Historians have been fascinated for years by Cleopatra and her extraordinary legacy. Movies have been made and books have been written about the Egyptian queen who ruled with intensity and strategy.
But a lot of information has slipped through the cracks when discussing Cleopatra. So, we’ve compiled a list of some of her most interesting facts and tidbits that we feel you should know about the iconic Queen of the Nile.
Cleopatra Was Not Ethnically Egyptian
Cleopatra was born and raised in Egypt, however her family origins traced back to Macedonia Greece. She was the heir of Ptolemy I Soter, a general of Alexander the Great. Ptolemy ruled in Egypt after Alexander’s death, launching a dynasty of Greek-speaking rulers that would last for three centuries.
Despite not being ethnically Egyptian, the Queen of the Nile embraced the ancient customs of her country. Cleopatra was the first member of the Ptolemaic line to learn the Egyptian language.
She Was The Product Of Incest
Like most royal houses of the Ptolemaic dynasty, Cleopatra was a product of incest. This was common practice to preserve the purity of the bloodline. Over a dozen of Cleopatra’s ancestors married with cousins or siblings, and it is likely that Cleopatra’s parents were brother and sister.
Cleopatra married both of her adolescent brothers at different times of her reign. Both brothers served as ceremonial spouses and co-regents at different times.
Propaganda Painted Cleopatra As Someone Who Only Relied On Looks
Roman propaganda of the time painted Cleopatra as a seductress who used her sex appeal as a political weapon, however her intellect was nothing to scoff at. She spoke at least a dozen languages and was educated in mathematics, philosophy, oratory, and astronomy.
Ancient writer Plutarch claimed that it was not Cleopatra’s looks that made her so desirable, rather it was the way she carried herself. He said it was her musical voice and charm that made her so desirable.
She Was Involved In Three Of Her Sibling’s Deaths
Power grabs and plots of betrayal and murder are as much a Ptolemaic tradition as incest and family marriage. Cleopatra’s sibling and her were no different. Her first sibling-husband ran her out of Egypt after she tried to take sole possession of the throne. He later drowned in the Nile river after a face off in a civil war.
Cleopatra then married her younger brother, but it is believed he had him murdered in a bid to grant her son sole power of the throne. And finally, she arranged the execution of her sister, who Cleopatra considered a rival to the throne.
Cleopatra Saw Herself As A Living Goddess
The Queen of the Nile knew how to make an entrance. She often used clever stagecraft to entice potential allies and promote her status of divinity. A very famous example is when Julius Caesar arrived in Alexandria. Cleopatra had herself wrapped in a linen sack and smuggled into his personal quarters. Julius Caesar was completely dazzled by her, and the two became allies and lovers.
Cleopatra continued the line of dramatics when she met Mark Antony. She was summoned to Rome and entered on a golden barge with purple sails, rowed by oars of silver. She was dressed like the goddess, Aphrodite. Antony considered himself to be the embodiment of the Greek god Dionysis and was enchanted by the display.
Cleopatra Was Living In Rome When Caesar Was Assassinated
Julius Caesar did not hide the fact that Cleopatra was his mistress. She traveled to Rome with their love child, and many Romans were scandalized by the statue of the Queen he erected in the temple of Venus Genetrix.
Cleopatra was forced to escape Rome when Caesar was stabbed to death. However, her exotic fashion sense left its mark on the Roman women, adopting her hairstyles and pearl jewelry. In fact, so many women imitated it, that statues of Roman women have been mistaken for Cleopatra herself.
Mark Antony And Cleopatra Had Their Own Drinking Club
While Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s relationship had strong political components, they were also incredibly fond of the other’s company. According to ancient sources, they spent one winter in Egypt indulging in leisure and excess.
The duo even formed a drinking society called the “Inimitable Livers.” The group would have nightly wine-binges and feasts, as well as play games and have contests. Cleopatra and Mark Antony liked to wander the streets in disguise and play pranks on the Egyptian residents.
It Is Disputed How Cleopatra Died
Cleopatra and Mark Antony famously took their own lives in 30 B.C. while on the run, It is said that Marc Antony stabbed himself in the stomach, however Cleopatra’s method is less certain. The legend is that she died by enticing an “asp”–more than likely a viper or cobra–to bite her in the arm.
However, ancient writer Plutarch writes that know one truly knows how Cleopatra passed. It was said that Cleopatra kept a deadly poison in one of her hair combs. Some scholars have suggested that she may have used a pin dipped in snake venom or some other sort of potent toxin.
The 1963 Movie About Cleopatra Was One Of the Most Expensive, Ever
The Queen of the Nile was played by many heavy hitters on the silver screen. Women liked Claudette Colbertt and Sophia Loren acted in her likeness, but the most famous was done by Elizabeth Taylor. Cleopatra was made in 1963 and was famously played by Elizabeth Taylor. The film had many production problems, issues with the script, and its budget went from $2 million to $44 million, including the $200,000 to cover the cost of Elizabeth Taylor’s costumes.
It was the most expensive movie ever made at the time of its release. It nearly bankrupted the studio despite being a huge success in the box office. Cleopatra remains one of the most expensive films in history to this day.