Cleopatra: Last Ruler of the Ptolemaic Dynasty

City of Alexandria, Egypt

Born towards the end of 70 B.C. or beginning of 69 B.C., Cleopatra was of Macedonian heritage and reigned as an Egyptian queen, ruling an empire that included Egypt, Cyprus, part of modern-day Libya and other territories in the Middle East.

She was the first Ptolemaic queen with her head and name minted on coins, and grew up immersed in Egyptian education and culture. She was multilingual, and the first "Egyptian" queen to visit Athens.

Her father, Ptolemy XII Auletes conceived six children: Cleopatra Tryphaena, the eldest, Berenice IV (who had her husband Cybiosactus strangled after three days... and was later executed by her father's order on matters unrelated), Cleopatra, Arsinoe IV (who Cleopatra had assassinated), and two sons Ptolemy XIII, and XIV (also assassinated on her orders). Both Ptolemy XIII, and XIV shared the throne with her during various times. Her mother is unknown but may have been Cleopatra v Tryphaena.

During her reign, the Nile overflowed Egypt's banks every summer and receded every autumn leaving behind fertile mud. Alexandria's principle exports were papyrus, linen, scent, salt, oil, ivory, architectural and sculptural stones, emeralds, silver utensils, glass vases, along with various woolen goods.

Alexandria's Library and its Museum, founded by Ptolemy I Soter, featured fine gardens, fountains, restaurants and became research centers for the Mediterranean world. It was a place where scholars lived tax free.

Cleopatra first ascended the throne in 51 B.C. with her brother Ptolemy XIII as co-monarch. In 49 B.C., it's likely that she took refuge in Upper Egypt. Later papyrus attributes year three of her reign to her younger brother Ptolemy XIII. In retrospect, it would appear as if Ptolemy XIII were king since the death of their father, Ptolemy XII Auletes.

Following her return to Alexandria at 21-years-old, an enamored Julius Caesar took her political side against Ptolemy XIII, her half-brother and husband, who lost his life escaping from a massacre along Lake Mareotis. Unable to rule without a co-monarch, her surviving half-brother, Ptolemy XIV, was elevated to the position at about age 12.

Cleopatra bore four offsprings: Ptolemy Caesar, twins Alexander and Cleopatra, and Ptolemy Philadelphus,.

Not one surviving portrait exists that can confidently be believed to represent Cleopatra. It's speculated that she may have had a dark complexion. Her makeup was probably elaborate, as was Egyptian custom. "Atimony and lampblack were applied to the eyebrows and eyelids with round-ended rods, ochre was applied to the lips with a brush, the nails and sole of the feet and palms of the hands were dyed with henna."

Her own beauty, so we are told, was not of that incomparable kind which instantly captivates the beholder. But the charm of her presence was irresistible, and there was an attractiveness in her person and talk, together with a peculiar force of character which pervaded her every word and action, and laid all who associated with her under its spell. It was a delight merely to hear the sound of her voice...

Cleopatra, the last ruler of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, lived until the age of 39, possibly poisoning herself after learning of Mark Antony's suicide. She was found lying on a golden couch, dressed in royal robes.


Like this post? Stop by and read "Nefertiti: A Beautiful Woman Has Come." Nefertiti was relatively young, likely in her early teens, when she married Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten). Together, they introduced monotheism, with the worship of the sun god Aten. As queen, the "King's Great Wife," Nefertiti bore 6 daughters during the span of their marriage: Meritaten, Meketaten, Ankhesenpaaten, Neferneferuaten, Neferneferture, Setepenre. What is best known of Nefertiti is her bust, believed to have been created by Thutmose who is thought to have been the official court sculptor.

I'd love to have you as a customer, head to the online store and shop for handcrafted beaded jewelry by beYOUteous.

Works cited:

  • Crawford, Amy. “Who Was Cleopatra?”, Smithsonian Institution, 31 Mar. 2007.
    Jarus, Owen.
  • “Cleopatra: Facts & Biography.” LiveScience, Purch, 13 Mar. 2014. 

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