Famous Rulers in History Cleopatra Part 3

About the famous Egyptian ruler Cleopatra, history of her reign and life, encounters with Caesar and Ptolemy.

THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY

Famous and Infamous Rulers in History

CLEOPATRA

In Power: The board of guardians appointed for the young Ptolemy recognized the queen's ambition and cleverness; consequently, it made things so dangerous for her that she was forced to flee in 49 B.C. to Syria, where she gathered an army and prepared to fight her brother's troops. Meanwhile, Caesar's two rivals for power were both killed, Crassus fighting the Parthians, Pompey by the Egyptians under Ptolemy XIII. Theodotus, one of the king's guardians, said, "Dead men don't bite," and presented Pompey's head to Caesar when he came to Egypt in 47 B.C. Caesar did not react with the expected gratitude; instead he wept and dismissed Theodotus contemptuously, but he must have known he was now the strongest leader in the Roman Empire. He arrogantly moved into the royal palace and sent for Ptolemy and Cleopatra, who was trapped behind Egyptian lines. She secretly came to Alexandria by ship and was brought into Caesar's presence wrapped in a rug on the shoulder of her servant Apollodorus, who proceeded to unroll her--a dramatic entrance which must have delighted Caesar. It is possible that they became lovers that night, and very probable that she was a virgin. Then in his 50s, Caesar was a multifaceted genius with a long, varied sexual history, tall, full-faced, with sharp black eyes. Suetonius said of him: "His baldness was something that greatly worried him...and because of it he used to comb his think locks forward over the crown of his head." If Cleopatra was attracted to him, it was probably for his power and his wit, not his looks.

Caesar tried to reconcile Cleopatra and Ptolemy the following morning, but the boy cried that he was betrayed and threw his crown on the floor in a fit of petulance. To the crowds, some of whom were unhappy about Cleopatra's return, Caesar read the will of the coregents' father and said he would give Cyprus, a contemporary political football, back to Egypt. He foiled a plot against him which had been revealed to him by his barber, won the Battle of Alexandria through clever strategy (Ptolemy died in that battle), and entered the city in triumph. Cleopatra tool another, even younger husband, her brother Ptolemy XIV, another unfortunate, who later died of poison.

Cleopatra and Caesar spent that winter together, often feasting until dawn, and in the spring they went on a trip up the Nile, as much for propaganda as pleasure, in a 300-ft.-long barge, a floating palace with gardens, banquet rooms, and grottoes, followed by 400 ships carrying troops and supplies.

Then in 47 B.C. Caesar returned to Rome, detouring through the East, where he won the battle that wrung from him the famous victory cry "Veni, vidi, vici!" ("I came, I saw, I conquered!"). The Senate made him ruler of the Mediterranean world, marking the real end of the Roman Republic. Thereafter, he was dictator.

That summer, Cleopatra went with her brother to Rome, where they lived in one of Caesar's houses. (Caesar stayed with his third wife, Calpurnia.) Caesar celebrated his Egyptian triumph (the parade was complete with a rare giraffe and a model of the Pharos) and made the mistake of dedicating a gold statue to Cleopatra in the Temple of Venus Genetrix; this added to the Romans' alarm at his affair with a queen from the exotic and militarily dangerous East, and it was fuel for his enemies' fire.

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