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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > January 2016 > Cleopatra and Rome

Cleopatra and Rome

Meet history’s ultimate femme fatale, whose desperate bid for power involved love a airs, murders and war…
THE AFRICAN QUEEN Intelligent, shrewd and charming, Cleopatra VII was a force to be reckoned with
ALAMY X1, GETTY X3, REX X1, ISTOCK X3

She was a daughter of Egypt – part of the Macedonian-Greek Ptolemaic Dynasty that had ruled since the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. Queen of Egypt, Cyrene and Cyprus, she was renowned for her passionate nature, beauty, intellect and determination to advance the interests of the Ptolemaic legacy.

They were masters of Rome – powerful, ruthless military generals who had expanded the might of the Roman Empire, seizing power for themselves and seeking to add the vast Egyptian Empire to Rome’s ever-expanding list of imperial conquests.

The relationships between Cleopatra VII, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony were love a airs, and power struggles, that would change the course of Egyptian and Roman history, forever.

EGYPT AND ROME

First century BC. Rome, the latest superpower, was rapidly extending a foothold across the known world under three formidable generals: Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompeious Magnus (Pompey), and Marcus Licinius. A definite threat to Egypt, Rome’s supreme wealth and influence also made it a source of attraction and necessary financial support.

It was Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII, who had effectively opened the door to the Romans. When Ptolemy XI was killed in 80 BC, his only male heirs were Ptolemy XII and his younger brother – the illegitimate sons of Ptolemy IX.

Ptolemy XII was crowned in 76 BC but, soon after, the question of his legitimacy was raised in Rome, where anti-Senate politicians claimed to be in possession of a will, written by Ptolemy XI, that bequeathed Egypt to the Romans. Fearing the loss of the throne and an end to his dynasty, Ptolemy took a huge risk: he struck a deal with Rome.

FATHER PHARAOH Cleopatra’s dad, Ptolemy XII

Desperate to retain his kingship, Ptolemy asked Caesar and Pompey to recognise him as Egypt’s legal ruler and a comrade and ally of Rome. is they did, for the price of 6,000 talents – an enormous amount, of which some was borrowed from Roman moneylenders. When Rome moved in on the Egyptian territory of Cyprus the following year, Ptolemy did nothing. The Egyptian people were outraged, and banished their Pharaoh, leaving his wife and eldest daughter to rule in his stead. Although Ptolemy was eventually restored to the throne, again with the help of the Roman Senate, the damage had been done. Egypt was weak, and Rome had its sights firmly set on conquest. To further compound matters, Ptolemy XII made the Roman Senate executor of his will (which proclaimed his eldest surviving daughter, Cleopatra, and eldest son co-regents), and his extensive bribery had left the realm in financial straits: Rome’s foothold in Egypt looked sure to extend.

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The January 2016 issue of History Revealed
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