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. Her story has been retold many times – perhaps most famously in print by William Shakespeare and on the silver screen by Elizabeth Taylor.

Cleopatra VII copyright George Shulkin

While the main events of her life and death are not in doubt, Cleopatra’s character remains elusive. So many of the stories told about her 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.

To do Queen Cleopatra of Egypt justice, and to separate fact from fiction, it is necessary to delve into her life story in detail, and to consider the different accounts given of her by friends and enemies alike. Whatever the truth about Cleopatra, this enigmatic icon continues to inspire curiosity centuries after her death.


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