To what extent did Egypt benefit from Cleopatra’s relationship with the Romans? http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/cleop7.html
After the removal of Persian rule in 332 B.C., the Ptolemaic Dynasty would begin its rule in Egypt which would last over 300 years, ending with the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 B.C.. At one time Ptolemaic Egypt was one of the great powers of the world and expanded its rule without difficulties, but the inclusion of the Roman Empire into the Ptolemy dynasty’s affairs led to a decline in territories held, yet it was able to preserve the wealth and status of Egypt. By the time of Cleopatra’s rise to power, the state of Egypt was crumbling around her due to outside pressures from Rome, loss of lands, and famine at home. This last Pharaoh of Egypt used her beauty, cunning, sexuality and powers of persuasion to entice two of the world’s most powerful men to keep her once powerful empire free of complete Roman control. Besides dealing with problems abroad, Cleopatra VII had to overcome an Egyptian society that did not accept females as sole rulers without male guidance. Although the name Cleopatra has been used by many Egyptian Queens, Cleopatra VII, by far is the most remembered overshadowing her predecessors with her political savvy, beauty and romantic life. Cleopatra VII was born in 69 B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt to King Ptolemy XII Auletes. The identity of her mother is a mystery, but some have speculated that it may have been one of the King’s concubines or possibly his sister, Cleopatra V Tryphaena. In 51 B.C., Cleopatra’s father Ptolemy XII died and in his will he left the kingdom to Cleopatra VII and her younger brother Ptolemy XIII. Cleopatra, only eighteen at the age of her ascension had to wed her brother and co-ruler due to Egyptian law, which called for any female ruler to have a consort who was either a brother or son. Ptolemy XII was only twelve at the time and Cleopatra took full advantage of the age difference and situation she had been thrust into. Cleopatra dropped Ptolemy XIII name from all administrative documents and she had her own portrait and name placed on legal tender, ignoring her brother’s claim of co-regent. For three years, Cleopatra ruled alone until her brother’s advisors led by Pothinus began conspiring against her. In 48 B.C. they removed Cleopatra from power and she was forced into exile in Syria along with her younger sister Arsinone IV. Cleopatra would not give up her throne easily and she began amassing an army on Egypt’s border. Cleopatra devised a plan to meet Julius Caesar on her own terms seeking a political alliance and a return to the throne. She had herself wrapped inside a rolled rug which was smuggled into Alexandria and delivered to Caesar. When the rug was opened, Cleopatra rolled out and immediately charmed Caesar. Within that same evening, Cleopatra seduced Caesar, who was married, and became his lover, but more importantly linked herself with the Roman Empire. Caesar returned Cleopatra to her throne, and she then married her youngest brother Ptolemy XIV who was only eleven years of age. Around this time Cleopatra became pregnant by Caesar and she gave birth to a son, Ptolemy XV also called Caesarion or Little Caesar. In 44 B.C., Caesar was stabbed to death at a Senate gathering, and Cleopatra fled back to Egypt. In 42 B.C., Cleopatra would meet Mark Antony, part of a triumvirate now in control of the Roman Empire. Once again Cleopatra would use her charm and cunning to integrate herself with a powerful man who was part of a powerful empire. Their relationship quickly turned romantic and Antony would spend the winter in Alexandria at Cleopatra’s side. Outraged by Antony’s extra-marital affairs, the Roman Senate declared war on Egypt. Antony and Cleopatra’s forces were no match against the Romans and they were soundly defeated. Antony would commit suicide by stabbing himself and soon after Cleopatra committed suicide by being bitten by an...
References: Plutarch 's account appears in: Davis, William Stearns, Readings in Ancient History vol. 1 (1912); Grant, Michael, Cleopatra (1973).
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