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Ten things you might not know about Cleopatra

I have a confession to make. Most of what I know about the ancient Greece and Rome comes from watching the classic TV show Xena: Warrior Princess. Xena not only encounters Julius Caesar, Pompeius, and Octavian in her adventures, but Marc Antony (Marcus Antonius) and Cleopatra as well. Obviously, the writers use ample creative license, so when I sat down to read Cleopatra by Duane W. Roller, I was eager to learn how the fictional Cleopatra and the historical one compared.

Below are ten things I learned.

1. Cleopatra was actually Cleopatra VII.

Whenever I think of the name Cleopatra, only one person comes to mind. However, there were six other Cleopatras before her, not including the original Cleopatra – Alexander the Great’s sister.

2. Cleopatra was a powerful and important woman; she didn’t need to “seduce” Caesar or Marcus Antonius.

There were many reasons why Caesar and Marcus Antonius had a sexual relationship with Cleopatra. First, political relations between Rome and Egypt went back generations – it was in both of their interests to maintain close relationships. Moreover, it was common for Caesar and Marcus Antonius to have liaisons with royal women; the only difference was that Cleopatra was not shy about the paternity of her children. After Caesar’s death, Cleopatra needed to maintain a close relationship with Marcus Antonius because he controlled the eastern Roman Empire, her geographical neighbor. Likewise, after Marcus Antonius lost control of this area, he had to rely on Cleopatra’s wealth and power.

3. Cleopatra was a writer; she wrote a medical treatise called, Cosmetics.

Image Credit: ‘Ancient Roman Sculpture in the Antikensammlung, Berlin – Cleopatra VII’, Photo by Sailko, CC by 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

It may have been called ‘Cosmetics’, but this was no Cosmo article. It was a medical and pharmacological work including several remedies for hair loss and dandruff.

4. Cleopatra murdered two of her siblings.

Cleopatra had Marcus Antonius kill her younger sister, Arsinoë IV when it became apparent that opposition forces were rallying around her. Her brothers, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, both ruled with her for a short time; however, Ptolemy XIII died in an ensuing battle while Cleopatra allegedly poisoned Ptolemy XIV after the birth of her son, Caesarion. While these actions seem brutal, this makes Cleopatra no different than any other ruler. For example, Octavian went on to murder Cleopatra’s son and Marcus Antonius’s son to ensure his own power.

5. Cleopatra was in Rome when Caesar was assassinated.

Romans were not particularly enthralled with Caesar’s relationship with Cleopatra and her visit probably provided the final impetus to remove Caesar.

6. Cleopatra had four children – only one survived to adulthood.

Cleopatra’s first child was a son by Caesar. She also had twins, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, as well as another son, Ptolemy Philadelphos, all by Marcus Antonius. Cleopatra Selene eventually became the Queen of Mauretania.

7. Cleopatra successfully expanded her kingdom.

While Caesar and Marcus Antonius granted her requests for new land, it was also in Rome’s best interest for Cleopatra to control local areas. Rome actively sought alliances with friendly kings to manage these areas with Rome’s interests in mind.

8. Cleopatra was not friendly with Herod, King of Judea.

The same Herod that sought the baby Jesus, was in a constant power struggle with Cleopatra.

9. Cleopatra was most likely a Roman citizen.

Rome would often confer citizenship upon allied kings. Marcus Antonius could have bestowed citizenship upon Cleopatra if she didn’t have it already. Many of Cleopatra’s ancestors could have had citizenship as well and their citizenship would have passed to her.

10. It’s unclear that Cleopatra died from an asp’s bite.

While death by snake bite wasn’t unheard of in Cleopatra’s time, it probably wasn’t the most effective method. She could have administered poison through a needle which could have been mistaken for an asp’s bite.

Featured Image Credit: ‘The meeting of Antony and Cleopatra’, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1885). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Recent Comments

  1. Andrea

    Makes me feel bad that Cleopatra had four kids and only one survived to adulthood.

  2. Kaylee wulff

    I’m one of cleopatras biggest fans I found out about her when I was just a mere child l. She was a powerful women with good intentions for her people, she would have made Egypt florish with riches and more power and land than it already had!

  3. bijay chanda

    if Cleopatra had four sons and one survived, what happened to the others?

  4. Eliana

    I luv cleopatra shes one of earths greatest rulers. She is my role model

  5. Jameela

    thanks for the info, the whole of Y6 will know this site!

  6. Jameela

    love Cleo, I’m going to dress as her it my school trip

  7. Serena Debesa

    One of my fav Queens of all time!

  8. Hailey-Ann

    Why did she murder two of her siblings????????


  9. Andres

    I don’t get it.Why did she murdered her own siblings.

  10. adriana salido

    my god i knew half of this information already….and why would she kill her own broand sis?…….-.-

  11. Elaine

    She killed her siblings because of power. For example, her brother Ptolemy XIV was about 10 when they came into power together. After becoming a mistress of Caesar she had him kill her brother so she could be the ruler of Egypt with her son Caesarion.

  12. Mona

    this was very helpful in a research booklet.

  13. Cleopatra

    I was named after Cleopatra. I am thinking of naming my next daughter the same. I had thought this before I read the article. Very interesting..

  14. Chloee

    This site was so very very helpful when my group and i had to create a prezi all about cleopatra and it was one of our most important sites for info


  15. Chloee

    she murdered her siblings so that she could rule egypt you morons

  16. Perfect Man

    I adore Cleo, the best woman! Helen of Sparta sucks, compared to her, I like such type of women, being smart they do not have to take their clothes off to seduce. I actually know the way they seduce men from here blog.shagaholic.com/

  17. B.R.K.Pradeep

    But what about the descender of cleopatra.I heard son of cleopatra was sent to India.Is this correct ?

  18. >.

    thats really cool i am doing a report on her for school and this is really helping!

  19. Cleopatra

    im going to be cleopatra for my project in LA and I am
    learning really weird stuff about her…

  20. Shamima Mita

    I just love Cleopatra VII. She is fantastic. All the qualities of her character still now rare in todays world.

  21. Augusto Sera

    The story of cleofatra gives proof to the saying ALL IS FAIR IN LOVE


    I am a decendent of Cleopatra I just found that out

  23. leslie

    what happened to the other sons

  24. lk jangre

    i want to go in cleopatra ‘s time

  25. sherin varghese

    what happened to the other three sons she had?

  26. sherin varghese

    how did Julius Ceaser die?

  27. Lillyanna Clark

    Ugg I’m trying to do a report and these are all very good facts but I already got those facts. 😡 So sorry but I need diffrent facts.

  28. alex

    do you think that Cleo needed to get with both of the men?

  29. Jim

    “How did Julius Caesar die? ?” One of the most famous assassinations in history!! Beware the Ides of March mean anything?? A tu Brutis??

  30. melanie and jannah

    My and my friend think this website has a whole bunch of facts and we want to say thank you! thanks to u we might get a A+ on our project!

  31. Phon Wher

    how did she use her personal life to make Egypt one of the most powerful countries?

  32. Phon Wher

    did she really contribute much to Egypt?

  33. ritesh sahdev

    She Do not murdered her sibling .It was her brother who were trying to kill her.her brother love their beauty because in late Egypt brother and sister get married .so both brother were trying to get her heart. And her sister was jealous from his beautiness so they plan to murdered Cleopatra but eventually Cleopatra get knew about their planning and killed their Sibbling

  34. Abbey

    I see some stupid questions/ comments here, for example the most common one seems to be “what happened to her other sons?” This kills me since it literally says up there that only one of her children survived to adulthood so obviously they died and if you want to know the details, why not look it up instead of commenting about it? And also, “how did Julius Caesar die?”… I don’t think any explanation is needed for this one, how does someone not know how Julius Caesar died? Also, again, instead of commenting an asking about it, why not spend a couple of minutes looking it up? Some times I wonder…

  35. Kayla

    I agree with Andrea cause that is really sad to me i fell sorry that happend.

  36. Selina Clayton

    This was very helpful with the report I am doing. Thank you so much on helping me a lot with my report.

  37. Jennifer Espinoza

    I have always been impressed by Cleopatra since He was a child. Since my grandfather was a Greek immigrant I am so interested to hear that she was so Greek. I named my beautiful tabby cat Cleopatra because she has the most beautiful eyeliner like her.

  38. Amy

    I love Cleopatra VII except for the murder part😊

  39. Sasidhar reddy

    I feel she is one of the most powerful, seductress , great ruler and even a killer( killed her own siblings). How come she commit suicide ? What could be the reason made her to do so….

  40. Jens

    I guess i might learn some more when ubisoft releases Assassins creed origins.

    Thats what i love the most about the assassins creed games, its basically a documentary :)

    (except for the story of the character we play, thats all fictional).

    Actually got good grades in many history tests because of the games tho :)

  41. Cleo reincarnated

    She did not commit suicide. Why would she when she had a good life

  42. Jo jo

    What is Cleopatra’s friend called who is a girl

  43. Fred Hebbert

    Some suppositions are presented here as facts; Cleopatra DID need Julius Caesar since he was her means of gaining the throne.
    Cleopatra was almost certainly NOT in Rome at Caesar’s death. With siblings and other pretenders to her throne, she could hardly have been away in Rome (as is supposed from an ambiguous letter by Cicero). Otherwise, some interesting facts given. Another is that Octavian would have had to speak to her through an interpreter since she didn’t know Latin. Anthony and Julius C, as Patricians, would have spoken to her in Greek.

  44. Sara McAlpin

    Honestly I was adopted and because of that i didnt know much about my family at the time. i found out that on my biological side i am related to cleopatra. and my biological name is Allaya.

  45. Tim

    I have never known anything about Cleopatra. But thx to you, I know tons of new info! You guys are the best!!!👌🏻😎🤩😜😍😅❤️

  46. Spatacus

    Did y’all know cleopatra Vll & Julius C, son caesarion ruled Egypt for only 2 weeks? Murdered at age 17.

  47. Haaniya🙂

    Wow I still can’t believe that she murdered her sis and bro just to rule a kingdom 😯

  48. elizabeth

    i have to study cleopatra for school i jeez this woman was crazy

  49. Gwendolyn Rene' Hawthorn(home)

    Since I have been to Greece 🇬🇷 I did not see any proof that she came from this area. No pictures ,engraving or mention of her. But I did read that she is writing ✍️ on the walls of Egypt 🇪🇬. When I go to Africa I hope 🤞 to check this out. You can learn more when you go to the area which you speak of. Thanks 🙏🏿 for the info.

  50. Paulette

    Cleopatra was a great and learned diplomat. She spoke 7 or so languages and managed to keep Alexandra united and strong. Alexandria, to Rome’s consternation, had a larger library and was quite sophisticated compared to Rome. She should be remembered for her intellect and prowess as a leader, not her seductions.

  51. iajanay

    i love cleo she is the best

  52. Janesaw

    I love Cleo’s makeup and hair. If she was alive today she would be married to Elvis

  53. […] article is a glimpse of the article posted to OUPblog, which I highly recommend if you’re interested in […]

  54. Olga Greatorex

    Getting these factual insights into events which eventually led to Egypt’s final downfall, it amazes me how extremely selfish, self centered and vicious and cruel Cleopatra actually was. Sly and wily, and by accounts I have read, very intelligent and a linguist. So she had a good mind but her soul was really in a dark place.

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