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 Cleopatra VII

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PostSubject: Cleopatra VII   13/11/2010, 7:24 pm




Cleopatra VII Philopator (in Greek, Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ; (Late 69 BC[1] – August12, 30 BC) was the last person to rule Ancient Egypt as anEgyptian pharaoh.
She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty,and therefore a descendant of one of Alexander the Great's generals who had seized control over Egypt afterAlexander's death.[2][3][4][5] MostPtolemeis spoke Greek and refused to learn Egyptian, which is the reason thatGreek as well as Egyptian languages were used on official court documents likethe Rosetta Stone.[6] By contrast,Cleopatra learned Egyptian and represented herself as the reincarnation of anEgyptian goddess Isis.
Cleopatra originally ruled jointly with her fatherPtolemy XII Auletes and later with her brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, whomshe married as per Egyptian custom, but eventually she became sole ruler. Aspharaoh, she consummated a liaison with Julius Caesar thatsolidified her grip on the throne. She later elevated her son with Caesar, Caesarion, toco-ruler in name.
After Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, she alignedwith Mark Antony inopposition to Caesar's legal heir, Gaius Iulius Caesar Octavianus (later knownas Augustus). With Antony, she bore thetwins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios,and another son, Ptolemy Philadelphus. Her unions with herbrothers produced no children. After losing the Battle of Actium toOctavian's forces, Antonycommitted suicide. Cleopatra followed suit, according to tradition killing herselfby means of an aspbite on August 12, 30 BC.[7] She wasbriefly outlived by Caesarion, who was declared pharaoh, but he was soon killedon Octavian's orders. Egyptbecame the Romanprovince of Aegyptus.
To this day, Cleopatra remains a popular figure inWestern culture. Her legacy survives in numerous works of art and the manydramatizations of her story in literature and other media, including William Shakespeare's tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, Jules Massenet'sopera Cléopâtreand the 1963 film Cleopatra. In most depictions, Cleopatra is put forward asa great beauty and her successive conquests of the world's most powerful menare taken to be proof of her aesthetic and sexual appeal. In his Pensées,philosopher BlaisePascal contends that Cleopatra's classically beautiful profilechanged world history: "Cleopatra's nose, had it been shorter, the wholeface of the world would have been changed."[8]
Biography
Accession to the throne
The identity of Cleopatra's mother is unknown, butshe is generally believed to be Cleopatra V Tryphaena of Egypt, the sister or cousin and wifeof Ptolemy XII, or possibly another Ptolemaic family member who was thedaughter of Ptolemy X and Cleopatra Berenice III Philopator if Cleopatra V wasnot the daughter of Ptolemy X and Berenice III.[9]Cleopatra's father Auletes was a direct descendant of Alexander the Great's general, Ptolemy I Soter,son of Arsinoe and Lacus, both of Macedon.
Centralization of power and corruption led to uprisings in and the losses of Cyprus and Cyrenaica, makingPtolemy's reign one of the most calamitous of the dynasty. When Ptolemy went toRome withCleopatra, Cleopatra VI Tryphaena seized the crown but died shortlyafterwards in suspicious circumstances. It is believed, though not proven byhistorical sources, that BereniceIV poisoned her so she could assume sole rulership. Regardless ofthe cause, she did until Ptolemy Auletes returned in 55 BC, with Roman support, capturing Alexandria aided by Romangeneral AulusGabinius. Berenice was imprisoned and executed shortly afterwards,her head allegedly being sent to the royal court on the decree of her father,the king. Cleopatra was now, at age 14, put as joint regent and deputy of herfather, although her power was likely to have been severely limited.
PtolemyXII died in March 51 BC, thus by his will making the18-year-old Cleopatra and her brother, the 10-year-old Ptolemy XIII jointmonarchs. The first three years of their reign were difficult, due to economicdifficulties, famine, deficient floods of the Nile, and political conflicts. AlthoughCleopatra was married to her young brother, she quickly made it clear that shehad no intention of sharing power with him.
In August 51 BC, relations between Cleopatra andPtolemy completely broke down. Cleopatra dropped Ptolemy's name from officialdocuments and her face appeared alone on coins, which went against Ptolemaictradition of female rulers being subordinate to male co-rulers. In 50 BCCleopatra came into a serious conflict with the Gabiniani, powerfulRoman troops of Aulus Gabinius who had left them in Egypt to protect Ptolemy XII afterhis restoration to the throne in 55 BC. This conflict was one of the maincauses for Cleopatra's soon following loss of power.
The sole reign of Cleopatra was finally ended by acabal of courtiers, led by the eunuchPothinus, removingCleopatra from power and making Ptolemy sole ruler in circa 48 BC (orpossibly earlier, as a decree exists from 51 BC with Ptolemy's namealone). She tried to raise a rebellion around Pelusium, but shewas soon forced to flee with her only remaining sister, Arsinoë.[10]
Relation with Julius Caesar
Assassination of Pompey
While Cleopatra was in exile, Pompey became embroiled in the Roman civil war. In the autumn of 48 BC, Pompey fled fromthe forces of Caesar to Alexandria,seeking sanctuary. Ptolemy, only fifteen years old at that time, had set up athrone for himself on the harbour, from where he watched as on September 28, 48BC, Pompey was murdered by one of his former officers, now in Ptolemaicservice. He was beheaded in front of his wife and children, who were on theship from which he had just disembarked. Ptolemy is thought to have ordered thedeath to ingratiate himself with Caesar, thus becoming an ally of Rome, towhich Egypt was in debt at the time, though this act proved a miscalculation onPtolemy's part. When Caesar arrived in Egypt two days later, Ptolemypresented him with Pompey's severed head; Caesar was enraged. Although he wasCaesar's political enemy, Pompey was a Consul of Rome and the widower of Caesar'sonly legitimate daughter, Julia (who died in childbirth with Pompey'sson). Caesar seized the Egyptian capital and imposed himself as arbiter betweenthe rival claims of Ptolemy and Cleopatra.
Relationship with Julius Caesar
Eager to take advantage of Julius Caesar'sanger toward Ptolemy, Cleopatra had herself smuggled secretly into the palaceto meet with Caesar. One legend claims she entered past Ptolemy’s guards rolledup in a carpet.[11] Shebecame Caesar’s mistress, and nine months after their first meeting, in 47 BC,Cleopatra gave birth to their son, Ptolemy Caesar, nicknamed Caesarion, whichmeans "little Caesar".
At this point Caesar abandoned his plans to annex Egypt, insteadbacking Cleopatra's claim to the throne. After a war lasting six months between the party ofPtolemy XIII and the Roman army of Caesar, Ptolemy XIII was drowned in the Nile and Caesar restored Cleopatra to herthrone, with another younger brother Ptolemy XIV as hernew co-ruler.[12]
Although Cleopatra was 21 years old when they metand Caesar was 52, they became lovers during Caesar’s stay in Egypt between48 BC and 47 BC. Cleopatra claimed Caesar was the father of her sonand wished him to name the boy his heir, but Caesar refused, choosing hisgrandnephew Octavian instead.During this relationship, it is also rumored that Cleopatra introduced Caesarto her astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria, who first proposed the idea of leap day and leap years.
Cleopatra, Ptolemy XIV and Caesarion visited Rome in summer46 BC, where the Egyptian queen resided in one of Caesar's country houses.[13] Therelationship between Cleopatra and Caesar was obvious to the Roman people andit was a scandal, because the Roman dictator was already married to Calpurnia Pisonis.But Caesar even erected a golden statue of Cleopatra represented as Isis in the temple of Venus Genetrix (the mythical ancestress of Caesar's family), which was situated at the Forum Julium.[14] The Roman orator Cicero said in his preserved letters that he hated the foreign queen.[15] Cleopatra and her entourage were in Rome when Caesar was assassinated on 15 March, 44 BC.[16] She returned with her relatives to Egypt. When Ptolemy XIV died – allegedly poisoned by his older sister - Cleopatra made Caesarion her co-regent and successor and gave him the epithets Theos Philopator Philometor (= Father- and motherloving God).[17]
Cleopatra in the Roman Civil War
In the Roman civil war between the Caesarian party– led by Mark Antony andOctavian – and the party of the assassins of Caesar – led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus – Cleopatra sided with the Caesarianparty because of her past. Brutus and Cassius left Italyand sailed to the East of the Roman Empire,where they conquered large areas and established their military bases. At thebeginning of 43 BC Cleopatra formed an alliance with the leader of theCaesarian party in the East, Publius Cornelius Dolabella, who recognizedCaesarion as her co-ruler.[18] But soonDolabella was encircled in Laodiceaand committed suicide (July 43 BC).
Now Cassius wanted to invade Egypt to seizethe treasures of that country and to punish the queen for her refusal ofCassius’ request to send him supplies and her support for Dolabella. Egypt seemed aneasy booty because the land did not have strong land forces and there wasfamine and an epidemic. Cassius finally wanted to prevent Cleopatra frombringing a strong reinforcement for Antonyand Octavian. But he could not execute the invasion of Egypt because at the end of 43 BC Brutus summonedhim back to Smyrna. Cassiustried to blockade Cleopatra’s way to the Caesarians. For this purpose Lucius Staius Murcus moved with 60 shipsand a legion of elite troops into position at Cape Matapan in thesouth of the Peloponnese.Nevertheless Cleopatra sailed with her fleet from Alexandriato the west along the Libyan coast to join the Caesarian leaders but she wasforced to return to Egyptbecause her ships were damaged by a violent storm and she became ill. StaiusMurcus learned of the misfortune of the queen and saw parts of her wreckedships at the coast of Greece.He then sailed with his ships into the Adriatic Sea.[19]
Cleopatra and Mark Antony
In 41 BC, Mark Antony, one ofthe triumvirs who ruled Rome in thepower vacuum following Caesar's death, sent his intimate friend Quintus Dellius to Egypt. Delliushad to summon Cleopatra to Tarsus to meet Antony and answerquestions about her loyalty. During the Roman civil war she allegedly had paidmuch money to Cassius. It seems that in reality Antony wanted Cleopatra’s promise to supporthis intended war against the Parthians.Cleopatra arrived in great state, and so charmed Antonythat he chose to spend the winter of 41 BC–40 BC with her in Alexandria.[20]
To safeguard herself and Caesarion, she had Antony order the death of her sister Arsinoe, who was living at the templeof Artemis in Ephesus, which wasunder Roman control. The execution was carried out in 41 BC on the stepsof the temple, and this violation of temple sanctuary scandalised Rome.[21]Cleopatra had also executed her strategos of Cyprus, Serapion, who had supported Cassius against her intentions.[22]
On 25 December 40 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to twins fathered by Antony, Alexander Heliosand Cleopatra Selene II. Four years later, Antonyvisited Alexandriaagain en route to make war with the Parthians. He renewed his relationship withCleopatra, and from this point on Alexandriawould be his home. He married Cleopatra according to the Egyptian rite (aletter quoted in Suetonius suggests this), although he was atthe time married to OctaviaMinor, sister of his fellow triumvir Octavian. He andCleopatra had another child, Ptolemy Philadelphus.
At the Donations of Alexandria in late 34 BC, following Antony'sconquest of Armenia, Cleopatra and Caesarion were crowned co-rulers of Egypt and Cyprus; Alexander Helioswas crowned ruler of Armenia, Media,and Parthia; CleopatraSelene II was crowned ruler of Cyrenaicaand Libya; and PtolemyPhiladelphus was crowned ruler of Phoenicia, Syria, and Cilicia. Cleopatrawas also given the title of "Queen of Kings" by Antonius.[23] Herenemies in Rome feared that Cleopatra "was planning a war of revenge thatwas to array all the East against Rome, establish herself as empress of theworld at Rome, cast justice from Capitolium, andinaugurate a new universal kingdom."[24] Caesarion was notonly elevated having coregency with Cleopatra, but also proclaimed with manytitles, including god, sonof god and kingof kings, and was depicted as Horus.[citation needed] Egyptians thought Cleopatra to be areincarnation of goddess Isis,as she called herself (Nea Isis).[25]
Relations between Antonyand Octavian, disintegrating for several years, finally broke down in33 BC, and Octavian convinced the Senate to levy war against Egypt. In 31 BCAntony's forces faced the Romans in a navalaction off the coast of Actium.Cleopatra was present with a fleet of her own. Popular legend states that whenshe saw that Antony's poorly equipped and mannedships were losing to the Romans' superior vessels, she took flight and that Antony abandoned thebattle to follow her, but no contemporary evidence states this was the case.Following the Battleof Actium, Octavian invaded Egypt. As he approached Alexandria, Antony'sarmies deserted to Octavian on August 1, 30 BC.
There are a number of unverifiable stories aboutCleopatra, of which one of the best known is that, at one of the lavish dinnersshe shared with Antony,she playfully bet him that she could spend ten million sesterces on adinner. He accepted the bet. The next night, she had a conventional,unspectacular meal served; he was ridiculing this, when she ordered the secondcourse — only a cup of strong vinegar. She then removed one of her pricelesspearl earrings, dropped it into the vinegar, allowed it to dissolve, and drankthe mixture. The earliest report of this story comes from Pliny the Elder anddates to about 100 years after the banquet described would have happened. The calcium carbonatein pearls does dissolve in vinegar, but slowly unless the pearl is firstcrushed.[26]
Death
The ancient sources, particularly the Roman ones,are in general agreement that Cleopatra killed herself by inducing an Egyptiancobra to bite her. Theoldest source is Strabo, who wasalive at the time of the event, and might even have been in Alexandria. He says that there are twostories: that she applied a toxic ointment, or that she was bitten by an asp.[27] SeveralRoman poets, writing within ten years of the event, all mention bites by twoasps,[28][29][30] as does Florus, a historian, some 150 years later.[31] Velleius, sixty years after the event, alsorefers to an asp.[32][33] Otherauthors have questioned these historical accounts, stating that it is possiblethat Augustus had her killed.[34]
In 2010, the German historian Christoph Schaeferchallenged all other theories, declaring that the queen had actually beenpoisoned and died from drinking a mixture of poisons. After studying historictexts and consulting with toxicologists, the historian concluded that the aspcould not have caused a slow and pain free death, since the asp (Egyptian cobra)venom paralyses parts of the body, starting with the eyes, before causingdeath. Schaefer and his toxicologist Dietrich Mebs decided Cleopatra used amixture of hemlock, wolfsbane and opium.[35]
Plutarch,writing about 130 years after the event, reports that Octavian succeededin capturing Cleopatra in her Mausoleum after the death of Antony. He ordered his freedman Epaphroditus to guard her to prevent her fromcommitting suicide because he allegedly wanted to present her in his triumph.But Cleopatra was able to deceive Epaphroditus and kill herself nevertheless.[36] Plutarchstates that she was found dead, her handmaiden, Iras dying at her feet, andanother handmaiden, Charmion, adjusting her crown before she herself falls.[37] He thengoes on to state that an asp was concealed in a basket of figs that was broughtto her by a rustic, and, finding it after eating a few figs, she held out herarm for it to bite. Other stories state that it was hidden in a vase, and thatshe poked it with a spindle until it got angry enough to bite her on the arm.Finally, he eventually writes, in Octavian's triumphal march back in Rome, an effigy ofCleopatra that has an asp clinging to it is part of the parade.[38]
Suetonius,writing about the same time as Plutarch, also says Cleopatra died from an aspbite.[39]
Shakespeare gave us the final part of the imagethat has come down to us, Cleopatra clutching the snake to her breast.[40] Beforehim, it was generally agreed that she was bitten on the arm.[41][42][43]
Plutarch tells us of the death of Antony. When his armies desert him and joinwith Octavian, he cries out that Cleopatra has betrayed him. She, fearing hiswrath, locks herself in her monument with only her two handmaidens and sendsmessengers to Antonythat she is dead. Believing them, Antonystabs himself in the stomach with his sword, and lies on his couch to die.Instead, the blood flow stops, and he begs any and all to finish him off.
Another messenger comes from Cleopatra withinstructions to bear him to her, and he, rejoicing that Cleopatra is stillalive, consents. She won't open the door, but tosses ropes out of a window.After Antony issecurely trussed up, she and her handmaidens haul him up into the monument.This nearly finishes him off. After dragging him in through the window, theylay him on a couch. Cleopatra tears off her clothes and covers him with them.She raves and cries, beats her breasts and engages in self-mutilation. Antony tells her to calmdown, asks for a glass of wine, and dies upon finishing it.[44]
The site of their Mausoleum isuncertain, though it is thought by the Egyptian Antiquities Service, to be in or nearthe temple of TaposirisMagna south west of Alexandria.[45]
Cleopatra's son by Caesar, Caesarion, wasproclaimed pharaoh by the Egyptians, after Alexandria fell to Octavian. Caesarion wascaptured and killed, his fate reportedly sealed when one of Octavian's advisersparaphrased Homer: "It is bad to have too many Caesars."[46] Thisended not just the Hellenistic line of Egyptian pharaohs, but the line of allEgyptian pharaohs. The three children of Cleopatra and Antonywere spared and taken back to Rome where theywere taken care of by Antony'swife, Octavia Minor. Thedaughter, Cleopatra Selene, was married by arrangements by Octavian to Juba II of Mauretania.[47]
Character and cultural depictions
Statue of Cleopatraas Egyptian goddess; Basalt, second half of the first century BC. Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
Main article: Cultural depictions of Cleopatra VII
Cleopatra was regarded as a great beauty, even inthe ancient world. In his Life of Antony, Plutarch remarksthat "judging by the proofs which she had had before this of the effect ofher beauty upon Caius Caesar and Gnaeus the son of Pompey, she had hopes thatshe would more easily bring Antonyto her feet. For Caesar and Pompey had known her when she was still a girl andinexperienced in affairs, but she was going to visit Antony at the very timewhen women have the most brilliant beauty".[8] Later inthe work, however, Plutarch indicates that "her beauty, as we are told,was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who sawher."[8] Rather,what ultimately made Cleopatra attractive were her wit, charm and "sweetnessin the tones of her voice."[8]
CassiusDio also spoke of Cleopatra's allure: "For she was a woman ofsurpassing beauty, and at that time, when she was in the prime of her youth,she was most striking; she also possessed a most charming voice and knowledgeof how to make herself agreeable to every one. Being brilliant to look upon andto listen to, with the power to subjugate every one, even a love-sated manalready past his prime, she thought that it would be in keeping with her roleto meet Caesar, and she reposed in her beauty all her claims to the throne."[8]
These accounts influenced later culturaldepictions of Cleopatra, which typically present her using her charms toinfluence the most powerful men in the Western world.
Ancestry
The high degree of inbreeding amongstthe Ptolemies can be seen from the ancestry of Cleopatra VII. As the stemma below shows,she only had four great-grandparents and six (out of a possible 16)great-great-grandparents (furthermore, four of those six were descended fromthe other two).
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