|The Mysterious Life of Cleopatra VII
Mr. de Groof
Grade 10 Composition
The style of pharaoh-ruled dynasties has lasted over hundreds of years in Egypt, but it seemed that only a few people realized it was the Greeks that started it first. Throughout history, one of the most famous Queens is Cleopatra VII, last pharaoh of Egypt. Her life was a mystery for the historians, because there are lots of legends about her, but we only know few that are justified. She reshaped the contours of the ancient world using her relationship with the powerful Romans, but at last she could not uphold her empire and the Ancient Egyptian World came to an end.
Cleopatra was a member of the Ptolemy dynasty. The Ptolemy family came from Macedonia but took control in Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. One of the reasons that made the Ptolemy family well known was because of their extravagance; they were good at holding luxury parties or building huge architectures. In 3000 BC or even earlier, they built pyramids and majestic temples, for their own use or to pray to the gods and goddesses. They had no shortage in money and Egypt was known as the richest country in the world at that time, also the center of a huge empire. Therefore, they made their capital city – Alexandria, the most modern city in the ancient world. They were wealthy in the arts, literature, technology, engineering, and even the medical science. At that time, if someone wanted to get a better job or looked more professional, they would tell others that they came from Alexandria. But above all, they were weak at their military power. As the power of Roman Empire grew stronger day by day, Ptolemy chose rather to be friends with the Romans and their Senate instead of being rivalries against them. They often chose the most powerful military and political leader as their protector, and the consideration of it was that the Egyptians had to offered them wheat for their growing population.
Cleopatra was chosen as heir to the throne ever since she was born. Her father hired the best teachers in Alexandria and they taught her almost everything, including mathematics, chemisrty, medical science and even the art of putting on makeup. She was proficient in nine different languages and was able to communicate with the native Egyptians without a translator.
From the time when Cleopatra could remember, Pompey the Great was the protector of Egypt. But few years later, after Ptolemy XII passed away. Pompey was defeated in the battle with Julius Caesar, and he had nothing left and nowhere to go. Then, Pompey suddenly thought of the empire that he has been protecting for a long time, recently there was a new king (Ptolemy XIII) ascended the throne, so he went to Alexandria to seek asylum. When the officials heard of the news, they were all troubled on their next step. They didn’t want to offend Caesar, but on the other hand, they didn’t know how to politely refuse Pompey but not letting the people in the Rome felt that they, as Egyptians, were neither loyal nor respectful to Pompey. After a long discussion, they couldn’t think of an ideal solution that benefits their empire the most. Finally in the end, one of the eldest official said, ” the dead man won’t talk”, the problem has solved. The Egyptian seized the chance to kill Pompey when he was on the way to Egypt.
According to Ptolemy XII’s testament, he asked Cleopatra to marry her elder brother – Ptolemy XIII and ruled the empire together. I think Ptolemy XII made this decision for his daughter because he wanted to avoid murder between brothers and sisters. Instead of letting her rule the whole empire by herself, maybe it was better to let them dominate together. Not to mention their extravagance, they owed a large number of money to Rome because of it, and also the flood of the Nile River wasn’t as high as they expect, the economy in Alexandria was getting weaker than usual. During Cleopatra and her brother/husband struggling for the power, he exiled Cleopatra out of Alexandria.
When Julius Caesar heard of their fight, he quickly came to Alexandria wanting to mediate them. No one knows why, but he probably was worried about the wheat they were offered. If a war erupts in Egypt, then the armies need more food and would not have much wheat left for the Romans. Meanwhile, Cleopatra was in the hardest time in her life, she had no choice but to meet Julius Caesar. She thought of a way to secretly go back to their palace and meet Caesar. As she expected, Caesar fell in love with her at the first sight and promised to help her revenge her brother/husband, and that made Cleopatra conquered her brother/husband as easy as blowing off dust.
As Cleopatra took back the right to ruled Egypt, and also because of her relationship with Caesar, the connection between Egypt and Rome was getting closer than before. He then invited Cleopatra to visit Rome, while she was in Rome, thinking about how to make good use of Roman’s recourses to make benefits to her empire; Caesar was unexpectedly murdered by the Senate. Because they were afraid that he would break the republic system of Rome. Thus, she can’t take anything away from Rome, so she went back to her empire with sadness.
After a period of time, while Octavian and Mark Antony were fighting a battle against Cassius, Antony wrote a letter asking for Cleopatra’s help on providing for the navy. That was a great chance for her to get some benefits from Rome so she agreed to provide assistance; therefore, creating an opportunity for them to meet. Although Cleopatra agreed to lead her navy to help Antony, her battleships sank on their way in the Aegean Sea. Antony did not know what happened and thought that she fooled him so he went to Alexandria angrily and wanted to question Cleopatra about it. Like Julius Caesar, when he met Cleopatra, he was attracted to her and fell in love with her. They started working together to help each other on the national business. For example, when Antony wanted to fight a battle to conquer land, he was short of money. Cleopatra would offer him money and when he got back victorious, he would share the gained treasures with her, including the land or anything else she wanted. There was a story about how Cleopatra attracted Antony by impressing him with drinking red wine with a pearl melt in it since Antony likes to be luxurious.
The relationship between Cleopatra and Antony last for a long time, but like Caesar, Antony was a married man. He married Octavian’s sister because of a political reason, making Cleopatra angry but she decided to stay patient and believed that he would eventually come back to her. As she expected, he was soon bored with his nice but dull wife, and he sent Cleopatra a letter that invited her to travel together with him.
During their travel, Cleopatra told Antony that if he wanted to come back to her, he needed to prove that his love to Cleopatra is real. She didn’t need any flowers or dessert, the only thing that can captures her heart is to help her rule her empire, and she needed Antony to make Egypt stronger. That means she wanted Antony to gain the border land of Egypt for her or some land that have gold or crop. One of Antony’s colonies was planning to renegade, so Antony went on his way to put them down. Because he didn’t have a clear plan before he went into the battle, to attack at the timing of winter was unwise. He lost almost all of his soldiers on his way to the colony, and he of course lost the battle at the end. Since failure is shameful, the Romans rather die under their own sword than be defeated by the enemy. But this time, Antony didn’t suicide; he thought that he needs to be responsible to his soldiers and thus, brought them back home safely. Octavian heard of Antony’s failure, and he decided it was the time that he can defeat Antony.
Octavian than started to built ships prepared for the battle, he will surely win it because he knew Antony is now feeling depressed about the last battle. Although Cleopatra was building boats as well, her boat was too large, thus, unable to move as fast as Octavian’s ship. Since the war started in summer, the poor soldiers had no time to rest because summer’s coming is the beginning of another fight for them. As we mentioned at the beginning, Cleopatra and Antony’s boats were too heavy, so when the wind came, Octavian’s ships could easily attack them. Soon after, Antony’s soldiers surrendered while Cleopatra and Antony retreated to Egypt. Antony thought it was Cleopatra’s idea again, to surrender, he told someone to asked her to come, but Cleopatra told that servant to tell Antony that she had committed suicide. Antony was really sad and took out his sword to end his own life. When Cleopatra knew he was dead, she dressed up as a goddess and let an asp to end her life since she was a queen, and wanted to die in dignity. That was the end of the Ancient Egypt World.
After the final war of the Roman Republic, Octavian took control after the Roman Senate and they bestowed upon him the name “ Augustus”, and he became the first Roman Emperor. Egypt became a province of Rome, and of course lost their pharaoh. To the Romans, Egypt was only one of the granaries. The rich culture of Alexandria has deeply influenced Roman’s society although the Romans didn’t want to admit it.
If Antony won the battle over Octavian, what will happen? Maybe Cleopatra would continue to rule Egypt and become the most powerful woman in the region of Mediterranean Sea. She might have lasted her relationship with her lover until the end of their life, and her son with Julius Caesar will be an heir to the huge empire and keep it wealthy on every part of their empire. The Roman Empire may be united by Antony, and he may keep expanding the territory of Rome and converge their culture with Alexandra’s great achievement, therefore to make the two greatest empires ever in the history.
1andonlyhistorylover. Secrets Of Egypt: Cleopatra. Online video chip. YouTube. 20 May. 2009.
Margaret Simpson. Cleopatra And Her Asp. London: Scholastic U.K, 2010. Print.
Stacy Schiff. Cleopatra A Life. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2010. Print.