Ah, the seventh Cleopatra of the Ptolemy genealogy. Also nicknamed as 'Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator', which means 'Cleopatra the Father-Loving Goddess' in Greek, is indeed a famous figure in history as well as in popular culture. Everyone knows who she is from her romantic liaison with Roman powerhouse Julius Caesar (and eventually with Mark Antony) or from just simply knowing her as the Queen of Egypt. This is Miss Cleopatra right here.
Yes, she is the most distinguished out of all the Cleopatras in the world. However, her legacy is more than meets the eye; it goes beyond just being skin-deep. Her history and life story, and just how perfectly she signifies the essence of female empowerment at a time when the male counterpart has the upper hand in human affairs, is what makes her a figure to remember.
In case you had not a clue about what made her so historically well-known, Cleopatra ruled at a very complicated period of time in Egypt, where she and her brother/husband had ruled in c. 51 B.C.E - yes, she had to marry her brother, Ptolemy XIII, at the age of seventeen, as was the custom back then. Further, if you had remembered from our lesson about the Hellenistic world, you would have guessed that the city of Alexandria in Egypt was governed by the Ptolemaic Kingdom. This kingdom is essentially made up of the descendants of Ptolemy, who were originally from Macedonia, Greece. Hence, Greek influences became mashed up with the already existing Egyptian culture, and later on with Roman culture as well.
Spot where Macedonia is, where Cleopatra and her family originated from, and the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt.
The Struggle to being the leader of egypt
In the midst of co-ruling, Ptolemy XIII had planned on murdering his sister/wife, Cleopatra, in order to gain full control over Egypt. Fortunately enough, Cleopatra was able to flee from him to Syria and came back with an army. She also allied alongside Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator at the time, to help her kill Ptolemy XIII. Plus, they kind of had a thing for each other anyway. And so, they did manage to kill Ptolemy XIII, while also burning down the Great Library filled with crucial historical scriptures and such, but at least Cleopatra became the undisputed leader of Egypt, right? Oh well.
Now, Cleopatra's life story may have been ever so hyped up due to her romance with Rome's Caesar, which became a huge point of interest among artists, poets and other artsy individuals. But there was also a political interest to her rule between 51 B.C.E to 30 B.C.E.
First of all, Cleopatra was in fact the “last representative of independent Egypt”. She was a very intellectual and cultural person because she had placed huge importance to preserve her heritage as much as she could - that was her main goal in life. Moreover, Egypt did not have much military power, so she leveraged on her personal charm in order to protect her land and people. Most importantly, she was a woman in a man’s world, who was dissatisfied with simply being a queen with no real value; she "wanted to be an actor in her own right". She had preferred cultural fusion to competition in order to further cooperation and also portrayed valor as she rebelled against any male control over her role as Queen of Egypt. For instance, she attempted to fend off Roman domination, more than any man could have ever done, despite failing in the end.
More so than her beauty, her intellect (such as being able to speak multiple languages), her wit and undoubtedly her charm (which had captivated two huge Roman characters in history - J. Caesar and Mark Antony) are attributes that have more often than not been overlooked by many of us. Also, au contraire to popular belief, Cleopatra did not bring Egypt to greater heights, albeit she did try to do so. Instead, due to the many problems she encountered and critical mistakes in foreign policy that she made, her haughtiness and natural inclination for being too ambitious had foiled Egypt's prospects for independence.
Cleopatra was definitely not the most successful of the Ptolemys, nor was she the longest lived. Yet, she was the Ptolemy who had largely influenced two powerful Roman men, that in turn impacted the Roman Empire's development. According to writer Tyldesley, Cleopatra was both a clever and effectual ruler who had set realistic aims that almost made her ambition of re-establishing Egypt as a superpower a successful one.
The legacy that she has left behind that made her so well-known, even in the 21st Century, is something worth noting and to wonder about. The story of Cleopatra’s reign in Ancient Egypt has been so notable that it led to the creation of films, fiction and influenced art as well. Looking at the other spectrum across from politics, there was an exciting mixture of "decadence, lust and unnatural death" along with the deteriorating influence of Egypt and the gallant power of Rome that had played with the imaginations of numerous literary people.
In essence, Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator, along with her charm, intelligence and determination for greatness, left a mark on both Egyptian and world history. Her resoluteness to make Egypt even greater than it already is made a huge impact on both the Egyptian society and culture, as well as the course of history that followed.