Cleopatra VII Philopator (Late 69 BC – August 12, 30 BC), known to history as Cleopatra, was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great's death during the Hellenistic period.
Cleopatra became the most famous of Egypt's female leaders. She was extremely intelligent, and ambitious and spoke several languages — she even studied astronomy. At 18, she became queen of Egypt.
When Marc Antony became leader of Rome...[he] fell in love with Cleopatra. The two had children and together ruled the most powerful empires of the Mediterranean. Eventually, a rival defeated Antony's armies, and Antony drew a sword on himself in despair.
In 332 B.C. Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, adding it to his vast empire. After his death one of his generals, Ptolemy I, established himself as King of Egypt, which began the ptolemaic dynasty of rulers. This ended when Cleopatra died in 30 B.C., and the country was taken over by the Roman Empire.
Oldest son of Cleopatra VII, Caesarion ("Little Caesar") became co-ruler of Egypt with his mother after Ptolemy XIV died. His father was Julius Caesar.
The first three years of the joint reign of Ptolemy XIII (51-47BC) and his half sister Cleopatra VII (51-30BC) were fraught with domestic calamities. Cleopatra was married to her young half brother but had no intentions of sharing power. A court conspiracy, however, removed Cleopatra (right, Altes Museum, Berlin) from power thus making Ptolemy the sole ruler c50BC.
Two years later after being removed from power, Cleopatra VII attempted a counter coup in the east Delta at Pelusium failed and she was forced to flee to Syria. While Cleopatra was in exile, Pompey was defeated by Julius Caesar at Pharsalus in Greece in 48 BC, and he fled to Alexandria to seek the support of the young Ptolemy 13 to fight on against Caesar.
Cleopatra’s and [Marc] Antony’s ambitions brought them into a conflict with Octavian (later Augustus), Caesar’s great-nephew and designated heir. The so-called Donations of Alexandria (34 BC) by which they divided the former empire of Alexander the Great between Cleopatra’s children was taken advantage by Octavian to strengthen his position in Rome and turn the public opinion against Antony. In 32 BC, he declared war on Egypt and decisively defeated Cleopatra’s and Antony’s fleet in the Battle of Actium one year later.
Cleopatra surrendered to Octavian after [Marc ]Antony’s death and tried to negotiate. When she realized that she cannot win his affections, she decided to kill herself too. There are several versions about Cleopatra’s suicide, while the most commonly accepted one says that she killed herself by inducing an asp to bite her, and according to the Greek historian Plutarch, she was buried together with Marc Antony.
When Octavian (the future emperor Augustus) visited her, Cleopatra tried yet once again to captivate the leading Roman...using all her arts; she failed. She knew, then, that Octavian intended that she and her children should adorn his triumph. Rather than be dragged through the city in which she had been borne as a queen, she killed herself, possibly by means of an asp, symbol of divine royalty.
In retrospect, Cleopatra's political career ended in utter failure. Had she been less ambitious she might have preserved her kingdom as a client, as her rival Herod did with complete success. In overreaching herself she ruined all..and yet it was this political failure that was to be transmuted into the grand original of the great lover, consecrated by the art of Shakespeare himself.