Timeline of Major Events in the Life of Cleopatra

Basin with Scenes from the Life of Cleopatra
Basin with Scenes from the Life of Cleopatra; After a sketch by Bernardo Strozzi [Italian, 1581 - 1644] Perhaps modeled by Francesco Fanelli [Italian, about 1590 - after 1653] Unknown maker, Dutch or Flemish silversmith. J. Paul Getty Museum

The very last Egyptian pharaoh was Cleopatra VII (69–30 BCE) also known as Cleopatra Philopater, the famous Cleopatra of the plays by George Bernard Shaw and movies starring Elizabeth Taylor. As a result, what we most recall of this fascinating woman are her love affairs with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony: but she was much more than that.

This timeline of Cleopatra's life begins with her birth in Alexandria as a princess in the Ptolemaic court to her suicide in Alexandria a brief 39 years later.

 

Birth and Rise to Power

69: Cleopatra is born in Alexandria, the second of five children to King Ptolemy XII and an unknown woman. 

58: Ptolemy Auletes (also known as Ptolemy XII) flees Egypt, and Cleopatra's elder sister Berenike IV takes the throne. 

55: Ptolemy XII is restored to the throne by the Romans including Mark Anthony; Berenike IV is executed.

51: Ptolemy XII dies, leaving his kingdom to joint rule by his 18-year-old daughter, Cleopatra and her younger brother Ptolemy XIII. By mid-year she removes Ptolemy XII from joint rule and forms a brief alliance with Ptolemy XIV. 

50: Ptolemy XIII regains ascendancy with the help of Ptolemy XII's ministers.

49: Gnaeus Pompeius the Younger comes to Alexandria asking for help; together the pharaohs send  ships and troops. 

Caesar and Cleopatra

48: Cleopatra is removed from power by Theodotas and Achillas, arrives in Syria and raises an army. The elder Pompey is defeated in Thessaly at Pharsalus, in August.

Pompey the younger arrives in Egypt and is murdered as he steps ashore in Egypt on September 28. Caesar takes up residence in Alexandria and when Cleopatra returns from Syria, he forces a reconciliation between Ptolemy XIII and Cleopatra. Ptolemy begins the Alexandrian War. 

47: Alexandrian War is settled but Ptolemy XIII is killed.

Caesar makes Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIV joint monarchs, including Cyprus. Caesar leaves Alexandria and Caesarion (Ptolemy Caesar), Caesar and Cleopatra's son is born June 23. 

46: Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIV visit Rome where they are made allied monarchs with Caesar. A statue of Cleopatra is erected in the forum and returns to Alexandria

44: Cleopatra goes to Rome, and  Caesar is assassinated on March 15. Cleopatra returns to Alexandria as Octavian arrives, and has Ptolemy XIV eliminated. 

43: Formation of the Second Triumvirate: Antony, Octavian (Augustus), and Lepidus. Cassius approaches Cleopatra for assistance; she sends four of Caesar's legions in Egypt to Dolabella. The triumvirs grant official recognition of Caesarion. 

42: Victory of the triumvirate at Philippi (in Macedonia)

Cleopatra and Antony

41: Antony meets Cleopatra at Tarsus; he confirms her position and joins her in Egypt for a vacation

40: In spring, Antony returns to Rome, Cleopatra gives birth to Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene. Marc Antony's wife Fulvia dies. and Antony marries Octavia. The Second Triumvirate partitions the Mediterranean:  

  1. Octavian commands the western provinces - (Spain, Sardinia, Sicily, Transalpine Gaul, Narbonne)
  1. Antony  commands the eastern provinces (Macedonia, Asia, Bithynia, Cilicia, Syria)
  2. Lepidus commands Africa (Tunisia and Algeria)

37: Marc Antony establishes headquarters at Antioch and sends for Cleopatra who brings their three-year-old twins. Antony begins to make major territorial distributions to her, which meet with public disfavor in Rome. 

36: Parthian campaign of Marc Antony, Cleopatra travels with it, makes a tour of new possessions and visits Hero and has a fourth child, Ptolemy Philadelphos. When the Parthian expedition fails, Antony returns to Alexandrian with Cleopatra. In Rome, Lepidus is eliminated, Octavian controls Africa and becomes the effective ruler of Rome

35: Antagonism between Antony and Octavian intensifies and Antony ceases campaigning for the year with no significant accomplishments.

 

34: Parthian campaign is renewed; the disloyal king of Armenia is captured. Cleopatra and Antony celebrate by holding the Donations of Alexandria ceremony, codifying her territories and making her children rulers of various areas. Octavian and the citizens of Rome are outraged. 

33: Triumvirate collapses, the result of a propaganda war between Antony and Octavian. 

32: Senators and consuls loyal to antony join in hte in east. cleopatra and Antony move to Ephesus and begin to consolidate their forces there and in Samos and Athens. Antony divorces Octavian's sister Octavia, and Octavian declares war on Cleopatra. 

End of the Ptolemies

31: Battle of Actium (September 2) and victory of Octavian; Cleopatra returns to Egypt to hand over the kingdom to Caesarian but is thwarted by Malchos. Octavian moves to Rhodes and negotiations begin. 

30: Negotiations fail and Octavian invades Egypt. Cleopatra sends Antony a note that she has committed suicide and he stabs himself and dies on August 1; on August 10, she commits suicide herself. Her son  Caesarion becomes king but Octavian has him killed as he travels to Alexandria. The Ptolemaic dynasty ends, and Egypt becomes a Roman province on August 29. 

Sources and Further Reading

  • Chaveau, Michel, ed. "Cleopatra: Beyond the Myth." Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002.
  • Cooney, Kara. "When Women Ruled the World, Six Queens of Egypt." Washington DC: National Geographic Partners, 2018. 
  • Roler, Duane W. "Cleopatra: A Biography. Women in Antiquity." Eds. Ancona, Ronnie and Sarah B. Pomeroy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.