It feels a bit odd to be posting the weekly blog this early but since I have three classes ending Thursday there is definitely no time to waste, eh? Anyway, this week’s materials ended with the mentioning of Cleopatra VII, the last Pharaoh of dynastic Egypt. The reading mentions a little bit about the tumultuous life of this female ruler, but there are many stories surrounding her rule that can be considered quite scandalous. Though her life ended in suicide in 30 BC, and with her death the transitioning of Egypt into a province of the Roman Empire, she was very successful in using her charm and wit to gain power among the other (male) figures in power at the time.
An important thing to mention is that Egypt did have female rulers, but it was necessary for them to have a male consort. The identity of Cleopatra’s mother is unknown, though she may have been the sister of her father. Similarly, when Cleopatra’s father died, she rose to power at the age of 18 and was forced to wed her 12 year old brother, a political situation that Cleopatra used to her advantage. She basically ignored him as co-ruler, which created much unrest and lead to her exile.
Cleopatra was not deterred. She used her wit and charm to become Julius Caesar’s lover, which gave her a political advantage and he returned her to her throne. At this point she married her youngest brother, who was 11 years of age, but had a son with Caesar named Cesarion (or Little Caesar). Caesar got stabbed though, and Cleopatra returned to Egypt. She later charmed yet another major figure, Marc Antony, which gave her political influence. This did not work out in their favor, however, for Marc Antony’s council did not approve of his affair and declared war on Egypt, and they were easily defeated. And so, the Roman Empire gained control of Egypt and Cleopatra died by the bite of an Egyptian cobra.
Chapter 10: The Greco-Roman Period