Today in World History: August 12th

Following the death of Julius Caesar, a three way war broke out in the Roman Empire. One of three claimants to the throne, Mark Antony, was a previous close friend of Caesar and one of his most trusted generals. Upon the civil war’s eruption, he sought out an alliance between himself, and Cleopatra VII, a lover of Caesar, the mother of Caesarion, Caesar’s son, and Queen of Egypt. Cleopatra was of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, but unlike the rest of her Greek-speaking family, she spoke Egyptian as well. She was the most powerful woman in the world at the time, and she soon became Mark Antony’s lover as well. She birthed him twins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and then a son, Ptolemy Philadelphus. Unfortunately, by this time, 31 B.C.E., the war was not going well for Antony, and in 30 B.C.E., Octavian, Caesar’s chosen heir, was marching towards Egypt. Upon the threat of Octavian’s armies, Antony’s men deserted him, and joined Octavian’s legions. Roman historian Plutarch tells of the death of Cleopatra and Antony. Following the defeat of Antony’s forces, Cleopatra feared the wrath of Antony, who allegedly accused her of betrayal following the desertion of his troops. She barricaded herself away, and sent word to Antony of her death. Distraught, Antony, stabbed himself in the stomach, only to hear that Cleopatra was in fact, alive. He was then carried to her, where he died in her arms. Where he died in Cleopatra’s arms.

Fearing that Cleopatra would commit suicide and he would lose control over the Egyptian populace, Octavian made sure she was watched at all times. However, Cleopatra managed to outsmart him, sneaking in a venomous snake, an asp. Sending word to Octavian that she wished to be buried next to Antony, Cleopatra let the snake, or some say two, bite her, on this day in 30 B.C.E. after twelve years on the throne. Octavian’s men arrived to see her dead. Caesarion was proclaimed by the Egyptians as the next Pharaoh, but Octavian managed to capture and kill him. Cleopatra’s other three children were sent back to Rome, ending the line of Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt and the line of Pharaohs. Also regarded as the most beautiful woman in the Ancient World, the mausoleum in which she was buried alongside Antony has never been found, and the circumstances of her death remain contested to this day.


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