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CLEOPATRA. Cleopatra, last great name of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Alexandria, was a Macedonian princess, cultured, brilliant, and one of the most dynamic women of the ancient world. Alone of the Gr. rulers of Egypt, she spoke the people’s language, took their religion seriously, and like the royal house of the ancient pharaohs, considered herself the daughter of Re, the sun god. When Julius Caesar intervened in the disturbed dynastic affairs of Egypt, at the end of 48 b.c., Cleopatra was in exile from her brother’s court. She was twenty-two years of age, became Caesar’s mistress for reasons of ambition, bore him a son, and followed him to Rome. After Caesar’s assassination, Cleopatra returned to Egypt, and in 41 b.c. Antony summoned her to Tarsus, where he, like Caesar before him, fell under her spell. The first liaison was brief, but when Antony, breaking with Octavian, came E in 37, he married Cleopatra, and a partnership was formed which almost anticipated distant history and divided the Rom. empire into E and W. Cleopatra was the dynamic member, and the fear Rome held for the queen is reflected in more than one context of Rom. Augustan lit. There is no doubt that the able and ambitious queen hoped to use Antony to defeat metropolitan Rome. The dream ended with the naval battle at Actium in 31 b.c., one of the decisive battles of the world. Back in Egypt, the queen saw plainly that the one desperate chance was to influence Octavian, as she had influenced Antony and Caesar. Failing in this, with typical decision and pride, she abjured further bloodshed and committed suicide with the famous asp, symbol of Re. She was forty years of age. The Romans, says W. W. Tarn, “feared her, a woman, as they had feared none other but Hannibal.”


A. Weigall, The Life and Times of Cleopatra (1925); CAH, X, chs. 2, 3, (1934).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A daughter of Ptolemy VI (Philometor) and of Queen Cleopatra, who was married first to Alexander Balas 150 BC (1 Macc 10:58; Josephus, Ant, XIII, iv, 1) and was afterward taken from him by her father and given to Demetrius Nicator on the invasion of Syria by the latter (1 Macc 11:12; Josephus, Ant, XIII, iv, 7). Alexander was killed in battle against the joint forces of Ptolemy and Demetrius while Demetrius was in captivity in Parthia. Cleopatra married his brother Antiochus VII (Sidetes), who in the absence of Demetrius had gained possession of the Syrian throne (137 BC). She was probably privy (Appian, Syriac., 68) to the murder of Demetrius on his return to Syria 125 BC, but Josephus (Ant., XIII, ix, 3) gives a different account of his death. She afterward murdered Seleucus, her eldest son by Nicator, who on his father’s death had taken possession of the government without her consent. She attempted unsuccessfully to poison her second son by Nicator, Antiochus VIII (Grypus), for whom she had secured the succession, because he was unwilling to concede to her what she considered her due Share of power. She was herself poisoned (120 BC) by the draught which she had prepared for their son (Justin 39). She had also a son by Antiochus VII (Sidetes Antiochus Cyzicenus), who took his name from the place in which he was educated. He was killed in battle 95 BC. The name Cleopatra was borne by many Egyptian princesses, the first of whom was daughter of Antiochus III and was married to Ptolemy V (Epiphanes) 193 BC.