Analyzing Cleopatra: An In-Depth Essay Sample
One of the most famous women in ancient history, Cleopatra is associated with Egypt and considered its best-known monarch. Cleopatra was the one whom the gods chose. At least, that is exactly what she thought of herself: she was meant to be above people with their petty abominations and joys. She belonged to the goddess Isis. Cleopatra was her eyes and body on the earth. However, the gods do not have the right to weakness; their destiny is to rule and punish. Cleopatra was taught the whole story of her family of Ptolemies, Greeks from Macedonia, who won the crown of the pharaohs by chance. The glory of Cleopatra VII not only surpassed her father’s but also all the other Ptolemies’. When the Egyptian crown went to Cleopatra, the Ptolemies had lost almost all the conquered lands. Cleopatra managed to bring everything back, not by force of arms. The beloved Roman dictator Anthony presented lost lands with a broad gesture. Thanks to the efforts of Cleopatra, Egypt remained independent longer than all the Greek kingdoms in the north of Africa. However, ultimately, she lost everything, including Egypt and her own life. The death of Cleopatra, the fall of Egypt, the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire coincided. This can be considered a historical pattern.
Although there are very few records of Cleopatra’s youth, there are some assumptions. “It was January in the year 69 B.C. when the third daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes, king of Egypt, was born”. Every queen in the Ptolemaic dynasty was called Cleopatra, which meant ‘glorious by the father’. This was rather not a name but a title. Each Cleopatra was married to her brother and ruled together with him. The goddess Isis herself was married to her brother, the god Osiris. She blessed the incestuous kings. Although the former queens were glorious, they did not enter history because their actions were too common in those desperate times.
The young queen was disliked. It is believed that Cleopatra was too selfish and independent. She was not considered to be beautiful. “She is, by the way, a beauty in no way, shape, manner, or form”. In addition, she was versatile and gravitated toward European culture, which made her rather bored in Egypt. Roller said she was well-educated, which was unusual even for a royal woman of that time. She became a skilled orator, succeeding in public speaking. In addition, she knew many languages. She also possessed a talent for diplomacy.
Becoming a Queen
The main glory of Cleopatra was brought by three lovers – all the powerful politicians of Rome: Gnaeus Pompey, his rival in the power struggle; Gaius Julius Caesar, and Caesar’s successor at the top of power, Mark Antony. However, Cleopatra did not choose lovers. Fate did not give her any choice except between life and death. After the magnificent burial of King Avleth, according to his will, Cleopatra became the wife of a young brother, Dionysus, who was declared King Ptolemy XII. She became the princess of Egypt, Cleopatra VII. She had no intimate relationship with him as he was a ten-year-old boy. Nevertheless, Cleopatra considered him a perfect king since she wanted to rule Egypt herself.
Cleopatra was in her eighteenth year when the whole world lay at her feet and was against her. Before she could try on a crown with a snake, death in the humiliating guise of a eunuch fell behind her. Eunuch Potin, Dionysus’s tutor and the palace opposition’s leader, ruled the country on behalf of the boy. He was supported by the commander of the Egyptian army, Achilles. In the arsenal of Cleopatra, there was only one powerful mean – her female seduction skills, but it did not work for the eunuchs.
She turned to Pompey the Great for help. Thanks to the Roman patronage, she survived. If the conspirators killed her, they would give Pompey an excuse to introduce his legions, turning Egypt into a Roman province. The Ptolemaic palace had an exhausting, tense, three-year waiting between Potin and Cleopatra. They waited for the chance to destroy their rival. Cleopatra managed to outplay Potin, though.
Relationship with Julius Caesar
The powerful Roman conqueror Julius Caesar came to Egypt and demanded a return of huge debts. Just as Ptolemy XIII, Cleopatra did not want to pay the debts. She dressed in the most attractive outfits and ordered her servants to roll her up on a carpet and carry her to Caesar as a gift. The queen decided to seduce the Roman commander, and the next morning, after she did so, she celebrated the victory. Caesar fell in love with the young queen and promised he would not only forget about her debts but also make her brother reconcile with her. Julius Caesar returned the throne to his mistress. During the war, the young king drowned, trying to flee Egypt, when he escaped from Caesar’s troops. Since that time, Cleopatra has become the sole ruler of the state.
Caesar was preparing to seize Dacia and Parthia, thus expanding the eastern borders of the Roman Empire. He intended to take charge of such a giant empire. After the war, he called a mistress with a little son whom Cleopatra named Ptolemy Caesarion in Rome. However, the Romans’ hatred for the stranger grew stronger and stronger. It was said that she was so attached to her Caesar that he supposedly seriously decided to become a pharaoh and move the capital of the Roman Empire to Alexandria. The dictator did not deny such rumors, which he paid with his life. Close associates killed Julius Caesar during the senate’s meeting. Caesar did not leave direct heirs. When his will was revealed, he was found to have appointed his nephew Octavian as successor, and no mention was made of Ptolemy Caesarion. The frightened Egyptian queen gathered and sailed to her homeland.
Relationship with Marc Anthony
After the death of Caesar, troubled times came to Egypt. To somehow save the country from the Roman troops that were quickly approaching, Cleopatra entered into a love affair with another Roman commander, Mark Antony, who competed with Octavian for domination over the Roman state. Simple and rude, yet handsome and passionate to female charms, Antony fell madly in love with the charming Egyptian and, forgetting about his lawful wife, spent all the time with his new mistress. Anthony’s wife fell ill from grief and suddenly died. The widower wished to make a new marriage with the Egyptian queen. Octavian was against it. He offered his sister – the intelligent, educated and kind Octavia. Mark Anthony soberly assessed his political interest and agreed. However, immediately after the wedding, the commander sailed to Syria, where a brilliant Cleopatra was. She did not like that the lover linked his life with another. To console her beloved, Anthony married her. As a wedding gift, Anthony presented Cyprus, Phenicia and Cilicia. Cleopatra was given the title of Queen of Kings. She gave birth to a son and a daughter from Anthony. Cicero states, “Anthony has become Osiris to Cleopatra’s Isis”. Three years passed, and Octavian decided to put an end to the dual power in the country. He went to war with Anthony. The fleet and the army of the rival were defeated. Anthony himself committed suicide by rushing to the sword.
Death and Defeat
Octavian wanted to imprison Cleopatra and “parade her through the streets of Rome in chains”. The Egyptian queen could not endure such disgrace and humiliation. She secretly made her way to her tomb, ordered the servant to bring a poisonous snake and wrapped it around her neck. A few hours later, Octavian received a message from Cleopatra. In it, the last queen of the Ptolemaic dynasty asked to be buried next to her last husband – Mark Anthony, not far from the royal palace.
Cleopatra’s death from a snake bite has a deep symbolic meaning. Since immemorial, the crown of pharaohs was adorned with the image of an aspid snake. The snake was the emblem of royal power. In the Egyptian cults, the reptile was also associated with the sun-god Ra. The snake’s bite was believed to have given immortality and attached man to the gods.
Role in History
Cleopatra played a crucial role in the history of Egypt. “She was a key player in events which shaped Western civilization, and even her death was a turning point in Europe’s history”. Cleopatra managed to rebuild the power and wealth of Egypt. The treasury was empty at the end of her father’s rule. Cleopatra restored and grew the wealth of her country. This achievement is sufficient to rank Cleopatra among history’s top rulers. Graham-Yooll emphasizes that Cleopatra was “a brilliant, vibrant and talented leader who could compete with men without an army”.
Cleopatra was the last queen of the Ancient Egypt. She came to power when the star of Egypt had already sunk. Realizing this, she struggled for the throne and independence of her state. She proved to be a very wise and subtle politician, betting on two of the greatest people of her time – Guy Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. Cleopatra stands in line with the most famous politicians of her time. She led a ‘big game’, the rate at which the Egyptian throne and the freedom of her state were. Although she lost, the fact that she managed to keep Egypt’s independence from Rome for 20 years meant a lot.
1. Cicero, Tullius. Letter to J. W. Worthy. n.d.
2. Fletcher, Joann. Cleopatra the Great: The Woman behind the Legend. Harper Collins, 2011.
3. Graham-Yooll, Fred. Cleopatra’s Lost Treasure. Page Publishing, 2015.
4. Miller, Ron, and Sommer Browning. Cleopatra. Infobase Publishing, 2008.
5. Roller, Duane. Cleopatra: A Biography. Oxford University Press, 2010.