When hearing about Egypt, people instantly connect it with Cleopatra. And they are right in doing so, since she was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt and one of the most renowned historical figures in the world. Born in late 60 BCE, Cleopatra VII Philapator was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek descent that ruled Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. The family spoke Greek and refused to learn Egyptian. However, Cleopatra did learn how to speak Egyptian and represented herself as the reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess Isis. She ruled the country from an early age, jointly with her father at first. After her father died, she ruled with her younger brothers Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV.
She married them both, as the Egyptian law specified that she had to have a consort who was either a brother or a son. 18-year-old Cleopatra eventually became sole ruler. As the Roman Empire was rising and was conquering one city after another, no wonder that she allied with the Romans. The liaison she consummated with Julius Caesar solidified her grip on the throne. Cleopatra was becoming stronger and stronger. Julius Caesar fell in love with her and the two had a son together, Caesarion. Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE. After this unfortunate event, Cleopatra joined forces with Mark Antony, in opposition to Caesar’s legal heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (later known as Augustus). Marc Antony also fell in love with the beautiful Cleopatra and had three children with her: twins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and son Ptolemy Philadelphus. No children were produced from the union with her younger brothers.
Marc Antony committed suicide after losing the Battle of Actium to the forces of his rival, Octavian. Legend has it that Cleopatra followed suit and killed herself by means of an asp bite. Her death is recorded on August 12, 30 BCE. Her son Caesarion briefly outlived her and was even declared pharaoh by his supporters, but he was soon killed on Octavian’s orders, leading to Egypt becoming the Roman province of Aegyptus. Cleopatra was thus the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. Her legacy survives in numerous artworks and story dramatizations, some of the most famous ones being William Shakespeare’s tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, and the 1962 film Cleopatra. She was without a doubt one of the most beautiful, powerful and dedicated women in history.