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Cleopatra: The Battle of Actium and Her Own Death

What Was the Battle of Actium?

Roman General Agrippa met Cleopatra’s (and Antony’s) army in 31 BC. This battle took place on the Ionian Sea. A lot of bad luck happened for the two lovers. Cleopatra and Antony were outnumbered, about 140 ships to 260 ships. One of Antony’s generals turned traitor, Quintus Dellius, revealed to Octavian Antony’s plans. Not only that, but when the battle turned against them, Cleopatra and her fleets fled. When Antony eventually came to the same revelation as Cleopatra (or perhaps they had a plan prior), he also abandoned his men and fled to safety. Octavian acted as savior and saved the men on ships Antony had lit ablaze, and Antony’s camp was quickly overtaken by Octavian. This battle was the end of the war against Cleopatra (Tyldesley 178-180).


Most of Antony’s men deserted him. He was left feeling as a failure and completely alone. He knew he had lost and had no chance of ever winning against Octavian. Cleopatra soon sent her own form of surrender and requests to Octavian and Antony also tried to assuage the offended leader. Octavian was not pleased, though, and made sure Antony knew he was not accepted back as a citizen and manipulated Cleopatra (“Cleopatra”).

Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII’s Deaths

In 30 BC word was sent from Cleopatra to Mark Antony falsely telling him she was killed. Some speculate she did this to encourage Antony to take his own life and rid herself of the problem associated with him (Roller 145). This was the straw that broke the camel’s back; Antony stabbed himself, and his bad luck continued as he was not instantly killed. His last, dying request was to be brought to where Cleopatra was. It is debated, but he may have been to her and allowed to die in her arms (“Battle of Actium”). The scene as told by Plutarch is quite tragic. After she supposedly would not open the door, but stubbornly had servants tie Antony to a rope that she and two other women pulled up into her chambers, Plutarch describes the following:

And when she had thus got him in and laid him down, she rent her garments over him, beat and tore her breasts with her hands, wiped off some of his blood upon her face, and called him master, husband, and imperator; indeed, she almost forgot her own ills in her pity for his” (77:3).

After Antony’s death, Octavian met with  the grieving Cleopatra. Perhaps she hopelessly tried to convince him to be sympathetic to her, perhaps she tried to seduce him, or perhaps all her hope was lost. Nonetheless, when she returned back to her chambers she did not come out (“Cleopatra”). Evaluating her relationship with Mark Antony, Cleopatra may have really loved him. Her relationship with Julius Caesar was undertoned with her desire to “[assure] her position on the throne and [neutralize] rivals,” but when she met Mark Antony she definitely did not need to indulge in a relationship with him. She was more stable than before and was well off on her own (Roller 82). Plutarch quotes Cleopatra’s speech after Antony’s death:

“Do not abandon thine own wife while she lives…but hide and bury me here with thyself, since out of all my innumerable ills not one is so great and dreadful as this short time that I have lived apart from thee.” (84:4).

So, when Mark Antony died and all hope seemed lost, Cleopatra may have picked a means to kill herself that was still considered dignified. It is thought she killed herself by letting an incredibly poisonous snake, an asp, bite her. She was then buried with Antony; their tomb now somewhere deep in the Mediterranean Sea (Tyldesley 193-6).



After his mother’s dead, Caesarion was assassinated under the orders of Octavian. Mark Antony’s oldest son was also killed by orders of Octavian. In 27 BC, Octavian changed his name to Augustus Caesar and a new era of Rome was born (“Cleopatra”). The other three children of Cleopatra’s were forced to walk through Roman streets in heavy chains as a way to display Octavian’s victory. Surprisingly, Octavia was the one who raised Cleopatra’s and Antony’s twins, Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and youngest son, Ptolemy Philadelphus. It is uncertain what became of Ptolemy Philadelphus and Alexander Helios. Their sister, Cleopatra Selene II, went on to marry Juba II of Numidia; Augustus actually granted Cleopatra Selene II with a large dowry, and she went on to have children (Tyldesley 199).  

Thus was the end of the Ptolemy Dynasty. It was killed along with 39 year old Cleopatra VII.


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Cleopatra: Cleopatra, Caesar, and Antony

Cleopatra, Who Was She?

In a way, Cleopatra VII was born into mystery–her mother is an unknown woman with a background still highly debated by scholars. Was she white/Greek? Was she black/Egyptian? Was she royal? Well, since she is classified as a princess, it is safe to assume her mother was royal. Other than that, it is hard to make any clear conclusions on her ethnicity (Tyldesley 29-33). This is mostly due to Octavian ordering most of the statues and portraits of Cleopatra to be destroyed after her death (Tyldesley 58).

Historians believe Cleopatra was a well-liked ruler. She presented herself as a god, much like the rest of her family. She was also the first Ptolemy ruler to learn Egyptian, and she also knew many other languages (Plutarch, Life of Antony, 27:3). Embracing Egyptian culture more so than her ancestors, she had Egyptian-esque artwork of her completed. Cleopatra was a capable, cunning leader who desired to maintain Egypt’s independence and increase its power (Crawford).

The Cleopatras portrayed by Hollywood actors are incredibly beautiful women, but was the authentic Cleopatra as stunning? It is worth noting that Cleopatra came from a long-line of incest. Genetically, incest is sabotage. The Ptolemy family was noted to have buggy eyes and swollen necks. These traits are seen in sculptures and coins from the Ptolemaic Dynasty (“Ptolemaic Dynasty”). Coins of Cleopatra feature a large nose, pointy chin, and fat neck (Tyldesley 54). Perhaps, one of the best descriptions we have of Cleopatra is recorded by Plutarch in the Life of Antony:

“For her beauty, as we are told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her; but converse with her had an irresistible charm, and her presence, combined with the persuasiveness of her discourse and the character which was somehow diffused about her behaviour towards others, had something stimulating about it. There was sweetness also in the tones of her voice; and her tongue, like an instrument of many strings, she could readily turn to whatever language she pleased” (27:2-3).

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She may have been “average looking” to the common Roman or Greek, but there was something uniquely beautiful about her. Maybe she was humorous, optimistic, intelligent, and adventurous. Also, it did help she had the fortune to deck herself out in the finest clothes and jewels. What can be agreed upon, however, is that it is no small feat for a woman to woo two powerful Roman men in order to progress her own reign; first Julius Caesar and then Mark Antony. It is important to note that Cleopatra did not necessarily need these men in order for her to rule, except for the slight involvement of Caesar. Who are these men and how did she win them over?

Julius Caesar

Born in 100 BC, some may say Gaius Julius Caesar was born to lead. He was a political leader as a quaestor, aedile, praetor, consul, and dictator. He was a fine military leader, and defended Rome from nations who threatened it. When Cleopatra first met him he had just defeated his enemy, Pompey, and would go on to secure his position as Rome’s dictator (“Julius Caesar”).  An ancient Roman historian, Suetonius, details Caesar’s physical appearance: “Tall of stature with a fair complex, shapely limbs, a somewhat full face, and keen black eyes” and notes that he was balding, and would comb over his hair to cover his baldness; his bald head was the topic of many jokes (45:1-2).


When he first met the twenty-one year old Cleopatra, he was fifty-two (“Cleopatra”). Cleopatra had so bravely come to him wrapped up in a bed sack, being snuck past guards to meet with him. Julius Caesar, being a man of courage himself, was impressed by her fearlessness (Plutarch, Life of Caesar, 49:3-10). It may be safe to assume that Caesar was sympathetic to Cleopatra’s requests to have her throne returned to her. After all, he desired to rule and lead much like Cleopatra did. What did she do to convince him to give her the throne of Egypt back and why did he have sexual intercourse with her? What is known is Caesar had affairs with many royal women during his life. Nonetheless, none of these affairs proved as potent and tantalizing as the one he had with Cleopatra. He would spend hours with her in Alexandria. When he returned to Rome, he would send for her to stay there. He proceeded to spoil her with gifts. It can also be said that Rome needed a strong Egyptian nation for the resources supplied by it, so perhaps her good fortune was also fueled by Caesar’s own political agenda (Tyldesley 57).

Whatever Cleopatra did to make him fall in love with her, it was sure powerful. However, this love between them was not a strong enough catalyst for him to break Roman tradition and name Caesarion, the child he illegitimately fathered with Cleopatra and his only known son, his heir (Suetonius 52:1). 

Mark Antony

In 83 BC Mark Antony was born. He was a relative of Julius Caesar (Caesar was his mother’s cousin). Although he was an excellent military leader, he was known as a semi-irresponsible, fun-loving man. This drove a wedge between him and other Roman leaders, but it nourished relationships with the soldiers beneath him. Caesar had asked for Antony’s assistance in his conquest of Gaul and later put Antony in political leadership, albeit he was not an adequate politician; nonetheless, Antony was “fiercely” loyal to Caesar. That is probably why, when Caesar was murdered, Antony used his eulogy to speak poorly of the assassins. After a couple of the assassins, Brutus and Cassius, were defeated by the Second Triumvirate, and control of Rome was split between Mark Antony and Octavian, Antony, now around 42 years old, requested Cleopatra come to him in 41 BC to discuss her involvement in the war. He wanted to fine her for supposedly supporting the opposition, but perhaps he merely wanted someone to financially refresh his army (Mark).


Cleopatra, being much too clever, came to the Mark Antony decorated as a goddess; specifically Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Plutarch records in his histories that she came up the Cydnus river in a beautiful boat with violet sails. Ethereal music from harps and wind instruments were playing as it rowed towards Antony. Cleopatra was clothed in wonderful fabrics, lounging about “under a canopy of cloth of gold,” with her servants decorated in luxury (Plutarch, Life of Antony, 26:1-3). Needless to say, Mark Antony was smitten and did not issue Cleopatra a fine. In fact, he granted her much of her wishes, and attempted to live carefree with her. It is said he “joined Cleopatra and the Egyptians in general in their life of luxurious ease until he was entirely demoralized” (Tyldesley 150).

The next and final blog post in the series: Cleopatra: the Battle of Actium and Her Own Death


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Cleopatra: A Biased Stance in the Roman Civil War

Julius Caesar’s Civil War

The Great Roman Civil War, or Julius Caesar’s Civil War, had various causes. One major catalyst was the conflict that developed between Julius Caesar and Pompey. At one point they were allies, being two of the powerful leaders involved in the First Triumvirate, the third being Marcus Licinius Crassus. This alliance was formed in 60 BC in response to a shaky Roman nation in an effort to keep it from falling apart. They banded together for seven years to control Rome (Wasson).

Putting three powerful men together and making them work towards a common goal was sufficiently challenging, but when Crassus died at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC, the Triumvirate started to disintegrate. Not only that, but Caesar had married his only daughter to Pompey as an act of friendship, and she died during childbirth the year prior to Crassus’ death (Wasson).  

The Roman senate preferred Pompey’s leadership to Caesar, but Caesar desired power. The senate had already placed Pompey in consulship when Caesar returned to Rome from an excavation. Upon Caesar’s return, a conflict broke out that led to a civil war. One of the most significant battles was the Battle of  Pharsalus in 48 BC, where Julius Caesar defeated Pompey and Pompey escaped to Egypt (Wasson). Pompey did not realize he was running into a trap; it was in Egypt where Pompey died under the orders of Ptolemy XIII. With the death of Pompey, there was not much standing in the way of Caesar claiming the power he wanted. In 44 BC, he was declared dictator of Rome for life (Andrews).

The Roman Civil War Between Antony and Octavian

Caesar’s claim to dictatorship was cut short by his assassination planned out by a gang of Roman senators who never wanted Caesar in leadership. Julius Caesar did on the “Ides of March” (Andrews).


Now Rome was without a solid leader. Another Triumvirate, the Second Triumvirate, was formed to rule Rome, composed of Mark Antony, Octavian, and Marcus Lepidus. It was these three men who defeated Caesar’s assassins, specifically Brutus and Cassius, at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC, and it was Mark Antony and Octavian who had full control of Rome by 36 BC after Octavian expelled Marcus Lepidus out of the Triumvirate under suspicion of rebellion (“Cleopatra” 2009).

Once again, two powerful men were attempting to share control, and, predictably, the tension began to rise. Another outbreak of war occurred, this time between Antony and Octavian. In addition, the Egyptian queen Cleopatra was a definite catalyst for this conflict (“Mark Antony”).

Cleopatra’s Involvement

Cleopatra’s involvement began with the conflict between the Second Triumvirate and Caesar’s assassins. The Second Triumvirate had requested assistance from Egypt, and Cleopatra sent over four legions Caesar had left behind in Egypt. After the Brutus and Cassius were defeated and control of Rome was split between Mark Antony and Octavian, Antony requested Cleopatra come to him in 41 BC to discuss her involvement in the war (“Cleopatra” 2016); this is when their affair began. It was said Cleopatra arrived on the most beautiful ship in the most flattering clothes and won over the favor of Mark Antony (Plutarch 26:1-4). They eventually had three children together and Mark Antony married her according to Egyptian custom (“Cleopatra” 2016).


Mark Antony’s relationship with Cleopatra was his downfall for multiple reasons. For one, Antony was in a politically-driven marriage to Octavian’s sister, Octavia, at the time of his indulgence in Cleopatra. Also, Rome did not honor marriages to foreigners (“Mark Antony”). In addition, Antony had desired military support from Cleopatra and turned away aid received from Octavian. However, the most troubling perhaps was when Mark Antony declared Caesarion as Julius Caesar’s rightful heir and gave Caesarian and his mother more land in 34 BC (“Cleopatra” 2009).

According to Suetonius, Mark Antony wrote a letter to Octavian saying the following:

“What has come over you? Do you object to me sleeping with Cleopatra? But we are married; and it is not even as if this is anything new…What about you? Are you faithful to Drusilla? My congratulations if, when this letter arrives, you have not been to bed with Tertulia, or Terentilla, or Rufilla, or Salvia Titisenia–or all of them. Does it really matter so much where, or with whom, you perform sexual acts?” (Tyldesley 169).

Octavian, indignant and frustrated, accused Mark Antony of tarnishing the name of Rome. Just two years later, the Roman senate revoked Antony’s political positions, and Octavian went to war with the woman who had Antony wrapped around her little finger–Cleopatra (“Cleopatra” 2009). The end of this war will be discussed in the final blog post, Cleopatra: the Battle of Actium and Her Own Death.

Next blog post in the series: Cleopatra: Cleopatra, Caesar, and Antony


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Cleopatra: Becoming a Female Ruler of Egypt

Egyptian and Greek Culture, How Did They Coexist?

Macedonian Greeks found livelihoods in Egypt and were encouraged to settled there, even going as far as to marry Egyptians. Egyptian to Greek marriages were not allowed in other Greek cities. Nonetheless, the Greeks were the ones with protective rights of education, law, and citizenship. The mixed families may give their children and themselves an Egyptian name for personal use and a Greek name for professional life (Tyldesley 20). Since the Ptolemaic Dynasty was Greek in origin, and incest was practiced to maintain a royal bloodline, the rulers were also ethnically Greek. Interestingly, the Ptolemaic rulers merged in with Egyptian culture and customs (“Ptolemaic Kingdom”). For example, these rulers would practice incest. Incest was an Egyptian practice, not a Greek one (Roller 36).

The main reason the Ptolemaic rulers tried to blend in with Egyptian culture was to nurture native Egyptian loyalty. They would build temples dedicated to Egyptian gods, and even merged Greek and Egyptian gods together. The rulers fell into line with the previous Egyptian pharaohs. The Ptolemy family was viewed as divine by the royal subjects. However, Greek influence was seen in the artwork and sculptures (“Ptolemaic Kingdom”). Near the beginning of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, the native Egyptians welcomed the new pharaohs; these leaders had removed the heavy grip of the Persians. The Ptolemies actively encouraged unity between the native Egyptians and the Greeks (Redford).

Rome depended on Egypt for grain, so it had an interest in the nation. It was in the best interest of Rome for the Ptolemaic Kingdom to remain strong. Therefore, the Ptolemies had a very important alliance with Rome (“Ancient Egypt”). However, when Ptolemy XIII broke the trust of the Roman empire by killing Pompey, that is when Rome came to exact revenge on the nation the Ptolemies were ruling (“Cleopatra”).

How Cleopatra and Her Brother Lost the Throne

There was an eight year difference between Cleopatra and her younger brother Ptolemy XIII; Cleopatra was 18 and Ptolemy XIII was 10 when the throne was given to both of them. Having already ruled with her father, Cleopatra was not keen on co-ruling with her brother, and began to usurp his authority. She would only mention her name in official documents, and she made political decisions that went against what her brother and advisors wanted. Specifically, she handed over those who murdered Marcus Calpurnius Bilbulus’ sons, a Roman governor. As a result, a band of political leaders rose up against her, and she fled to Syria. She attempted to obtain man-power to help her take the throne back, but to no success. For now, the Ptolemaic Kingdom was being solely ruled by Ptolemy XIII (“Cleopatra”).

Ptolemy XIII made a fatal mistake in 48 BC, though, when the Roman general and leader Pompey was murdered under Ptolemy XIII’s watch. Some historians say Ptolemy ordered the assassination of Pompey since, at the time, Pompey was on the anti-Caesar side of the Roman civil war. Ptolemy may have thought this act would be a sign of loyalty and friendship with Caesar. However, Julius Caesar was not pleased for a variety of reasons. Although Pompey was an enemy of Caesar at the time, he was still a respected Roman leader and was the husband of Julia, Caesar’s late daughter. Also, the way Pompey was murdered was shocking and shameful for a Roman man (Tyldesley 51). Out of revenge, Julius Caesar came to Alexandria, and Ptolemy XIII fled. Ptolemy is thought to have drowned in the Nile on his way (“Cleopatra”).

How Cleopatra (and Her Other Brother) Regained the Throne

Cleopatra caught word of what happened, and she was told Caesar was rather fond of royal women, having already had many affairs (Roller 61). With a boost of confidence, she went and snuck in to meet with Caesar. According to the ancient historian Plutarch, she rolled herself up in a “bed-sack” and had a friend bring her into the palace. When she got to Caesar, he was so impressed by her boldness that he was captivated by her (49:1-3).


After this meeting, Caesar restored Cleopatra and her other younger brother, Ptolemy XIV, to the throne. Shortly after, approximately nine months, Cleopatra gave birth to a son. This son was supposedly the illegitimate son of Julius Caesar and he was named “Caesarion,” or in other words, little Caesar (Plutarch 49:3-10).

Cleopatra would visit Julius Caesar in Rome with hopes to secure a future for her son and herself. She tried to convince Caesar to claim Caesarion as his heir. However, Caesar refused and named Octavian, Caesar’s grandnephew, as heir instead. A few years later, Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Cleopatra most likely wanted to ensure her son a throne, so after Caesar’s assassination, it is believed she poisoned her younger, co-regent brother Ptolemy XIV. This resulted in her co-ruling with her son until the end of the Ptolemaic Dynasty (“Ptolemaic Kingdom”).

Next blog post in the series: Cleopatra: a Biased Stance in the Roman Civil War


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Cleopatra: The Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt

How Ptolemy I Soter Rose to Power

Perhaps one of the most well-known cities in all of ancient history is the Egyptian Alexandria. Alexander the Great came to Egypt in 332 BC and established the port city of Alexandria 331 BC. He gained Egypt without much of a fight from the current satrap, or local Persian ruler, Mazakes (Redford). Some scholars declare Alexandria was the “most important” of all his created cities (Cartledge 106). Alexandria morphed into a city of art and science, having a library and museum. It claimed the title of the “capital of culture of the entire Greek world” (Cartledge 108).


Alexander’s death left Egypt to be ruled by Ptolemy I, a close acquaintance of the late Alexander (“Ptolemaic Kingdom”). However, Alexander’s once powerful nation started to crumple. Ptolemy I saw this as an opportunity to solidify his reign. He resisted attacks from Perdiccas, another of Alexander the Great’s close generals and ruler of Cappadocia, in the First Diadochi War, and declared himself king of Egypt in 305 BC. This was the beginning of the approximately 300 year rule of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. It is out of this dynasty that rose the famous Cleopatra VII (Redford).


A Brief History of the Rulers of the Ptolemaic Dynasty

The first ruler of the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt was Ptolemy I Soter, soter meaning savior. The 1st Diadoch War was a feature of his rule; it lasted from 322-320 BC; these were the wars between Alexander the Great’s generals, or Diadochi (Redford). After Alexander the Great’s death, the balance of power was shaken and his generals were attempting to disperse the power. Tensions were rising between the leaders as promises were not kept and new alliances and divisions were created. Historians believe Ptolemy I purposely pushed the other generals into the First Diadochi War because he claimed the body of Alexander the Great and bought it to Egypt. Perdiccas had first ordered for Alexander the Great’s body to be buried in Aegae of Macedonia, but Ptolemy I persuaded the corpse convoy to bring it to Egypt and bury it in the temple of Zeus Ammon. After this, Perdiccas assembled an army to attack Ptolemy I in Egypt, but every time he tried to get his men into the city, the Nile would block the way. When Perdiccas failed for the third time to get into Alexandria and his troops started to revolt, he attempted to get military advice from his allies–Peithon, Seleucus, and Antigenes. Rather than giving him advice, they killed him to end this meaningless war. Perdiccas’ allies met with Ptolemy I afterwards to negotiate. The negotiations left Ptolemy I as the ruler of Egypt, Babylonia would be ruled by Seleucus, Peithon would rule Media, and Antigenes would rule Elam (Lendering).


Ptolemy II Philadelphus was the son of Ptolemy I Soter and took over his rule. He co-reigned with his sister, the first Ptolemaic female ruler, Arisone II. The Syrian Wars began during his reign and ended during the rule of Ptolemy VI Philometor (Redford). The main combatants in the Syrian Wars included the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Seleucid Empire. They were fighting over the southern portion of Syria, referred to as Coele-Syria. There were six Syrian Wars in total, each one debilitating the two nations more and more. The first Syrian War (274-271 BC) ended with Ptolemaic control over Coele-Syria. The second Syrian War (260-253 BC) was resolved with the union between the Ptolemaic princess Cleopatra II and Antiochos II, the current Seleucid king. The third Syrian War (246-241 BC) left the Ptolemaic Empire with the most land it would ever claim.  The fourth Syrian War (219-217 BC) utilized Egyptian soldiers and resulted in Egypt maintaining its claim of Coele-Syria. At its end, the Egyptian soldiers organized into the “Egyptian Revolt” and pulled away from the Ptolemaic Kingdom. The Ptolemaic Kingdom reclaimed the land in 185 BC taken from the rebels. The fifth Syrian War was a failure for the Ptolemy Empire, resulting in the loss of Coele-Syria and the marriage of Ptolemy V to Cleopatra I, the daughter of the Seleucid king Antiochos III. The sixth Syrian War ended due to Roman involvement, forcing the Seleucid Empire to leave Egypt alone (“Syrian Wars”). The Roman Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus said the following in his final negotiations to Antiochos:

“The grasping nature of Antiochus has been the cause of his present and past misfortunes. While he was the possessor of a vast empire, which the Romans did not object to, he seized Coele-Syria, which belonged to Ptolemy, his own relative and our friend….We might properly impose a severer punishment on him for his obstinacy in fighting us so persistently, but we are not accustomed to abuse our own prosperity or to aggravate the misfortunes of others. We will offer him the same conditions as before…He must abandon Europe altogether and all of Asia this side of the Taurus, the boundaries to be fixed hereafter” (Appian 38).

There were many Ptolemy rulers prior to Cleopatra VII. The key triumphs of each king’s reign will be summarized. During the ruling of Ptolemy III Euregetes, the Ptolemaic Egyptian Empire was the largest it would ever be. Ptolemy IV Philopator reign was marked by the beginning of rebellions from the people that turned into non-threatening dissatisfaction. In 194 BC, Ptolemy V Epiphanes married the first female Ptolemaic ruler with the name of Cleopatra I. His reign was full of unrest and he died at the hand of his own generals via poison (Redford).

After the death of Ptolemy V, Cleopatra I reigned until she died. Her son, Ptolemy VI Philometor took the responsibility to reign in 175 BC and married Cleopatra II, his sister. It is important to note that incest was a feature of Egyptian culture, Greek culture found incest to not be appropriate for mortal men (Roller 36). They ruled together, and at some points in time reigned with Ptolemy VII, their son. Ptolemy VI also married Cleopatra Thea, his daughter, to protect the Ptolemaic throne. It was he who allowed the erection of a Yahweh Temple. Ptolemy VIII Eurgetes II married his sister (and Ptolemy VI’s widow after he received a mortal injury in the battle of Oinoparas) Cleopatra II, and proceeded to assassinate her son, Ptolemy VII, for trying to usurp the Ptolemaic reign. He also married Cleopatra III, the daughter of Cleopatra II and the niece of Ptolemy VIII. However, Cleopatra II’s civil war drove Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra III away to Cyprus. After that, Cleopatra II declared herself sovereign queen of Alexandria with the title of Thea Philometor Soteira which means “goddess mother-loving savior.” Ptolemy VIII regained control of Alexandria, but it was a fight that left many dead, and he published an amnesty decree before he died in 116 BC (Redford).

Ptolemy IX Soter II and Ptolemy X Alexander I, the sons of Cleopatra III and Ptolemy VIII, co-ruled from 116-81 BC. During this time, Cleopatra III seemed to exercise more governing authority over the kings. Ptolemy X married the daughter of Ptolemy IX, Cleopatra Berenice III. After Ptolemy X died, Cleopatra Berenice III was the ruler, but not for long. Ptolemy XI Alexander II, the son of Ptolemy X and a unknown woman, married Cleopatra Berenice III and murdered her. His crime did not go unnoticed, and the Alexandrians killed him (Redford).

After the death of Ptolemy XI Alexander II, there was no legitimate male heir to the throne. To solve this, Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos, the son of Ptolemy IX and an unknown concubine, became the ruler. He married his sister, Cleopatra V, and had the daughter Cleopatra Berenice IV. He also married an unknown woman and had four more children: Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator, Arsinoe IV, Ptolemy XIV, and Cleopatra VII. Cleopatra VII co-reigned with her father and her brothers. However, Ptolemy XIII assassinated the Roman military leader Pompey. This angered Julius Caesar, the current Roman consul and dictator, and he had Ptolemy XIII killed and Alexandria placed under Roman control. Nonetheless, Cleopatra VII was able to seduce Julius Caesar and regain her throne (Redford).

The Ptolemaic Dynasty ended in 30 BC with the death of Cleopatra VII.

Next blog post to read: Cleopatra: Becoming a Female Ruler of Egypt



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Cleopatra: Final Project Introduction

My final project will focus on Cleopatra VII, more commonly known as Cleopatra. Specifically, her leadership, her cunning, and her involvement in Roman affairs. This project will consist of five blog posts: (1) The first blog post will focus on the Ptolemaic Dynasty. This will set the stage for Egypt and the family-line Cleopatra came from, beginning with Alexander the Great and the takeover of Egypt by Ptolemy. The Wars of Diadochi and Syrian Wars both will be briefly touched upon.The blog post will conclude with the birth and early life of Cleopatra VII. (2) The second blog post will focus on how the Ptolemaic Dynasty ruled, and how Cleopatra rose back to power after Ptolemy XIII offended Julius Caesar. (3) The third blog post will dive into her participation in the Roman Civil War. The Roman Civil War will be set-up and described. Her specific involvement will be highlighted. (4) The fourth blog post will describe Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and how Cleopatra got involved with both of them. (5) The last blog post will discuss the Battle of Actium, the death of Mark Antony, and the speculative death of Cleopatra. This final blog post will wrap-up my final project.

Blog post titles in the order they should be read (each title is hyperlinked for ease of navigation):

  1. Cleopatra: The Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt
  2. Cleopatra: Becoming a Female Ruler of Egypt
  3. Cleopatra: A Biased Stance in the Roman Civil War
  4. Cleopatra: Cleopatra, Caesar, and Antony
  5. Cleopatra: The Battle of Actium and Her Own Death

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Legionary Life: A Soldier’s Family Life

By: [honorstudent2016]


The time period is first and second century Imperial Rome, specifically 1-150 A.D.. The Roman Empire is continually expanding and gaining more territory, from scorching deserts to humid marshes. Rebellions and revolts are common occurrences, and a constant army is present (Matyszak 6). Soldiers of the Roman army are known for being ruthless, disciplined fighters. However, there is more to a Roman soldier besides life off to war. The family life of soldiers, specifically relationships with parents, “marriage,” and children will be examined.

Leaving Behind Parents

The relationship between soldiers and their parents will be considered, because when a man enlisted in the Roman army, he left his parents behind. There is no question these soldiers missed their families much like modern-day soldiers do. Julius Apollinarius, a soldier in 107 AD, wrote to his father this message: “If you love me, do your very best to write and tell me about your health…as soon as the commander starts granting leave, I’ll come to you at once” (Michigan Papyrus 466). Also, tablets from Vindolanda, which date between 90-105 A.D., have similar messages directed to family members back home.

Although the men decided to leave for the army, they still made correspondence back home to stay close to their families.Homesickness and anxiousness were seen in messages like these. These messages show how Roman soldiers valued their relationships with those they left behind, and longed for their company while they were gone.


The idea of “marriage” is interesting to discuss due to bachelor status being mandatory for members of the Roman army during this time period. Bachelor status may have been enforced to ensure a Roman soldier’s first and utmost obligation is to the Roman army and not to his wife and children. If a man was married prior to him joining the Roman army, his recruitment also declared him a bachelor and granted him a divorce from his wife. If a man was not married before he joined the Roman army, then he must remain unmarried while he is in the army (Matyszak 10).

Nonetheless, Roman soldiers were intimate with and devoted to women (Phang 353-8). After life on the road and in battle, soldiers desired a taste of normalcy. This normalcy included a good washing, having tasty wine, and spending time with a woman. Whether these women were prostitutes, devoted “wives” who lived outside of camp, or both, they were a major part of a Roman soldier’s life (Matyszak 125-6).  The “wife” outside of camp was not a legal wife of the soldier she was devoted to. Nevertheless, she may have followed behind her “husband’s” legion and steadfastly waited until he left the army to marry her legally.

Soldiers were commanded to live a life of singleness while in the Roman army. Nonetheless, soldiers had relations with women. Some of these relations led to more committed relationships that morphed into pseudo-family units, with the “wife” and children following behind the soldier’s camp.

These women who depended on their pseudo-husbands in the army were risking their futures; these risks are presented in the next section.


The topic of children of Roman soldiers will be examined as children are usual accompaniments of romantic relationships between men and women. Soldiers may have left children back home with their divorced wives, or perhaps fathered children while in the army. In Roman society, the father, paterfamilia, was the head of the household and was given ultimate authority (“The Roman Empire”). However, the mother, materfamilia, was with the children more often, and the responsibility of raising good, Roman citizens was on her shoulders (“Women in ancient Rome”).


A carving of a Roman mother nursing a child while in the presence of the Roman father is displayed. Photographed by: Marie-Lan Nguyen (2009), CC BY 3.0,

The women who had a divorce from their husbands received their dowry back in full, which may have either helped care for the children while the father was gone, or enable her to marry another. However, some soldiers fathered children while in the army, and most soldiers claimed fatherhood over the children they fathered outside of marriage. Unfortunately, the mothers and the children did not have legal financial protection if the father was a Roman soldier. If a soldier died without a will dictating where his property should be distributed, the woman and the children would not receive anything. Also, a soldier could legally decide to not take care of the woman and children, especially if she wronged him in some way, e.g. committing adultery (Phang 363-4).

Even though prohibited, soldiers fathered children while in the army. These children were not fully protected under inheritance law and paternity. Although most soldiers accepted and claimed their children, the illegitimate family unit was at his complete mercy.


The Roman soldier had a complex family life. Roman soldiers valued the relationship they had with their parents, still writing to them while away. Varying degrees of homesickness are observed in these messages addressed to those back home. Although the law prohibited Roman soldiers from marrying women, these marriage-like relationships were still formed. The woman who decided to engage with a Roman soldier and wait for him to marry her depended fully on his goodwill. As a result, the children were also in a state of limbo, with no solid future without a legal inheritance from their father.

The rest of the group blog posts will be posted individually. The other posts for this assignment are titled:

“1-150 CE Roman Legion’s Recruitment, Training, & Weaponry” – by [chaoticblackcat]

“For Leisure and When on Leave” – by [berossusofbabylon]


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