If you’ve ever seen the 1963 film “Cleopatra”, (YouTube) then you know that her life was full of drama. There were love affairs, family fights and battles against rivals for power.
But how much do you really know about Cleopatra?
Here are 11 facts about this famous woman’s fascinating life.
- Cleopatra: Fascinating Facts
- 1. Her birth was dramatic and unexpected
- 2. Cleopatra wasn't a pharaoh
- 3. She wasn't Egyptian
- 4. She had a complicated love life
- 5. She wasn't exactly beautiful
- 6. There's more than one story about how she died
- 7. Even the Egyptians couldn't stand her
- 8. Cleopatra's eye was subject of a Shakespeare play
- 9. Cleopatra's daughter grew up to become a hero in Rome
- 10. Cleopatra's family ruled Egypt for centuries afterward
- 11. Cleopatra's story is still famous today
Cleopatra: Fascinating Facts
1. Her birth was dramatic and unexpected
“Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator was born of parents who did not expect her birth. On December 25, in the year 69 BCE, she was born by Caesarean section along with a full-term stillborn younger brother.”
2. Cleopatra wasn’t a pharaoh
Cleopatra was queen of Egypt at a time when the country had been conquered by Rome and ruled as a province. In ancient times before this conquest, women were often called “Pharaoh” to indicate they were the female equivalent to a king. However, after Egypt became a province of Rome and adopted European-style monarchies, it was no longer acceptable for women to rule alone. The title Cleopatra took means “female pharaoh.”
3. She wasn’t Egyptian
Cleopatra was actually of Macedonian (northern Greek) descent, and her family ruled Egypt as the Ptolemy dynasty. Egyptians of the time would likely have considered her foreign; Cleopatra’s ancestry on both sides was not Egyptian.
4. She had a complicated love life
The famous story is that Cleopatra committed suicide by allowing an Egyptian cobra to bite her. In fact, she may have been murdered by a servant whose bills she refused to pay.
Cleo’s first husband was one of her own brothers. They had a son together before he died in suspicious circumstances that many historians believe his mother had a hand in. Cleopatra then married another brother, but this marriage also ended in divorce. After the first two divorces, she had to find a way of making herself more acceptable to Rome, so they would accept her as queen. So she started an affair with Julius Caesar, the powerful Roman general and politician, who took her back to Rome on his arm.
She had three children with Julius Caesar. After he was assassinated, she formed an alliance with another powerful Roman political figure, Marc Antony, and they had three more children. In many ways, she was a female version of the men who surrounded her: powerful, intelligent and ambitious.
5. She wasn’t exactly beautiful
Cleopatra was famous for being a great beauty in the ancient world, and her coins and statues depicted her as a great beauty. But how true to life were these depictions? It’s hard to say.
She was famous for having beautiful hair, but must not have had such beautiful skin: coins that depict Cleopatra show no sign of the famous Cleopatra eye. Cleopatra was fond of using lead in her beauty routine, which is poisonous and can cause terrible skin problems.
6. There’s more than one story about how she died
When Cleopatra and Antony were defeated by the Romans at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, both committed suicide. At least that’s what we think. Ancient writers told different stories of how she died: some say she allowed herself to be bitten by an asp (the snake whose venom is deadliest) while others say she drank a cup containing the snake’s venom.
The most famous, romantic version of this story has her dying in the arms of Antony after she had bitten into an asp.
7. Even the Egyptians couldn’t stand her
Cleopatra was the last ruler of Egypt before it became a Roman province, and even the Egyptians found her rule distasteful. After Egypt became part of Rome’s empire, many coins were produced to show how much the Romans respected Egyptian tradition. These coins depicted traditional Egyptian Gods and symbols along with images of local rulers. The coins did not show Cleopatra because she had been so unpopular.
8. Cleopatra’s eye was subject of a Shakespeare play
William Shakespeare’s tragedy Antony and Cleopatra describes events that are supposed to have occurred towards the end of her life. It is the cleopatra’s eye that is most often used for information on her death, but Shakespeare’s play isn’t history so it contains some errors.
9. Cleopatra’s daughter grew up to become a hero in Rome
Cleopatra had children with both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, but just one daughter with each man — she died with Antony. Her daughter, Cleopatra Selene, grew up to become an important figure in her own right. She became Queen of Mauretania (modern Morocco) and led a war against the Romans. The victorious Augustus was so impressed by this that he let Selene keep her title.
10. Cleopatra’s family ruled Egypt for centuries afterward
Cleopatra’s son by Julius Caesar, Ptolemy XV, became the next Roman emperor and ruled for only a few years. He was replaced by another family member: his sister, Cleapatain, who later married Mark Antony’s son and became the first queen of Egypt.
The last one of these rulers was killed in battle by the Romans, who made Egypt a province of Rome.
11. Cleopatra’s story is still famous today
There are many movies, books and plays written around the life of Cleopatra.
Even though Cleopatra’s story takes place in Ancient Rome and Greece, fashion is still a vital part of her story because it shows how people back then were self-aware of their appearance and what impression it may give to the public. She was a princess, even though she did not have much actual power until after Julius Caesar’s death.
In 31 B.C., Mark Antony and Cleopatra were defeated by Octavian’s men. The next year, he invaded Egypt. He forced both Mark Antony and Cleopatra to commit suicide, and then took control of the kingdom.
Cleopatra was only thirty-nine years old when she died, but her legacy has lived on throughout the centuries. Her story has been told in novels, plays, and films. The Egyptian queen continues to fascinate us because of her beauty and her shrewdness.
Cleopatra was clever—she saw that Rome dominated the Mediterranean world, and she made an alliance with Mark Antony by having a child with him. Later, she gave birth to a son with Caesar. The boys were raised in the palace and received a Roman-style education.
People who live in Alexandria remember Cleopatra’s beauty, but also her cleverness. In fact, pictures of her still adorn many buildings in the city where she once lived. Even today, people from all over the world are still fascinated by the last pharaoh of Egypt.
You can visit Wikipedia to learn more about Cleopatra.
Hope you found this article titled “Cleopatra: Fascinating Facts of a Romantic Fashionista Who Married Her Brother” interesting. Happy reading!
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