Cleopatra's Marriage: The Truth About Cleopatra's Marriage with Caesar and Antony

Cleopatra VII was the last queen of the Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled Egypt from 305 to 30 BC. She was also famous for her marriages and affairs with some of the most powerful men of her time, namely Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Her marriages were not only motivated by love, but also by political and dynastic reasons. In this article, we will explore the details and consequences of Cleopatra's marriages with her brothers, Caesar, and Antony.

Cleopatra's Marriage with Her Brothers

According to the custom of the Ptolemaic royal family, Cleopatra married two of her own brothers, who were also her co-rulers. Her first husband was Ptolemy XIII, who was about 10 years old when they ascended to the throne in 51 BC, after the death of their father Ptolemy XII. Cleopatra was 18 years old and had more experience and ambition than her young brother. She tried to assert her authority as the dominant ruler, but faced opposition from Ptolemy's advisers, especially the eunuch Potheinos, who wanted to limit her power and influence.

The conflict between Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIII escalated into a civil war, which coincided with the arrival of Julius Caesar in Egypt in 48 BC. Caesar was pursuing his rival Pompey, who had been defeated in the Battle of Pharsalus and sought refuge in Egypt. However, Pompey was killed by Ptolemy's order before he could meet Caesar, who was displeased by this act of treachery. Caesar then decided to intervene in the Egyptian civil war and sided with Cleopatra, who had secretly met him and charmed him with her intelligence and beauty.

Caesar and Cleopatra besieged Ptolemy XIII and his army in Alexandria, but they managed to escape and regroup. The war ended in 47 BC with the Battle of the Nile, where Ptolemy XIII drowned while trying to cross the river. Cleopatra then married her younger brother Ptolemy XIV, who was about 13 years old, and became the sole ruler of Egypt with Caesar's support.

Cleopatra's Marriage with Julius Caesar

Cleopatra's marriage with Ptolemy XIV was only a formality, as she was actually in love with Julius Caesar, who was 31 years older than her. She bore him a son in 47 BC, whom she named Ptolemy XV Caesarion (meaning "little Caesar") and claimed him to be Caesar's heir. Caesar never publicly acknowledged Caesarion as his son, nor did he divorce his wife Calpurnia to marry Cleopatra. However, he did take them to Rome in 46 BC, where they stayed as his guests until his assassination in 44 BC.

Cleopatra hoped that Caesar would help her secure her son's position as the king of Egypt and possibly as his successor in Rome. She also wanted to restore the glory and prestige of the Ptolemaic dynasty by expanding her territory and influence in the Mediterranean region. She received from Caesar parts of Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Libya as gifts. She also minted coins with her image alongside Caesar's and erected statues of him in Egyptian temples.

Cleopatra's marriage with Caesar was not well received by many Romans, who saw her as a foreign queen who seduced their leader and threatened their republic. They also resented her lavish lifestyle and extravagant display of wealth and power. Some of Caesar's enemies, such as Cicero, denounced her as a "whore" and a "harlot" who corrupted him. A group of senators led by Brutus and Cassius conspired against Caesar and stabbed him to death on the Ides of March (15 March) 44 BC.

Cleopatra's Marriage with Mark Antony

After Caesar's death, Cleopatra returned to Egypt with Caesarion. She declared him as her co-ruler and gave him the title of "King of Kings". She also tried to persuade the Roman Senate to recognize him as Caesar's legitimate heir, but they refused. Instead, they accepted Caesar's adopted son Octavian (later Augustus) as his successor.

Cleopatra's second lover was Mark Antony, who was one of Caesar's closest friends and allies. He was also one of the triumvirs who ruled Rome after Caesar's death, along with Octavian and Lepidus. He controlled the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire, where he met Cleopatra in 41 BC.

Cleopatra wanted Antony's support for her interests in Egypt and the Mediterranean region. She also wanted to secure her son Caesarion's position as Caesar's heir. She seduced Antony with her beauty and wealth, and he fell in love with her. He followed her to Egypt, where they spent the winter together. They also formed a political alliance against Octavian.

Cleopatra gave birth to three children by Antony: twins Alexander Helios (Sun) and Cleopatra Selene (Moon) in 40 BC, and another son Ptolemy Philadelphus in 36 BC. Antony married Octavian's sister Octavia in 40 BC to seal their peace treaty, but he returned to Cleopatra in 37 BC. He gave her parts of Syria, Lebanon and Anatolia as gifts. He also married her according to Egyptian rites and declared Caesarion as Caesar's true son. He recognized his children by Cleopatra as kings and queens of various regions under his control.

Antony and Cleopatra's marriage provoked a war with Octavian, who accused them of treason and ambition. He also used propaganda to portray Cleopatra as a dangerous and manipulative foreign queen who enslaved Antony and threatened Rome. Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and pursued them to Alexandria. Antony committed suicide after a false report of Cleopatra's death. Cleopatra followed him soon after, allegedly by letting an asp bite her.

Octavian captured their children and planned to take them to Rome as trophies. However, he spared their lives and entrusted them to his sister Octavia, who raised them as her own. Cleopatra Selene married King Juba II of Mauretania and had two children: Ptolemy and Drusilla. Ptolemy was killed by Caligula, but Drusilla married King Sohaemus of Emesa and had a son named Alexio. Alexio's descendants became the high priests of Emesa and some of them married into the Roman imperial family. The last known descendant of Cleopatra was Emperor Alexander Severus, who died in 235 AD.