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Cleopatra was a queen of Egypt but she was not Egyptian. She was the last of the Macedonian Greek dynasty that ruled Egypt from the time of Alexander the Great's death in 323 BCE to about 30 BCE. She was a talented and resourceful individual of great charm but ruthless when she felt she had to be.
Cleopatra was the only one of her family that learned to speak the Egyptian (Coptic) language. She knew a half dozen to a dozen other languages. She was an educated intellectual and a capable administrator. Despite her abilities and effort she failed and her life was one of sadness rather than glamour.
Cleopatra arranges to meet Caesar under intimate terms by having herself rolled up in a carpet that is delivered to Caesar's home quarters. When the carpet was unrolled a vivacious 21 year old Egyptian queen emerges. Caesar was about 52 at the time.
Cleopatra captivated him but it was probably not her youth and beauty. Caesar could have had bevies and bevies of beautiful young women. Probably the audacity of Cleopatra's ploy amused him and it was a brilliant strategy. Had Cleopatra met Caesar through official state channels protocol would have interfered with her working her charms upon him. She was said to have a thousand ways of flattering. A not unimportant factor in Cleopatra's attraction for Caesar was that she was rich, perhaps the richest woman in the world. Or, at least she would be once back in power in Egypt. Caesar was chronically and often disastrously in debt.
In Rome, Caesar holds a triumphal celebration of his victories. These celebrations whenever ever possible included the parading of the defeated enemies. Cleopatra's younger sister, Arsenoe, was paraded in Caesar's triumphal celebration.
Although Pompey had been defeated and was killed in Egypt the civil war did not end. Pompey's two sons had gained control of Cordoba in Spain and were preparing to continue the conflict. Caesar took an army to Spain to deal with this threat. After a series of retreats the Pompeys decided to do battle at Munda from some high ground. Caesar lured the Pompeys' forces down from the high ground. The battle was indecisive until a shift in troops by one of the Pompeys was misinterpreted as a retreat and their other troops began to retreat. This led to a decisive victory by Caesar's forces.
A month after Caesar's assassination Cleopatra left Rome and returned to Egypt. Her brother Ptolemy XIV dies of poisoning, undoubtedly upon Cleopatra's orders. She wanted to make her son, Caesarion, co-regent with her as Ptolemy XV.
Mark Antony decides for no obvious reason to attack the Parthian (Persian) Empire. He calls for Cleopatra to join him at Tarsus. Mark Antony needed Cleopatra's support financially and militarily for his invasion. He had met Cleopatra 13 years before when she was 14 years old. That had been an inconsequential meeting.
Their meeting a Tarsus was anything but inconsequential. Cleopatra having lost the protection of the strongman Caesar needed another Roman leader to protect her. Mark Antony was so captivated by Cleopatra that he gave up his plans for the invasion of the Parthian Empire and went with Cleopatra back to her capital of Alexandria. From the likenesses of Cleopatra on the coins of her realm she was not a great beauty so her attraction came from the charm of her personality and from her intellect.
At Cleopatra's request Antony sent orders for the execution of Cleopatra's younger sister, Arsinoe, in Rome. Arsinoe was possible rival for the throne of Egypt. Arsinoe herself was helpless but her enemies in Egypt could have used her in a bid to depose Cleopatra. A very distant threat but Cleopatra was not one to take chances.
Cleopatra bears Antony's children. They were twins, a boy named Alexander Helios and a girl named Cleopatra Selene.
Meanwhile back in Egypt another drama was unfolding. Herod was the king of Judea. He had accepted Roman overlordship and the Romans in turn had allowed him to continue to rule his kingdom. Herod was a competent ruler. In 40 BCE he traveled through Egypt and Cleopatra tried to seduce him but Herod rejected her. Cleopatra was enraged and began to do whatever she could to harm Herod's interests.
Cleopatra bears Antony another son, Ptolemy Philadelphus.
Back in Rome, Octavian obtains Mark Antony's will from the temple of the Vestal Virgins. He publicizes its contents. Mark Antony's will made provision for turning parts of the Roman Empire over to Cleopatra. Worse yet Mark Antony's will called for moving the Empire's capital from Rome to Alexandria. The Roman citizens are outraged.
Mark Antony escapes from the defeat and joins Cleopatra on her ship, but he is furious with her for having unnecessarily precipitated the defeat at Actium. After several days he relents and he and Cleopatra stay together in Alexandria.
Mark Antony has revealed himself as a loser and Cleopatra needs someone else who can protect her. Octavian communicates to Cleopatra that if she kills Mark Antony that he might work out something with her. Cleopatra realizes that she is not powerful enough to expell Mark Antony from Egypt or to assassinate him. She conceives a fiendish plot. She has a message sent to Mark Antony saying that she had killed herself. Upon hearing that his loved one was dead he falls upon his sword. The injury does not kill him at once and he has himself taken to where Cleopatra's body is supposed to be. He finds her alive and tells her to make her peace with Octavian.
After Mark Antony's death Cleopatra realizes that Octavian can never treat her as anything but an enemy and that he will take her and her children to Rome to be paraded in a victory triumph. She sends Caesarion with trusted protectors to hide in the east of Egypt near the Red Sea. Cleopatra first intends to commit suicide by setting fire to the mausoleum where she has collected her treasures. Roman soldiers find entry to the mausoleum and thwart her plans. She is taken captive. Cleopatra then arranges for a poisonous snake, an asp, to be smuggled to her in a basket of figs. She then commits suicide by allowing the asp to bite her on her chest. She arranged for her and Mark Antony to be buried together. Octavian sent agents to hunt down Caesarion and kill him. Thus ended the sad life of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt at 39 years of age. She was the last of the Ptolemy dynasty.
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