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Women in History

Egyptian History

Cleopatra VII
Ptolemaic Dynasty

 

Upon returning to Alexandria, she had her consort, Ptolemy XIV, assassinated and established Caesarion as her co-regent at the age of four. She found Egypt suffering from plagues and famine. The Nile canals had been neglected during her absence which caused the harvests to be bad and the inundations low. The bad harvests continued from 43 until 41 BC. Trying to help secure recognition for Caesarion with Caesar's former lieutenant Dolabella, Cleopatra sent Dolabella the four legions that Caesar had left in Egypt. Cassius captured the legions which caused Dolabella to commit suicide at Laodicea during the summer of 43 BC. She was planning to join Mark Antony and Octavian (who became Augustus) with a large fleet of ships after Dolabella's death, but was stopped by a violent storm.

Cleopatra watched in the time that followed, who would be the next power in Rome. After Brutus and Cassius had been killed and Antony, Octavian and Lepidus were triumphant, Cleopatra knew which one she would have to deal with. Octavian went back to Italy very ill, so Antony was the one to watch. Her son gained his right to become king when Caesar was officially divinized in Rome on January 1, 42 BC. The main object was the promotion of Octavian, but the triumvirs knew of Cleopatra's aid to Dolabella.

Cleopatra was invited by Mark Antony to Tarsus in 41 BC. She already knew enough about him to know how to get to him. She knew about his limited strategic and tactical abilities, his blue blood, the drinking, his womanizing, his vulgarity and his ambition. Even though Egypt was on the verge of economic collapse, Cleopatra put on a show for Mark Antony that even Ptolemy Philadelphos couldn't have done better. She sailed with silver oars, purple sails with her Erotes fanning her and the Nereid handmaids steering and she was dressed as Aphrodite, the goddess of love. This was a very calculated entrance; considered vulgar by many. It was a vulgar display to attract the attention of a vulgar man. Mark Antony loved the idea of having a blue-blooded Ptolemy woman. His former mistress as well as his current wife, Fulvia, were merely middle class.

Cleopatra and Antony spent the winter of 41 to 40 in Alexandria. According to some sources, Cleopatra could get out of him whatever she wanted, including the assassination of her sister, Arsinoe. Cleopatra may not have had so much influence over him later on. He took control of Cyprus from her. Actually it may have been Cleopatra who was the exploited one. Antony needed money and Cleopatra could be generous when it benefited her as well.

 


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