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Index and Timeline Egyptian Religious Texts Death of Cleopatra Dynasties and Major Pharaohs  


The Death of Cleopatra, Egypt’s Last Pharaoh

Cleopatra was the last pharaoh of Egypt. She died in 30 BC and Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire.

Octavian waited for a year before he attacked Egypt as a Roman province. He arrived in Alexandria and easily defeated Mark Antony outside the city, near present day Camp Cosar. Both she and Antony sent bribes to Octavian asking him to leave them in peace, but none were successful.

Cleopatra took refuge in the mausoleum she had built for herself. Cleopatra built a mausoleum where she amassed her wealth and planned to spend eternity.

On the approach of Octavian, Antony, deceived by a false report of the death of the queen, committed suicide. Antony, informed that Cleopatra was dead he, in true Roman fashion, fell upon his sword in 30 BC.

Soon another messenger arrived, saying Cleopatra still lived. Antony insisted on being carried to her and died in her arms.

Octavian was nearing Egypt and on hearing this sent messages claiming she would be treated well when captured because he feared that she would set fire to her valuable, collected items.

When Octavian finally came in 30 B.C., Cleopatra shut herself in her mausoleum with her two servants, Iras and Charmion.

When Octavian and his men reached her monument Cleopatra refused to let them in. She negotiated with them through the barred door, demanding that her kingdom be given to her children. Octavian ordered one man to keep her talking while others set up ladders and climbed through the window. When Cleopatra saw the men she pulled out a dagger and tried to stab herself, but she was disarmed and taken prisoner. Her children were also taken prisoner and were treated well.

Octavian allowed Cleopatra to arrange Antony's funeral. She buried him with royal splendor. After the funeral she took to her bed, sick with grief. She wanted to kill herself, but Octavian kept her under close guard. One day he visited her and she flung herself at his feet, nearly naked, and told him she wanted to live. Octavian was lulled into a false sense of security.

Cleopatra was determined to die - perhaps because she had lost Mark Antony, perhaps because she knew Octavian intended to humiliate her, as her sister Arsinoe had been humiliated, by marching her through Rome in chains. With Octavian's permission she visited Antony's tomb. Then she returned to her mausoleum, took a bath, and ordered a feast. While the meal was being prepared a man arrived at her monument with a basket of figs. The guards checked the basket and found nothing suspicious, so they allowed the man to deliver it to Cleopatra.

After she had eaten, Cleopatra wrote a letter, sealed it, and sent it to Octavian. He opened it and found Cleopatra's plea that he would allow her to be buried in Antony's tomb. Alarmed, Octavian sent messengers to alert her guards that Cleopatra planned to commit suicide. But it was too late. They found the 39-year old queen dead on her golden bed, with her maid Iras dying at her feet. Her other maid, Charmion, was weakly adjusting Cleopatra's crown. "Was this well done of your lady, Charmion?" one of the guards demanded.

"Extremely well," said Charmion, "as became the descendent of so many kings.” And she too fell over dead.

Two pricks were found on Cleopatra's arm, and it was believed that she had allowed herself to be bitten by an asp (a kind of poisonous snake) that was smuggled in with the figs. As she had wished, she was buried beside Antony.

Cleopatra was the last pharaoh; after her death Egypt became a Roman province. Because Caesarion was Julius Caesar's son and might pose a threat to Octavian's power, Octavian had the boy strangled by his tutor. Cleopatra's other children were sent to Rome to be raised by Octavia. Cleopatra Selene married King Juba II of Mauretania and had two children, Ptolemy and Drusilla. No one knows what happened to Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus. •• Freewalt Family •• Search •• Terms of Use

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