Cleopatra VII Philopator. One of the most famous women of all history with one of the most dramatic stories. We've all heard how she gained the affections of two of the most powerful men of Rome, and committed suicide through snake bite. And while that story is very dramatic, it doesn't really capture the full brilliance of Cleopatra. More than just a romantic figure, Cleopatra was cunning, charismatic, and ruthless. And to understand how she developed into such a fierce politician, we gotta talk about her family, the Ptolemys. Talk about a nest of vipers.
What's a girl to do when your brother-husband is trying to murder you? Well, cozy up to one of the world's largest military powers of course. But while Cleopatra knew that she had to get to Caesar if she stood any chance of reclaiming the throne, there were a few complications in the way. Namely, that whole... brosband sending assassins and guarding the city with military force thing. But Cleopatra was nothing if not resourceful and clever. And if she's going to get smuggled into Caesar's bedchambers... she's going to do it with the kind of dramatic style that will ignite romantic imaginations for centuries to come.
Cleopatra had put all the chips on Caesar and we all know how that played out. So now she has a choice: back Mark Antony or Octavian. For Cleopatra, the choice was obvious. She had a son with Caesar which conflicted with Octavian's claims to be the heir of Caesar's legacy. Mark Antony on the other hand was looking for a long-distance relationship and knew how to party. The choice was rather obvious. But will it pay off for Cleopatra in the end?
Ah, the most famous part of Cleopatra's story. After riding high with Mark Antony, the two rulers decided to make a huge gamble to cut Octavian out of the picture and ensure their dynasty for ages to come. Unfortunately, they made an error. Octavian exploited the optics with a propaganda campaign that targeted not Mark Antony, but Cleopatra. And that seals their fate. So let's talk about the military campaign and how Cleopatra fell from the dizzying heights of power... but her story isn't over yet.
It's impossible to talk about Cleopatra without addressing her legacy. How did the Queen become so well known that nearly every person knows about her today despite having lived several thousand years ago? We have her enemy to thank, Octavian. In setting himself as the first Roman Emperor, he used Cleopatra as a foil, and immortalized her. And when the Renaissance came along, William Shakespeare picked her story back up and used it as the basis for one of his most famous plays. Cleopatra never needed to build monuments. We built them for her.