Notable Accomplishments of Cleopatra
Well known for her elegance, remarkable beauty and strength as a ruler, Cleopatra VII was a very powerful pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt. She accomplished many things during a reign that lasted from 51 BC to 30 BC. In those years, she co-ruled with two of her siblings – Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV – and later with her young son, Ptolemy XV Caesarion. A well-educated monarch, Cleopatra was knowledgeable in a number of fields. She could also speak many languages, including Egyptian and her native Kione Greek. This ability of hers allowed her to better communicate with foreign dignitaries.
She used her wits, charm and beauty to effectively build strong ties with powerful Roman generals, who in turn helped her consolidate her rule in Egypt over her siblings. She wielded enormous influence not just in Egypt, but also in Rome, making her perhaps the most influential woman in the world at the time.
Following her death in 30 BC, her kingdom was annexed by Rome’s general Octavian (later Augustus Caesar, first emperor of the Roman Empire). Cleopatra was thus the last active pharaoh of Egypt.
In the article below, WHE presents 9 notable achievements of Cleopatra – the last Egyptian queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom.
Became co-ruler of Egypt at just the age of 18
Born Cleopatra Philopator, she was the oldest daughter of her father, Pharaoh Ptolemy XII Auletes (reign 80-58 B.C.). Cleopatra’s mother was Cleopatra V Tryphaena. It’s been said that Cleopatra’s parents were probably step siblings. This practice was common among ancient monarchs. Cleopatra herself would marry two of her brothers – Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy IV – with whom she co-ruled.
Cleopatra was crowned co-pharaoh at 18, which was around the final few years of her father’s reign. Upon the death of her father Ptolemy XII Auletes, she and her 10-year-old brother Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator became joint rulers of Egypt from 51 BC to 47 BC. From 47 BC to 44 BC, she was joint ruler with her other brother, Ptolemy IV.
Upon the death of Ptolemy IV in 44 BC, her three-year-old son Caesarion (Ptolemy XV) was crowned joint pharaoh. With her siblings either dead or forced out of Egypt, Cleopatra would remain in charge of all Egypt from 44 BC to 30 BC, the year in which she died.
A multilingual with apt diplomatic skills
A well-educated monarch who was knowledgeable in a number of fields, she could also speak between nine to twelve languages. In addition to her native Kione Greek, Cleopatra was fluent in the Egyptian language, Hebrew, Latin, Arabic, Parthian, Median, Syrian, Ethiopian, and many others. This ability of hers allowed her to effectively communicate with foreign dignitaries. In other words, Cleopatra used this to her advantage in to foreign policy.
The fact that she studied math, natural philosopher, literature, logic, and a host of other subjects meant that she was never boring to be around. Her ability to hold her own in a conversation made her irresistibly charming to her listeners.
According to Plutarch her most admirable features were her soft and very enchanting voice. In Rome, she was seen as a political seductress, having had affairs with two of the leading Roman generals of the era – Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
Did you know: Cleopatra is praised as the first Ptolemaic ruler to be fluent in the Egyptian language?
Consolidated her reign in Egypt
Cleopatra had a number of siblings that all vied for greater control of the kingdom. To consolidate her power, she sought the aid of Julius Caesar, the famous Roman general and later dictator of Rome. The two even became romantically involved, bringing forth a child called Caesarion (later Ptolemy XV Caesar).
Cleopatra used her alliance with Rome to sideline her siblings, particularly her co-ruler Ptolemy XIII. At the Battle of the Nile in 47 BC, a combined force of Caesar and Cleopatra secured victory against Ptolemy, who would later drown to death. Her younger sister Arsinoe IV was exiled to Ephesus, where she served in the Temple of Artemis.
Following the death of Ptolemy XIII, her youngest sibling Ptolemy XIV was crowned co-ruler in 47 BC. Like his brother before him, Ptolemy XIV too died under very suspicious circumstances. It was alleged that he was poisoned by Cleopatra.
Ptolemy XV Caesar (also known as Caesarion), the young child of Cleopatra and Caesar, was crowned co-ruler. The Egyptian queen had successfully used her wit and charm to eliminate every form of resistance to her reign. She was fully in control of the kingdom which included Egypt, Cyprus, Cyrene, and some parts of modern day Libya and places in the Middle East.
With the help of another Roman general and lover by the name of Mark Antony, Cleopatra had Arsinoe killed in 41 BC.
Influenced art and fashion of her time
While living with Caesar in Rome, she is said to have influenced the fashion life of the city through the introduction of her new hairstyles and exotic jewelry. Romans, both men and women, were completely enchanted by the foreign mistress of Caesar. Soon, her fashion style was adopted by the people of Rome.
She is also famed to have written a medicinal book for how to enhance one’s general look. Among many things, the book included tips on how to cure male baldness and dandruff.
Revered as the earthly embodiment of the Egyptian goddess Isis
Her subjects saw her as the physical manifestation of the Egyptian goddess Isis. It was typical of ancient Egyptians to associate their monarchs with the gods and goddesses. The male pharaohs of Egypt were seen as the embodiment of Horus, the falcon-headed sky god, or in some cases the god Amun. The pharaoh’s wives in turn were seen as the God’s Wife of Amun. Therefore, it came as no surprise that Cleopatra VII was associated with Isis, a deity of magic and fertility. In the myths Isis was the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus.
Read More: List of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses
She was more than a beauty and fashion icon
For centuries, literature, music, and other art forms have depicted as a gorgeous woman with very seductive demeanor; however, there was more to Cleopatra than those traits. She knew exactly how to get what she wanted. She was very intelligent, and if anything at all, was a far better ruler than her immediate predecessors.
Surely had Cleopatra been only beautiful, she would not have been able to hold people’s attention for that long. The Egyptian queen simply knew how to combine her captivating physical beauty with an unbridled level of intelligence. This allowed her to be very persuasive when dealing with foreign dignitaries. Her sole objective was promote the interests of her kingdom.
Stabilized her kingdom
Queen Cleopatra’s reign brought a lot of stability into a ruling dynasty that was plagued by difficulties and infighting. With Rome’s influence and power rising in the region, the Ptolemies struggled to resist being pulled into Rome’s orbit. For example, Ptolemy XII (reign 80-58 B.C.), Cleopatra’s father, is said to have had a hard time doing this. In his later years on the throne, he found it a herculean task holding on to power, as the Egyptian elites were eager to pounce on him. Amidst all of that the Egyptian economy got worse by the day. Cleopatra’s objective was to reverse her dynasty’s downward spiral. Her mission was complete when she successfully got rid of her co-rulers and brothers – Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV and restored some bit of order.
A good administrator beloved by her people
Unbeknownst to some people, Cleopatra was not even ethnically Egyptian. She was born in Egypt, however. Cleopatra’s family roots go back to Ptolemy I Soter, who was the first Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt and one of Alexander the Great’s most trusted generals. Soter first served as satrap (i.e. governor) of Egypt before going on to crown himself pharaoh of Egypt, and thus establishing the Ptolemaic Dynasty that would last for about three centuries. Cleopatra, unlike her predecessors, took a bold decision to integrate fully into the Egyptian culture. In order to better understand the needs of her subjects, she also learned the Egyptian language.
During her reign, growth was seen in Egypt’s economy. Arts and culture developed. This point is reflective in the number of engravings her subjects made of her. Compared to her predecessors, Cleopatra did indeed manage her kingdom in a very effective manner.
The most powerful woman in the world at the time
Although ruler of Egypt, Cleopatra’s influence went far beyond Egypt. She managed to convince her lover Julius Caesar, a powerful Roman general and later dictator, to support her against her brother and co-ruler Ptolemy XII. She emerged victorious in that power struggle as she defeated her brother at the Battle of the Nile in 47 BC. Her influence on politics in Rome was definitely immense.
Did you know?
- Cleopatra’s brother, Ptolemy XIII, on the advice of his courtiers, executed Pompey the Great. The Roman general and arch rival of Caesar, was hoping that the Egyptians would lend him a helping hand. Instead the Egyptians killed Pompey the Great (in 48 BC) as they did not want to incur the wrath of Julius Caesar. In a visit to keep tabs on the issue, Caesar had the pleasure of meeting with the young female monarch, Cleopatra. Caesar prolonged his trip a bit longer in a bid to resolve the conflict between Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII. Rome was trying to secure its interest as Egypt was one of its biggest suppliers of grains. Therefore a stable Egypt was in the interest of Rome. Through Caesar’s intervention, Cleopatra was maintained as co-ruler of Egypt as per the will of deceased Pharaoh Ptolemy XII.
- According to some ancient authors, Cleopatra was in Rome when Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. The Egyptian queen, upon hearing the tragic news, made haste back to Egypt.
- At the naval Battle of Actium, Cleopatra dispatched her forces to erect a blockade on Octavian’s forces in Greece. She and her lover Antony would lock horns against Octavian’s more trained forces. The couple’s forces were ultimately vanquished by Octavian on the west coast of Greece in 31 BC. Rather than get captured, Cleopatra and Antony ended up committing suicide in Alexandria, Egypt.
- There have been doubts raised about the way Cleopatra died, with some ancient historians saying she might have died of an “asp” bite (i.e. a poisonous snake). Ancient Roman historian Plutarch states no one really knows how Cleopatra died. Fellow historian Strabo, on the other hand, stated that Cleopatra took her life with a poisonous “ointment”.
- Legend has it that Cleopatra dressed like the ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite in an attempt to woo Mark Antony, the powerful Roman general and a member of the Second Triumvirate. Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty and sexuality – themes that Cleopatra was mostly associated with. And like Aphrodite who had many affairs outside of her marriage to Hephaestus, Cleopatra was known for being a political seductress. She is believed to have sailed on an exquisite barge down the Nile while being attended to several beautifully dressed ladies-in-waiting, some dressed as Cupid, the Roman god of love. And the rest they say is history – Mark Antony fell head over heels with Cleopatra.
- Her child with Julius Caesar, Caesarion, was killed by future emperor Octavian. The remaining three children of Cleopatra (with Antony) were spared and sent to live with Octavian’s sister, Octavia, who was the former wife of Antony. Two of the children died before reaching adulthood. Cleopatra Selene went on to marry Juba II, a powerful ruler of Numidia (located in modern day Algeria), which was a client state of Rome.
- Growing up, she received very sound education. She was not just fluent in her native language Koine Greek but also the Egyptian language. She could also speak Latin, Ethiopian, Hebrew, and Parthian, among others. As queen, she was a big promoter of art and literature.
- The fact that she was romantically involved with Caesar and Mark Antony, two very influential generals and statesmen of Rome, meant that she wielded considerable influence on the political scene in Rome.
- With Cleopatra dead, Roman general Octavian (later Emperor Augustus) annexed Egypt and made the kingdom a province of Rome.
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