- Full Name: Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator
- Name in Greek: Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ
- Official Title: Ptolemaic Queen of Egypt
- Birth Date: 69 BC
- Death: August 12, 30 BC
- Age: 39 at time of death
- Geography: Born and died in Alexandria, Egypt
- Height: 5’11” – 6’2″
- Parents: Ptolemy XII Auletes, Cleopatra V of Egypt
- Dramatisations: Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra…
- History: Cleopatra Was the Last Active Pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt
- Death: Cleopatra’s Death Still Isn’t Completely Resolved
- History: Cleopatra Became Pharaoh When She Was Only 18
- History: Cleopatra Only Ruled Alone for a Short Period of Time
- History: Cleopatra Was Forced to Leave Egypt, and Regained Power with the Help of Julius Caesar
- Marriage: Cleopatra Was Married to 2 of Her Brothers
- Children: Cleopatra Had 4 Children with 2 Different Men
- Family: Cleopatra Had 2 of Her Siblings Killed
- Name: Cleopatra’s Name Is a Compliment to Her Father
- Death: It Is Not Really Clear Where Cleopatra Is Today
- Cleopatra Was a Mistress of the Famous Julius Caesar
- Cleopatra had 3 Children with Mark Antony
- Even Though Her Dynasty Only Spoke Greek, Cleopatra Learned to Speak Egyptian
- Cleopatra Supposedly Liked to Spend Money on Expensive Dinners
- Cleopatra Is Considered a Symbol of Beauty, but She May Not Deserve That Title
- Cleopatra’s Famous Eye Make-Up Wasn’t Just a Beauty Thing
- Cleopatra Had Quite a Few Beauty Tricks up Her Sleeve
- Cleopatra Was Also a Writer and Perfume Business Owner
- The Month of August Is Basically a Celebration of Cleopatra’s Defeat
- The 1963 Movie Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor Became an Evergreen Classic
Cleopatra Was the Last Active Pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt
Cleopatra facts reveal that the great ruler was the last active pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt, the kingdom that was established after the death of Alexander the Great, approximately 250 years before Cleopatra was born. Her son Caesarion, whose father was the famous Julius Caesar, succeeded her as the pharaoh for a few days, but Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus had him killed and made Egypt a province of the recently established Roman Empire, known as Aegyptus.
Since Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus was the adopted son of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra’s son Caesarion was actually killed by orders of his adoptive brother.
Cleopatra’s Death Still Isn’t Completely Resolved
The most widely accepted theory is that Cleopatra killed herself by allowing an asp (Egyptian cobra) to bite her on her breast after Octavian conquered Alexandria and captured her. In some stories from the following centuries, two asps are mentioned. But modern historians have questioned these stories, believing that she might been poisoned (on Augustus’ orders) with a mixture of poisons that might have consisted of hemlock, wolfsbane and opium. The main reason for this belief is the simple fact that asp venom causes severe paralysis before death, contradicting the historical accounts of Cleopatra’s death, which was described as slow and painless.
Cleopatra Became Pharaoh When She Was Only 18
Nowadays, when people of many countries in the world turn 18, they get the right to drink, drive and vote, but Cleopatra facts reveal that the famous Egyptian queen got much more than that – a whole kingdom! After her father’s death in 51 BC, by which time she had been acting as a joint regent and deputy to him for four years, she became the monarch together with her younger brother Ptolemy XIII. Despite having the reputation of being one of the grandest rulers in history, her reign was short-lived and lasted only a few years altogether.
Cleopatra Only Ruled Alone for a Short Period of Time
From the age of 14 to 18, Cleopatra co-ruled the Ptolemaic Kingdom together with her father. After his death, she became a co-ruler with her younger brother, Ptolemy XIII, and later with her other younger brother, Ptolemy XIV. In the last years of her reign, she made her son Caesarion her co-ruler. She actually ruled alone only from mid-51 BC, when she dropped her brother’s name from official documents, until 48 BC, when she was forced into a short-lived exile by her younger brother and his advisor eunuch, Pothinus.
Cleopatra Was Forced to Leave Egypt, and Regained Power with the Help of Julius Caesar
After Cleopatra had been exiled by her brother Ptolemy XIII and his advisors, she formed an alliance with Julius Caesar by becoming his lover. Cleopatra facts reveal their first encounter in great detail – when Julius Caesar came to Alexandria in the autumn of 48 BC, Cleopatra supposedly smuggled herself to the palace, wrapped in a rug. Only nine months after they met for the first time, she bore him a son (Caesarion), and after that Julius Caesar supposedly decided to back her up in her claim for the throne. The Roman armies defeated her brother Ptolemy XIII in 47 BC at the Battle of the Nile, thus securing the throne for Cleopatra. But Cleopatra didn’t reign alone; she made her youngest brother Ptolemy XIV the co-ruler. She remained Caesar’s lover until his death in 44 BC.
Cleopatra Was Married to 2 of Her Brothers
Cleopatra facts reveal that it was customary for Egyptian rulers of the time to marry their own siblings, strengthening their claim and their possible offspring’s claim to the throne. First, she married her oldest brother Ptolemy XIII (who was 7 years her junior), but their relationship soon deteriorated and escalated to the Alexandrian Civil War, which ended with Cleopatra’s and Julius Caesar’s victory, and Ptolemy XIII’s death as he supposedly drowned in the Nile. After that, she married her younger brother Ptolemy XIV (presumably 9 years her junior), but his position as Cleopatra’s husband and co-ruler only lasted for a few years; after Cleopatra’s supporter Julius Caesar had been killed, so was Ptolemy XIV in order to ensure the co-ruler position to Cleopatra and Julius Caesar’s son Caesarion. Her unions with her two brothers produced no children.
Cleopatra Had 4 Children with 2 Different Men
Cleopatra facts reveal that her first child was born out of her union with Julius Caesar. Caesarion, as the boy was named, later become his mother’s co-ruler and even the sole ruler for a very short time, before being killed by the Romans. Her other three children were fathered by another famous Roman, Mark Anthony, one of the triumvirs who ruled the Roman Republic after the demise of Julius Caesar. Their two sons were named Ptolemy Philadelphus (after the second pharaoh of the Ptolemaic dynasty) and Alexander Helios (after Cleopatra’s famous ancestor Alexander the Great), and their daughter, twin to Alexander Helios, was named Cleopatra Selene II.
Of Cleopatra’s four children, only her daughter survived to adulthood. She went on to become the Queen of Mauretania (a part of modern Morocco) and Numidia (a part of modern Algeria and Tunisia) through her husband.
Cleopatra Had 2 of Her Siblings Killed
Cleopatra facts reveal that the great queen of Egypt killed (or gave the order to kill) two of her siblings. The first was her younger half-sister Arsinoë IV (they shared the same father, but had different mothers), who sided with her (and Cleopatra’s) brother Ptolemy XIII, and thus became a captor of the Romans after Cleopatra’s victory in the civil war. She was eventually killed by Mark Antony’s soldiers at Cleopatra’s wish. The other sibling Cleopatra killed was her youngest brother (and husband) Ptolemy XIV. It is believed he was poisoned by Cleopatra in order to ensure her son Caesarion’s ascent to the throne.
Although sibling killings seem extremely brutal, they were quite a common practice at the time, so Cleopatra was no more (or no less) vicious and brutal than many other rulers of the era.
Cleopatra’s Name Is a Compliment to Her Father
Cleopatra was not the first famous Cleopatra in history. Her full name – Cleopatra VII Philopator – clearly shows that there were six other Cleopatras before her, and Cleopatra facts show that one of them was the sister of Alexander the Great. The name derives from the Greek words kleos (glory) and pater, meaning “glory of the father” or “she who comes from glorious father”. The last part of her name, Philopator, means “father-loving”.
Father of the famous Cleopatra VII, Ptolemy XII, commonly known as Auletes (meaning “the pipe player”), was the ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom before her, and for four years also co-ruler with her.
It Is Not Really Clear Where Cleopatra Is Today
Cleopatra facts clearly show that the great ancient queen is long dead, but historians are not quite sure where her remains are buried. Plutarch, a 1st century AD Greek historian, was convinced that she was buried, together with her last lover Mark Antony, somewhere in Egypt, but this source might not be completely reliable. Some historians believe that she had a tomb built for herself in the mighty ancient city of Alexandria and that her remains are now at sea, together with the rest of the city, but recent excavations found some clues hinting that Cleopatra and Mark Antony might be buried at the Taposiris Magna Temple in Abusir, Egypt.
Cleopatra Was a Mistress of the Famous Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar was 52 years old when he first met Cleopatra, who was only 21. But that didn’t stop her from charming him and becoming his lover. The beginning of their affair must have been very fruitful, since she gave birth to a son only nine months later. Their son was named Caesarion, meaning “little Caesar”, and Cleopatra hoped that Julius would proclaim him his heir. He did no such thing, however, choosing his grandnephew and adopted son Octavius instead.
The Romans were aware of Caesar’s relationship with Cleopatra, and condemned it since Caesar was married at the time to Calpurnia Pisonis. Cleopatra was in Rome when her lover was murdered in 44 BC, but left for Alexandria shortly after.
Cleopatra had 3 Children with Mark Antony
Cleopatra facts reveal that Julius Caesar was not her only famous Roman lover. Three years after Caesar’s death, Cleopatra managed to seduce one of his political successors, Mark Antony. Cleopatra visited him in Tarsus (south Turkey) after he had requested her presence through his friend Quintus Dellius to check where her alliances lay after the death of her former lover Julius Caesar.
He was so enticed with her that he even killed her half-sister upon her request, and in a very scandalous manner – his soldiers executed her on the stairs of the Temple of Artemis, which was a clear violation of the sanctuary. He made Alexandria his home from 36 BC onwards and married Cleopatra in an Egyptian rite, although he was already married to Octavia the Younger, the sister of Octavian. Mark Antony officially divorced Octavia in 32 BC, furthering the conflict with her brother Octavian.
Even Though Her Dynasty Only Spoke Greek, Cleopatra Learned to Speak Egyptian
Cleopatra facts reveal that she was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty – a family of Macedonian Greek descent which ruled Egypt during the last era of the mighty ancient empire, from 305 BC to 30 BC. The family, which came into power after Alexander the Great’s demise, spoke Greek and refused to speak Egyptian, forcing the Greek language to appear alongside the Egyptian language on all official documents of the kingdom.
But Cleopatra was the first one in her family to speak Egyptian fluently, and even went as far as representing herself as a reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Learning the language of the kingdom she ruled was presumably a very easy task to her; in addition to her native language Greek and her kingdom’s official Egyptian, she mastered (at least) seven additional languages: Ethiopian, Arabian, Hebrew, Troglodyte, Syrian, Parthian and Median.
Cleopatra Supposedly Liked to Spend Money on Expensive Dinners
Cleopatra was a rich ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, so it is no surprise that she was forced to seek out innovative ways to spend all her money. One of the best-known stories connected to her lavishness revolves around a bet she made with her lover (and later husband) Mark Antony, claiming to be able to spend 10 million sestertii (Roman currency of the time) on one single dinner. He, of course, accepted the bet and Cleopatra organised the dinner for the following evening. But the dinner was far from spectacular – the food served was quite common. However, for the second course, Cleopatra ordered a cup of strong vinegar, dissolved a majestic pearl in it, and drank the solution, supposedly winning the bet.
Even if this story might be a bit exaggerated, Cleopatra’s reputation for organising expensive dinners wouldn’t be in danger as she regularly hosted lavish dinners with multiple courses of exotic foods and expensive drinks.
Cleopatra Is Considered a Symbol of Beauty, but She May Not Deserve That Title
Cleopatra was considered a very beautiful woman. If nothing else, her ability to seduce two of the most powerful Roman men – Julius Caesar and Mark Antony – apparently confirms this. Her beauty is depicted in countless works of art (both ancient and modern) and when imagining her, most people get the image of young Elizabeth Taylor who portrayed her so perfectly on the screen.
But the truth may be very different to the popular image we have. The things that made Cleopatra so attractive were probably her wit, charm and power, and not her facial features or body attributes. Some ancient coins depict Cleopatra with a hooked nose, sharp chin and very masculine features in general, convincing many modern historians that Cleopatra actually wasn’t a very beautiful woman…
Cleopatra’s Famous Eye Make-Up Wasn’t Just a Beauty Thing
In terms of beauty, Cleopatra’s most notable feature was probably her famous dark eye make-up. Cleopatra facts reveal that while it probably made Cleopatra look more attractive, it also served a practical purpose. Back in the day, Egyptians used dark-coloured make-up to help protect their eyes from the intense sun glare from the desert sands, and from various eye infections. More than 2,000 years after the great queen’s life ended, her style of make-up is still popular, but not due to medicinal reasons, of course…
Cleopatra Had Quite a Few Beauty Tricks up Her Sleeve
Cleopatra was not only the queen of Alexandria, but also the beauty product queen of her time. It is believed that she took frequent baths in donkey milk to preserve the youth of her skin. What is so special about bathing in donkey milk, you ask? Nothing special, only the simple fact that one of Cleopatra’s special daily baths required the milk of 700 donkeys!
She also used a variety of other cosmetic products, which were made from rocks, minerals and plants at the time. Her cosmetics consisted of minerals and rocks such as malachite, pyrite, lead sulphide and red ochre. Cleopatra’s nail polish was most likely made from henna, a dye that comes from the Egyptian privet tree.
Cleopatra Was Also a Writer and Perfume Business Owner
In tune with her interest in beauty and cosmetics, Cleopatra also wrote a medical book on the topic, simply called “Cosmetics”. But this was no ordinary, simple article on beauty, like those found in thousands of modern beauty magazines; it was a detailed medical and pharmacological work, describing various remedies for many health issues that could have an effect on aesthetics. In addition to writing a book, she also owned a perfume factory in a land near the Dead Sea – a legacy of her beloved Mark Antony.
The Month of August Is Basically a Celebration of Cleopatra’s Defeat
The eighth month of the year, nowadays known as August, is actually a celebration of Cleopatra’s defeat. After Augustus (born Gaius Octavius) defeated her forces and conquered her kingdom, and was crowned the first emperor of the new Roman Empire, he had the unique honour of naming one month of the year after himself. Instead of choosing the month of his birth (September) as was expected, he chose the eighth month of the year – the month in which Cleopatra had died.
But Augustus’ victory over Cleopatra wasn’t as sweet as he wanted it to be; instead of capturing her and parading her through Rome, she most likely committed suicide as she realised that she had been defeated and didn’t want to be tortured by her Roman captors. In a way, this also makes August a celebration of Cleopatra’s pride and courage…
The 1963 Movie Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor Became an Evergreen Classic
Cleopatra facts show that the great Egyptian queen has been the focus of dozens of movies since the beginning of the 20th century until now. Many famous and beautiful actresses, such as Sophia Loren, Vivien Leigh, Monica Bellucci and Angelina Jolie, have portrayed her on the screen, but the most famous (and arguably also the best) portrayal of Cleopatra was in the 1963 movie hit, bearing the great queen’s name, and starring Elizabeth Taylor.
The movie, although a huge success among viewers, was a financial failure and the most expensive movie ever made up to that point (costing over $31 million, which would equal roughly $250 million in 2015), nearly bankrupting the famous 20th Century Fox. The movie won four Academy Awards (Taylor was not even nominated for her portrayal of Cleopatra), and featured surprisingly few historical inaccuracies compared to other similar movie epics.
Cleopatra Facts — Facts about Cleopatra Summary
Cleopatra was the famous pharaoh of the last ancient Egyptian kingdom – the Ptolemaic Kingdom that existed from 305 BC until 30 BC. Cleopatra, whose full name was Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator, was a charming woman who managed to seduce two powerful Romans of the time: the famous Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Both fathered her children, but only one of these four children managed to live to adulthood. Cleopatra was also married to her two brothers as was customary for Egyptian royalty at the time, and both were killed after being defeated by Cleopatra in the struggle for the throne. Cleopatra died at only 39 years of age, presumably committing suicide by allowing a poisonous snake to bite her before she could be captured by the man who later became the first emperor of the Roman Empire – Augustus.