Cleopatra wasn’t an Egyptian nor was she ‘into’ Caesar nor did she die because of a snake bite

Fareeha Arshad
Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra in the movie ‘Cleopatra’ (1963)Flickr

Known to be one of the most popular figures of ancient history, Cleopatra VII was the last ruler of the Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom and ruled for more than two decades. Undeniably, Cleopatra owned some of the unique luxuries of the ancient world, was a part of some of the most interesting affairs and was one of the strongest women of the past. Let’s dig into some of the juiciest details about Cleopatra, which we often get wrong.

1. Cleopatra wasn’t an Egyptian
Sketch of CleopatraWikimedia Commons

After Alexander the Great conquered the Egyptian land in 322 B.C., he gave this land to Ptolemy I, who was his general and also the first Macedonian Greek to rule over Egypt. Cleopatra came from this line of Greek rulers and was a direct descendent of Ptolemy.

Despite not being an Egyptian by race, Cleopatra loved identifying herself as an Egyptian and was one of the only queens from the Ptolemaic Dynasty who spoke the Egyptian language. She explicitly took steps to relate herself to the Egyptian goddess, Isis.

2. Cleopatra was never ‘into’ Caesar

A sketch<u> showing th</u>e intimate relationship between Cleopatra and CaeserOpenclipart

When Cleopatra became the Egyptian Queen, the kingdom was in great turmoil — politically and socially. On the other side of the globe, the Romans gained strong power over multiple regions, while Egypt was on the verge of losing its territory. Also, her brother, who was also her husband, tried all possible ways to sabotage her.

This was when Julius entered into the picture. Julius Caesar arrived in Egypt to find Pompey — his archnemesis. Seeing this as a golden opportunity to gain the trust of a strong ally, Cleopatra approached Caesar and soon won his confidence and his affections. After gaining the much-needed strength to take back her throne, Cleopatra continued her ‘affair’ with Caesar. She eventually gave birth to his son, Caesarion or the “Little Caesar.”

3. Cleopatra didn't die because of a snake bite
No, an a<u>sp bit</u>e didn’t kill CleopatraFlickr

Following Caesar’s death, Cleopatra got ‘romantically involved’ with Mark Antony, Caesar’s friend and supporter. Despite being in a relationship with one of the strongest Roman allies, Cleopatra again found her authority and Egypt’s freedom at stake. Unfortunately, this time nobody could help her. Caesar Augustus took over Egypt, and Cleopatra was taken as a prisoner.

Legend has it that Cleopatra deliberately allowed a snake to bite her so that she didn’t have to face the humiliation of losing her empire to the Romans. This was also recorded in Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra.

“With thy sharp teeth, this knot intrinsic
Of life at once untie: poor venomous fool
Be angry, and dispatch.”

However, Duane W. Roller, the author of Cleopatra: A Biography, mentioned in one of his interviews that Cleopatra could have possibly included the story of the snake bite in her suicide note to make it more dramatic. Regardless, her death was because of poison intake — the one she voluntarily took to save herself from the embarrassment that would have followed otherwise.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I mostly write about history and science.

Texas State

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