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Saturday, 10 May 2014


Cleopatra VII (69 BC - 30 BC), known to history as Cleopatra, was the last active Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt,

The name Cleopatra is derived from the Greek name Κλεοπατρα, which meant "glory of the father" in the feminine form.

Her father, the fat and dissolute Ptolemy XII Auletes was nicknamed "Pipe Player" for his love and music and dance - Ptolemy Auletes (The flute player)

Her mother was probably Auletes's sister, Cleopatra V Tryphaena.

Cleopatra was the oldest child of Auletes, since two older sisters had died. She also had one younger sister whose name was Arsinoë.

Cleopatra was well educated, the cultural superior of many of her male admirers. She spoke eleven languages and was expert in mathematics and astronomy.

She was the only Ptolemy to bother to learn Egyptian (Cleopatra was the 13th).

Cleopatra was forced to marry her younger brother, Ptolemy XIV, according to the tradition of the Pharaohs.

She ascended the Egyptian throne at the age of 18 on the death of her father with her 10-year-old brother Ptolemy XIII.

Cleopatra's fell from power in 48BC and Ptolemy XIII became sole ruler.

When Cleopatra heard that Julius Caesar was in the palace at Alexandra she had one of her attendants carry her to him rolled up in a rug as a gift for the Roman. Captivated by her charm, the emperor helped her regain the throne with another younger brother Ptolemy XIV as her new co-ruler..

Caesar spent three months as her lover in Egypt. (Cleopatra was 21-years-old when they met and Caesar was 52).

Screenshot of Rex Harrison and Elizabeth Taylor from the trailer for the film Cleopatra.

Cleopatra had a son by Caesar called Caesarion (he was murdered by Octavian's agents aged 17) . He was Caesar's only known biological son,

Cleopatra befriended and subsidized the Egyptian astronomers. It was rumored that she introduced Caesar to her astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria, who first proposed the idea of leap days and leap years..

Cleopatra, Ptolemy XIV and Caesarion visited Rome in the summer of 46 BC. The Egyptian queen resided in one of Caesar's country houses but their relationship was a scandal to the Roman people because the Roman dictator was already married to Calpurnia Pisonis.

Cleopatra and her entourage were in Rome when Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BC.

Caesar giving Cleopatra the throne by Pietro de Cortone

After Caesar was assassinated Cleopatra returned to Egypt and lived in luxury in one of the smaller palaces in Alexandria with marble statuary.

Ptolemy XIV died in 44BC, allegedly poisoned by his older sister, making Clepatra sole ruler.

Cleopatra was part Macedonian, part Greek, part Iranian.

Cleopatra was actually quite plain, it was really her famous lovers that gave her the reputation as a great beauty. She was quite masculine looking with a bony face, hooked nose, tick necked and jutting chin.

Cleopatra was 5ft 3ins, medium build with curly hair, pulled back into ridges, a loose curl dangled in front of her ear.

 Marblebust of Cleopatra VII of Egypt form 30-40 BC Wikipedia Commons
She would have worn plenty of make up, underside of eye painted green with black heavily outlined along the upper eyelashes and upwards at the corners.

She wore kohl, an eyeliner made up of ground up minerals.

70,000 beetles were needed to yield one pound of the carmine dye used by Cleopatra to paint her lips.

Cleopatra would have worn a dark wig and worn fine linen sandals made of papyrus reeds.

The Cleopatra bob, a long fringe parting down the middle a perfectly straight fringe and long tresses to the tip of shoulder was a 1930s fashion.

Cleopatra was charming, wily, sensual and bewitching and quite an enchantress. "The charm of her conversation and the character and intelligence of all that she said was bewitching. It was a delight merely to hear the sound of her voice." Plutarch (Roman Historian)

She wasn't so charming to the lower ranks. Slaves were tortured for Cleopatra's amusement. She also tested the efficiency of her poisons by feeding them to her slaves.

In 42BC Cleopatra was summoned to attend leader of the Caesarion faction, Mark Antony, in the Turkish city of Tarsus to explain her refusal to aid the Roman general in the civil war he was occupied in.

Summoned by Mark Antony, Cleopatra dressed as Venus in her river barge where she worked her charms on him. Her barge was like a burnished throne. She supposedly sprinkled perfume on the sails of her river vehicle. It’s sails were of purple silk and it’s poop was covered with gold. The oars of silver beat time to the music of flutes and fifes and harps.

Instead of punishing her, Antony fell in love with the Siren of the Nile. On December 25, 40 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to twins fathered by the Roman general - Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene.

Though Mark Antony married Octavia, the sister of Augustus in 41BC, he renewed their relationship  in 36 BC after visiting Alexandria again en route to make war with the Parthians. From this point on, the Roman general  made Alexandria his home and they had another child, Ptolemy Philadelphus.

According to Shakespeare Antony called Cleopatra "The serpent of old Nile".

On one occasion Cleopatra gave a lavish banquet for Antony at Alexandra. The Roman expressed his surprise at the outlay involved. Cleopatra, to impress him further, took a pearl earring and dissolved it in vinegar to prove she could consume a fortune in a single meal.

Antelope was a favorite meat of the Egyptian queen. She was also fond of figs.

Cleopatra  had a cat called Charmain.

Cleopatra took Mark Antony to the library in Alexandria and read rare manuscripts to him.

Mark Antony gave Cleopatra the town of Jericho. She ungraciously gave it to Herod the Great who built his winter palace there.

Her hieroglyphics can be seen on cosmetics, weights and measures and coins.

During Cleopatra’s reign, she would soak the sails of her ships in perfume so the scent would drift to Rome before her arrival.

The gem, amethyst, is a symbol of sincerity. It was said to be Cleopatra's favorite gem.

In 31 BC Antony's forces faced Augustus and General Agrippa in a naval action off the coast of Actium. Cleopatra was present with a fleet of her own. She took flight with her ships at the height of the battle and Antony followed her.

Cleopatra watched the Battle of Actium from her barge.

Dreading her husband, Antony's wrath when her fleet deserted him, Cleopatra caused Antony to be told that she'd committed suicide ion order to pacify him and as a lover's ruse. When Antony heard this untruth, he stabbed himself and when almost dead heard it was a lie. So he was carried to her place of refuge and was reunited with Cleopatra shortly before his death.

Cleopatra committed suicide in Alexandra on August 12, 30 BC by inducing an Egyptian cobra to bite her after Antony had committed suicide. (Dying of snakebite Egyptians believed conferred immorality.)

Cleopatra's death ended the line of all Egyptian pharaohs as Egypt became a Roman province.

The Death of Cleopatra by Reginald Arthur, 1892

The three children of Cleopatra and Antony were spared and taken back to Rome where they were taken care of by Antony's wife, Octavia Minor. The daughter, Cleopatra Selene, was married through arrangements of Octavian to Juba II of Mauretania.

Legend has it that the mummy of Cleopatra was accidentally left behind in Paris museum when the treasures looted from Egypt by Napoleon were returned. In the 1940s workmen found a mummy case and emptied its contents into the sewers . The case was later identified as that of Cleopatra.

The three Cleopatras Needles in London, Paris and New York are nothing to do with her and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime. The London and New York "needles" were originally made during the reign of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose III. The Paris "needle" dates to the reign of Ramesses II in the 19th Dynasty.

Cleopatra was Hollywood's 1963 big, expensive, 243 minute production which seemed as long as the Nile. Elizabeth Taylor, who played the Egyptian Queen,  received Hollywood's first million dollar contract for her role. She said the wildly over-budget film’s finances "had $3 million for 'miscellaneous,' and $100,000 for paper cups."

Cleopatra lived closer in time to the first Moon landing than to the building of the Great Pyramid.

In 2010, a papyrus document featuring Cleopatra's handwriting went on display at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute. The document refers to a tax break for a friend of Mark Antony. Cleopatra signed it with a Greek word meaning "make it happen".

"Had Cleopatra's nose been shorter, the whole history of the world would have been different. " Pascal Pensees 8:29

Sources Readers Digest, Wikipedia

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