Interview with Cleopatra
Interview with Cleopatra – Queen of Egypt
Cleopatra – Last Pharaoh of Egypt
Until now I have been using my superhuman skills in superior, supernatural interviewing to talk with dead people – famous but altogether dead people – who were rulers of the masculine persuasion. Now it is time to talk with the Queen of Egypt – Cleopatra VII.
me – It’s a pleasure to meet you. Would you prefer that I address you as Queen Cleopatra or Pharaoh Cleopatra?
Cleopatra – Queen, Pharaoh, Shmaraoh – it’s all the same. My full name was Cleopatra VII Philadelphus Philopator Philopatris Thea Neotera. But that’s a mouthful. Why don’t you call me Cleo?
me – You know, Cleo, that as the queen of Egypt you are considered one of the greatest romantic heroines of all time.
Cleo – I was much more than that, but yes, that fact was brought home to me when I watched the videos you gave me of the film, “Cleopatra” – you know, the one with Elizabeth Tyler.
me – Taylor.
Cleo – That’s what I said. She and Richard Barton are such a handsome couple.
me – (I kept my mouth shut and didn’t say, ‘Burton’.)
Note: The 1963 movie, ‘Cleopatra,” with ElizabethTaylor and Richard Burton can be viewed in its entirety in the 25 You Tube videos displayed or cited at the end of this hub.
me – When and where were you born?
Cleo – I was born in 69 B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt, the descendent of Macedonians who were established as rulers when Alexander the Great liberated Egypt from Persia (Iran) in 331 B.C. Ptolemy I was an ally of Alexander the Great and when Alexander died in 323 B.C., General Ptolemy assumed power over Egypt. This was the beginning of the Greek Ptolemaic Dynasty which lasted over three centuries.
Note: At the time, Alexandria was the capital city of Egypt and was populated largely by native Egyptians but the aristocracy was Greek.
My father was Ptolemy XII Auletes. He was called Auletes because he played the flute . . . badly. Before him there was Ptolemy I through XI – eleven in all – and my mother was Cleopatra V Tryphaena. I was named Cleopatra VII.
I know what you are thinking. Why were so many of us given the same name of either Ptolemy or Cleopatra? Why not different names?
me – Yes, the thought had occurred to me.
Books about Cleopatra
Cleopatra film Part One
Cleo – Using the same names was the Egyptian custom at the time. Although my family was of Greek heritage, they also adopted the Egyptian custom of intermarriage among royals – that is, pharaohs married their siblings. BTW, do you know what we called incest?
me – No, I haven’t a clue.
Cleo – . . . the game the whole family can play.
me – I didn’t know that old joke was that old.
Note: The Ptolemy family tree is complicated and incestuous – a product of its time. As an example, when Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII Auletes married her mother, Cleopatra V Tryphaena, he was marrying his half-niece because she was the daughter of his half-sister-double-cousin, Queen Berenice III. Hi wife was also his first cousin because she was the daughter of his uncle, Ptolemy X Alexander. Any questions?
me – Did you have siblings, Cleo?
Cleo – Yes, two older sisters, Cleopatra VI Tryphaena, and Berenice IV, and a younger sister, Arsinoe IV, and two younger brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. The custom of giving so many of us the same name was confusing as we grew up. When my mother called, ‘Ptolemy, come here,' three people showed up. And when my father called, ‘Cleopatra,’ all three of us answered.
me – How old were you when you became the Queen of Egypt?
Cleo – My father died in 51 B.C. and I ascended the throne. I was eighteen and married my brother, Ptolemy XIII, who was ten years old because custom decreed I have a consort. But not for one minute did I have any intention of sharing my power with him – the little brat.
me – How did you become the pharaoh? You were not the eldest daughter.
Cleo – To make a long story short, I loved my father but he was not an effective pharaoh. He ruled Egypt about as well as he played the flute.There was a rebellion and he was exiled to Rome for three years (58 – 55 B.C.). I accompanied him. My two older sisters, Cleopatra VI and Berenice IV, co-ruled Egypt during that period.
My father returned and with the help of Roman soldiers regained his rightful throne. My oldest sister, Cleo, had died – under suspicious circumstances. He had Berenice and her husband both beheaded.
me – I believe Vlad Dracula
may have learned that "beheading strategy" from your father.
Cleopatra film Part Two
Cleo – After my father’s death, the political and economic instability that had plagued his reign continued - much like your America today. My empire suffered debilitating territorial losses as family members competed for control rather than governing - much like your Congress today. I tried to rule without my brother/husband. I signed official documents myself and minted coins only with my image.
me – Speaking of coins, was this coin one of those you minted?
Cleo – Of course not. That’s a vicious lie. Would any woman spend a fortune to mint a coin of herself looking like that?
That atrocious-looking coin was minted by the priests and ministers advising my brother who were worried I would upset their universe and anger the Roman force protecting the Ptolemaic Dynasty. I was too radical and refused to follow tradition and be subservient to my young brother so they could rule through him. They forced me into exile with my sister, Arsinoe, in 48 B.C.
Jewelry like Cleopatra's
Gaius Julius Caesar
me – Is that when Julius Caesar entered your life?
Cleo – It was more like me entering his. I planned to raise an army to regain my rightful throne but realized there was an easier way. Egypt still relied on Rome for protection, and I was the rightful ruler. Caesar made it easy for me by arriving in Egypt in 48 B.C. with an army of four thousand men to take control and installed himself in the royal palace.
me – Is that when you had yourself rolled up into a carpet and delivered to Caesar?
Cleo – I saw that scene in the movie, too, but that was just a fictional exaggeration. The truth is I bribed a loyal Italian servant and had myself delivered to Caesar in a sturdy sack, tied with string, and slung over my strong Sicilian servant’s shoulder.
I charmed Caesar with my exotic, alluring appearance, my wit, my persuasiveness, my ability to speak nine languages (I was the only one in my family who could also speak Egyptian), my intelligence, my humility (not really), and my unshakable belief that I was the daughter of the goddess, Isis. We fell in love the night we met and he reinstalled me as Egypt's queen.
Note: Cleo's brother/consort, Ptolemy XIII who was a teenager at that time, ordered the execution of Pompey the Great thinking this would please Caesar because they were in a civil war. But Caesar grieved over the death of Pompey who was his son-in-law (married to Caesar's daughter, Julia). Soon after Ptolemy XIII had a tragic accident and drowned in the Nile River. Hmmmmmm!
Cleopatra film Part Three
Cleopatra film Part Four
Cleopatra and Caesar
me – I know this is personal and you do not have to respond, but historians have conjectured that Caesar was your first … ?
Cleo – I could take the Fifth Amendment like many of your investment bankers and bank presidents, but yes, Julie-baby was my first love! He restored my throne but there was one condition. I had to marry my youngest brother, Ptolemy XIV, who was eleven at the time. Egyptian tradition, you know.
Caesar was infatuated with me as well as with my riches and extensive fleet of ships. And I needed him to accomplish my dream of a world empire. For our honeymoon, we took a Nile cruise for two months. The Oasis of the Seas cruise ship hadn't been built yet. I became pregnant almost immediately and our sweet son, Ptolemy Caesar was born in 47 B.C. We called him Caesarion or little Caesar.
me - Wasn't Caesar already married?
Cleo - Yes, but we were so in love he brought me, our son, and my entourage to Rome to live with him. This offended the conservative Republicans in the Senate - yes, we had them then, too. Caesar openly claimed Caesarion as his son and declared we would be married despite the laws in Rome against bigamy and marriages to foreigners.
Books about Julius Caesar
The Ides of March
me - What happened on that date?
Cleo - My whole world came crashing down on March 15, 44 B.C. Due to a conspiracy by his Senators led by Brutus, Caesar was assassinated outside the Senate Building in Rome. They thought he was a threat to the Republic and was planning to be declared a king. I returned to Alexandria because he had not mentioned either me or our son in his will and I believed we were both in great danger.
me - What did you do when you returned to Egypt?
Cleo - My first order of the day was to lose my consort, Ptolemy XIV. I never asked questions but I believe he was poisoned. Then I established my son, Ptolemy XV Caesarion, who was three years old as my co-ruler.
Finally, I did extensive research - I certainly could have used the Internet if we had one - to learn who would be the next powerful ruler in Rome. There was only one answer. Marcus Antonius - Mark Antony!
me - I remember reading that Mark Antony summoned you to gauge your loyalty to the Roman Empire.
Cleo - On stage, do you know how important it is to make an unforgettable entrance?
me - Such as?
Cleo - I decided to make an entrance Mark Antony would never forget. I had a large barge painted entirely in gold paint with a gold canopy. I was dressed as Venus wearing a flowing, diaphanous gown. The oarsmen were my handmaidens in sea sprite costumes. Half-naked young slaves with amazing abs wielded large fans over my recumbent form. We sailed the Red Sea in a cloud of enticing incense.
me - Did your theatrics work?
Cleo - Antony was overwhelmed to put it mildly. We did some serious partying for three months and he fell madly in love with me.
I was pregnant with twins when I returned to Egypt. Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene were born in 40 B.C.and Antony and I were married in 36 B.C. - the same year our third child, Ptolemy Philadelphus, was born.
me - Why did Antony marry Octavia when his wife, Fulvia, died?
Cleo - For political reasons, what else? Antony shared control of the Roman Empire with Octavian who was Caesar's grand-nephew and adopted son. Antony.agreed to marry Octavia, the sister of Octavian, to strengthen their relationship. They had two daughters - both named Antonia.Then Antony finally came home to me, the love of his life, and we arranged a marriage ceremony in 36 B.C.
Beginning of the End
me - What angered Octavian?
Cleo - Antony formally restored to me and Egypt the territory which we had lost control of. He left his new wife, Octavia, and daughters in Rome and moved into my palace as the resident consort.Then he officially recognized Caesarion as the son of Julius Caesar and proclaimed him the "King of kings." That was the straw that broke the camel's back - an old Egyptian saying. Octavian saw himself as the king of kings.
Antony's close relationship with me raised Roman concerns over his loyalties, and Octavian used that Roman resentment to gain support for a war against Antony and me. What was in it for Octavian? He was later named Emperor Augustus, ruler of the Roman and Egyptian Empires.
Books about Antony and Cleopatra
Cleopatra film Part Five
me - Forgive me, Cleo, if I am being insensitive but how did Antony die?
Cleo - After a fierce naval battle with Octavian's Roman forces near Actium, Greece, Antony and his men retreated back to Alexandria. There he fought bravely against a superior army to defend Egypt. As a last resort, we had planned an exile in a resort - like Dubai or Palm Springs or Boca Raton. But Antony received a message that I was dead and gave himself a mortal wound with his sword.
The rumor, of course, was false - planted by a member of Octavian's press corps - but it was too late to save Antony. I sent my son, Caesarion, to safety in India.The last thing I wanted was a humiliating return to Rome as Octavian's prize prisoner. On August 12, 30 B.C., I did the only thing possible. I committed suicide with the aid of an asp - a poisonous snake.
me - I have always wondered. Why an asp? Surely, that must have been painful. Why not a more painless death by poison?
Cleo - Our Egyptian beliefs at the time promised that death by snake bite would ensure immortality. I would live with the Gods - from whom I was descended. A deadly asp hidden in a large basket of figs was smuggled into the mausoleum I had built for myself. It did the job for me and my two handmaidens.
me - it also provided you the immortality you sought. Who can forget Cleopatra? One last question, my dear Cleo, what was your secret for attracting as lovers the two most powerful men in the Roman Empire?
Cleo - I can best answer that with a quote from Bill Shakespeare:
“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety; other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies ,,,”
me - Truer words were never spoken, er ... written. Ciao, Cleo.
Caesarion was lured back to Alexandria with the false promise of the kingdom of Egypt and executed by Octavian’s soldiers. Octavian wanted no competition for the Roman and Egyptian thrones. He was following the advice of Arius Didymus, the Greek philosopher who had said, “Too many Caesars is not good."
Cleopatra's children with Mark Antony were brought to Rome to be cared for by Antony's wife, Octavia.
Cleopatra's two sons would have posed a threat to Octavian when they became of age and were either murdered or died from illness.
Her daughter, Cleopatra Selene, survived, and was married to King Juba II of Numidia in Africa. The newlyweds were given the territory of Mauretania (present day Algeria) as a wedding present from Octavian.
© Copyright BJ Rakow 2010, 2011. All rights reserved.
Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So"