William Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra
The last Pharaoh of Egypt and the dashing Roman general
by David Johnson
One of the most famous women in history, Cleopatra VII was the brilliant and beautiful last Pharaoh of Egypt. Although she is often portrayed as a femme fatale, Cleopatra was deeply religious and studied to be a nun. An accomplished mathematician and gifted linguist fluent in nine languages, Cleopatra was also skilled politician popular with her people.
She married her younger brother, Ptolemy, and she became the mistress of the Roman general Julius Caesar. Following Caesar's death, Roman general Marc Antony went to Egypt to advance the growing power of Rome. Cleopatra captivated Antony. Their affair scandalized Roman society and bothered Roman politicians, who were suspicious of Egypt's power.
Yet despite the risks, Antony and Cleopatra married in 36 B.C. The couple planned to conquer Rome. But in 31 B.C. the Roman general Octavian destroyed the combined forces of Antony and Cleopatra in the battle of Actium. Hearing a false report that Cleopatra was dead, Antony fell on his sword. With no hope left, Cleopatra induced a poisonous asp to bite her.
Four thousand years of glorious Pharaonic rule was finally finished. Egypt became a Roman province. Octavian (later Augustus) became the first Roman Emperor, launching a new era in history.