September 02, 2022

#08-237: Cleopatra

A bust of Cleopatra

Note: Brains, beauty, and power: the Greco-Egyptian Queen Cleopatra had it all, plus some big-name lovers!

Get Ready: Do you think women can rule equally with men? Do they have to do more than men to be recognized as "great"?

Julius Caesar is one of the most famous men in world history. Almost equally well-known is the man who gave his funeral oration, and attempted to parlay Caesar's influence into a powerful seat of his own: Mark Antony.

Thanks to Shakespeare's play Antony and Cleopatra, many are aware that that Egyptian ruler was once Antony's wife; she bore him three children. Not as many realize that before Antony she had an affair with his mentor, Julius Caesar.

These two relationships alone would have assured her a place in ancient history, but she was so much more.

The Greek (Macedonian) king Alexander the Great had conquered lands that stretched from Greece to India and down to North Africa, an area of over 2,007,700 square miles (5,200,000 square kilometers) and one of the largest empires in history. But upon Alexander's unexpected death at age 32, in 323 BCE, this empire was thrown into chaos.

His generals squabbled over leadership, until at last four relatively stable kingdoms emerged. The Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt was one of these, named for its founder, Ptolemy I Soter.

One of the last of Ptolemy's successors was Cleopatra VII (died in 30 BCE), who ruled jointly at various times with two of her brothers (Ptolemy XIII and XIV) and her son, Ptolemy XV, called Caesarion ("little Caesar") because he was Caesar's biological son. He was the last sovereign in the Ptolemaic dynasty.

Cleopatra was a brilliant woman. She could speak multiple North African and Middle Eastern languages (as well as Greek), and was the first Ptolemaic ruler to learn Egyptian. She also seems to have had a way with men.

Cleopatra and Caesarion were in Rome and living with Julius Caesar when he was assassinated in 44 BCE. She stayed on about a month past his death, trying to get Caesarion recognized as his heir. She failed, and the boy--just 17 at the time--was later executed in Alexandria, Egypt, on the orders of Octavian, who three years later would become Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor.

A few weeks earlier, Mark Antony and Cleopatra had killed themselves, Antony by falling on his sword and Cleopatra by poison--some say by allowing herself to be bitten by an asp.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. asp
  2. chaos
  3. dynasty
  4. heir
  5. jointly
  6. mentor
  7. oration
  8. parlay
  9. sovereign
  10. squabbled

  1. argued; fought
  2. one who takes over after someone's death
  3. turn a situation to one's advantage
  4. a formal speech
  5. a teacher; guide
  6. state of disorder
  7. a ruler, like a king or queen
  8. together
  9. a venomous ("poisonous") snake
  10. a line of rulers from the same family

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for September 2, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. f; 3. j; 4. b; 5. h; 6. e; 7. d; 8. c; 9. g; 10. a