Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cleopatra VII: Julius Caesar

Cleopatra and Julius Caesar in one of the movies
You can't really blame Cleopatra's "husband" for not trusting his big sister. Firstly, Cleopatra had tried to pretend that Ptolemy didn't exist and ruled on her own. Then, during the time when she had taken refuge, she became an opportunist when news about the war between Pompey and Julius Caesar broke out. With the support from Julius Caesar, Cleopatra had the upper hand.

So how did she do it?

To start with, Pompey and Julius Caesar were two of the most powerful men in Rome at that time, and Pompey was Julius Caesar's son in law, for he married Julius' only child and daughter, Julia, who then died of childbirth (which leaves Julius Caesar without any child). Unfortunately, the relationship between Julius and Pompey ended with a war against each other.

Despite being old enough to be Cleopatra's father (Julius was 52 and she was 17), Julius was attracted to Cleopatra. As far as Cleopatra was concerned, he was the most powerful Roman alive; however, descriptions of him say that he was an attractive man. As for Caesar, it is no wonder he found Cleopatra attractive. This is an account from Plutarch (historian) about Cleopatra:-
"Her actual beauty was not in itself so remarkable; it was the impact of her spirit that was irresistible. The attraction of her person, joined with the charm of her conversation and the characteristic intelligence of all that she said and did, was bewitching. It was a delight merely to hear the sound of her voice. As if this were an instrument of many strings, she could pass from one language to another, so that in her interviews with barbarians she seldom required an interpreter."

Relationship

In the war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, Pompey had been defeated and ran off to Egypt. Since Pompey was a friend of Egypt, he did not hesitate to trust King Ptolemy. Unfortunately, King Ptolemy had switched sides and decided to behead Pompey in order to please Julius Caesar. The King of Egypt thought that Caesar would be happy with such a ghastly gift, but when Caesar arrived in Egypt and saw the severed head of Pompey, he was furious. Caesar said, "I may have had my differences with Pompey, but you had no business killing him. You seem to have forgotten that he was still a Roman leader."
Meanwhile, the opportunist Cleo was desperate to get in touch with Julius Caesar, especially since her brother was a disgrace in the eyes of Caesar for killing Pompey. Therefore, in order to meet Julius Caesar, she had decided to risk her life by being rolled up in a carpet that would be delivered in the Egyptian palace. In due time, Caesar was impressed by the clever young Queen followed by her carpet trick.

their rendezvous
Shortly afterwards, Julius Caesar and Cleopatra became a couple. Despite this, Julius Caesar announced to the Egyptian people that  Ptolemy XIV and Cleopatra VII are to be the King and Queen of Egypt (note: this Ptolemy is the younger Ptolemy, which means Cleo's second husband/brother; the elder Ptolemy had been killed during a rebellion which had caused the burning of the great library of Alexandria). This may just be for practical purposes because he already had a Roman wife and he needed to please both the Romans and Egyptians. Both Caesar and Cleo then went on a river cruise down the Nile river which showed the people that Egypt and the Roman Empire were allies. Caesar then sailed back to Rome and took Cleo's youngest sister Arsinoe along with him (as a prisoner, because she had once instigated a rebellion against Cleopatra).
Cleopatra and Arsinoe

While in Rome, Caesar had a life-size statue of Cleopatra built. Cleopatra had also given birth to his son named Caesarion. Cleopatra then arrived in Rome as a visiting Queen that same year, along with her kid-brother husband and son. Julius Caesar, along with the rest of Rome, was surprised. His wife Calpurnia, on the other hand, was not pleased.

Julius Caesar's death
Julius Caesar murdered in Ides of March.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT JULIUS CAESAR'S ASSASSINATION
Cleopatra isn't the only one who knew that Julius Caesar was fed up with the Republic system in Rome. Many of the fellow senators knew it too, and most of them weren't pleased because they felt that Cleopatra's influence had made him a megalomaniac. They all blamed Cleopatra for brainwashing Caesar and they all believed that Caesar was already gaining too much power. Hence, in order to prevent Caesar from abolishing the Roman Republic and make himself Emperor of Rome and whatnot, some of the senates had devised a plan to assassinate Julius Caesar.

In the spring of 44BC, Caesar was about to go off to war again. If he was to win that war and conquered Parthia, it would mean that he had ruled as much of the world as Alexander the Great had. Knowing that he would be gone for a long time, Cleopatra had decided to return to Egypt. Two days before he was due to leave, he was stabbed to death by some of his fellow senators as he made his way to the Senate.

After Caesar's Death

Cleopatra's protector is now dead, and Caesar's great-nephew named Octavius was made his successor. This meant bad news for Cleo because for one, Octavius didn't like the prospects of having Caesar's mistress nor Caesar's illegitimate child as a future threat. Two, Cleo would never be able to make a conquest out of Octavius for he was rather uptight and was never impressed with her to begin with. Would she be able to keep her throne?

Said carvings
Back home in Egypt, there was a famine and the people were dying from diseases. Even young Ptolemy/Cleo's husband/Cleo's youngest brother, who became increasingly stroppy about his rights, took ill and died. This meant that out of all of Cleo's siblings, the only one who was alive was Arsinoe (Caesar had taken her as prisoner in Rome, remember?).

To celebrate the fact that Cleo's son was now made her co-ruler, Cleo had huge figures carved at the temple at Denderah. One was herself (Goddess Isis), and the other, a grown up Caesarion.
Cleopatra worked hard in ruling her country. Aside from paying off Egypt's debts to Rome-- for the first time in generations-- Egypt's economy was improving. This eventually made her popular and well-liked by both the Alexandrians and the "real Egyptians."

to be continued in next post.

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