The New International Encyclopædia/Cleopatra

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

CLE'OPA'TRA (Gk. Κλεοπάτρα). The name of several queens and princesses of Egypt of the family of the Ptolemies (q.v.). The most famous of them, Cleopatra VI., daughter of Ptolemy XIII., Auletes, was born in B.C. 69 or 68. Her father died in 51, leaving a will wherein he appointed as his successors his elder daughter, Cleopatra, and his elder son, Ptolemy, and requested the Roman people to see his testamentary dispositions carried into effect. The will was duly ratified by the Roman Senate, and Cleopatra, then about seventeen years old, and her brother, Ptolemy XIV., a child of about twelve years, succeeded jointly to the throne of Egypt, with the understanding that they should shortly marry. In the third year of their reign, Ptolemy, urged by his advisers, assumed sole control of the government and drove his sister into exile. She promptly gathered an army in Syria, and prepared to assert her claims. It was at this time that Pompey, seeking refuge with the King of Egypt, after his defeat at Pharsalia, was murdered by the King's advisers. Cleopatra seems to have been unable to make good her claim by force of arms; but, shortly after Pompey's death, Cæsar arrived at Alexandria and, yielding to the fascinations of the Egyptian Queen, became her lover and espoused her cause. He was for a time hard pressed by the Egyptians, but ultimately triumphed and Ptolemy lost his life. Arsinoë, the younger daughter of Ptolemy Auletes, was carried off to grace Cæsar's triumph at Rome. Cleopatra now nominally married her younger brother, Ptolemy XV., and, after settling their joint government upon a secure basis, went to Rome, where she lived as Caesar's mistress until his assassination in B.C. 44. After Cæsar's death, having, it is said, poisoned her brother, Ptolemy XV., she returned to Egypt, where she associated with her on the throne her son by Cæsar, called Cæsarion. In the civil war following Caesar's death, Cleopatra having hesitated to take sides with either party, Antony, after the battle of Philippi (42), summoned her to meet him at Tarsus in Cilicia to explain her conduct. When she appeared upon the Cydnus on a splendidly adorned vessel, in the garb of the goddess Aphrodite, the Roman triumvir fell a victim to her charms, and returned with her to Egypt. After living with her for some time, in the course of which she bore him twin children, Antony was compelled to return to Rome, where he married Octavia, a sister of Octavius. When, in 36, he went to the East in command of an expedition against the Parthians, he sent for Cleopatra, and she joined him at Antioch, and after his defeat she met him in Syria with troops and supplies. In 34, after a more successful campaign against the Parthians, he celebrated his triumph at Alexandria and continued to reside in Egypt. In 32 Octavianus declared war against Cleopatra, and Antony, in revenge, divorced his wife Octavia. Against the counsel of Antony's advisers, Cleopatra insisted on taking part in the ensuing campaign. At the naval battle of Actium (31), believing Antony's defeat to be inevitable, she withdrew her fleet from action, and fled to Alexandria. Her lover, beholding her flight, made no further effort to retrieve his fortunes, but retired from the battle and followed her. On the approach of Octavianus, Antony, deceived by the false report of the Queen's death, fell by his own hand. Cleopatra made some attempts to bring Octavianus under the influence of her charms, but, failing in this, and hearing that he intended to exhibit her in his triumph at Rome, she killed herself (B.C. 30), probably by poison, and according to an old tradition, by the bite of a venomous serpent. Cleopatra combined rare intellectual gifts with physical charms, and she is immortal as one of the most fascinating women of all time; so that ever since her death, she has been a constant theme for artists, dramatists, and poets. There is no authentic portrait of Cleopatra extant, except in her effigy upon coins. A composite photograph has been made of these by Gorringe in his book Egyptian Obelisks (New York, 1865).

Cæsarion, her son by Cæsar, was put to death by Octavius. Of her three children by Antony, her daughter Cleopatra married Juba, King of Mauretania, who was allowed by Octavius to take under his protection his wife's two brothers, Alexander and Ptolemy. In A.D. 40, Ptolemy, son of Juba and the younger Cleopatra, was slain by Caligula, and with him ended the line of the Ptolemies. (See Ptolemy.) Consult: Strack, Die Dynastie der Ptolemäer (1896); Mahaffy, The Empire of the Ptolemies and History of Egypt Under the Ptolemaic Dynasty (1899); Lombroso, L'Egitto dei Greci e del Romani (1895).