Cleopatra VII, the daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes (“Flute Player”), upon her father’s death uneasily shared the throne with her brother Ptolemy XIII. Their sibling rivalry of these co-rulers soon involved Rome. Julius Caesar, pursuing Pompey the Great there after the battle of Pharsalus in 49 BC, found his rival executed on the orders of the young Ptolemy, who believed that such an act would endear him to Caesar. Caesar, however, was outraged; instead, he joined with Cleopatra. By the end of the year, Caesar secured for Cleopatra both the capital and sole-rulership of Egypt. In return, Cleopatra bore Caesar a son, Ptolemy XV, nicknamed Caesarion, and in 46 BC accompanied Caesar with their child to Rome to witness his triumph. During her stay there, numerous rumors circulated about their affair: some believed that the statue of Venus Genetrix in the temple of Caesar’s new forum too closely resembled the Egyptian queen, while others thought that Caesar intended to marry her outright. When Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, Cleopatra, fearing for her own safety and that of her child, fled back to Alexandria to await the outcome of events.
In the ensuing struggle which emerged between Antony and Octavian, Cleopatra sided with Antony. Where Cleopatra’s relationship with Caesar had been more political than romantic, her relationship with Antony seemed to be one of mutual love, and she bore him twins, Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios. Antony’s return to Italy in 39 BC, to secure an alliance with Octavian, and his marriage to Octavian’s sister, Octavia, seriously jeopardized his relations with Cleopatra. When returned to the Egypt in 37 BC to prepare for his oncoming war with Parthia, he was forced to make numerous concessions to Cleopatra for her support. Large sections of the Eastern provinces were placed under the control of both her and her children, and, at the same time Caesarion was recognized as Caesar’s only legal heir. Such acts only fueled Octavian’s propaganda that Cleopatra had bewitched Antony and that Rome itself would be ruled from Egypt.
Antony’s defeat at Actium signalled the end of Antony and Cleopatra, as well as Cleopatra’s son, Caesarion. After Cleopatra’s suicide, Caesarion attempted to flee Egypt. He was betrayed, however, and captured. Octavian, wanting to rid himself of a troublesome rival, had him executed soon after.
Note: The coinage of Ptolemy XIV displays only the portrait of Cleopatra VII