Compare and Constrast Essay on Cleopatra

This essay has a total of 2571 words and 8 pages.


Cleopatra VII's family had been ruling Egypt since 305 B.C., when Ptolemy I declared
himself King of Egypt sometime after Alexander the Great's death. The Ptolemy family was
of Macedonian decent, not of Egyptian. The capital city which they ruled from, Alexandria,
had been established by Alexander and is a port city on the Mediterranean and Nile River.
This made Alexandria very important commercially, and it also became an intellectually and
artistically important city as well. Cleopatra VII's father was Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos
"Auletes", who began his rule of Egypt in 80 B.C. He was not well respected and thought
weak, as is exhibited by his popular nickname "Auletes", which means "flute-player" in
Greek. Cleopatra VII's mother could possibly be Cleopatra V Tryphaena, who either died or
disappeared in 68 B.C., right after Cleopatra VII's birth in 69 B.C. Cleopatra VII had two
older sisters, Cleopatra VI and Berenice IV, and one younger sister, Arsinoe IV. She also
had two younger brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. In 58 B.C. Berenice IV (and
perhaps Cleopatra VI) took over the kingdom, forcing Ptolemy XII "Auletes" to flee to
Rome. Berenice IV ruled the kingdom until Ptolemy XII "Auletes" regained the throne in 55
B.C. Berenice IV was beheaded, and Cleopatra VI disappeared in the intervening time
between 58 and 55 B.C. Ptolemy XII "Auletes" then ruled until his death in 51 B.C. His
will named Cleopatra VII and Ptolemy XIII as heirs to the throne. Leaders in Rome were
named as guardians and were to uphold the choice of Ptolemy XII for the two to marry and
jointly rule Egypt. These brother-sister marriages had been established as custom by
Ptolemy II when he married his sister Arsinoe II. (From now on Cleopatra VII will be
referred to simply as Cleopatra unless otherwise indicated) Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIII
ruled jointly and did marry, though it was a marriage solely in law. Cleopatra, aged about
18 years, and Ptolemy XII, 10 years, were named Queen and King of Egypt in 51 B.C.
Cleopatra did most of the ruling, and left Ptolemy XIII out of it. Ptolemy XIII, being
young, served as a puppet for power-hungry advisers (in particular a minister named
Pothinus) and in 48 B.C. kicked Cleopatra out of the palace. Cleopatra retaliated by
building her own army outside the city. Civil war was on the brink. Meanwhile in Rome,
there was also a civil war between Pompey (the Great) and Julius Caesar. Pompey had been
an ally of the Egyptians and, in an attempt to gain help, he fled to Egypt. Pothinus,
knowing that Caesar would win, convinced Ptolemy XIII that it would be best to have Pompey
beheaded. Pompey was stabbed in front of his wife by Lucius Septimius, who had once served
under Pompey. Lucius Septimius was accompanied by Achillas, general of the Egyptian army.
Pothinus had the head of Pompey saved to display for Caesar. Caesar had been in pursuit of
Pompey, and when he arrived in Egypt he was housed in the palace and presented Pompey's
head. Pothinus thought that this would convince Caesar that he should join Ptolemy XIII's
side in the civil war. Caesar had not been enchanted, however, by Pompey's head being
presented to him. Caesar had been friends with Pompey and did not desire to have him
treated so disrespectfully. Cleopatra, outside the city, knew it was imperative that she
get to Caesar and have him hear her side of the story. As the legend goes, she had herself
smuggled into the palace in a rug. She did this because it would have been impossible to
gain access to the palace without Ptolemy XIII discovering and killing her. Caesar was
enchanted by the young queen and the two spent the night together. Ptolemy was called to
an audience the next day and was dismayed to find that Cleopatra was at his side. What had
begun as a war between Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIII evolved into a war between Ptolemy XIII
allied with Arsinoe IV against Caesar. This is refereed to as the Alexandrian War. Cyprus
had been given back to Egypt by Caesar, and Arsinoe IV and Ptolemy XIV had been named
rulers. Arsinoe appeared to believe that she should also be Queen of Egypt, hence her
alliance with Ptolemy XIII against Caesar. During the Alexandrian War it had been reported
that the great Library of Alexandria had burned. The Library contained the greatest amount
of books in any library at the time. It appears that not the Library but a warehouse of
books, possibly for export, had burned near the harbor (where the fire began aboard
ships). The placement of the Library was too far inland for this to have happened. Caesar
may have had Pothinus beheaded because of what he did to Pompey, or he may have died in
the fighting. Either way, he was dead or missing. Ptolemy XIII, hearing of this, threw his
crown down and stormed out of the palace. He supposedly later drowned trying to leave the
city. Arsinoe IV was taken prisoner by Caesar to be displayed as a spoil of war in Rome.
Cleopatra was then restored to the throne and again married to her brother, Ptolemy XIV.
It was 47 B.C., and Cleopatra was 22 years old, and Ptolemy XIV was 12. Cleopatra again
acted as sole ruler, and this time managed to keep Ptolemy XIV from influence. Since
Arsinoe IV was considered a traitor, Cyprus was now under the direct rule of Cleopatra
(and, officially, Ptolemy XIV). Cleopatra chose to show Caesar her country with a cruise
on the Nile. Records of the cruise give us little information on their trip, but it is
very likely that Cleopatra became pregnant either while she was in Alexandria with Caesar
or during their trip. Either way, she claimed Caesar was the father, though whether this
is true is debatable. Caesar had only one child, a daughter named Julia, and had had many
affairs with women that never produced children. Caesar's alleged son was probably born in
47 B.C. Most sources roughly claim this as his birth year, though some sources claim he
was born as late as 44 B.C., which would place his birth after Caesar's death. If he was
born in 47 B.C., Caesar had left for Rome shortly before his birth. Cleopatra's son was
officially named Ptolemy XV Caesar, but he was popularly called "Caesarion", meaning
"Little Caesar". As stated before, Arsinoe IV had been taken prisoner by Caesar. Arsinoe
IV appeared in Caesar's March of Triumph in 46 B.C. She was marched through the streets of
Rome loaded down with chains. Caesar arranged for Arsinoe IV to leave Rome instead of be
beheaded, as was the usual practice with prisoners of war. She went to Ephesus, in Asia
Minor. Contrary to the 1963 movie, Cleopatra most likely didn't attend the Triumph because
her presence there does not seem to appear in any ancient documents. Her presence would
have caused quite a stir and would have been recorded by her contemporaries. Cleopatra,
Ptolemy XIV and Caesarion went to Rome as Caesar's guests in 46 B.C. and stayed a villa of
his outside of Rome. Cleopatra remained in Rome for about 2 years. On the Ides of March in
44 B.C., Caesar was assassinated outside the Senate Building in Rome. Most of the senators
thought he posed a threat to the well-being of the republic, because they believed that he
was going to have himself declared king. Soon after Caesar's death Cleopatra left Rome and
returned to Egypt. Ptolemy XIV is thought to have survived the voyage back to Egypt, but
he died soon after. He may have died of natural causes, or Cleopatra may have had him
killed. This is possible because he was 15 years old and would probably start to assert
his right to the throne. Mark Antony, who she had meet in Rome, became part of the Second
Triumvirate composed of himself, Octavian (later Augustus) and Lepidus. A Triumvirate was
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