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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.
Cleopatra Picture

Cleopatra Picture

London Cleopatra's Needle

London Cleopatra's Needle

CC Photo Flickr User nikoretro

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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