Juba wrote a number of books in Greek and Latin on history, natural history, geography, grammar, painting and theatre. He compiled a comparison of Greek and Roman institutions known as Όμοιότητες (Similarities). His guide to Arabia became a bestseller in Rome. Only fragments of his work survived. He collected a substantial library on a wide variety of topics, which no doubt complemented his own prolific output. Pliny the Elder refers to him as an authority 65 times in the Natural History and in Athens, a monument was built in recognition of his writings. His extant writings are published and translated in Roller:Scholarly Kings (Chicago 2004).
Juba II was a noted patron of the arts and sciences and sponsored several expeditions and biological research. He also was a notable author, writing several scholarly and popular scientific works such as treatises on natural history or a best-selling traveller’s guide to Arabia.
According to Pliny the Younger, Juba II sent an expedition to the Canary Islands and Madeira.Juba II had given the Canary Islands that name because he found particularly ferocious dogs (canarius – from canis – meaning of the dogs in Latin) on the island.
Juba’s Greek physician Euphorbus wrote that a succulentspurge found in the High Atlas was a powerful laxative. In 12 BC, Juba named this plant Euphorbia after Euphorbus, in response toAugustus dedicating a statue to Antonius Musa, Augustus’s own personal physician and Euphorbus’ brother. Botanist and taxonomist Carl Linnaeus assigned the name Euphorbia to the entire genus in the physician’s honor.Euphorbia was later called Euphorbia regisjubae (“King Juba’s euphorbia”) to honor the king’s contributions to natural history and his role in bringing the genus to notice. It is now Euphorbia obtusifolia ssp. regis-jubae. The palm tree genus Jubaea is also named after Juba.
Flavius Philostratus recalled one of his anecdotes: “And I have read in the discourse of Juba that elephants assist one another when they are being hunted, and that they will defend one that is exhausted, and if they can remove him out of danger, they anoint his wounds with the tears of the aloe tree, standing round him like physicians.”
Accession to the throne
The identity of Cleopatra’s mother is unknown, but she is generally believed to be Cleopatra V Tryphaena of Egypt, the sister or cousin and wife of Ptolemy XII Auletes, or possibly another Ptolemaic family member who was the daughter of Ptolemy X and Cleopatra Berenice III Philopator if Cleopatra V was not the daughter of Ptolemy X and Berenice III. Cleopatra’s father Auletes was a direct descendant of Alexander the Great‘s general Ptolemy I Soter, son ofArsinoe and Lagus, both of Macedonia.
Centralization of power and political corruption led to uprisings in and the losses of Cyprus andCyrenaica, making Ptolemy XII Auletes’ reign one of the most calamitous of the dynasty. Ptolemy went to Rome with Cleopatra; Cleopatra VI Tryphaena seized the crown but died shortly afterwards in suspicious circumstances. It is believed (though not proven by historical sources) that Berenice IV poisoned her so that she could assume sole rulership. Regardless of the cause, she ruled until Ptolemy Auletes returned in 55 BC with Roman support, capturing Alexandria aided by the Roman general Aulus Gabinius. Berenice was imprisoned and executed shortly afterwards, her head allegedly being sent to the royal court on the decree of her father, the king. Cleopatra now became joint regent and deputy to her father at age 14, although her power would have been severely limited.
Ptolemy XII Auletes died in March 51 BC. His will made 18-year-old Cleopatra and her 10-year-old brother, Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator, joint monarchs. The first three years of their reign were difficult due to economic failures, famine, deficient floods of the Nile, and political conflicts. Cleopatra was married to her young brother, but she quickly made it clear that she had no intention of sharing power with him.
In August 51 BC, relations completely broke down between Cleopatra and Ptolemy. Cleopatra dropped Ptolemy’s name from official documents and her face alone appeared on coins, which went against Ptolemaic tradition of female rulers being subordinate to male co-rulers. In 50 BC, Cleopatra came into serious conflict with the Gabiniani, powerful Roman troops left behind by Aulus Gabinius to protect Ptolemy XII Auletes after his restoration to the throne in 55 BC. The Gabiniani killed the sons of the Roman governor of Syria, Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, when they came to ask the Gabiniani to assist their father against the Parthians. Cleopatra handed the murderers over to Bibulus in chains, whereupon the Gabiniani became bitter enemies of the queen. This conflict was one of the main causes of Cleopatra’s fall from power shortly afterward. The sole reign of Cleopatra was finally ended by a cabal of courtiers led by the eunuchPothinus, in connection with half-Greek general Achillas, and Theodotus of Chios. Circa 48 BC, Cleopatra’s younger brother Ptolemy XIII became sole ruler.
Cleopatra tried to raise a rebellion around Pelusium, but was soon forced to flee with her only remaining sister, Arsinoe IV.
Relations with Rome
Assassination of Pompey
While Cleopatra was in exile, Pompey became embroiled in Caesar’s Civil War. Pompey fled toAlexandria from the forces of Caesar, seeking sanctuary after his defeat at the Battle of Pharsalusin late 48 BC. Ptolemy was thirteen years old at that time, and had set up a throne for himself on the harbor. From there, he watched as Pompey was murdered on September 28, 48 BC, by one of his former officers, now in Ptolemaic service. He was beheaded in front of his wife and children, who were on the ship from which he had just disembarked. Ptolemy is thought to have ordered the death to ingratiate himself with Caesar, thus becoming an ally of Rome, to which Egypt was in debt at the time. This act proved a miscalculation on Ptolemy’s part. Caesar arrived in Egypt two days later, and Ptolemy presented him with Pompey’s severed head. Caesar was enraged. Pompey was Caesar’s political enemy, but he was a Roman consul and the widower of Caesar’s only legitimate daughter, Julia, who died during childbirth. Caesar seized the Egyptian capital and imposed himself as arbiter between the rival claims of Ptolemy and Cleopatra.
Relationship with Julius Caesar
Cleopatra was eager to take advantage of Julius Caesar‘s anger toward Ptolemy and had herself (at the approximate age of 21) secretly smuggled into Caesar’s palace to meet with him. Plutarchgives a vivid description in his Life of Julius Caesar of how she entered past Ptolemy’s guards rolled up in a carpet that Apollodorus the Sicilian was carrying. She became Caesar’s mistress and gave birth to their son Ptolemy Caesar in 47 BC, nine months after their first meeting. He was nicknamed Caesarion, which means “little Caesar.”
At this point, Caesar abandoned his plans to annex Egypt, instead backing Cleopatra’s claim to the throne. Mithridates raised the siege of Alexandria, and Caesar defeated Ptolemy’s army at theBattle of the Nile. Ptolemy XIII drowned in the Nile, and Caesar restored Cleopatra to her throne with younger brother Ptolemy XIV as her new co-ruler. When Caesar left Egypt, he left three legions there under the command of Rufio.
Caesar was thirty-one years older than Cleopatra when they met; they became lovers during Caesar’s stay in Egypt between 48 BC and 47 BC. Cleopatra claimed that Caesar was the father of her son and wished him to name the boy his heir; but Caesar refused, choosing his grandnephewOctavian instead. During this relationship, it was also rumored that Cleopatra introduced Caesar to her astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria, who proposed the idea of leap days and leap years. This was not new; they were proclaimed in 238 BC but the reform never took effect. Caesar made this the basis of his reform of the Roman calendar in 45 BC, and the Egyptian calendar was reformed along these lines in 26 BC.
Cleopatra, Ptolemy XIV, and Caesarion visited Rome in mid-46 BC. The Egyptian queen resided in one of Caesar’s country houses, which included the Horti Caesaris just outside Rome (as a foreign head of state, she was not allowed inside Rome’s pomerium). The relationship between Cleopatra and Caesar was obvious to the Roman people and caused a scandal because the dictator was already married to Calpurnia. But Caesar even erected a golden statue of Cleopatra represented as Isis in the temple of Venus Genetrix (the mythical ancestress of Caesar’s family), which was situated at the Forum Julium. Cicero said in his preserved letters that he hated the foreign queen. Cleopatra and her entourage were still in Rome when Caesar was assassinated on 15 March 44 BC, and after his death returned with her relatives to Egypt. When Ptolemy XIV died, allegedly poisoned by his older sister, Cleopatra made Caesarionher co-regent and successor and gave him the epithets Theos Philopator Philometor (Father-loving and mother-loving God).
Cleopatra in the Roman Civil War
In light of her former relationship with Caesar, Cleopatra sided with his party, led by Mark Antonyand Octavian, in the civil war against the assassins of Caesar, led by Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger and Gaius Cassius Longinus. Brutus and Cassius left Italy and sailed to the east of the Republic, where they conquered large areas and established military bases. At the beginning of 43 BC, Cleopatra formed an alliance with the leader of the Caesarian party in the east, Publius Cornelius Dolabella, who also recognized Caesarion as her co-ruler. However, by July, Dolabella was encircled in Laodicea and then committed suicide.
Cassius wanted to invade Egypt to seize its treasures and punish Cleopatra for her support for Dolabella. Egypt, famine-stricken, weak militarily on land, and in the throes of an epidemic, seemed an easy target. Cassius also wanted to prevent Cleopatra from bringing reinforcements for Antony and Octavian, but he was prevented from invading Egypt when Brutus summoned him back to Smyrna at the end of 43 BC. Cassius tried to blockade Cleopatra’s route to the Caesarians by positioning 60 ships and a legion of elite troops, commanded by Lucius Staius Murcus, at Cape Matapan in the south of the Peloponnese. Nevertheless, Cleopatra sailed with her fleet from Alexandria to the west along the Libyan coast to join the Caesarian leaders, but she was forced to return to Egypt because her ships were damaged by a violent storm and she became ill. Staius Murcus learned of the queen’s misfortune and saw wreckage from her ships on the coast of Greece. He then sailed with his ships into the Adriatic Sea.
Cleopatra and Mark Antony
, 32 BC. Obverse: Diademed bust of Cleopatra, CLEOPATRA[E REGINAE REGVM]FILIORVM REGVM. Reverse: Bust of M. Antony, ANTONI ARMENIA DEVICTA
Mark Antony was one of the triumvirs who ruled Rome in the power vacuum following Caesar’s death. He sent his intimate friend Quintus Delliusto Egypt in 41 BC, to summon Cleopatra to him inCilician Tarsus, ostensibly in order to answer questions about her loyalty–during the Roman civil war, she allegedly had paid much money to Cassius. It seems that, in reality, Antony wanted Cleopatra’s promise to support his intended war against the Parthians. Cleopatra arrived in great state, and (at the approximate age of 28) so charmed Antony that he chose to spend late 41 BC to early 40 BC with her in Alexandria.
To safeguard herself and Caesarion, she had Antony order the death of her sister, Arsinoe IV, who had been banished to the Temple of Artemisin Roman-controlled Ephesus for her role in leading the Siege of Alexandria (47 BC). The execution was carried out in 41 BC on the steps of the temple, and this violation of temple sanctuary scandalised Rome. Cleopatra also retrieved her strategos (military governor) of Cyprus Serapion, who had supported Cassius against her wishes.
On 25 December 40 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to twins fathered by Antony, Alexander Helios andCleopatra Selene II. Four years later, Antony visited Alexandria again en route to make war with the Parthians. He renewed his relationship with Cleopatra and, from this point on, Alexandria was his home. He married Cleopatra according to the Egyptian rite (a letter quoted in Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars suggests this), although he was married at the time to Octavia the Younger, sister of his fellow triumvir Octavian. He and Cleopatra had another child, Ptolemy Philadelphus.
A tetradrachm of Cleopatra VII, Syria
Cleopatra and Caesarion were crowned co-rulers of Egypt and Cyprus at the Donations of Alexandria in late 34 BC, following Antony’s conquest of Armenia. Alexander Helios was crowned ruler of Armenia, Media, and Parthia; Cleopatra Selene II was crowned ruler ofCyrenaica and Libya; and Ptolemy Philadelphus was crowned ruler of Phoenicia, Syria, and Cilicia. Cleopatra was also given the title of “Queen of Kings” by Antonius. Her enemies in Rome feared that she “was planning a war of revenge that was to array all the East against Rome, establish herself as empress of the world at Rome, cast justice from Capitolium, and inaugurate a new universal kingdom.” Caesarion was showered with many additional titles, including god, son of god, and King of Kings, and was depicted as Horus. Egyptians thought that Cleopatra was a reincarnation of the goddess Isis, as she called herself Nea Isis.
Relations between Antony and Octavian had been disintegrating for several years; they finally broke down in 33 BC, and Octavian convinced the Senate to levy war against Egypt. In 31 BC, Antony’s forces faced the Romans in a naval action off the coast of Actium. Cleopatra was present with a fleet of her own. According to Plutarch, Cleopatra took flight with her ships at the height of the battle, and Antony followed her. Following the Battle of Actium, Octavian invaded Egypt. As he approached Alexandria, Antony’s armies deserted to Octavian on August 1, 30 BC. To finance her war against Octavian, Cleopatra took gold from the tomb of Alexander the Great, which had been previously robbed.
There are a number of unverifiable stories about Cleopatra. One of the best known is that she playfully bet Antony, at one of the lavish dinners which they shared, that she could spend ten million sestertii on a dinner. He accepted the bet. The next night, she had a conventional, unspectacular meal served; he was ridiculing this, when she ordered the second course — only a cup of strong vinegar. She then removed one of her priceless pearl earrings, dropped it into the vinegar, allowed it to dissolve, and drank the mixture. The earliest report of this story comes fromPliny the Elder and dates to about 100 years after the banquet described would have happened. The calcium carbonate in pearls does dissolve in vinegar, but slowly unless the pearl is first crushed.
The ancient sources, particularly the Roman ones, are in general agreement that Cleopatra killed herself, at age 39, by inducing an asp(Egyptian cobra) to bite her. The oldest source isStrabo, who was alive at the time of the event and might even have been in Alexandria. He says that there are two stories — that she applied a toxic ointment or that she was bitten by an asp on her breast — but he said in his writings that he was not sure whether Cleopatra poisoned herself or was murdered. Several Roman poets writing within ten years of the event mention bites by two asps, as does Florus, a historian, some 150 years later. Velleius, sixty years after the event, also refers to an asp. Other authors have questioned these historical accounts, stating that it is possible that Augustus had her killed. In 2010, German historian Christoph Schaefer challenged all other theories, declaring that the queen had actually died from drinking a mixture of poisons. After studying historical texts and consulting with toxicologists, the historian concluded that the asp could not have caused the quick and pain-free death claimed by most sources, since the asp venom paralyses parts of the body, starting with the eyes, before causing death. Living when and where she did, Cleopatra would have known of the violent and painful effects of an asp’s venomous bite, so it is unlikely that it was the cause of her death. Also, the asp’s bite is not always fatal. Schaefer and his toxicologist Dietrich Mebs have theorized that Cleopatra used a mixture of hemlock, wolfsbane, and opium.
The Death of Cleopatra by Reginald Arthur, 1892
Plutarch, writing about 130 years after the event, reports that Octavian succeeded in capturing Cleopatra in her mausoleum after the death of Antony. He ordered his freedman Epaphroditusto guard her to prevent her from committing suicide, because he allegedly wanted to present her in his triumph. However, Cleopatra was able to deceive Epaphroditus and kill herself nevertheless. Plutarch states that she was found dead, her handmaiden Iras dying at her feet, and handmaiden Charmion adjusting her crown before she herself fell. He then goes on to state that an asp was concealed in a basket of figs that was brought to her by a rustic and, finding it after eating a few figs, she held out her arm for it to bite. Other stories state that it was hidden in a vase and that she poked it with a spindle until it got angry enough to bite her on the arm. Finally, he indicates that, in Octavian’s triumphal march back in Rome, an effigy of Cleopatra with an asp clinging to it was part of the parade.
Suetonius, writing about the same time as Plutarch, also says Cleopatra died from an asp bite.
Classical sources say that Cleopatra was bitten on the arm, but she is more usually depicted in medieval and Renaissance iconography with asps at her breast, a tradition followed by Shakespeare.
Cleopatra is depicted taking her own life with the bite of a venomous serpent. Adam Lenckhardt
The Walters Art Museum.
Plutarch tells us of the death of Antony. When his armies deserted him and joined with Octavian, he cried out that Cleopatra had betrayed him. She locked herself in her monument with only her two handmaidens, fearing his wrath, and sent messengers to tell Antony that she was dead. Believing them, Antony stabbed himself in the stomach with his sword, and lay on his couch to die. Instead, the blood flow stopped, and he begged any and all to finish him off. Another messenger came from Cleopatra with instructions to bring him to her, and he consented, rejoicing that Cleopatra was still alive. She would not open the door, but tossed ropes out of a window. After Antony was securely trussed up, she and her handmaidens hauled him up into the monument. This nearly finished him off. After dragging him in through the window, they laid him on a couch. Cleopatra tore off her clothes and covered him with them. She raved and cried, beat her breasts, and engaged in self-mutilation. Antony told her to calm down, asked for a glass of wine, and died upon finishing it.
The site of their mausoleum is uncertain, though the Egyptian Antiquities Service believes that it is in or near the temple of Taposiris Magna, southwest of Alexandria.
Caesarion, Cleopatra’s son by Caesar, was proclaimed pharaoh by the Egyptians after Alexandria fell to Octavian. Caesarion was captured and killed, his fate reportedly sealed when one of Octavian’s advisers paraphrased Homer: “It is bad to have too many Caesars.” This ended the Hellenistic line of Egyptian pharaohs and, in fact, the line of all Egyptian pharaohs. The three children of Cleopatra and Antony were spared and taken back to Rome, where they were taken care of by Antony’s wife Octavia Minor. Octavian arranged the marriage of the daughter, Cleopatra Selene, to Juba II of Mauretania.
Cleopatra was regarded as a great beauty, even in the ancient world. In his Life of Antony,Plutarch remarks that “judging by the proofs which she had had before this of the effect of her beauty upon Caius Caesar and Gnaeus the son of Pompey, she had hopes that she would more easily bring Antony to her feet. For Caesar and Pompey had known her when she was still a girl and inexperienced in affairs, but she was going to visit Antony at the very time when women have the most brilliant beauty.” Later in the work, however, Plutarch indicates that “her beauty, as we are told, was in itself neither altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her.” Rather, what ultimately made Cleopatra attractive were her wit, charm and “sweetness in the tones of her voice.”
Cassius Dio also spoke of Cleopatra’s allure: “For she was a woman of surpassing beauty, and at that time, when she was in the prime of her youth, she was most striking; she also possessed a most charming voice and knowledge of how to make herself agreeable to everyone. Being brilliant to look upon and to listen to, with the power to subjugate everyone, even a love-sated man already past his prime, she thought that it would be in keeping with her role to meet Caesar, and she reposed in her beauty all her claims to the throne.”
These accounts influenced later cultural depictions of Cleopatra, which typically present her using her charms to influence the most powerful men in the Western world.
Cleopatra was also renowned for her intellect. Plutarch writes that she could speak at least nine languages and rarely had need of an interpreter.