Statue of Cleopatra VII Philopator
Black basalt statue of Cleopatra VII Philopator, last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, 1st century BC. Cleopatra VII Philopator is one of the most mesmerizing women in all of history. Born of a Ptolemy, she became queen at the early age of 17. She was highly educated in the full laws and customs of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, she engrossed herself in science, philosophy, women’s issues, and most impressive the native language of Egypt. She chose to link herself with Egypt by her dress, worship, and representation.
In 48 BC Cleopatra began an alliance with Rome and Julius Caesar due to her Ptolemaic duty, but also a romance that led her giving birth to a son, Caesarion, and they all lived together in Rome, then in Egypt. At the assassination of Caesar, Octavian and Mark Antony, who defeated Carsar’s assassinators divided the Roman empire, with Antony acquiring Egypt. Antony met with Cleopatra to discuss his rule over her, but they fell into love and combined forces, him assuring the Ptolemaic queen had control of Egypt.
Finally Octavian defeated both Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 30 BC. Due to this defeat, Mark Antony committed suicide. For the fear of being captured by Octavian and wanting to avoid the humiliation, it is legend that Cleopatra committed a royal suicide of sorts, by having a cobra bite her.
“Few personalities from classical antiquity are more familiar yet more poorly grasped than Cleopatra VII (69–30 B.C.), queen of Egypt. The subject of a vast repertory of post-antique popular culture and also a significant figure in literature, art, and music, Cleopatra herself is surprisingly little known and generally misunderstood. Even in the years immediately after her death her memory was condemned by those who had defeated her, thus tainting the ancient sources.
Cleopatra VII was an accomplished diplomat, naval commander, administrator, linguist, and author, who skillfully managed her kingdom in the face of a deteriorating political situation and increasing Roman involvement. That she ultimately lost does not diminish her abilities.
Yet her persona in popular culture and the arts often overrides her real self, and even scholarly accounts of her career may rely on information from early modern drama and art or the movies, which are interesting and significant in their own right but of no relevance in understanding the queen herself. Although she is the subject of an extensive bibliography, she can be unfairly represented as a person whose physical needs determined her political decisions. Some of the most unbiased evidence from her own era, the art and coinage produced while she was alive, is too frequently ignored.”
― Cleopatra: A Biography (Women in Antiquity), by Duane W. Roller
Ptolemaic Period, 1st century BC. Black basalt, 146 cm tall. Now in the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. ДВ-3936