Why Cleopatra is Very Famous

Cleopatra (Kleopatra) VII is arguably the most famous woman from classical antiquity, and one of the most familiar personalities in human history. She is best known through the extensive art and literature that was generated after her death. But her story isn't so simple. Cleopatra's destiny as the ruler of Egypt expected much of her, and she faithfully obliged. Born in Alexandria, Egypt in 69 BC, Cleopatra hailed from the Greek-speaking Ptolemaic dynasty (named after Alexander the Great's general Ptolemy) which ruled Egypt for almost 300 years. Just like any pharaoh of Egypt, her role demanded that she be a talented strategist and administrator. Not only that, history recalls that she was a polymath and academically accomplished, studying a plethora of subjects, including medicine. Cleopatra's legacy and influence in history and culture are based on three main aspects: her fame as a queen of Egypt, her fame as a lover of Roman leaders, and her fame as a symbol of beauty, intelligence and charisma. This article will explore each of these aspects in detail and show why Cleopatra is very famous.

Cleopatra's Fame as a Queen of Egypt

Cleopatra became the queen of Egypt at the age of 18, after the death of her father Ptolemy XII in 51 BCE. She ruled jointly with her younger brother Ptolemy XIII, who was also her husband, according to the Egyptian custom. However, she soon faced a rebellion from her brother and his advisers, who tried to depose her and take control of the country. Cleopatra fled to Syria, where she raised an army to fight back.


In 48 BCE, Julius Caesar arrived in Egypt, pursuing his rival Pompey, who had been killed by Ptolemy XIII's forces. Cleopatra saw an opportunity to ally herself with Caesar and regain her throne. She smuggled herself into Caesar's palace in Alexandria, wrapped in a carpet, and charmed him with her wit and beauty. Caesar was impressed by Cleopatra and supported her claim to the throne. He also became her lover and fathered a son with her, named Caesarion.


Cleopatra and Caesar defeated Ptolemy XIII's army at the Battle of the Nile in 47 BCE, and Cleopatra was restored as the queen of Egypt. She then married her other younger brother Ptolemy XIV, who was only 11 years old, but she ruled alone as the sole pharaoh. She also adopted the title of "Thea Philopator" (God-loving Father), which implied that she was the daughter of a god.


Cleopatra's fame as a queen of Egypt was based on her ability to maintain the independence and prosperity of her country in a turbulent time. She reformed the administration, taxation and currency systems, promoted trade and agriculture, and supported learning and culture. She built temples, monuments and public works, such as the Caesareum in Alexandria, dedicated to Caesar. She also embraced the Egyptian religion and culture, presenting herself as the reincarnation of the goddess Isis. She spoke several languages, including Egyptian, Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. She was popular among her subjects, who saw her as a benevolent and strong ruler.


Cleopatra's Fame as a Lover of Roman Leaders

Cleopatra's fame as a lover of Roman leaders was based on her relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, two of the most powerful men in the ancient world. She used her charm, intelligence and wealth to influence their decisions and gain their support for her interests.


After Caesar's assassination in 44 BCE, Cleopatra returned to Egypt with Caesarion. She hoped that her son would be recognized as Caesar's heir and become the king of Rome. However, Caesar's adopted son Octavian (later Augustus) claimed his inheritance and formed an alliance with Mark Antony and Lepidus to defeat Caesar's murderers. Cleopatra sent aid to Antony's forces in Syria, hoping to secure his favor.


In 41 BCE, Antony summoned Cleopatra to Tarsus (in modern Turkey) to question her loyalty to Rome. Cleopatra arrived in a lavish barge, dressed as Venus, the goddess of love. She dazzled Antony with her beauty and gifts, 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 twins by Antony in 40 BCE: Alexander Helios (Sun) and Cleopatra Selene (Moon). Antony married Octavian's sister Octavia in 40 BCE to seal their peace treaty but he returned to Cleopatra in 37 BCE. 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.


Cleopatra's fame as a lover of Roman leaders was based on her ability to seduce and manipulate them for her own advantage. She also challenged the traditional role of women in Roman society, who were expected to be modest and obedient. She was seen as a threat and a rival by Octavian, who waged a propaganda war against her, portraying her as a wicked and immoral queen who corrupted Antony and endangered Rome.


Cleopatra's Fame as a Symbol of Beauty, Intelligence and Charisma

Cleopatra's fame as a symbol of beauty, intelligence and charisma was based on her legacy and influence in history and culture. She became a source of fascination and inspiration for many writers, artists and filmmakers, who depicted her in various ways, often exaggerating or distorting her features and personality.


Cleopatra's beauty was not the product of her physical appearance alone, but also of her style, demeanor and aura. She knew how to use her image as a political tool, dressing and acting according to different occasions and audiences. She also used cosmetics, jewelry and perfumes to enhance her attractiveness. Her coin portraits show a distinctive face with a prominent nose, a sensitive mouth, a broad forehead and liquid eyes. However, her beauty was also the result of Roman propaganda, which exaggerated her features to make her look more exotic and dangerous.


Cleopatra's intelligence was evident in her education, language skills and political acumen. She was well versed in philosophy, literature, science and medicine. She was also a shrewd diplomat and a cunning politician, who knew how to deal with different situations and people. She was able to negotiate with Caesar and Antony, as well as with other kings and rulers. She was also a visionary leader, who had ambitious plans for Egypt and the Mediterranean world.


Cleopatra's charisma was evident in her personality, which was captivating and magnetic. She had a sense of humor, a flair for drama and a passion for life. She was also courageous, adventurous and resilient. She faced many challenges and dangers in her life, but she never gave up or surrendered. She fought for her throne, her country and her lovers until the end.


Cleopatra's fame as a symbol of beauty, intelligence and charisma was based on her remarkable achievements and qualities as a woman in a male-dominated world. She defied the norms and expectations of her time, and left an indelible mark on history. She became an icon of female power, allure and romance.


Cleopatra's Fame in Literature and Art

Cleopatra's fame in literature and art was based on her legacy and influence in history and culture. She became a source of fascination and inspiration for many writers, artists and filmmakers, who depicted her in various ways, often exaggerating or distorting her features and personality.


One of the earliest and most influential literary works about Cleopatra was the Life of Antony by the Greek biographer Plutarch, written in the 1st century CE. Plutarch portrayed Cleopatra as a cunning and seductive woman who ensnared Antony and led him to his downfall. He also recounted many anecdotes and legends about her, such as her lavish banquet where she dissolved a pearl in vinegar and drank it, or her fake suicide attempt to test Antony's love.


Plutarch's account was the main source for Shakespeare's tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, written in the early 17th century. Shakespeare's play cemented Cleopatra's influence in western literature and culture, making it a common trend for notable aristocratic women to have their self-portrait captured, posing as the queen, as seen in this portrait of Kitty Fisher by Joshua Reynolds. Shakespeare's Cleopatra was a complex and contradictory character, who combined elements of love, lust, pride, vanity, courage, weakness, loyalty and betrayal.


Cleopatra's fame in literature and art was also based on her representation in various forms of media, such as paintings, sculptures, operas, novels, films and comics. Some of the most famous examples are:


  • The Death of Cleopatra by Guido Cagnacci (1645–1655), which shows Cleopatra dying from the bite of an asp on her breast.

  • Cleopatra by George Frideric Handel (1724), which is an opera based on the love story of Cleopatra and Caesar.

  • Antony and Cleopatra by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1883), which depicts the meeting of Cleopatra and Antony on her barge.

  • Cleopatra by Theda Bara (1917), which is a silent film that portrays Cleopatra as a vamp who seduces and destroys men.

  • Caesar and Cleopatra by George Bernard Shaw (1898), which is a play that presents Cleopatra as a naive and childish girl who learns from Caesar how to be a queen.

  • Cleopatra by Elizabeth Taylor (1963), which is an epic film that depicts Cleopatra as a glamorous and powerful woman who loves both Caesar and Antony.

  • Asterix and Cleopatra by RenĂ© Goscinny and Albert Uderzo (1965), which is a comic book that parodies the historical events and characters of Cleopatra's era.


Cleopatra's fame in literature and art was based on her remarkable achievements and qualities as a woman in a male-dominated world. She defied the norms and expectations of her time, and left an indelible mark on history. She became an icon of female power, allure and romance.

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