The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Cleopatra
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|Edition of 1920. See also Cleopatra VII on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.|
CLEOPATRA, klē-ō-pā'trạ, the name of several Egyptian princesses, of whom the most renowned was the eldest daughter of Ptolemy Auletes: b. 69 or 68 B.C.; d. 30 B.C. With her eldest brother Ptolemy she shared the throne of Egypt. Both were minors at the death of their father, and were placed under the guardianship of Pothinus and Achillas, who deprived Cleopatra of her share in the government 49 B.C. She went to Syria, and was forming plans for obtaining her rights by force, when Cæsar came to Alexandria, and, captivated with her charms, successfully seconded her claims. Pothinus stirred up a second revolt, upon which the Alexandrian War commenced, in which the elder Ptolemy lost his life. Cæsar proclaimed Cleopatra queen of Egypt; but she was compelled to take her brother, the younger Ptolemy, who was only 11 years old, as her nominal husband and colleague on the throne. The Queen subsequently made a journey to Rome, where Cæsar received her magnificently, and erected a statue to her next to the statue of Venus, in the temple consecrated to that diety. Cleopatra remained in Rome from 46 B.C. to 44 B.C., returning to Egypt after Cæsar's death. She had by Cæsar a son, Cæsarion, afterward put to death by Octavius. When her brother, at the age of 14, demanded his share in the government Cleopatra poisoned him, and remained sole possessor of the regal power. During the civil war in Rome she declined to take sides with either party, but after the battle of Philippi she sailed to join Antony at Tarsus. She was then 25 years old, and combined with extraordinary beauty, great wit and the highest elegance of manners. She appeared in a magnificently decorated ship, under a golden canopy, arrayed as the goddess Aphrodite, surrounded by beautiful boys and girls who represented Cupids and Graces. Her meeting with Antony was attended by the most splendid festivals. After having accompanied him to Tyre she returned to Egypt. Antony followed her, and gave himself up to the most extravagant pleasures. She accompanied him on his march against the Parthians, and when he parted from her on the Euphrates he bestowed Cyrene, Cyprus, Cœlosyria, Phœnicia, Cilicia and Crete on her, to which he added part of Judea and Arabia at her request. On her account, or as an expression of hostility to Octavius, who declared war against Egypt in 32 B.C., he divorced his wife Octavia and made his three sons by Cleopatra, and also Cæsarion, kings. Instead of acting promptly against his adversary, Antony lost a whole year in festivals and amusements with Cleopatra at Ephesus, Samos and Athens, and at last determined to decide the contest by a naval battle. At Actium the fleets met. Cleopatra, who had brought Antony a reinforcement of 60 vessels, suddenly took to flight, and thus caused the defeat of her party; for Antony, as if under the influence of frenzy, immediately followed her. They fled to Egypt, and declared to Octavius that if Egypt were left to Cleopatra's children they would henceforth live in retirement, but Octavius demanded Antony's death, and advanced toward Alexandria, which Antony hastened to defend. Cleopatra determined to burn herself with all her treasures but Octavius pacified her by private messages. These communications, however, did not remained concealed from Antony, who, supposing Cleopatra treacherous, hastened to her, to avenge himself by her death. She, however, escaped and took refuge in the mausoleum which she had erected near the Temple of Isis, and caused the report of her suicide to be circulated. Antony now threw himself upon his sword; but before he expired was informed that Cleopatra was still living, upon which he caused himself to be carried into her presence, and breathed his last in her arms. Octavius succeeded in getting Cleopatra into his power. She still hoped to subdue him by her charms, but her arts were unavailing, and becoming aware that her life was spared only that she might grace the conqueror's Triumph, she determined to escape this ignominy by a voluntary death. According to the generally received account of her death she ordered a splendid feast to be prepared, desired her attendants to leave her, and put an asp, which a faithful servant had brought her, concealed amongst flowers, on her arm, the bite of which caused her death almost immediately. There is, however, some doubt as to the exact method by which she took her life. Her body was interred near that of Antony. At the time of her death she had reigned 21 years. Her daughter by Antony married the king of Mauretania; their son Ptolemy, last of the line, was slain by Caligula in 40 A.D.