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Cleopatra




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CLEOPATRA, the 7th (or 8th) and last Queen of Egypt, was born towards the end of 685 (B.C. 69). - This celebrated woman was the daughter of Ptolemy Auletes, and the sister and wife of Ptolemy (XII). Dionysius Neoterus, who was slain at the battle of Alexandria, fighting against Julius Caesar, in the year 797 (B.C. 47). Caesar, being enamoured of Cleopatra, gave her Ptolemy XIII (her brother), for a husband, to cover his own designs. But young Ptolemy was taken off by poison, or drowned in the Nile and Cleopatra began to reign alone in the year 712 (B.C. 42). The next year Arsinoe, sister of Cleopatra, was assassinated by command of Mark Antony, who has in turn become, after Caesar's death, the paramour of Cleopatra; and it was "for love" of her that this vain ambitious Roman acted as if he deemed "the world well lost". Antony having, at length divorced his wife Octavia, the sister of Augustus, a quarrel and a war ensued between those two unscrupulous men of clashing interests. - In 723 (B.C. 31), Cleopatra accompanied her lover to Actium with a fleet superbly equipped; and after his defeat fled to Alexandria, whereshe put an end to her life in 724 (B.C. 30), by the bite on an asp, in an unfinished Mausoleum (which had already served for the tomb of Antony), that she might not be led in triumph to Rome by the conqueror.  Augustus, however, determined at least to chain her golden image to his car; and after his triumph, he deposited it in the temple of Venus, of which, according to Dion, it was a principal ornament. 

Thus died one of the most captivating but most unprincipled of sovereign princesses, at the age of 39 years, of which she reigned seventeen.  With her fell the dynasty of the Ptolemies in Egypt, and indeed the Egyptian monarchy.

Cleopatra had a son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion, called Ptolemy; and three children by Mark Antony, viz., a son called Alexander, a daughter named after herself, who was afterwards betrothed to Juba the younger (see IVBA REX), and Ptolemy, surnamede Philadelphus.

"The leading points of Cleopatra's character were ambition and voluptuousness. But in all the stories of her luxury and lavish expense, there is a splendour and a grandeur that somewhat refines them. In the days of her prosperity her arrogance was unbounded. She was avaricious to supply her extravagance, and cruel, or at least had no regard for human life, when her own objects were concerned. Her talents were great and varied: her knowledge of different languages was peculiarly remarkable; and in the midst of her most luxurious scenes, proofs are to be traced of a love for literature and for critical research. She added the library of Pergamos to that of Alexandria. Her ready and versatile wit; her knowledge of human nature, and power of using it; her attractive manners, and her exquisitely musical and flexible voice, compared by Plutarch to a many-stringed instrument, are also the subject of well-attested praise.  The higher points in her charachter are admirably touched by Horace in the Ode (i. 37), on her defeat at Actium." - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, edited by W. Smith, LL. D.

There are coins of this Queen, both silver and brass, with both Latin and Greek legends, exhibitin her head, either alone or jugated with that of Mark Antony.  Amongst these are the two following:-

CLEOPATRAE, REGINAE REGVM, FILIORVM REGUM. - This legend appears on the reverse of a denarius of M. Antony, which also exhibits the head of Cleopatra, beside which is the prow of a ship, or a lituus. The obverse of this remarkable coin bears the head of Antony, behind which is the Armenian tiara, and round it M. ANTONI. ARMENIA DEVICTA.

Antony, having contrived to enveigle into his power Artavasdes, king of Armenia, deposed him and gave his crown and dominions to the son whom he (Antony) had by Cleopatra; to whom, in sacrifice of all justice and true policy, the infatuated triumvir stamped this reverse with her portrait, which has the appearance of neither youth nor beauty to recommend it.  He also gave her the title of (Regina regum, et filiorum regum, the word mater being under-stood) the queen of kings and the mother of the sons of kings.-For and engraving of this coin (not of Roman die)-see page 81 of this dictionary.

The testimony of Dion Cassius supports the fact, that, in a speech to the people of Alexandria, Mark Antony commanded that Cleopatra should be styled Queen of Kings, with right and title to Egypt and Cyprus. It is also recorded that, of his sons by Cleopatra, he bestowed Syria on Ptolemy, with all the territories bordering on the Hellespont; on Alexander Armenia, and whatever countries he might subdue beyond the Euphrates; and on his daughter Cleopatra the district of Cyrene.

2. Obv.-M. ANTONIUS IMP. COS. DESIG. ITER ET TERT. Heads of a man and woman side by side. 

Rev.- III. VIR. R. P. C. Bacchus standing on the cista between two serpents.  Silver of Mark Antony.-See Cistophori, p. 204 of this volume.

After having conquered Brutus, Antony made his entry into Ephesus, with a procession of men, women, and children, clothed as bacchantes and satyrs; crowned with ivy and bearing thyrsi.  Plutarch relates an account of these orgia, in which Mark Antony was honoured as a second Bacchus.-Antony repeated this folly till he came to the city of Alexandria, into which he made the same kind of entry, as Velleius Paterculus relates.  Antony's cistophori struck in Asia, were probably coined at Ephesus, which added to the others, this superior mark of adulation.

Eckhel has not pronounced on the doubt entertained by many numismatists, some of whom have attributed the female head to Octavia, and others to Cleopatra.  However, he thinks the latter would have been figured with a crowned head, if it had been meant for her.

It was in 720 (B.C. 34) that Antony united the finest provinces of Asia and Africa to his other conquests; and the coinage of Cleopatra could not be associated with his own till the year 722, when peace was broken between the triumviri. He was named consul for the third time, in 730. The woman's head on the cista may thereore be that of Octavia, and the diademed head joined to his, that of Cleopatra. (See Dict, Num. vol iv. p66 et seq.). See also Biographical Summary of M. Antonius, and notice of his mintages, pp. 57, 58, 59, of this Dictionary.


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