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Cleopatra

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Cleopatra is the name that each person has probably heard, because it is the part of a popular culture today. As a character, she has appeared on the screen many times and has become a symbol of female beauty and royal power. Yet, it is also interesting to take a closer look at her as a historical personality and try to separate a legend from the real life, where possible.

So, historically Cleopatra VII was the last queen of Ptolemaic dynasty and the one of few Egyptian female pharaohs.  At the age of eighteen, her reigning father died, and she inherited the throne, because her younger brothers were in their childhood. However, due to Egyptian laws, she had to choose a husband among her family and she was forced to get married to her younger brother Ptolemy XIII, who was just twelve years old. Formally, she had to obey a male ruler, but Cleopatra’s unique talent and political wit helped her maneuver and become a sole pharaoh of Egypt. There were a number of reasons for it, starting from her negotiation skills and Roman warlords as lovers, and finishing with her tribute and respect to her own people. Thus, her ruling dynasty was of Greek ancestry, so it was accustomed to speak Greek throughout generations of ruling families. So, brought up according to this tradition, Cleopatra was initially a representative of Greek culture. However, she was the first among her dynasty to take a step towards the Egyptians as a nature. That is why she started to speak Egyptian and to position herself as a goddess of Egyptian pantheon. In this way, the distance between common people and the pharaoh did not disappear, she was still treated as a sacred being; yet, adoption of Egyptian culture brought her closer to her people and made her more popular.

There is a wrong stereotype about Cleopatra as a seducer and a woman who had many influential lovers who helped her achieve her political goals and stay in power. However, historical evidence says that she seemed to never have any other love affairs apart from those with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Indeed, these two men were very powerful at the time and legitimated her as a pharaoh in Egypt, instead of conquering it and eliminating the pharaoh power. Caesar and Cleopatra had a son named Caesarion, after his father, though he never recognized him as his child officially. However, Cleopatra values him immensely, which resulted in their joint rule later. When Caesar met Cleopatra at first, his aim was to make her a tool of his political influence. However, because of his admiration and an affair they had, it was she who received the power.  It was rumored that Caesar would take her as his second wife and relocate the capital to Alexandria. No one knows how history would turn, unless Caesar was killed in 44 BC.

Cleopatra met Mark Antony, a Roman horse army commander, in 41 BC, that is after the Caesar’s death. Her aim was to charm him in order to refute his attempts to accuse her of Caesar’s murder and to take as much money from her as possible. She first appeared in a luxurious ship wearing an outfit of Aphrodite, so she managed to conquer Mark Antony for ten years. They had three children, though he was never officially married to Cleopatra. The idyllic affair ended after Mark Antony’s suicide. The death of Cleopatra is enigmatic: the legend says that she used a poisonous snake to commit a suicide. Most historians support a version of suicide, though some claim that Octavian, in whose captive she was in her last days, might have ordered to kill her.

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