Cleopatra (Ancient World Leaders)

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Cleopatra’s Affairs Were a Political Gamble… that Failed

Stock photo. New other : lowest price The lowest-priced item in unused and unworn condition with absolutely no signs of wear. The unwritten expectation was that the man would be the senior ruler, but when Cleopatra ascended the throne her brother was only ten years old and too young to take an active role in government. She went to Thebes to preside over the ceremonies inaugurating a new sacred bull.

The animal was believed to contain the earthly spirit of the great god Amun -Re and its consecration was one of the most important moments in Egyptian religious life. It was the first time a Ptolemy had traveled that far south and her visit was well received. The capital city presented a different picture, however. A quarrel with the Gabinians , the ragtag remnant of a Roman legion based in Alexandria, a disastrous harvest, and the gift to the Roman general Pompey of sixty ships and a large quantity of grain galvanized the opposition and she was driven from the throne in 49 BCE.

The following year Julius Caesar, having defeated Pompey in battle, arrived in Alexandria, hoping to collect the balance of the loan and raise a little extra for his next campaign. Cleopatra had been able to organize a small army in Thebes but it was not enough to enable her to regain the throne. In similar circumstances her father had successfully used the services of Rome and she hoped to do the same. Needing a way to visit Caesar without being arrested and executed by her brothers' supporters she enlisted the aid of a loyal servant.

He disguised himself as a merchant, wrapped his mistress in a carpet, slung her and it over his shoulder and marched boldly into the Roman general's suite. Caesar proclaimed Ptolemy and Cleopatra joint rulers. It was several months before reinforcements arrived and Caesar could break out of the siege and formally capture Alexandria. Ptolemy XIII died in the battle. History does not tell us how the Queen felt about successfully driving one brother from the throne only to have him replaced by another.

In any event he was quite young and very little is ever heard of him after the coronation.


After a trip up the Nile with Cleopatra in her luxurious meter royal barge Caesar went home, taking in chains the disgraced Arsinoe and leaving behind a pregnant Cleopatra. Apparently popular enough in the rest of Egypt, Cleopatra was hated by all classes in Alexandria and held on to the throne only with the aid of three Roman legions. The following year she went to Rome where she lived on an estate owned by Julius Caesar. The Romans regarded her presence with a curious mixture of fascination and revulsion.

Caesar built in Rome a gilded statue to honor Cleopatra and never denied fathering her child. Cleopastra went back to Egypt. In Egyptian mythology the pharaoh is seen as the reborn Horus, son of Isis and Osiris. Several inscriptions picture Cleopatra and Caesarian as divine. A sandstone relief outside the temple of Hathor at Denderah shows Cleopatra as Isis standing beside Caesarian as Horus.

Was Cleopatra One Of History's Biggest Killers? Portrait Of A Killer (Ancient Egypt Documentary)

In this case, of course, Julius Caesar was the Osiris father and Caesarian Caesar is poised to become ruler of a united Rome and Egypt. The idea would not sit well in Rome, but Egyptians might be prepared to accept it as a justification for her apparently pro-Roman policy. Antony was sent to the east where he had some success but failed in his quest to take Parthia.

Desperate for cash to rebuild his army he summoned Cleopatra to meet him in Tarsus. He had little reason to be inclined toward a rich and foreign female sovereign. But the animus derived from something else.

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Cleopatra had promised Cicero a manuscript — it may have been one from her library in Alexandria — on which she failed to deliver. The oversight sealed her fate for posterity. No one has ever paid so lasting a price for a forgotten library book.

Who Was Cleopatra? | History | Smithsonian

It pays to sweat the details, as Newt Gingrich reminded us when he shut down the federal government in , after he was assigned a lousy seat on Air Force One. She devalued the currency by a third. And she ushered in a great innovation: she introduced coins of various denominations. In an early prefiguring of paper currency, the markings rather than the metal content determined their value.

A coin might feel light in the hand, but if Cleopatra said it was worth 80 drachmae, it was worth 80 drachmae. The arrangement was both lucrative to her and encouraged an export-driven economy. View all New York Times newsletters. A friend of a friend may well be an enemy. But one person on whom she failed to work her magic was Herod. Cleopatra did everything in her power to frustrate Herod.

At one point she incited a war between Herod and his Arab neighbors the Nabateans, ordering her commander in the region to prolong the contest as long as possible. She counted on them to destroy each other, which they did not.

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Cleopatra did supply Herod with further reason to malign her in Rome, however. Good neighbors make good fences.

Ancient World Leaders: Cleopatra (Unabridged)

She retreated to Alexandria, from which she attempted several escapes. In one particularly bold maneuver, she dragged her Mediterranean fleet 40 miles overland in order to relaunch it, via the Gulf of Suez, into the Red Sea. Both the bravado and the engineering were staggering. Cleopatra essentially anticipated the Suez Canal.

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The tribe on the far side of the Gulf was unfortunately the Nabateans, newly recovered from their costly war with Herod. Unsurprisingly, Herod was happy to escort the conquering Octavian directly to the Egyptian border. He saw to it that the Romans lacked nothing for the desert march ahead. Several weeks later Cleopatra was dead. Control the narrative. Cleopatra understood well that the storytelling mattered as much as the decision-making, and that the best narrative is the easy-to-follow narrative. She discovered early on that it helps to have a god on your side — or to claim to speak for one.

She remained at all times on-message, truthfully and not. She cruised the Nile with Julius Caesar, a splendid advertisement of Egyptian abundance to her Roman visitor and of Roman military might to her people. After her defeat at Actium, she sailed back to Alexandria with head high, passing off a mission entirely botched as one expertly accomplished. The problems came later. Her enemies wrote her history, reducing her shrewd politics and managerial competence to sexual manipulation.