Cleopatra VII Philopator is a figure surrounded by myth, legend and pop culture. One of the most famous women in history, she has been the subject of biographies beginning with one of the earliest historians, Plutarch, to present day biographies, that portray her life through different lenses and explore new historical findings as they emerge. Here are ten things you may or may not know about Egypt’s last Pharaoh:
1. Cleopatra Thea Philopator VII was actually from Macedonia: Her family followed Alexander the Great to Egypt where the family came to be regarded as Egyptian royalty.
2. Cleopatra was a powerful woman in her own right: Cleopatra is often portrayed to be a seductress, however this is far from the truth. She had only two known relationships. Both her relationships (one with Julius Caeser and the other with Marcus Antonius) were carefully selected (the most powerful Romans of the era) and were designed to produce heirs for the survival of her kingdom.
3. Cleopatra was believed to be a reincarnation of the Goddess Isis: Aligning herself as a reincarnation of the Goddess Isis, (which was a cult that had been burgeoning in the Mediterranean culture for some time) allowed her to evoke a sense of otherworldliness by elevating herself to this status as if her subjects were able to interact with an actual goddess – and hence made her a popular, respectable and loving Queen.
4. Cleopatra was a linguist: According to Plutarch (the Greek historian, biographer, and essayist), besides her native Greek, Cleopatra spoke the language of the Ethiopians, the Hebrews, Troglodytes, Arabians, Syrians, Medes, and the Parthians.
5. Cleopatra was an intellectual: She was a mathematician, chemist and philosopher who wrote several books. She even met with a team of scientific experts on a weekly basis. The best known work is her medical treatise on Cosmetics.
6. Cleopatra had four children: Three of her children died; Caesarion being the only one to survive and make it to adulthood.
7. Cleopatra had five siblings: She married two of her brothers Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, as per Egyptian custom, but eventually she became the sole ruler of Egypt.
8. Cleopatra also killed two of her siblings: Cleopatra killed her brother in 44 BC when they returned to Egypt from Rome after Caesar’s murder. She killed her sister to eliminate a threat to the throne.
9. Cleopatra was skilled in the art of warfare and even led her fleet in battle, twice!
10. Cleopatra may or may not have died from an asp’s bite: Rumour has it that Cleopatra got an asp to bite her; however, the Egyptian asp is not a fatal snake and therefore there is a possibility that she died of poisoning.