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Cleopatra Essay, Research Paper


Cleopatra Queen of the Nile Egypt, which is located in northeastern Africa along the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, has had many famous rulers. One of the most famous is Cleopatra. She is famous for her love affairs and the fair ruling of the Egyptians. In 69 B.C., the year of Cleopatra’s birth, the land of Egypt was both a prosperous and poor country. It was poor because most Egyptians were farmers and laborers, who were living in extreme poverty. At the same time it was also prosperous because the land was rich and produced large quantities of food. While these quantities kept the common people fed, Egypt?s rulers and wealthy nobles traded the entire extra. Because of this, Egypt’s rulers and wealthy nobles were rich in gold and other precious metals and stones, and enjoyed very lavish life-styles. From 305 B.C. to 30 B.C., the Ptolemies ruled Egypt as a monarchy. For the common Egyptians, little had changed since olden pharaohs except that the royal family was now Greek. The Ptolemaic kings and queens were unsympathetic and cared little for the suffering of the Egyptian people. Most common people had nothing to look forward to in life. They continued working in the fields, on building projects, or in the state owned mines. All of these bad conditions made the Ptolemies unpopular with the Egyptians, but it wasn’t the only reason. The Ptolemies also refused to recognize or worship traditional Egyptian gods, and refused to learn the Egyptian language. These actions created a cultural barrier between the Egyptians and their rulers. Cleopatra VII was born in 69 b.c. Her parents were Ptolemy XII and Cleopatra Tryphainia, probably his sister. Cleopatra’s childhood was very luxurious. When her father died, he willed that Cleopatra rule jointly with her brother, Ptolemy XIII, who was 13. Ptolemy XIII was too young to rule so his advisor had the real power. Cleopatra’s joint rule was cut short due to the fact that Ptolemy XIII’s advisor resented Cleopatra and took every opportunity to make her look bad. He accomplished this by blaming her for food shortages; people avoiding paying taxes, and other big problems. Cleopatra was finally forced to flee the country. Cleopatra asked for Roman help to return her to the Egyptian throne. She asked Rome for help because it was so powerful. The help she received was from Julius Caesar. When Julius Caesar first came into Egypt, the people thought he was attacking and rioted. Caesar then settled down in the royal palace to wait for the rioting to stop. Cleopatra came to him at the palace in a rolled up blanket. She seduced him, and Caesar decided to help Cleopatra with her royal problems. Caesar helped Cleopatra by demanding that Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIII marry and rule jointly again. Ptolemy XIII’s advisor agreed to Caesar’s demands, but didn’t keep his word. The advisor ordered the Egyptian army to surround the palace. Cleopatra and Caesar were trapped along with a small force of Roman soldiers. Ptolemy XIII and his advisor were trapped also. During this, Arsinoe, Cleopatra’s sister, proclaimed herself ruler of Egypt. When Caesar heard that the advisor was involved in Arsinoe’s proclamation, he had him executed. With Roman reinforcements, Caesar defeated the Egyptian army. Ptolemy XIII’s body was later found in the Nile River. In the course of these events, Caesar had helped Cleopatra regain the throne. Caesar had helped her because he knew she would be a good Roman ally. Because of this he reinstalled her on the throne with great ceremony. He then tried to please the Egyptians by following the custom of having Cleopatra marry 12-year-old Ptolemy XIV. This time, the New Pharaoh didn’t have any advisors, so Cleopatra was really the only ruler. Then in 44 B.C. when Ptolemy XIV wanted to rule, Cleopatra had him poisoned. Now she was truly the only ruler. All this time, Caesar had stayed in Egypt with Cleopatra. When Caesar did finally go back to Rome, Cleopatra was pregnant. After Caesar had a victory, he wanted Cleopatra to see the festivities. According to the Roman historian Suetonis, “he called her to Rome and did not let her leave until he had laden her with high honors and rich gifts, and allowed her to give his name to the child which she bore.” Cleopatra named the baby boy Caesarion. Cleopatra and Caesarion probably saw Caesar’s festivities, which included a victory parade. Cleopatra’s sister, Arsinoe, was prominently featured in the victory parade. She was dragged in chains at the head of a line of Egyptian prisoners. This treatment of Arsinoe shocked the Romans, and many of them convinced Caesar not to execute her. Caesar then allowed Arsinoe to receive religious protection in the temple of Diana. Caesar’s death was brought on mostly by the belief that Caesar was trying to become the king of Rome. He was stabbed by a group of senators led by his friends Brutus and Cassius. He died on March 15, 44 b.c. After his death, Cleopatra and Caesarion went back to Egypt. She was left to rule alone, and she began to concentrate on domestic issuesAfter Caesar’s death, three men wanted to rule Rome. They were Mark Antony, Caesar’s longtime friend; Octavian, Caesar’s 18-year-old grandnephew and adopted son; and Lepidus, a popular general. Meanwhile, Brutus and Cassius and the other surviving conspirators had fled to Greece and had raised a large army. Their goal was to defeat Antony, Octavian and Lepidus and restore a republican government in Rome. Brutus and Cassius lost at Philippi to Antony and Octavian. Brutus and Cassius then committed suicide. When Antony wanted supplies he asked Cleopatra for them. She came to see him on a really fancy ship, or barge. Antony and Cleopatra became lovers and she bore him twins. Although Antony left Egypt to marry Octavian’s sister, Octavia, she didn?t hate him and continued to rule as usual. One thing that made Cleopatra popular in Egypt is that she was fluent in Egyptian. She also went to great lengths to observe the Egyptian religion. She tried to portray herself as Isis (a goddess) because the Egyptians thought that a queen was Isis. She also gained respect for her love of learning. When Antony came back in 37 b.c., Cleopatra supported him. She helped in his military campaign, after which she became pregnant. Meanwhile, Octavian heightened the resentment of Antony amongst the Romans. They thought that because Antony started wearing Egyptian clothes and adopting Egyptian customs, he was insulting Roman fashion and beliefs. Because of this, Antony was thought to be Osiris (a god) by the Egyptian people. After fighting a long time at Actium against Octavian, Antony and Cleopatra retreated, leaving some soldiers who eventually surrendered. In the confusion after the Romans won and came into the city of Alexandria, someone told Antony that Cleopatra was dead. That information was incorrect. After hearing this, and believing it, Antony committed suicide. Antony then died in Cleopatra’s arms

Asimov, Isaac. The Roman Republic, Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1966.

“Cleopatra,” Microsoft (R) Encarta (R) 96 Encyclopedia,. (c) 1993-1995 Microsoft Corporation.

Nardo, Don. The Importance of Cleopatra,. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 1994.

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