(little Caesar) (June 23, 47 BC – August, 30 BC)
the last king of the
Ptolemaic dynasty of
Egypt, who reigned, as a child, jointly with
Cleopatra VII of Egypt from September 2, 44
BC to August, 30 BC, when he was killed by
Octavian, who would become the Roman emperor
son of Cleopatra VII, Caesarion is considered
(and it is highly likely, given the evidence)
the son of
Julius Caesar, for whom he was named. I
|In a struggle with the other
successors of Alexander, his general, Ptolemy
Ptolemy I of Egypt) succeeded in bringing
Alexander's body to Alexandria, where it became
a famous tourist destination for ancient
Julius Caesar). The city passed formally
under Roman jurisdiction in 80 BC, according to
the will of
Ptolemy Alexander but only after it had been
under Roman influence for more than a hundred
In 616, it was taken by
Khosrau II, King of
Persia. Although the
Heraclius recovered it a few years later, in
Arabs, under the general
Amr ibn al-As during the
Muslim conquest of Egypt, captured it
decisively after a siege that lasted fourteen
months. The city received no aid from
Constantinople during that time; Heraclius
was dead and the new Emperor
Constantine III was barely twelve years old.
Notwithstanding the losses that the city had
sustained, Amr was able to write to the
Omar, that he had taken a city containing
"4,000 palaces, 4,000 baths, 12,000 dealers in
fresh oil, 12,000 gardeners, 40,000 Jews who pay
tribute, 400 theaters or places of amusement."
645 a Byzantine fleet recaptured the city,
but it fell for good the following year.
Some claim that The
Library of Alexandria and its contents were
destroyed in 642 during the Arab invasion.
Others deny this and claim that the library was
much earlier, in 3rd century, due to civil
war in the time of the Roman Emperor
The Lighthouse was destroyed by earthquakes in
the 14th century,
and by 1700 the city was just a small town
amidst the ruins.
Alexandria figured prominently
in the military operations of
Napoleon's expedition to Egypt in 1798.
French troops stormed the city on
July 2nd 1798 and it remained in their hands
until the arrival of the British expedition in
1801. The British won a considerable victory
over the French at the
Battle of Alexandria on
March 21st 1801, following which they
besieged the city which fell to them on
2nd September 1801.
Mohammed Ali, the Ottoman
Governor of Egypt, began rebuilding the city
around 1810, and by 1850, Alexandria had
returned to something akin to its former glory.
1882 the city came under bombardment from
British naval forces and was occupied
69 Cleopatra born in Alexandria
51 Ptolemy Auletes dies leaving his kingdom in his will
to his eighteen-year-old daughter, Cleopatra, and her
younger brother Ptolemy XIII. Pompey left in charge of
48 Cleopatra is removed from power by Theodotas and
48 Pompey defeated at Pharsalus in August.
Pompey murdered as he steps ashore on September 28.
Caesar restores Cleopatra to the Egyptian throne.
47 Caesarion (Ptolemy Caesar), Caesar and Cleopatra's
son, born June 23.
46-44 Caesar, Cleopatra in Rome
44 Assassination of Caesar on March 15. Cleopatra flees
43 Formation of the triumvirate:
Antony - Octavian (Augustus) - Lepidus
43-42 Victory of the triumvirate at Philippi
41 Antony meets Cleopatra at Tarsus and follows her to
40 Antony returns to Rome
The triumvirate partition the Mediterranean
- Octavian: The western provinces
(Spain, Sardinia, Sicily,
Transalpine Gaul, Narbonne)
- Antony : The eastern provinces
(Macedonia, Asia, Bithynia,
- Lepidus : Africa (Tunisia and Algeria)
36 Elimination of Lepidus
Octavian controls Africa and becomes the
effective ruler of Rome
Parthian campaign of Marc Antony
35 Antony returns to Alexandria with Cleopatra
32 Antony divorces Octavian's sister Octavia
Western provinces pledge allegiance to Octavian
Declaration of war on Cleopatra
31 Battle of Actium (Sept. 2) and victory of Octavian
Antony and Cleopatra seek refuge at Alexandria
30 Victory of Octavian at Alexandria
Suicide of Antony and then Cleopatra (August 12)
Egypt becomes a Roman province
|The people were
told that under the rule of Cleopatra Isis-Venus and Antony
Dionysus-Osiris a new age would dawn
kairos, the Greek name for timing is
everything or that there exists a "fertile hour most opportune
for those who are able to perceive this intuitive moment.
According to his ex brother-in-law, Antony was
a man entirely under the spell of a foreign temptress. After his
failed Parthian [modern Iran and Iraq] expedition to extend the
Eastern boundaries of the Roman empire, Antony did act
more and more to advance Cleopatra’s agenda rather than Rome's.
The influence Cleopatra had over him greatly affected Antony’s
fate; it cost him support in Rome, it cost him the allegiance of
many of his finest commanders and it negatively influenced major
Sarah Bernhardt as
|Cleopatra VII was born in 69 BC, daughter of
Ptolemy XII (nicknamed Auletes, the flute-player) and, probably,
of his sister, Cleopatra V. She was Ptolemy's third child and
was not expected to become queen. Her childhood was
extraordinarily insecure. Her father was more than once ousted
from his kingdom usually because he was not viewed as strong
enough to stand up to Rome. He essentially mortgaed his kingdom
by borrowing staggering sums to pay bribes to prominent Romans
(including Crassus and Caesar) for military and political
support. He was
suspected of paying for dozens of prominent Alexandrines
traveling to Rome to be murdered, before they could protest his
return to rule. When Caesar, as consul, raised questions about
his legitimacy, Ptolemy is said to have bribed him with 6,000
silver talents in return for official recognition. He later paid
Aulus Gabinius, governor of Syria, 10,000 silver talents
(borrowed from a Roman banker). Gabinius invaded Egypt on
Ptolemy's behalf in 55 BC and forcibly restored the king to his
Ptolemy Auletes, had his eldest daughter, Berenice IV and
possibly a second daughter, Cleopatra VI, murdered for
seizing his throne in his absense. Her father's death in the
springtime of 51 left Cleopatra the surviving eldest child and,
at age 17, she ascended the throne ruling jointly with her
younger brother, Ptolemy XIII, aged 13.
In 48 BC, Cleopatra had alarmed the more
powerful court officials of Alexandria by some of her actions.
For instance, her mercenaries killed the Roman governor of
Syria's sons when they came to ask for her assistance for their
father against the Parthians. A group of men led by Theodotus,
the eunuch Pothinus and a half-Greek general, Achillas,
overthrew her in favor of her younger brother. They believed him
to be much easier to influence and they became his council of
Civil War broke out between Pompey the Great
and the senatorial forces in Rome and the armies of Julius
Caesar. Pompey moved to the east and promptly sent his eldest
son, Gnaeus, to demand ships, troops, and supplies of Egypt.
Gabinius' forces were still largely in Egypt, and he had served
under Pompey. Cleopatra cooperatively released 50 ships and
grain supplies for Pompey's support. To those Alexandrians
already unhappy that she had assumed sole rule, this pro-Roman
treatment provoked a backlash. Sometime in 48, Cleopatra was
ousted by ministers supporting her younger brother. She fell
back upon Arabia and Palestine and set about raising an army to
retrieve her throne. By the time she had done so, and her army
began moving westward to face her brother's forces
the eastern end of the Delta, Caesar had comprehensively
destroyed Pompey's forces at the Battle of Pharsalus on August
9, 48 BC. Cleopatra had supplied the losing side.
Pompey headed for Alexandria hoping to find
refuge with Ptolemy XIII, of whom Pompey was a senate-appointed
guardian. Pompey did not realize how much his reputation had
been destroyed by Pharsalus until it was too late. He was
murdered as he stepped ashore on September 28, 48 BC. While
Cleopatra was in exile, Pompey became embroiled in the Roman
civil war. In the autumn of 48 BC, Pompey fled from the forces
of Julius Caesar to Alexandria, seeking sanctuary. Ptolemy, only
fifteen years old at that time, had set up a throne for himself
on the harbour from where he watched as on September 28, 48 BC
Pompey was murdered by one of his former officers, now in
Ptolemaic service. He was beheaded in front of his wife and
children, who were on the ship he had just disembarked from.
Ptolemy is thought to have ordered the death as a way of
pleasing Julius Caesar and thus become an ally of Rome, to which
Egypt was in debt.
This was a catastrophic miscalculation on
Ptolemy's part. When Caesar arrived in Egypt two days later,
Ptolemy presented him with Pompey's severed head. Caesar was
enraged. This was probably due to the fact that, although he was
Caesar's political enemy, Pompey was a Consul of
and the widower of Caesar's only legitimate daughter, Julia (who
died in childbirth with their son). Caesar seized the Egyptian
capital and imposed himself as arbiter between the rival claims
of Ptolemy and Cleopatra.
Four days later, Caesar arrived in
Alexandria. He brought with him thirty-two hundred legionaries
and eight hundred cavalry. He also brought twelve other soldiers
who bore the insignia of the Roman government who carried a
bundle of rods with an ax with a blade that projected out. This
was considered a badge of authority that gave a clear hint of
his intentions. There were riots that followed in Alexandria.
Ptolemy XIII was gone to Pelusium and Caesar placed himself in
the royal palace and started giving out orders. The eunuch,
Pothinus, brought Ptolemy back to Alexandria. Cleopatra had no
intentions of being left out of any deals that were going to be
Cleopatra first met with Julius Caesar in early October, 49 BC.
Caesar was 52; Cleopatra 21. Alexandria was in the
hands of her brother's ministers and she could not pass the
gauntlet of guards in her own former palace. As Plutarch notes,
"Taking just one of her
courtiers, Apollodorus the Sicilian, she boarded a small boat
and landed near the palace at dusk. Unable to think of any other
way to enter unnoticed, she lay down full length in a bed-linen
sack, and Apollodorus tied the sack up with a strap and carried
it through the gates to Caesar. Caesar, it is said, was
immediately taken with this trick of Cleopatra, and the
coquettish impression it made..."
The Alexandrian War was started when Pothinus
called for Ptolemy XIII's soldiers in November and surrounded
Caesar in Alexandria with twenty thousand men. During the war,
parts of the Alexandrian Library and some of the warehouses were
burned. However, Caesar did manage to capture the Pharos
lighthouse, which kept his control of the harbor. Cleopatra's
sister, Arsinoe, escaped from the palace and ran to Achillas.
She was proclaimed the queen by the Macedonian mob and the army.
Cleopatra never forgave her sister for this. During the
fighting, Caesar executed the eunuch Pothinus and Achillas was
murdered by Ganymede. Ptolemy XIII drowned in the Nile while he
was trying to flee.
Plutarch refers to her, repeatedly, as beautiful,
but also notes
"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 attraction in her person and in
her talk, together with a peculiar force of character which
pervaded her every word and action, and laid all who associated
with her under her spell."
Plutarch, Life of Antony, 27.
Rome historically preferred appointing puppet
rulers with some claim to the ruled lands. No doubt the young
woman Cleopatra, who had supported Pompey against Caesar, was
making her case. Nine months after their first
meeting, Cleopatra gave birth to their baby. It was at this
point that Caesar abandoned his plans to annex Egypt, instead
backing Cleopatra's claim to the throne. After a short civil
war, Ptolemy XIII was drowned in the Nile and Caesar restored
Cleopatra to her throne, with another younger brother Ptolemy
XIV as new co-ruler.
Despite the almost thirty year age difference, Cleopatra and
Caesar became lovers during his stay in Egypt between 48 BC and
47 BC. They met when they were 21 (Cleopatra) and 50 (Caesar).
On 23 June 47 BC Cleopatra gave birth to a child, Ptolemy Caesar
(nicknamed "Caesarion" which means "little Caesar"). Cleopatra
claimed Caesar was the father and wished him to name the boy his
heir, but Caesar refused, choosing his grand-nephew Octavian
instead. Caesarion was the intended inheritor of Egypt and Rome,
uniting the East and the West. Caesar acknowledged the boy as
one of only two known children born to him although writers
through history have often speculated that this might not have
been the case, the much talked about Queen was known for no
other lovers in her history other than Caesar and his general
Constance Collier as
In the summer of 47 BC, having
married her younger brother Ptolemy XIV, Cleopatra and Caesar
embarked for a two month on a trip along the Nile, aboard a
legendary boat. Together, they visited Dendara, where Cleoptara
was being worshipped as Pharaoh, an honor beyond Caesar's reach.
Caesar only left the boat to attend important business in Syria
just a few weeks before the birth of their son, Caesarion
(Ptolemy Caesar) who was born on June 23, 47 BC.
From the age of three, the boy would reign with his mother as
Ptolemy XV, known as "Caesarion." In 45 BC, Cleopatra and
Caesarion left Alexandria for Rome, where they stayed in a
palace built by Caesar in their honor in Trastavere,
across the Tiber from Rome. Caesar continued to live with his
wife, Calpurnia, but visited the Queen. Cleopatra had started
calling herself the New Isis
Gerome, Cleopatra & Caesar, 1866
Roman sensibilities were further
shocked when Caesar unveiled his magnificent new Temple of Venus
Genetrix - legendary ancestress of his own family - in which he
placed a life-size golden statue of Cleopatra. Many were upset
that he was planning to marry Cleopatra regardless of the laws
against bigamy and marriages to
However, on the Ides of March of 44 BC, all of
that came to an end. Caesar was assassinated outside the Senate
Building in Rome. He was killed in a conspiracy by his Senators
Immediately after Caesar's murder on March 15,
Cleopatra and her household left for Alexandria. Upon her return
to Egypt, he last surviving brother, Ptolemy XIV, conveniently
died. Cleopatra then declared Caesar's three-year-old son as
Ptolemy XV, co-ruler of Egypt. To be Caesar's son, in a Rome
containing Octavian, Caesar's legal heir, was far too dangerous.
- 30 BC
| Cleopatra was born in 69 BC in
Alexandria, Egypt. She reigned as Queen Philopator and Pharaoh
between 51 and 30 BC, and died at the age of 39.
Egyptian law, Cleopatra was forced to have a consort,
who was either a brother or a son, no matter what age,
throughout her reign. Cleopatra was married to her
younger brother Ptolemy XIII when he was twelve, however
she soon dropped his name from any official documents
regardless of the Ptolemaic insistence that the male
presence be first among co-rulers.
Her unions with her brothers produced
no children. It is possible that they were never
consummated; in any case, they were not close. Her reign
marks the end of the Hellenistic Era and the beginning
of the Roman Era in the eastern Mediterranean. She was
the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt (her son by Julius
Caesar, Caesarion, ruled in name only before Augustus
had him executed)
|The royal family,
on the other hand, did have more incestuous marriages.
The royal blood ran through the females, not the males.
To become pharaoh, a man had to marry a royal
princess... which would be his sister or half-sister.
which pervaded her actions in an inexplicable way when
meeting people, was utterly spellbinding. The sound of
her voice was sweet when she talked".
|Cleopatra was a
quick-witted woman who was fluent in nine languages,
however, Latin was not one of them. A Greek by descent,
language and culture, Cleopatra is reputed to have been
the first member of her family in their 300-year reign
in Egypt to have learned the Egyptian language. Though
she bore the ancient Egyptian title Pharaoh, her primary
language was Greek
She was a
mathematician and a very good businesswoman. She had a
genuine respect for Caesar, whose intelligence and wit
matched her own.
Caesar went as far as putting up a
golden statue of Cleopatra in the Temple of Venus in
Rome, making her the first living human to share a
temple with a Roman God - a frank recognition of her
divinity and beauty by Caesar himself.
One of the best known stories told
about Cleopatra is that, at one of the lavish dinners
she shared with Antony, she playfully bet him that she
could spend ten million sesterces on a dinner. He
accepted the bet. The next night, she had a
conventional, unspectacular meal served; he was
ridiculing this, when she ordered the second course —
only a cup of strong vinegar. She then removed one of
her priceless pearl earrings, dropped it into the
vinegar, allowed it to dissolve, and drank the mixture.
writing about 130 years after the event, is the main
source of the story that has come down to us with all
its detail of Cleopatra being found dead, her handmaiden
Iras dying at her feet, and another handmaiden, Charmion,
adjusting her crown before she herself falls.
He then goes on to tell us that some say an asp was
concealed in a basket of figs that was brought to her by
a rustic, and finding it after eating a few figs, she
holds out her arm for it to bite. Others say that it was
hidden in a vase, and that she poked it with a spindle
until it got angry enough to bite her on the arm.
Finally, he eventually writes, in Octavian's triumphal
march back in Rome, an effigy of Cleopatra that has an
asp clinging to it is part of the parade
Cleopatra's son by Caesar, Caesarion,
was proclaimed pharaoh by the Egyptians, but Octavian
had already won. Caesarion was captured and executed,
his fate reportedly sealed by Octavian's famous phrase:
"Two Caesars are one too many." This ended not just the
Hellenistic line of Egyptian pharaohs, but the line of
all Egyptian pharaohs. The three children of Cleopatra
and Antony were spared and taken back to Rome where they
were taken care of by Antony's wife, Octavia Minor, who
was also Octavian's sister.