is known best for her love affairs with Caesar and Mark Antony, by whom she had three children, and her suicide by snake bite after her husband Antony took his own life.

The death of Cleopatra put an end to Egyptian pharaohs ruling Egypt. After Cleopatra's suicide, Octavian took control of Egypt, putting it into Roman hands.

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Overview | Important Facts | Discussion Questions | What Did Cleopatra Look Like? | Pictures | Timeline | Terms

Study Guide

  • Describe the relationship between Octavian and Cleopatra.
  • Why did Caesar not adopt Caesarion as his heir?
  • What gave Rome the right to Egypt?
  • Does Cleopatra deserve her reputation as a seductress?
  • Was Cleopatra more of an Egyptian or Greek monarch?

Bibliography

  • , edited by Susan Walker and Peter Higgs
  • Shakespeare's
  • George Bernard Shaw's

This is part of a series (study guide) on the legendary Egyptian queen Cleopatra. On this page you'll find basic facts -- like her birthday and names of members of her family.

The Cleopatra Study Guide:

  • Birth

    Cleopatra was born in 69 B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt. She died August 12, 30 B.C.
  • Family of Origin

    She was a daughter of Pharaoh Ptolemy XII Auletes. Her mother is subject to dispute. She may have been the daughter of Cleopatra V Tryphaina, although Strabo 17.1.11 says only one of the daughters of Ptolemy was legitimate, and that not Cleopatra.

    Cleopatra married her younger brother Ptolemy XIII and after his death, married her younger brother Ptolemy XIV. Later she married the Roman Mark Antony.

  • Children

    Cleopatra had one son by Caesar, named Caesarion. She had twins with Mark Antony, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, and later, a son, Ptolemy Philadelphos.
  • Name/Title

    She was actually Cleopatra VII, the last pharaoh of Egypt (although you could argue that role was her son's) because Rome took control of Egypt following her death.
  • Death

    After Mark Antony committed suicide, so did Cleopatra. The story is that she took an asp to her breast and let the poisonous snake bite her.
  • Ancestors

    Although her family had adopted Egyptian customs, like having pharaohs marry their siblings, Cleopatra and her family were really Macedonians who had gone to Egypt with Alexander the Great.

Overview | Important Facts | Study Questions | What Did Cleopatra Look Like? | Pictures | Timeline | Terms