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Women in History

Egyptian History

Cleopatra VII
Ptolemaic Dynasty

 

The Alexandrian War was started when Pothinus called for Ptolemy XIII's soldiers in November and surrounded Caesar in Alexandria with twenty thousand men. During the war, parts of the Alexandrian Library and some of the warehouses were burned. However, Caesar did manage to capture the Pharos lighthouse, which kept his control of the harbor. Cleopatra's sister, Arsinoe, escaped from the palace and ran to Achillas. She was proclaimed the queen by the Macedonian mob and the army. Cleopatra never forgave her sister for this. During the fighting, Caesar executed Pothinus and Achillas was murdered by Ganymede. Ptolemy XIII drowned in the Nile while he was trying to flee.

Because of his death, Cleopatra was now the sole ruler of Egypt. Caesar had restored her position, but she now had to marry her younger brother Ptolemy XIV, who was eleven years old. This was to please the Alexandrians and the Egyptian priests. Surely Caesar went through all of this trouble for more than his infatuation with the queen of Egypt. It must have been out of arrogance and his desire to get his hands on Egypt's vast resources. However, Cleopatra's intelligence and inheritance did have some influence as well. In what must have been very calculated on his part, she became pregnant rather quickly. For him to have a son to carry the throne was very appealing to him. Caesar and Cleopatra took an extended trip up the Nile for about two months. They stopped in Dendara where Cleopatra was worshipped as a Pharaoh. Caesar would never have this honor. Caesar only left the boat to attend important business in Syria just a few weeks before the birth of their son, Caesarion (Ptolemy Caesar) who was born on June 23, 47 BC.

During July of the year 46 BC, Caesar returned to Rome. He was given many honors and a ten-year dictatorship. These celebrations lasted from September to October and he brought Cleopatra over, along with her entourage. The conservative Republicans were very offended when he established Cleopatra in his home. Her social manners did not make the situation any better. She upset many. Cleopatra had started calling herself the New Isis and was the subject of much gossip. She lived in luxury and had a statue made of gold placed by Caesar, in the temple of Venus Genetrix . Caesar also openly claimed Caesarion as his son. Many were upset that he was planning to marry Cleopatra regardless of the laws against bigamy and marriages to foreigners.

However, on the Ides of March of 44 BC, all of that came to an end. Caesar was assassinated outside the Senate Building in Rome. He was killed in a conspiracy by his Senators. Many of the Senators thought he was a threat to the republic's well-being. It was thought that Caesar was making plans to have himself declared king. After Caesar's murder, Cleopatra fled Rome and returned home to Alexandria. Caesar had not mentioned Cleopatra or Caesarion in his will. She felt her life, as well as that of her child, was in great danger.

 


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