A daughter of Idas and Marpessa, and the wife of Meleager (Hom. Il. ix. 557
The wife of Philip of Macedon, whom that monarch married after he had repudiated Olympias.
After the death of Philip, Olympias compelled her to destroy herself (Just.ix. 7
A daughter of Philip and Olympias, and sister to Alexander the Great. She married Alexander
of Epirus, who fell in Italy (Just. ix. 6,
). After the death of Alexander of Macedon, her hand was sought by Perdiccas and
others of his generals, but she was put to death by Antigonus.
A daughter of Mithridates, and the wife of Tigranes (Just.xxxviii.
A daughter of Antiochus III. of Syria. She married Ptolemy V., king of Egypt, and was left
guardian of her infant son Ptolemy VI., but she died soon after her husband, to the great
regret of her subjects.
A daughter of Ptolemy Philometor, was the wife of three kings of Syria, and the mother of
four—namely, of Antiochus Dionysius, by her first husband, Alexander Balas; of
Seleucus V. and Antiochus VIII., by Demetrius Nicator; and, lastly, of Antiochus IX. ,
surnamed Cyzicenus, by Antiochus Euergetes or Sidetes. She was compelled by her son,
Antiochus VIII., to drink the poison which she had prepared for him, B.C. 120.
The most famous of the name was the daughter of Ptolemy Auletes, and remarkable for her
beauty and personal accomplishments. According to the usage of the Alexandrian court, she
married her young brother, Ptolemy XII., and began to reign with him in her seventeenth year.
Both she and her husband, being minors, were placed by the will of their father under the
guardianship of Rome, an office which the Senate assigned to Pompey. An insurrection breaking
out in the Egyptian capital soon after the commencement of this reign, Cleopatra was
compelled to yield to the tide of popular fury, and to flee into Syria, where she sought
protection in temporary exile. The flight of this princess, though mainly arising from the
tumult just mentioned, was unquestionably accelerated by the designs of the young king and
his ambitious ministers. Their object became manifest when Cleopatra , after a few months'
residence in Syria, returned towards her native country to resume her seat on the throne.
Ptolemy prepared to oppose her by force of arms, and a civil war would inevitably have
ensued, had not Caesar at that very juncture sailed to the coast of Egypt in pursuit of
Pompey. A curious interview soon took place between Cleopatra and the Roman general. She
placed herself on board a small skiff,
Cleopatra. (From a Composite Photograph of the Heads on four Egyptian Coins.
Reproduced by permission from Gorringe's |
under the protection of Apollodorus, a Sicilian Greek, set sail from the
coast of Syria, reached the harbour of Alexandria in safety, and had herself conveyed naked
into the chamber of the Roman commander in the form of a large package of goods. The
stratagem proved completely successful. Cleopatra was now in her twentieth year,
distinguished by extraordinary personal charms, and surrounded with all the graces which give
to those charms their greatest power. Her voice was extremely sweet, and she spoke a variety
of languages with propriety and ease. She could, it is said, assume all characters at will,
which all alike became her, and the impression that was made by her beauty was confirmed by
the fascinating brilliancy of her conversation. The day after this singular meeting, Caesar
summoned before him the king, as well as the citizens of Alexandria, and made arrangements
for the restoration of peace, procuring Cleopatra , at the same time, her share of the
throne. Pothinus, however, one of Ptolemy's ministers, in whose intriguing spirit all the
dissensions of the court had originated, soon stirred up a second revolt, upon which the
Alexandrian War commenced, in which Ptolemy was defeated and lost his life by drowning.
Caesar now proclaimed Cleopatra queen of Egypt; but she was compelled to take her brother,
the younger Ptolemy, who was only eleven years old, as her husband and colleague on the
throne. The Roman general continued for some time at her court, and she bore him a son,
called, from the name of his putative father, Caesarion. During the six years which
immediately followed these events, the reign of Cleopatra seems not to have been disturbed by
insurrection, nor to have been assailed by foreign war. When her brother, at the age of
fourteen, demanded his share in the government, Cleopatra poisoned him, and remained sole
possessor of the regal authority. The dissensions among the rival leaders who divided the
power of Caesar had no doubt nearly involved her in a contest with both parties; but the
decisive issue of the battle of Philippi relieved her from the hesitation under which some of
her measures appear to have been adopted, and determined her inclinations, as well as her
interests, in favour of the conquerors. To afford her an opportunity of explaining her
conduct, Antony summoned her to attend him in Cilicia, and the meeting which she gave him on
the river Cydnus has employed the pen, not only of the historian, but of the prince of
The artifices of this fascinating princess, now in her twenty-seventh year, so far gained
upon Antony as not only to divert his thoughts from his original purpose of subjecting her
kingdom to the payment of tribute, but entirely to lull his ambition to sleep, and make him
sacrifice his great stake as a candidate for the empire of the world. After a fruitless
attack upon the territory of Palmyra, he hastened to forget his disgrace in the society of
the Egyptian queen, passing several months at Alexandria in the wildest and most delirious
dissipation. The death of his wife, and his subsequent marriage with Octavia, delayed for a
time the crisis which his ungoverned passions were preparing for him. But, though he had thus
extricated himself from the snares of Alexandria, his inclinations too soon returned to that
unlucky city; for we find that when he left Rome to proceed against the Parthians, he
despatched in advance his friend Fonteius Capito to conduct Cleopatra into Syria.
On his return from this disgraceful campaign, he incurred still deeper dishonour by
once more willingly submitting to that bondage which had rendered him contemptible in the
eyes of most of his followers.
Passing over events which have been alluded to in the article Augustus Caesar
, we come to the period that followed the battle of
Actium, at which the desertion of Cleopatra with her galleys and the pursuit of her by the
infatuated Antony changed the destiny of the Roman Empire (B.C. 30). When Octavianus advanced
against Egypt, and Antony had been a second time defeated under the walls of Alexandria,
Cleopatra shut herself up with a few attendants and the most valuable part
of her treasures in a strong building which appears to have been intended for a royal
sepulchre. To prevent intrusion by friend or enemy she caused a report to be circulated that
she had retired into the monument to put herself to death. Antony resolved to follow her
example, and threw himself upon his sword; but being informed, before he expired, that
Cleopatra was still living, he caused himself to be carried into her presence, and breathed
his last in her arms. Octavianus, after this, succeeded in getting Cleopatra into his power,
and the queen at first hoped to subdue him by her attractions; but finding at last that her
efforts were unavailing, and suspecting that her life was spared only that she might grace
the conqueror's triumph, she ended her days, if the common account is to be credited, by the
bite of an asp; though some ascribed her death to poison administered internally. A small
puncture in the arm was the only mark of violence which could be detected on the body of
Cleopatra , and it was therefore believed that she had procured death either by the bite of a
venomous reptile or by the use of a poisoned bodkin. She died in her thirty-ninth year,
having reigned twenty-two years from the death of her father. Octavianus, it is said, though
deprived by this act of suicide of the greatest ornament of his approaching triumph, gave
orders that she should have a magnificent funeral, and that her body, as she desired, should
be laid by that of Antony. Her two children by Antony were reared by the neglected wife
The name of Cleopatra has been linked by romance and poetry with those of the most
fascinating women the world has seen—Helen of Troy, Mary Stuart, and Ninon de
Lenclos—and has always exercised a powerful influence upon the imagination of men.
In English literature the genius of Shakespeare and of Dryden has made her story the theme of
dramas; while the resources of art have been exhausted to produce types that should satisfy
the eye and the mind of the critic.