Cleopatra VII Philopator was the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, nominally survived as pharaoh by her son Caesarion. She was also a diplomat, naval commander, linguist and medical author. As a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, she was a descendant of its founder Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general and companion of Alexander the Great. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and fun facts about Cleopatra.
1. After the death of Cleopatra, Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire, marking the end of the Hellenistic period that had lasted since the reign of Alexander.
2. Her native language was Koine Greek and she was the first Ptolemaic ruler to learn the Egyptian language.
3. In 58 BC, Cleopatra presumably accompanied her father Ptolemy XII during his exile to Rome, after a revolt in Egypt allowed his eldest daughter Berenice IV to claim the throne.
4. Cleopatra claimed to be the Egyptian goddess Isis come to life. Egyptians actually referred to her as the “New Isis.”
5. She was the first Ptolemaic ruler who learned to speak and write in Egyptian. For 300 years, her family spoke only Greek, so court documents, including the Rosetta stone, were bilingual, written in both Greek and Egyptian.
6. Just like learning to speak Egyptian, Cleopatra was the first ruler in her family to embrace the local culture, gods, and ancient customs after a period of 300 years.
7. Plutarch wrote that, “her beauty as we are told, was in itself neither altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her.” However, he described her as charming and irresistible, with a, “sweetness in the tones of her voice.”
8. Cleopatra was an intellectual. She studied math, philosophy, public speaking and astronomy. She also spoke at least nine languages, and maybe as many as a dozen. Because of this, she could speak to generals and rulers of other countries without an interpreter, thus giving her an upper hand.
9. When Cleopatra was only 14 years old, her father made her the co-ruler of Egypt. Her mother, the queen, died under mysterious circumstances. Cleopatra became Ptolemy’s joint regent and deputy. She ruled with him for 4 years, gaining valuable experience.
10. After the death of Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy VIII, she inherited the throne, but it wasn’t exclusively hers. Her little brother was the co-inheritor. Cleopatra was 18 years old and Ptolemy was only 10. She was forced to marry him in order to claim her role as co-ruler of Egypt.
11. Cleopatra didn’t want to share the throne with her 10 year old brother. So, within months, she removed his name from official documents and had all newly minted coins stamped exclusively with her face. She ignored the rule that forced Ptolemaic queens to subordinate themselves below their male co-rulers.
12. The first three years of her reign were tough, partly because when she took over, the Nile flooding was low. Crops failed, people were hungry, less money was made, and politicians argued against her.
13. In 50 BC, Cleopatra got stuck in a political fight between some Roman troops and a Syrian governor. Cleopatra sided with the Syrians. The Romans were so angry that they ended up helping her little brother, Ptolemy VIII, steal the throne from her.
14. After losing the throne to her brother, Cleopatra refused to accept defeat. She drummed up mercenaries, formed a new army, and fought her brother’s army on Egypt’s eastern border. She won a later battle and he was drowned.
15. Cleopatra had three children with Marc Antony. Two of her children were twins.
16. Cleopatra was a writer. She wrote a book called Cosmetics. The book was on the subject of medical and pharmacological work. In the book, she included remedies for hair loss and dandruff.
17. Of the four children Cleopatra gave birth to, only one grew to adulthood. The child that survived was Cleopatra Selene. She married the future ruler of Numidia, which today is known as Algeria.
18. During Cleopatra’s reign, she didn’t get along with Herod, King of Judea. Harod is the king who sought to kill Jesus Christ when he was a baby.
19. The tomb where Marc Antony and Cleopatra were laid to rest after their deaths has never been found.
20. Cleopatra had Arsinoe, her sister, executed on the steps of a temple in Rome. Not only was it a gross violation of temple rules and sanctuary, the act shocked and scandalized Rome.
21. When Caesar erected a statute of Cleopatra in the temple of Venus, the scandal in Rome blew up. The statue offended the religious sensibilities of priests and citizens alike.
22. With how popular she was, all women began dressing like her, wearing their hair like her, putting on their makeup like her and even wearing her distinctive pearl jewelry.
23. Cleopatra was living in Rome when her lover, Julius Caesar, was assassinated in 44 BC. Caesar was stabbed to death, and she was forced to escape Rome and return to Egypt.
24. Roman General Marc Antony saw himself as Bacchus, god of wine and partying, so she dressed as Aphrodite, the goddess of love who once had an affair with Bacchus, rode down the Nile on a golden barge with a purple sail while attendants in Cupid costumes fanned her.
25. Cleopatra and Marc Antony started a drinking club called the Inimitable Livers. The club would dine and drink together in style, they’d play games, hold contests and even sometimes dressed up in disguise, go out into the streets and play pranks on the residents of Alexandria.
26. When the Roman leader Octavian was offered a chance to name a month in his honor, he chose August, the month he defeated Cleopatra, instead of September, his birth month.
27. Cleopatra was the last pharaoh of Egypt. After her death, Egypt became just another province of the great Roman Empire.
28. There are very few to none contemporary accounts of Cleopatra’s life. Most of what is known about her life comes from Greco-Roman Scholars.
29. Marc Antony married Cleopatra even though he was already married to Octavia Minor.
30. The cause of her death remains a wide debate among historians, but according to ancient Roman sources, Cleopatra killed herself with an Egyptian cobra.