Cleopatra VII

Cleopatra VII (Philopatris Netjeret Merites) was the last Pharaoh of ancient Egypt and the last of the (Ptolemaic dynasty). The events surrounding her rise to power, her relationships with Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) and her tragic death continue to fascinate and her story has been retold many times – probably most famously in print by William Shakespeare and in her depiction in film by Elizabeth Taylor.

Cleopatra VII copyright George Shulkin

Yet her character remains elusive and while the main events of her life and death are not in doubt, there were also many stories told regarding her character which are impossible to verify. To some she was a debauched temptress who manipulated both Caesar and Antony to further her insatiable thirst for power, while to others she was a great scholar and stateswoman who did her best to protect the country she loved from the powerful Roman state and who tragically outlived the two great loves of her life.

In order to do Queen Cleopatra of Egypt justice, and to separate fact from fiction it is necessary to delve in detail into her life story and to consider the different accounts given of her life by friends and enemies alike.


Classical Texts

  • Cassius Dio (155 or 163 – post 229 AD) Roman History
  • Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus aka Plutarch (c46 – 120 AD) Life of Antony
  • Strabo (64 or 63 BC – AD 24) The Geography
  • Flavius Josephus (c37 – 100 AD) Antiquities of the Jews
  • Marcus Annaeus Lucanus aka Lucan (39 – 65 AD) Civil WarAppian (95 – 165 AD) Civil War

Modern Texts

  • Joann Fletcher (2011) Cleopatra the Great: The Woman Behind the Legend
  • Prudence J. Jones (2006) Cleopatra: a sourcebook
  • Duane Roller (2011) Cleopatra: a biography

copyright J Hill 2011