Cleopatra: A History

Cleopatra: A History

Cleopatra VII Philopator remains one of the most celebrated figures in history, both ancient and modern.

Revered for her beauty, intelligence and political acumen, her phenomenal rise to power and the tragic nature of her fall became the subject of numerous works of literature and art.

Just what was it about the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt that earned her such a special place in history?

Rise to Power

Born roughly around 70 B.C., Cleopatra was the daughter of Ptolemy XII.

When her father died in 51 B.C., she ascended to the throne along with her brother, Ptolemy XIII, who was approximately eight years her junior.

Tensions between the two always meant that a harmonious reign was out of the question and they were never intent on sharing the throne.

Ptolemy eventually forced his sister to flee the country, although the murder of the Roman general Pompey and Julius Caesar’s subsequent arrival in Alexandria allowed her another avenue into power.

By enlisting the aid of Caesar, Cleopatra was able to drive Ptolemy from the throne and was reinstated as the ruler of Egypt.


Cleopatra initially followed Caesar back to Rome, but was soon back in Egypt after his assassination in 44 B.C.

She formed a new alliance with another Roman, Mark Antony, with whom she had several children.

The pair attempted to take on Octavian’s forces, but they were ultimately unsuccessful, and Antony’s defeat to Octavian in the sea battle at Actium led to his suicide.

Unwilling to submit herself to the victorious Octavian, Cleopatra followed suit and finally met her demise in 30 B.C. – although her fascinating story lives on to this day.

To learn more about the life of one of the most powerful female figures in ancient history, tune in to Cleopatra, Tuesday September 24 only on the History Channel.