Cleopatra VII Philopator (in Greek, Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ; January 69 BCE – August 12, 30 BCE) was the last effective pharaoh of Egypt's Ptolemaic dynasty. She originally shared power with her father Ptolemy XII and later with her brothers Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, whom she also married, but eventually gained sole rule. As pharaoh, she consummated a liaison with Gaius Julius Caesar that solidified her grip on the throne. She later elevated her son with Caesar, Caesarion, to co-ruler in name.
After Caesar's assassination in 44 BCE, she aligned with Mark Antony in opposition to Caesar's legal heir Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian, later known as Augustus. With Antony she bore a set of twins, Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and another son, Ptolemy Philadelphus. Her successive unions with her brothers produced no children. After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian's forces, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra soon followed suit, according to tradition killing herself by means of an asp bite on August 12, 30 BCE. She was briefly outlived by Caesarion, who was declared pharaoh, but he was soon executed on Octavian's orders. Egypt became the Roman province of Aegyptus.
Though Cleopatra bore the ancient Egyptian title of pharaoh, the Ptolemaic dynasty was Hellenistic, having been founded 300 years before by Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general of Alexander the Great. As such Cleopatra's language was the Greek spoken by the Hellenic aristocracy, though she was reputed to be the first ruler of the dynasty to learn Egyptian. She also adopted common Egyptian beliefs and deities. Her patron goddess was Isis, and thus during her reign it was believed that she was the re-incarnation and embodiment of the goddess of wisdom. Her death marks the end of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Hellenistic period and the beginning of the Roman era in the eastern Mediterranean.
To this day Cleopatra remains a popular figure in Western culture. Her legacy survives in numerous works of art and the many dramatizations of her story in literature and other media, including William Shakespeare's tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, Jules Massenet's opera Cléopâtre, the 1963 film Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor. In most depictions, Cleopatra is put forward as a great beauty and her successive conquests of the world's most powerful men is taken to be proof of her aesthetic and sexual appeal. In his Pensées, philosopher Blaise Pascal contends that Cleopatra's classically beautiful profile changed world history: "Cleopatra's nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed."
Images & Text:wikipedia.com
Thirty-two years ago tonight I had Dennis Graham and his roommate Kent Smith to dinner the night before Dennis' 30th birthday. I didn't presume to ask him over on the actual day. Dennis wore a favorite yellow sweater. Years later, when Dennis and I lived together, I asked him what he had done on his 30th birthday. "Nothing:" he said. "Kent felt it had already been celebrated."