Significant Woman: Cleopatra
I chose to write my "Significant Woman" paper on Egypt’s last pharaoh, Cleopatra. When I began my report, I knew very little about Cleopatra, except that she was the mistress of both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony of Rome. I wondered what impacts on history Cleopatra made on her own.
I feel that Cleopatra was a very significant woman in history because she was very aggressive and assertive, characteristics that have always been considered unfeminine. At the same time, however, Cleopatra has been remembered by some as somewhat of a sex object, which is and always has been a common judgement of attractive females. Cleopatra did use her sex appeal to her advantage. It was one of the few manipulations that nobody could take away from her, and it was a very convincing form of persuasion.
Cleopatra’s family had been ruling Egypt since 305 BC, when Ptolemy I declared himself King of Egypt sometime after Alexander the Great’s death. The Ptolemy family was of Macedonian decent, not Egyptian.
Cleopatra, more precisely, Cleopatra VII, was the third daughter of Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos "Auletes", who began his rule of Egypt in 80 BC. Cleopatra VII’s mother could possibly have been Cleopatra V Tryphaena, who either died or disappeared in 68 BC, right after Cleopatra VII’s birth in 69 BC. Cleopatra VII had two older sisters, Cleopatra VI and Berenice IV, and one younger sister, Arsinoe IV. She also had two younger brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV.
Ptolemy XII ruled until his death in 51 BC, with only a brief interruption in 58 BC when his second eldest daughter, Berenice IV, took over the kingdom. His will named Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIII as heirs to the throne. Leaders in Rome were named as guardians and were to uphold the choice of Ptolemy XII for the two to marry and jointly rule Egypt. Ptolemy II had established these brother-sister marriages as custom when he married his sister Arsinoe II.
As children, Cleopatra and her siblings witnessed the defeat of their guardian, Pompey, by Julius Caesar in a duel. Meanwhile, Cleopatra and her brother/husband Ptolemy XIII were dueling, albeit silently, over the throne.
In the middle of all this turmoil, Julius Caesar left Rome for Alexandria in 48 BC. During his stay in the Palace, he received the most famous gift in history: an oriental carpet . . . with a 22-year-old Cleopatra wrapped in. She counted on Caesar’s support to alienate Ptolemy XIII. With the arrival of Roman reinforcements, and after a few battles in Alexandria, Ptolemy XIII was defeated and killed.
In the summer of 47 BC, having married her younger brother Ptolemy XIV, Cleopatra and Caesar embarked for a two-month trip along the Nile, aboard a legendary boat. Together, they visited Dendara, where Cleopatra was being...