Cleopatra

cleopatra1280She looked down at her daughter in the bucket among the reeds along the Nile river. She was the daughter of Ptolemy XII, king of Egypt. She had five brothers and sisters, but was the most educated of them, speaking six languages and having great knowledge of the arts. She was eighteen when her father died in 51 B.C. and her father’s will said that she and her ten year old brother Ptolemy XIII should rule Egypt together. She is the woman of legends who span more than two millennium, known as Cleopatra.

Powerful men of the time used her brother as a figurehead, while they ruled with their own ideas. They wanted to kill Cleopatra to cement their power over Egypt so she fled. Three years later, when she turned twenty-one, she returned to Egypt to seek out Julius Caesar. She rolled herself in a carpet and was snuck past her brother’s guards. Caesar was a powerful general in the Roman army at age fifty-two. As soon as Cleopatra presented herself, Caesar was amazed and delighted. He didn’t like her just for her beauty, but for her intelligence and her personality. This didn’t keep him from taking her as his lover almost immediately.

Enthralled by her, he decided to help her by fighting against Ptolemy XIII and his army. He defeated the opposing army and her brother died in the Nile river at the age of fifteen, drug down by the weight of his golden armor. Caeser had Cleopatra married to her youngest brother of twelve years, who by her father’s will could not rule, so she ruled Egypt alone. When Caesar returned to Rome, he left a pregnant Cleopatra behind.

It is said that she gave birth to Caesar’s first true son, because he already had an adopted one. But the truth was she took the male son of a hand-maiden, who had given birth around the same time as her. The hand maiden was without family or husband, so Cleopatra had her killed so that no one could dispute the baby’s birthright. She took her own daughter and set her afloat on the Nile, hoping some family would take her in.

If Cleopatra was to secure her place in Caesar’s life and her son’s future, it had to be a boy. She named him Ptolemy Caesar so that all would know who his father was. His nickname was Caesarison, which means “Little Caesar”. Although Caesar never admitted this was his son, he kept Cleopatra, her brother-husband and her son as a guest in his palace in Rome for a year and a half. He had a bronze statue of Cleopatra put in the Temple of Venus, who was the goddess of love and beauty. Caesar declared that Cleopatra should be a goddess not only in Egypt but in Rome as well. Rumor spread that Caesar was planning to make himself king and Cleopatra queen.

On March 15th, 44 B.C. a group of senators assassinated Caesar. When his will was read two days later, Cleopatra and her son were not in it. So she returned to Egypt and had her brother-husband killed a few months later. She had Ptolemy Caeser share the throne with her, because a woman could not be Pharoh.

Enter Marc Antony. Heir to half of the Roman Empire of which Octavious and the senators who murdered Caesar get the other half. Antony had met Cleopatra before and fell in love with her. He promised to make Caesar’s birthline legal and bequeath the whole Roman empire to Caesarion and Cleopatra. She bears Marc Antony twins.

Octavious’ army are closing in on Alexandria and Antony comes to her aid. But before he can reach her Octavious captures Cleopatra and puts her in the mausoleum she built as a prison. A miscommunication reaches Antony that Octavious has killed Cleopatra. He stabs himself with a sword to commit suicide, but when told that Cleopatra is still alive, he wants to see her before he dies. His closest companions sneak him into her mausoleum/prison where she tears off her clothes to cover his bleeding body. She later commits suicide by having her servants sneak and asp snake into the mausoleum in a fruit basket, and by what traditions says, has it bite her breast. She left a letter asking to be buried next to Marc Antony.

Although I write this in January of 2007, I think that Cleopatra’s body will be discovered thirty kilometers from Alexandria in a temple called Tabusiris Magna by famed archeologist Zahi Hawass, sometime in late summer of this year. This discovery will be considered to be much more important than the Tomb of Tutankhamon.