August 12, 30 BC: Cleopatra VII dies. We know her simply as Cleopatra and she was the last of the Egyptian Pharaohs. The Greek rulers of Egypt had been in place since the time of Alexander the Great. King Ptolemy I declared himself the savior of the Egyptians who came to accept the Greeks as successors to the pharaohs. All the male rulers took the name Ptolemy while the queens were usually Cleopatra, Arsinoe, or Berenice. None of the earlier Ptolemies learned to speak Egyptian which is why many important documents, along with the Rosetta Stone, had Greek included as one of the languages. Cleopatra was the exception and learned to speak Egyptian as well as representing herself as the reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess Isis.
Cleopatra originally ruled with her father Ptolemy XII and later with her brothers, Ptolemy XIII and XIV. She married both of her brothers as was the custom but she eventually became sole ruler of Egypt. She and Julius Caesar had a relationship which solidified her position in Egypt. Their son, Caesarion, was eventually raised to co-rule with his mother. After Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, Cleopatra and Mark Antony joined forces against Caesar’s legal heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, or as more familiar to history, Augustus. Cleopatra and Mark Antony had three children – a set of twins (one boy and one girl) and another son.
During this era of unrest, the best way to attain control of the throne was to have murdered anyone who might lay claim to it or harm one’s heirs. Cleopatra had her sister murdered, but did so on the temple steps which outraged the Roman citizenry. Antony’s liaison with the Egyptian did not help his standing in Rome. He spent the next years living in Alexandria and married Cleopatra according to Egyptian rites, although he was married to Octavia Minor, sister of another of the triumvir rulers. Eventually, after some successful battles, Antony was crowned co-ruler of Egypt with Cleopatra. There were enemies in Rome who were watching to see if Cleopatra was amassing strength to take over control of the empire.
Antony and Octavian’s relationship continued to fall apart over the years and in 33 BC, war was declared by Rome against Egypt. Mark Antony committed suicide when no other options were open to him. Octavian had him cornered and rather than submit, he stabbed himself on August 1, 30 BC. Cleopatra was permitted to bury her husband after she, too, had been captured. She made several attempts to also kill herself and was finally successful on this day. Whether she allowed an asp to bite her or whether she applied a poison to herself is in question. Others surmise that Augustus had her killed. Whatever the method, she was 39 years old at the time.
In praising Antony I have dispraised Caesar.
I will not be triumphed over.
My honour was not yielded, but conquered merely.
Fool! Don’t you see now that I could have poisoned you a hundred times had I been able to live without you. – all from Cleopatra
Also on this day: NAFTA – In 1992, NAFTA negotiations conclude.
Personal Computer – In 1981, IBM released a new personal computer.
Model T – In 1908, the first Model T was produced.
Boon for Butterick – In 1851, Isaac Singer received a patent for a sewing machine.