Celebrating great women: cleopatra
This month we are honoring strong, bold, beautiful women, those who are mothers, leaders, influencers of all kinds. These women are often overlooked and underestimated. Even those who have fame don’t have the whole truth of their story revealed to the world.
Let’s take a look at one of the most famous women of all time. You may be surprised to learn that you (or a woman you know and love) is very similar to this fantastic historic figure. The woman we honor today is Cleopatra.
The story of Cleopatra is one like many others. It is filled with love and war, alliance and intrigue, tragedy and drama. Why was a woman born 2,000 years ago still commonly recognized today? Here are some highlights to her story.
Cleopatra was forced to face a monumental hardship when she was only 17 years old. Cleopatra’s father, the King of Egypt, died in 51 B.C. when she was a teenager. Her brother, Ptolemy XIII, was 12 years old. At the time, as was the custom, Cleopatra had to marry her brother to rule Egypt jointly. First the grief, then the formality of marrying her baby brother, then the huge responsibility of ruling a country!
Cleopatra was both brilliant and beautiful. For a woman, she was very well-educated. Cleopatra was well-versed in mathematics, literature, astronomy, medicine, and could speak several languages. Even though the Ptolemies ruled Egypt for 200 years and were of Macedonian descent, she was the first one who could fluently speak the Egyptian language. Her intelligence was assisted by her beauty, charisma, and passion. To others she was intimidating and envied.
One year later, Cleopatra suffered betrayal. Cleopatra’s own sister, Arsinol, worked with 3 official councilors to overthrow the new Queen. Because the young brother was easier to control, they kept him in place as King. It was only Cleopatra who they exiled from Egypt in 48 B.C.
Cleopatra’s cunning and determination won back the throne. Julius Caesar arrived in Alexandria 1 year after Cleopatra was exiled. It took some time, but Cleopatra managed to pull together an army. Then she knew not to approach Caesar directly because she would be killed if seen openly at the palace. To gain an audience with Caesar, she rolled herself into a carpet and had her army deliver it as a gift. Cleopatra instantly charmed Caesar, and they quickly became lovers. He helped her overthrow her brother, but the victory paid a steep price. The Great Library of Alexandria burnt down.
Cleopatra stood strong and proud against gossip that slandered her. Cleopatra traveled with Caesar to Rome. There she lived with him even though this offended the conservative Republicans. Caesar was already married, yet he wanted to marry Cleopatra. There were laws against marrying foreigners, so their marriage was forbidden, and their love was ridiculed harshly and openly.
A year later, Rome assassinated Caesar and kicked Cleopatra out. A conspiracy of Senators had Caesar assassinated because he was considered a huge threat. Cleopatra returned to Egypt and patiently watched from a distance as Rome fell into a Civil War between Caesar’s heir, Octavian, and Mark Anthony. Eventually Mark Anthony won. Because he had fallen in love with Cleopatra when she was in Rome, he went to Egypt to find her.
Cleopatra had a second great love, Mark Anthony. They were politically and intimately united for a year before Mark Anthony was recalled to Rome. Unfortunately, political pressure forced him to marry Octavia, the sister of Octavian, Caesar’s heir.
Cleopatra marries Mark Anthony. Four years after he left Egypt, Mark Anthony led a military campaign against Parthes, which brought him near Egypt. As soon as possible, he summoned Cleopatra to his side. He was still in love with her, and they married, even though he was technically married to Octavia. The war with Parthes continued until Rome was victorious in 34 B.C. Mark Anthony celebrated in Alexandria, and soon it became evident to Rome that he intended to stay with Cleopatra, rather than return to Octavia. In 32 B.C., Mark Anthony divorced Octavia. Then Rome declared war on Cleopatra. They fought long and hard, culminating in one of the most famous battles in history, the battle of Actium. It was fought off the coast of Greece in the Adriatic Sea between Octavian’s forces and those of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. Rome won, forcing Cleopatra and Mark Anthony to flee.
Rome went further to destroy the love between Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. When Octavian claimed Egypt as a Roman providence, the generals of Mark Anthony falsely reported to him that Cleopatra died in her mausoleum.
Mark Anthony then attempted suicide. Dying, he was taken to Cleopatra. He learned all too late that she was still alive. Mark Anthony died in Cleopatra’s arms and was buried as a king.
Rather than become a slave to Octavian, Cleopatra committed suicide. When Octavian entered Alexandria, Cleopatra was captured and taken to him. He made it very clear that he had no intention of having a relationship with her. He planned on taking Cleopatra to Rome to exhibit his triumph, but Cleopatra refused to become his slave. She locked herself in her mausoleum. Three days before they were to leave Egypt, Cleopatra had her hand servants bring a basket filled with figs. Hidden within was a snake. The Egyptians believed that death by snakebite secured immortality. Cleopatra was bitten by the asp, as were the hand servants. Octavian found them all dead.
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JASMIN JAHAL, Author
I've been dancing since I was 3 and a professional belly dancer for over 40 years. I've learned so much from personal belly dance experience and want to share with you advice, tips, suggestions and more. Anytime you have any questions and need sage advice, please reach out and let me hear from you!