The Last Queen Of Egypt
Kingdoms are guided in the same courses, always pursuing the favor of their rulers and eventually, the stronger and more ambitious hands behind the thrones work hard to overthrow their rulers and take the power in another direction. To achieve either of these purposes, schemes, lies, plots of murder and betrayal are put in action. Nothing is forbidden in these cases, not even if it means to sacrifice love or even bonds of blood. These kinds of protocols in Kingdoms around the world are common since the dawn of history of mankind. Of course, some Kings and Queens are less cruel than others who well… signed their legacies with gruesome acts.
Egypt for example, is one of the most enigmatic places in the world, and the history of their monarchs is always fascinating. In ancient times, (and even today), Egypt possessed a high level of spirituality and their Pharaohs and Queens were venerated as divinities. As children of the gods that were made to be honored and served even at the cost of human life. Many Pharaohs and Queens ruled Egypt, many of them became legends but there is one that forever will mark the history of Egypt. She was a ruler like no other, a woman ahead of her time, powerful, cold blooded, charming, smart, with a high knowledge of politics, a seductress capable to control the heart of a mighty Emperor and turn a warrior against his own people. Her legendary beauty sometimes is mistaken with a symbol of romantic fantasy, but the truth is, that she was far from that. This Queen always took matters in her own hands, and if she had to spill blood to achieve her goals, then so be it. She used to call herself the Daughter of Isis, her people called her Queen of the Nile… Her Name was Cleopatra, The Last Queen of Egypt.
Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator was the third daughter of Pharaoh Ptolemy XII Auletes. The identity of Cleopatra’s mother is still disputed among historians, but some agree that is a strong possibility that Cleopatra The V was her mother, mostly because Cleopatra V was Ptolemy XII most constant Queen Consort during his late reign. He was married before, with Cleopatra the IV, but she is not mentioned at all during 69 BC, the time that is calculated as the date of Cleopatra’s birth. This is another reason why is strongly believed that Cleopatra V is Cleopatra VII’s mother, but again, this is disputed thanks to his many mistresses and because as Pharaoh, Ptolemy had the power to recognize a bastard child as formal heir, no matter if his Queen liked it or not — a tradition that ran in all the line of Kingdoms around the world in all the ages.
Ptolemy XII was never seen as a courageous, strong or magnanimous ruler. He was indeed a drunk, weak, careless, self indulgent, womanizer and music lover monarch. Besides, his government was stained with greed, corruption and hard labor, more elements to make him unpopular. But even with these failures as ruler of Egypt, he was really aware that heirs were important not only to keep his status as Pharaoh and man, also to keep his blood in the throne. Ptolemy XII had many children in his lifetime, some legitimate others not. His first marriage produced a daughter, named Cleopatra Thryphaena, and after her, another daughter, Berenice IV. Ptolemy then had two other daughters with a mistress. They are not mentioned in history, and it is obvious that they were not included as potential rulers. Then (Possibly) with Cleopatra V, comes the birth of Cleopatra VII. This “jump” in the scales of dynasty comes because there is a misunderstanding between the daughters of the Pharaoh. Cleopatra VI was not a daughter of the Pharaoh, she was indeed his niece, and that is why our future Queen Cleopatra, is Cleopatra VII. After Cleopatra VII, Princess Arsinoe IV joined the growing family, and after the long line of female heirs, came two sons: Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV.
Ptolemy XII perhaps was not the strong and divine Pharaoh Egypt deserved, but he was indeed a good father. He showed love and devotion to his children while they grew. The Royal Palace was filled with servants that were commanded to see for all the needs of the Princes and Princesses. They were indulged, protected, pampered and spoiled. All his children wore the most luxurious clothes, ornaments and jewels. They were always present in banquets and royal ceremonies. Education was an important activity in their lives and a group of exclusive tutors lived with them in the Palace. But the Pharaoh started to show special interest in one of his daughters… Princess Cleopatra the VII. Of all his children, Cleopatra the VII was the most flamboyant, charming and full of energy. The Princess was also showing an enchanting beauty that made her different from her sisters. She had deep dark eyes, an attribute that would help her in the future to conquer her enemies to the point of make them her lovers.
The young Cleopatra was always curious of her environment, always interested in learning and see beyond the palace’s walls. She was also the strongest of her siblings. She barely got sick and was very determined too. Ptolemy XII immediately saw the immense potential of this little girl, and he could even imagine her as future Ruler of Egypt. That is why the proud father decided to increase his bright princess’s wisdom as much as possible. He separated her from her siblings and gave her private tutors. Cleopatra was instructed first in languages, and she was the first to be instructed in the native tongue of Egypt. She was also instructed in Greek, Aramaic, Parthian, Syrian, Ethiopian and Hebrew. With the Pharaoh’s blessing, young Princess Cleopatra the VII was introduced to philosophy, literature, art and music. Cleopatra started to join her father in political meetings, something that her siblings never had the opportunity to do. In those meetings, Cleopatra’s young mind started to understand the importance and the dangers of being in line to the throne. She heard stories about how many of her relatives killed each other only to climb higher in their chances to take the throne, which was a scary revelation, and more, when she started to see the green color of envy in her sibling’s eyes every time she came out of a room with her father and his advisers.
Time was passing. The special attention that Ptolemy XII was showing to Cleopatra was twisting the souls of his other children. There were rumors that Cleopatra Thryphanea and Berenice were plotting to murder their younger sister, but when they were called to address the charges, they denied them. With no proof, Ptolemy XII buried the case and saw his eldest daughters again with kind eyes… but not with the same level of trust. With time, Cleopatra VII was not only growing charming and beautiful, she was wiser, clever, stronger and closer to the main cell of the power of Egypt. She was heard by the Pharaoh’s advisers and delegates and they were impressed with her talents of speech. Her father even took some of her ideas of ruling a country and put them in to action — for example, to increase the amount of grain that was distribute among the people, to keep them well fed and encourage them to work harder.
This environment of favoritism and extreme exaltation of the vibrant Cleopatra was consuming the hearts of her siblings. They felt rejected, hurt and diminished by their father. They started to hate Cleopatra, especially the older sisters, who also took the duty of poison the minds of the other children against Cleopatra. They knew she was a danger to their chances of rule in the future, because in Egypt, the line of succession had no rules, not even a tradition. In Egypt’s Royal Law of Succession, birth and gender were not taken as right to the throne. In Egypt, to be next in line the heirs had to prove they were worthy of the task and the Pharaoh himself or herself had to decide who of his/her children would rule after his/her death and that, increased the anxiety of Ptolemy’s children. Because to them, it was obvious that Cleopatra would win the golden prize.
The tension between the Royal Children was not the only problem behind the Palace’s walls. The power of Egypt’s greatest nemesis, Rome, was growing faster and faster. Ptolemy was less and less popular every day, and he needed to keep his power at any cost. Cleopatra was still too young to take the reigns on her own as he silently wished — and Rome was expanding its territory and the three most powerful generals (Julius Caesar, Cnaeus Pompeious Magnus (Pompey), and Marcus Licinius were on their way to creating history. Ptolemy XII feared that one day the mighty soldiers of Rome would bring their armed forces to Alexandria and that the Ptolemaic Dynasty would die with their arrival. He was also afraid that Roman laws and taxes would be imposed on the citizens of Egypt.
Ptolemy XII did not want to lose his throne to the Romans, so he designed a plan to ensure his power. Ptolemy XII went to Rome and asked Caesar and Pompey to recognize him as the legal ruler of Egypt and to proclaim him a friend and ally of Rome. Both powerful rulers agreed to do this; however, it came at a high cost. This was to cost Ptolemy XII 6,000 talents. He didn’t have all the money to pay such a large sum, so he borrowed from a wealthy Roman. After he borrowed the money, the plan fell through and soon he discovered that there were several plots devised to destroy him and not exactly in Roman Lands, but at home.
From good sources, Ptolemy found out that his children went wild in his absence, especially with the idea of take the throne while he was begging and paying the Romans to keep his power. He knew that he needed more help so he returned to Rome for help. But it was too late, using her own fortune and power of persuasion, his oldest daughter, Cleopatra Tryphanea, seized the throne. Ptolemy XII was outraged, but he was also desperate and wounded. His own flesh and blood had betrayed him, and even when these kind of acts were normal among royal houses, a daughter is a daughter, and a low blow like this, pierces the heart of any father, Pharaoh or not. But like a Pharaoh, Ptolemy had to forget he was her father. He swallowed his pain and immediately seek for help among the Romans to recover what was his and punish his daughter for High Treason.
He found a well known Roman named Aulus Gabinius, who offered his help to give him back his throne, of course, at a high price. Ptolemy had to pay 10,000 talents for the favor. Once the paid was made, a plan started to be developed. Meanwhile in Egypt, Cleopatra Thryphanea was enjoying her time as Queen of Egypt. She kept her youngest siblings close, especially Cleopatra VII, but strangely, her sister Berenice was barely around. What Cleopatra Tryphanea did not know was that Berenice was raising an army against her, and before the Romans set a foot in Egypt to take back the throne to their father, Berenice sent her forces to Cleopatra Thryphanea’s doors. She was killed, and Berenice became Queen Berenice the IV.
The news reached Ptolemy XII in Rome. Now the enemy had another face, but like the first, this enemy shared his blood. Wounded again, the plan that was developed originally against his first born daughter was now unleashed against Berenice the IV. Since it was clear that Egypt was under the rule of a cold killer, the Romans decided to set the fire of revenge in the hearts of the people of Egypt. Delegates from Rome arrive to the streets of Egypt and reinforced their duty as Ptolemy’s subjects. Of course some money was spent too. In any case, these elements and the fact that Berenice the IV was neither loved nor recognized by the people as Queen, resulted in a revolution that ended with Berenice arrested and kept prisoner by Ptolemy XII’s followers.
Ptolemy XII returned to the palace once again as Pharaoh, now he had to decide the fate of his treacherous daughter. She was brought to his presence and shortly after that… Ptolemy unrecognized her as his daughter and stripped her of all her titles and rights of birth, to increase her humiliations, he made her clear that the palaces under her name, her jewels and all her possessions were passed to Cleopatra and Arsinoe, and then, he condemned her to be beheaded for her treason against him and against Egypt. Berenice was diminished, but she showed no remorse and she did not even beg for her life. She kept her pride high, looking at her father as if they were equals at that moment. Berenice was taken back to prison after the sentence and the Pharaoh retired for the rest of the night, alone. At dawn, Berenice was executed… and buried with the low honors given to all traitors. Ptolemy XII lost two daughters in the name of power, blood against blood. The Honor of Egypt was stained, and his heart was broken. His only comfort was the hope that his favorite jewel, Cleopatra would clean and erase the horror of that treason.
Young Cleopatra’s picture: Bijoux Egyptiens web site.