The Real Reason Cleopatra Killed Herself

In the annals of world history the story of
Cleopatra VII stands among the most fascinating tales ever told. Admired for her divine beauty and her unconquerable
intelligence, as well as famous for her relationships with the Roman generals Mark Antony and Julius
Caesar, the name Cleopatra is forever written into the fabric of the human narrative. Though at the age 39 she took her own life,
and today we’ll find out why. Cleopatra VII Philopator was born sometime
between 69 BC – 68 BC, a long time after Alexander the Great took control of Egypt in 332 B.C. Following Alexander’s death, one of his
generals, Ptolemy the first, would come to rule over Egypt. Ptolemy had been a great friend of the Macedonian
ruler Alexander, and when Egypt became part of his empire Ptolemy became pharaoh. But let’s fast forward a bit. Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII, died in
51 BC, and after that Cleopatra along with her 10-year old brother, Ptolemy XIII, became
the rulers of Egypt. The two were married, a tradition back then
that was unavoidable. As the story goes, though, Cleopatra fled
to Syria in 49 B.C, after her brother’s advisers plotted against her. It’s said there she got together an army
of mercenaries and did her own plotting to return to Egypt and take back power. At around this time the Roman general Pompey
was in battle with the Roman leader Gaius Julius Caesar. Pompey was defeated at the battle of Pharsalus
in 48 BC and then fled to Egypt. Things didn’t go to well there for him as
Ptolemy gave the order to assassinate him. Caesar then went over to the Egyptian capital
Alexandria, with Ptolemy believing he had done a good deed by killing Caesar’s rival. Perhaps myth, perhaps the truth, the story
goes that Cleopatra sneaked into the quarters of Caesar and asked him for his help to defeat
her brother. She must have said something right, because
war between Caesar’s Roman forces and Ptolemy’s forces ensued. The latter lost and he had to flee the city
and it’s believed Ptolemy ended up drowning in the Nile river. After this Caesar restored the throne to Cleopatra
and she took it with her younger brother Ptolemy XIV who was then 13. Cleopatra then bore Caesar a child, but he
never publicly admitted it was his. This child would be named Caesarion, sometimes
called Little Caesar. Cleopatra followed Caesar to Rome, where as
you probably know, he was assassinated, being stabbed 23 times by a group of Roman senators. Cleopatra didn’t hang around Rome after
that and she returned to Egypt. Ptolemy XIV died young, and the circumstances
were said to be mysterious. So now we have Cleopatra as ruler with her
son, Caesarion, as co-regent. He became Ptolemy XV and to strengthen her
position as leader, Cleopatra began to identify herself with the goddess Isis. Royalty in Egypt and all over the world have
claimed links to the divine as it gives them more power and a stronger claim to their thrones. It seemed that Cleopatra now had a firm hold
on her position as ruler. But things were never easy for Cleopatra. Her people were hit hard when flooding of
the Nile led to the destruction of crops. What followed were rising prices and a lot
of hungry people. Meanwhile in Rome three men allied to the
great now-dead Caesar, Mark Antony, Octavian and Lepidus, were busy butting heads with
the people that plotted to kill him. Both sides wanted the help of Cleopatra and
she made the decision to send four Roman legions that had previously been taken to Egypt by
Caesar to go to Rome and support the three men, often referred to as the second triumvirate. The combined forces defeated those who had
plotted against Caesar at the battle of Philippi in 42 BC. Mark Antony and Octavian then divided power. Antony invited Cleopatra to the Cilician city
of Tarsus, and as the story goes she sailed into the city on a beautiful ship. Antony was to welcome Cleopatra with open
arms because of the role she had played in helping him. It’s said she sailed while dressed in the
robes of the Goddess Isis. Like Caesar, Antony saw the mesmerizing lady
and soon fell in love with her. He pledged his support to her and also said
he would help her defeat her rivals. One of those rivals was her exiled sister,
Arsinoe. In fact, Antony was so seduced by the charms
of Cleopatra that he ended up leaving his wife and kids in Rome and sailed for Egypt. At the same time Antony was having a dispute
with Octavian over who would have the most power in Rome. After the Battle of Philippi the two had virtually
split the Roman republic between them, with the third part of the triumvirate, Lepidus,
seemingly getting the short end of the stick. Meanwhile, Antony was enjoying his time with
Cleopatra. The two spent the winter of 41-40 B.C. in
Alexandria, and there they got busy. During this time Antony gave back some Roman
territories to Cleopatra, and in return she pledged to provide him with 200 ships for
his campaign against the Parthian Empire. Antony left to fight his battles and the two
would not see each other for a few years, but they managed to stay connected in their
own ways, it’s said she had spies based in his camp and they also wrote to each other
with some regularity. Cleopatra had two children, one a boy named
Alexander Helios and the other a girl named Cleopatra Selene II, both of whom Antony said
were his. The boy was named after the sun and the girl
the moon, which was symbolic of Cleopatra’s power. Even though Antony had left his wife Fulvia
along with his kids for the arms of Cleopatra, she was determined to get him back. Some claim she started a war with his arch
enemy Octavian which came to be known as the Perusine War. Other historians say the war would have started
regardless and it had nothing to do with her impressing her husband. His wife and her armies didn’t fair well,
and she ended up exiled. Tragically, it’s said she died on the way
to try and meet up with her estranged husband again. Things then turned a bit sour for Antony with
some of his key allies changing their allegiance to Octavian, and Antony forced to make up
with Octavian. To do that he married Octavian’s half-sister
Octavia. This wasn’t about love, but mere diplomacy. Over in Egypt, though, life under Cleopatra
was booming. The people were happy and she had a firm hold
on her power. Antony needed her help again in his fight
against the kingdom of Parthia and in return he awarded her and her children some territories,
ones the Romans had taken from Egypt. These included bits of Syria, Lebanon, and
Cyprus, Crete and what’s called Libya today. When the two met again, Antony got to see
his kids for the first time. They discussed her conflict with a man called
Herod, and his campaigns. Their love reignited, and with her new territories,
Cleopatra had never been stronger. But over in Rome, Octavian was stirring up
trouble. Why, he asked, is this foreign queen being
given so much power. This nettled the public as well as those in
charge. Octavian was sly, and told the people that
Antony had forsaken his own good wife and fallen into the arms of another. He then made a shrewd move and gave Antony’s
deceased wife a lot of respect, including having statues built of her. Cleopatra meanwhile was travelling with Antony
while he and his army were on their way to do battle with the Parthian Empire. On the way she became pregnant again and later
had to return home to Egypt to have the child. The boy would be named Ptolemy Philadelphus. Antony’s Parthian campaign meanwhile, didn’t
go well at all, and he lost many thousands of troops and then retreated to modern day
Beirut in Lebanon. There he and his remaining troops waited for
Cleopatra and her troops to come and help them. She arrived and he decided that rather than
return to Rome with his head down and face his many enemies there, he would instead go
to Alexandria with his beloved Cleopatra. There he got himself ready again to return
to battle with the Parthian Empire, and even Octavian sent him some troops from Rome to
help him. It was rumored though that Octavian had only
done this to embarrass Antony, using it as a sign of one-upmanship. Octavian now was very powerful, and he managed
to convince the people of Rome and all those with power that Antony was going to join with
Cleopatra and leave Rome for good and start a new capital in Egypt. It wasn’t long until the Roman Senate took
away all of Antony’s titles. It was now just Antony and Cleopatra together,
and in 32 BC Octavian declared war against Cleopatra. This didn’t go well for her, and in 31 BC
at the Battle of Actium, Antony and Cleopatra’s forces were easily beaten by Octavian’s
armies. Both fled to Egypt, but there the couple parted
ways. Antony went off to try and raise more troops,
and Cleopatra went to Alexandria. Soon after, Octavian decided it was time to
invade Egypt. He was helped by Herod, but Antony also turned
up in Alexandria and won one small battle with Octavian’s troops at the city’s hippodrome. What happened next sounds quite brutal, and
we may never know exactly how it happened. It’s said that Antony was eventually defeated
and held captive by Octavian, while Cleopatra locked herself in a tomb with her closest
allies and comrades. There she sent a message to Antony saying
that she had committed suicide. Her plan was to burn herself along with all
her treasure. She didn’t actually do this, though. Antony read the message and he either fell
on his sword to take his own life or perhaps just stabbed himself in the stomach with a
knife. According to the historian Plutarch, Antony
didn’t immediately die and was taken to that tomb and to his beloved Cleopatra where
he died in her arms at the age of 53. Cleopatra was then captured by Octavian’s
forces before she had the opportunity to follow in Mark Antony’s footsteps, but she was
at least allowed to embalm Antony and bury him in her tomb before being taken into captivity. Cleopatra was then held captive by Octavian,
and it’s said she told him to his face that she would not be walked around with him and
forced to look at how triumphant he had been. He decided not to kill her, and she found
out from a spy that Octavian was indeed planning to take her and her kids to Rome so she could
be paraded through the streets as the great queen that he had defeated. It was then she decided enough is enough,
I won’t let that happen, and in August 30 BC she did in fact take her own life in her
palace with her servants doing the same. Popular stories suggest she allowed a highly
venomous snake like an asp to bite her, but it’s more likely she did it herself using
a sharp pin covered in poison. Octavian wasn’t happy of course, having
lost his chance to march a captured queen through the streets of Rome, but he did at
least allow her to be buried with her former lover, Antony. And so ends the life of a great woman. So great, in fact, that her story became an
enduring real life myth that has lasted two thousand years right to today. What do you think about this tragic love story? Tell us in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other video
Why Life During The Dark Ages Sucked. Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t
forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time.

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