Cleopatra – Notable Women in History Series


Cleopatra may be best-known for her immense beauty and powers of seduction, but there’s far more to her story. However, it is prudent to note that there lies some doubt as to the precise details of her biography, as no contemporary accounts of her life exist. Much of what is known about her is the result of the work of Greco-Roman scholars, particularly Plutarch.

In her lifetime, Cleopatra co-reigned ancient Egypt for almost 3 decades, first with her two younger brothers, and later with her son. Though forced to flee Egypt shortly after her ascension to the throne by her brother and co-regent, Cleopatra returned backed by the force of Julius Caesar’s army, and resumed her reign of Egypt.

Later, Cleopatra further strengthened Egypt by negotiating the return of much of Egypt’s eastern empire, as well as large portions of Syria and Lebanon, in exchange for providing funds for Mark Antony’s campaign against the kingdom of Parthia.

Unfortunately for Cleopatra, as the result of a feud between Rome’s ruler, Octavian, and Mark Antony, Octavian waged war on Egypt. Less than a year later, Octavian’s forces defeated those of Cleopatra and Antony. This left Cleopatra without a throne, as well as her lover Antony, and solidified Octavian’s consolidation of power in Rome. It is theorized that Cleopatra took her own life, and was buried, at her request, next to Antony’s grave.

Though Cleopatra is most commonly recognized due to her affairs with powerful men, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, the accounts of her military cunning and unification of Egypt should not go unnoticed. She was a strong female leader who led her country for 3 decades. For this, we recognize her as one of the many notable women in history.