Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Cleopatra is probably the most famous of Egyptian rulers, (after King Tut, of course.) She was actually a Greek, whose ancestors conquered Egypt. Nobody really cares about that, though. Her father was forced to flee to Rome during his reign, and Cleopatra's oldest sister, Bernice, took the throne for herself. When the Pharaoh returned, Bernice was killed. Sweet daddy, eh? All heart.
When the Pharaoh died, Cleopatra's brother, Ptolemy XIII, took the throne. Fearing for her life, Cleopatra fled. This is about the time she introduced herself to Julius Caesar by rolling herself in a carpet and having the carpet delivered to him. He arranged a meeting with her brother, who agreed to let her help him rule. Fat chance! He surrounded the place where Caesar and Cleopatra were staying and attacked it. Ptolemy lost, and he was drowned in the Nile River. Cleopatra had a search made for his body, because if the body wasn't found when someone drowned in the Nile, the people would believe the drowned person was blessed. His body was found at the bottom of the river. His gold armor had weighed him down, and he'd sunk.
Cleopatra had to marry her other little brother, who died a few weeks later after eating a poisonous plant. Cleopatra had had a son with Caesar, Ptolemy Caesar, and she made him Pharaoh. He was about two years old. Slick move there. Cleopatra could
rule for her son.
Cleopatra traveled to Rome, and met Caesar's friend, Mark Antony. While she was there, Caesar was murdered, and Cleopatra decided to go home. Meanwhile, Mark Antony and another man, Octavian, split Rome in two halves, one for each of them. Cleopatra had to decide which to support. She chose Mark Antony. But she promised ships to him and ordered them back at the first sign of a storm. Mark Antony demanded she come to Rome to explain why. Cleopatra knew she needed to do something impressive, and a carpet wouldn't work this time. So she decided to dress up her barge and to pretend to be Venus, the Roman goddess of love. It had the desired affect, and Mark Antony invited her to stay a long time. She invited him to Egypt, where she made a famous bet: that she could drink a million dollars worth of wine. She won her bet by taking a pearl earring and dissolving it in the wine.
Things began to go downhill. She began fighting a war against Octavian. He was winning. When he reached the capital, Alexandria, she went to hide in her tomb. Big mistake. Mark Antony heard she had gone to her tomb and assumed she was dead. He tried to kill himself, but failed. He bled to death. Cleopatra was found and imprisoned inside her tomb. The story says that rather than be brought back to Rome in chains as a war trophy, she had one of her maids bring her a basket of fruit. Inside was concealed an asp, a poisonous snake. She let it bite her. A letter she had sent earlier to Octavian was her final request: to be buried with Mark Antony.
There are a few impossibilities in that story. The letter she sent would've reached Octavian in a few minutes. The guards would be swarming the place then. But an asp's bite takes an hour to kill you. And how could the maid have smuggled a poisonous snake past the guards? And come to think of it, why wasn't the maid bitten while finding the snake? Could Octavian have killed her instead? But he'd wanted to take her back to Rome as a war trophy. We'll probably never know what really did happen.

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