Born in Alexandria in 69 BC, she may not have been particularly beautiful. Her portrait on coins of the time shows her with a hooked nose and manly features, though her voice was said to be alluring, and she was obviously of high intelligence and ability. She was not actually of Egyptian blood, but of Macedonian, descended from one of Alexander the Great¹s generals who had come to Egypt in the 300s BC and established himself as King Ptolomy I.
She came to the throne as Cleopatra VII in 51 BC, at the age of 17 or 18. Exiled three years later in a palace coup, she regained her throne with Julius Caesar¹s help. He called for her to appear before him, but knowing that plotters would kill her on the way, she had herself rolled up in an oriental carpet and carried into the palace secretly. Servants unrolled the carpet before Caesar, and Cleopatra fell out at his feet.
The Roman general was captivated by the vivacious, independent-minded young queen with the beautiful voice and fiery eyes. Caesar restored Cleopatra to her throne and they embarked on a two-month-long cruise up the Nile. Their son Caesarion was born shortly thereafter. Cleopatra visited Rome in 46 BC, was received in triumph, and moved into Caesar's villa even though Caesar was already married. Caesar's imperial ambitions and his indiscreet extramarital affair with Cleopatra turned powerful senators against him, and he was murdered on the steps of the Senate in March of 44 BC. Cleopatra fled to Egypt, but was called to Tarsus (on present-day Turkey's southern coast) by Mark Antony, one of the new rulers of Rome, to account for her actions. She arrived, dressed as Venus, goddess of Love, aboard a sumptuous "barge" sailed by a crew of female servants dressed as sea nymphs. The ship had a gilded stern, silver-tipped oars, and purple sails. Antony was bewitched! He told her dirty jokes and she told better ones right back.