Cleopatra (Cleopatra VII Philoptor: 51 BCE - 30 BCE) was the Ptolemaic Dynasty's last ruler after she committed suicide. Cleopatra was the Ptomley ruler, but she was also connected romantically to two of the most Romans in history, Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. After reigniting the Roman Civil Wars, she committed suicide when she was 20 years old to avoid being paraded around Rome by Octavian as a trophy. While it is well known that Cleopatra committed suicide, there has been a great deal of debate about how she killed herself.
== Why did the Ptolemy Family rule Egypt? ==
After the Macedonian general and conqueror Alexander III “the Great” died in 323 BC, his generals divided the spoils of the former Achaemenid Persian Empire. While the generals, known as the <i>Diadochi</i>, were fighting for control of Greece and Anatolia, Ptolemy I (ruled 305-282 BC) quietly became the king of Egypt. After he defeated another Macedonian general named Perdiccas for possession of Alexander’s body and control of Egypt, he was no longer threatened by his kinsmen and was able to start a new dynasty in Egypt comprised entirely of Macedonian Greeks. <ref> Bowman, Alan K. <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0520205316/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0520205316&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=3652d49207aeab2b3aaed7a4b330fb4 Egypt after the Pharaohs: 332 BC-AD 642 from Alexander to the Arab Conquest].</i> (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996), p. 22</ref>
== When did Cleopatra rule Egypt? ==
200px|left|thumbnail|Relief from the Temple of Dendera in Egypt Depicting Cleopatra VII and Caesarion/Ptolemy XV Offering to the Egyptian Goddess Hathor]]
The Cleopatra in question here was actually the seventh member of the Ptolemaic Dynasty to take the name. Cleopatra came to power when her long-ruling but mostly ineffective father Ptolemy XII (ruled 80-51 BC) declared before he died that he desired his oldest daughter, Cleopatra VII, and oldest son, Ptolemy XIII, to co-rule as king and queen. The rule would require that the offspring marry, a practice initiated by the second Ptolemaic king, Ptolemy II (reigned 284-246 BC), and continued until the end of the dynasty. <ref> Bowman, p. 24</ref> When Ptolemy XII died, Cleopatra VII was sixteen, and Ptolemy XIII was only twelve, which meant that there was bound to be plenty of court intrigue.
== What killed Cleopatra? ==
According to the ancient sources, when Octavian’s entry into Alexandria was imminent, Mark Antony followed Roman tradition by falling on his gladius sword. There is little controversy surrounding the accounts because that is what a distinguished Roman officer such as Mark Antony would have been expected to do. There is no evidence to suggest he did otherwise.
Cleopatra’s death, though, has been a bit more controversial, largely due to the oldest classical account. The first century AD Roman historian Plutarch and Cassius Dio were the last two classical historians to mention Cleopatra’s death, which they claimed was the result of a snake bite. Still, the earliest reference was made by the first century BC Greek geographer Strabo. The account gives two possibilities for Cleopatra’s death:
“Augustus Caesar honored this place because it was here that he conquered in battle those who came out against him with Antony; and when he had taken the city at the first onset, he forced Antony to put himself to death and Cleopatra came into his power alive; but a little later she too put herself to death secretly, while in prison, by the bite of an asp or (for two accounts are given) by applying a poisonous ointment; and the result was that the empire of the sons of Lagus, which had endured for many years, was dissolved.” <ref> Strabo. <i>Geography.</i> Translated by Horace Leonard Jones. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2001), Book XVII, 1, 10</ref>
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