CLEOPATRA

Cleopatra is one of the most popular queens of ancient Egypt, a name used to mark public squares, commercial organizations and healthcare institutions. A royal of her time she believed herself to be a divine being and was associated with deities Isis and Aphrodite. She was depicted in Hollywood by Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh and Claudette Colbert haunting public imagination with an extravagant and breath-taking queen. Whether such sensationalist portrayals represented the truth or not, Egyptologist Joann Fletcher and author of Cleopatra the Great said that the queen was a "mistress of disguise" and that's a most colorful statement that allows for believing in an array of characteristics and images of Cleopatra.

As for putting a real face to the grand ruler, only recently did the discovery of a coin with her portrait go on display at Newcastle University in England, in February of 2007 to be exact. The coin dates back to 32 BC and shows a queen with a large nose, a pointed chin and narrow harsh lips. In Plutarch's Life of Antony reference was made to her charisma and strong presence as "irresistible" and "bewitching." He depicted her as a tragic heroine especially with her decision to end her life after Octavian defeated her Antony on August 12, 30 BC.

Prior to that haunting scene of her death that dominates the story of Cleopatra was a popular queen among her people; an ethnically Greek queen descendant of Alexander the Great. Unlike Egypt's Alexandria- based rulers she set her mind to learning the Egyptian language. In a papyrus that dates back to 35 BC she was referred to as Philopatris which means 'she who loves her country.

As it was custom she was to rule with her brother and husband Ptolemy XIII who drove her out of the royal palace after she attempted to rule without him. She then made her way to Syria and returned with an army of her own and stayed in wait outside the capital. Julius Caesar's arrival in Alexandria in 48 BC made him a liaison between the two royals. He wanted Egypt to continue being a peaceful and stable ally to Rome. Ptolemy XIII was against that motion for peace with his queen. She on the other hand gambled on pleading to Caesar for help. She was carried by her servant Apollodoros wrapped in a carpet and delivered to Caesar's company in secret. She did win him over and he helped her regain the throne. A civil war ensued and Ptolemy's rebellion against the armistice ended with his drowning in the Nile which left Cleopatra as the sole ruler of Egypt. Cleopatra went on to bear Caesar a son but custom dictated that she marry her remaining brother. With Caesar assassinated in 44 BC she ordered Ptolemy XIV killed to secure her son's place on the throne and also got rid of her rebellious sister Arsinoe. Although sources confirm her love for Antony and giving him three children she hoped that by securing such an alliance that she would keep Octavian (Julius Caesar's successor) at bay.

Her goal as a sovereign ruler was for Egypt to keep its independence from the Roman Empire. She empowered her kingdom economically by trading with the nations of Arabia and India making Egypt a world power and the richest nation on the Mediterranean and the last standing against the expansion of the Roman Empire until 30 BC.

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