Cleopatra: Egypt's Last Pharaoh

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• Part 2: Return to Power
Part 3: In the End

Ancient Egypt

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Part 1: The Early Years

Hers is one of the most recognizable names in all of human history. She was a female ruler in a time of male kings. Her beauty was said to have brought the world's most powerful men to their knees. She was Cleopatra.

Cleopatra was the name of several women in ancient Egypt. The most famous one was Cleopatra VII, born in 69 B.C. in Alexandria. Her father was Ptolemy XII, who was pharaoh when Cleopatra was born.

When young Cleopatra was only 11, her father lost his throne. The Egyptian people, angry at this cruel treatment of him, gathered together and forced him to leave. He fled to Rome. Three years later, Ptolemy XII was back on the throne, with the help of Pompey, a famous Roman general.

The leader of the Egyptian people while Ptolemy was gone was his own daughter, Berenice. The oldest of his children, she seized control and ruled for three years. During this time, one of her younger sisters, Cleopatra VI, mysteriously died. The other, younger Cleopatra survived, however, and became the heir to the throne when her father turned and had her sister Berenice killed.

Ptolemy died in 51 B.C. The throne now belonged to Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XII. It was the custom in those days for the oldest child to inherit the throne. Egypt didn't pass over female children, as did later European and Asian countries, and so Cleopatra was thought of as pharaoh. It was also the custom in those days for brother and sister to marry, so Cleopatra and Ptolemy did just that. Ptolemy was only 12 at the time and Cleopatra was 17, so she assumed control of the Egyptian throne.

Cleopatra's brother and husband, Ptolemy XIII, eventually grew jealous of his wife's power and wanted the throne all to himself. He got an army of men together and forced Cleopatra to leave, exiling her to nearby Syria.

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