FACTS: 42 Facts About CLEOPATRA

Amazing mysteries surround the timeline of Cleopatra's life and death, and some massive scandals, too. Read on to learn more!

Cleopatra by John William Waterhouse
Cleopatra by John William Waterhouse

How Much Do You Know About Cleopatra?


Everyone has heard about Egypt's famous queen and pharaoh, Cleopatra, but this post might just amaze you. Test your knowledge and prepare to be stunned by this huge collection of fun facts about Queen Cleopatra VII!


1. Birth and death of a memorable queen:

Cleopatr'a lifespan
Cleopatra VII was born 69 BC and committed suicide on August 30, 30 BC.



2. Parents may have been half-sister/brother

Ptolemy VII and Tryphaena
Her father was Pharaoh Ptolemy VII. Her mother was probably Cleopatra V Tryphaena. Some say the couple was related by more than marriage.




3. Name means "she who comes from a glorious father."

cartouche
Cleopatra's name, pictured in hieroglyphics, is a combination of two Greek words, κλέος (kleos) "glory" and πατήρ (pater) "father”. Her full name was Cleopatra VII Philopator.



4. Not the first Cleopatra

Cleopatra 7
Cleopatra VII was the 7th woman in the Ptolemy dynasty to bear the name Cleopatra. All that time, Egyptians had not ruled Egypt. Instead, for 300 years, the Greek family was in control!



5. Claimed to be the goddess Isis

Ancient Egyptian Isis
Cleopatra wasn't shy about making the most of her power on earth. She claimed to be the Egyptian goddess Isis come to life. Egyptians actually referred to her as the ’New Isis’.



6. Cleopatra was not Egyptian

Macedonia
She was actually a Macedonian Greek. Although she was born in Egypt, her family, the Ptolemys, migrated to Egypt from Greece.



7. First ruler to speak Egyptian in 300 years.

Rosetta stone
Here’s a shocker—Cleopatra was the first Ptolemaic ruler who learned to speak and write in Egyptian. For 300 years, her family spoke only Greek, so court documents, including the Rosetta stone, were bilingual—written in both in Greek and Egyptian. (Rosetta Stone image, Chris Northwood) 



8. 1st to embrace Egyptian gods in 300 years.

Geb and Nut
Just like learning to speak Egyptian, Cleopatra was the first ruler in her family to embrace the local culture, gods, and ancient customs after a period of 300 years.



9. Not classically beautiful, yet irresistible

Cleopatra quote
Plutarch wrote that, "her beauty, as we are told, was in itself neither altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her." However, he described her as charming and irresistible, with a "sweetness in the tones of her voice."



10. Spoke at least 9 languages

Cleopatra languages
Cleopatra was an intellectual. She studied math, philosophy, public speaking, and astronomy. She also spoke at least nine languages, and maybe as many as a dozen. Because of this, she could speak to generals and rulers of other countries without an interpreter, thus giving her an upper hand.

Mystery of the Egyptian Scroll
Egyptian Adventure
$6.99 on Amazon


11. Cleopatra was her father's queen. 

When Cleopatra was only 14, her father made her the co-ruler of Egypt. Her mother, the queen, died under mysterious circumstances. Cleopatra became Ptolemy's joint regent and deputy. She ruled with him for 4 years, gaining valuable experience.


12. She was forced to marry her kid brother.

After the death of Cleopatra's father, Ptolemy VIII, she inherited the throne--but it wasn't exclusively hers. Her little brother was co-inheritor. Cleopatra was 18, and Ptolemy was only 10. She was forced to marry him in order to claim her role as co-ruler of Egypt.



13. Deleted brother's face from all coins. 

Cleopatra coins
Cleopatra had no desire to share the throne with her 10-year-old kid brother. Within months she removed his name from official documents and had all newly minted coins stamped exclusively with her face. She ignored the rule that forced Ptolemaic queens to subordinate themselves below their male co-rulers.



14. Blamed for Nile drought

Ancient Egyptian Nile
The first three years of her reign were tough, partly because when Cleopatra took over, the Nile flooding was low. Crops failed, people went hungry, less money was made, and politicians argued against her. Things were only going to get worse…



15. Political error cost her the throne.

Cleopatra politics
In 50 BC, Cleopatra got stuck in a political fight between some Roman troops and a Syrian governor. Cleopatra sided with the Syrians. The Romans were so mad that they ended up helping her little brother Ptolemy VIII steal the throne from her.



Mystery of the Egyptian Scroll
Egyptian Adventure
$6.99 on Amazon

16. Cleopatra fought her brother to the death.  

After losing the throne to her brother, Cleopatra refused to accept defeat. She drummed up mercenaries, formed a new army, and fought her brother’s army on Egypt’s eastern border at a spot called Pelusium. She won a later battle, and he was drowned.



17. Caesar fought against Cleopatra at first. 

The fight was in full swing when her brother got a new ally from Rome: Julius Caesar. For a while, the two men were allied against Cleopatra. Of course, that didn’t last. Cleopatra was far too clever and alluring for that.



18. Delivered herself to Julius Caesar in a carpet.

Cleopatra carpet
Cleopatra knew she could turn the tables if she could meet Caesar for herself. In 48 BC, she snuck through enemy lines by wrapping herself in a carpet and having herself delivered to the general’s private quarters. She charmed Julius Caesar and the two instantly became allies. He fought for her against Ptolemy in a 4-month war and won her throne back.



19. Cleopatra was 21 and Caesar was 52 when they became lovers.

Caesar and Cleopatra by Pietro de Cortone
Cleopatra and Julius Caesar quickly became lovers after he returned her to her throne, despite their great age difference. Cleopatra was just 21 years old, while Julius Caesar was 52.


20. May have murdered both brothers. 

According to rumor, Cleopatra may be responsible for causing both of her brothers’ deaths. Some historians say the older one was drowned in the Nile River, while the other was poisoned later in her rule.


21. Had sister murdered in front of a temple.

Arsinoe killed at a Temple
Cleopatra even put an end to her own sister, Arsinoë, because she feared Arsinoë was plotting to take over the throne. Cleopatra had Arsinoë executed on the steps of a temple in Rome. Not only was it a gross violation of temple rules and sanctuary, the act shocked and scandalized Rome.



22Had a baby with Caesar. 

Ceasarion
They affectionately called him Caesarion, which means little Caesar. Cleopatra tried to convince Caesar to make their baby boy his heir. Caesar, who was married and had an heir already, refused. Given Cleopatra’s competitive nature, this probably didn’t go over too well.



23. Introduced leap years and leap days.

Leap year
Here’s an interesting rumor: Cleopatra apparently introduced leap years and leap days to Caesar, who made them part of the official Roman calendar.



24. Tongues wagged when she came to Rome as Caesar's mistress.

Cleopatra arrives in Rome
In 46 BC, Caesar brought Cleopatra to Rome as his mistress. Cleopatra was a queen—and Caesar was married. It was a scandalous relationship. Tongues wagged all over the city.



25. Caesar's statue of her in the Venus Temple enraged Romans.

Temple of Venus
When Caesar erected a statue of Cleopatra in the temple of Venus, the scandal in Rome went volcanic. The statue offended the religious sensibilities of priests and citizens alike.



26. She set fashion trends in Rome

Cleopatra fashion
Women may have whispered behind Cleopatra’s back, but they all wanted to be her. They dressed like her, wore their hair like her, copied her makeup and even her distinctive pearl jewelry.



27Living in Rome when Caesar was murdered

Murder of Julius Caesar
Cleopatra was living in Rome when her lover, Julius Caesar, was assassinated in 44 BC. Caesar was stabbed to death, and she was forced to escape Rome and return to Egypt.



28. Dressed as Aphrodite to meet Antony

Cleopatra and Marc Antony
Roman General Marc Antony saw himself as Bacchus, god of wine and partying, so she dressed as Aphrodite, goddess of love, (who once had an affair with Bacchus), rode down the Nile on a golden barge with a purple sail while attendants in Cupid costumes fanned her. Word was sent to Marc Antony that:“Venus was come to feast with Bacchus, for the common good of Asia.” (Plutarch) So he came, and he was wildly impressed.



29. Lovers, playmates, and political allies.

Cleopatra and Marc Antony began a love affair in 41 BC. She hunted with him, drank with him, played games of dice with him, and when he performed military exercises, she came to watch. They stood together against Egypt's enemies, and they were married in Egyptian style, even though Antony was already married.



30. Started a drinking club with Marc Antony

Inimitable livers
Cleopatra and Marc Antony started a drinking club called the “Inimitable Livers”. The club would dine and drink together in style, they’d play games, hold contests, and even sometimes dressed up in disguise, hit the streets, and played pranks on the residents of Alexandria.



31. Twins named Sun and Moon. 

 Alexander Helios and Selene Moon
Cleopatra and Marc Antony had three children together—a set of twins named Alexander Helios (Sun) and Cleopatra Selene (Moon). They had a third child, a son named Ptolemy Philadelphus (Ptolemy the brother-loving)



32. Rome attacks Egypt and Cleopatra.

Battle of Actium
Octavian declared Marc Antony a traitor, and the Roman Senate declared war on Egypt. Cleopatra and Antony joined forces in order to fight Rome. It all culminated in a great naval battle at sea known as the Battle of Actium. (map: Future Perfect at Sunrise)



33. She commanded her own warships: 

Cleopatra warships
Cleopatra personally commanded over a dozen Egyptian warships, while Antony commanded his own fleet. Unfortunately, the battle was a lost cause: Octavian’s forces were much larger. Cleopatra and Marc Antony made a desperate break through enemy lines and raced back to Egypt. Octavian chased them back to Alexandria, where Antony held his ground in hopes of winning a final victory. It was not to be. Antony’s forces were crushed.



34. Killed herself with snake poison. 

Ancient Egypt snake venom
Knowing all was lost, Cleopatra took her own life. Some say she forced an asp to bite her (either an Egyptian cobra or a viper), which would have been a horribly painful death. According to ancient historian Strabo, Cleopatra often wore a hair comb charged with poison, and she used this comb to kill herself. More recent historians believe Cleopatra may have stabbed herself with a pin dipped in snake venom or some other deadly toxin.



35. Marc Antony killed himself, too. 

There is no mystery as to how Marc Antony died. When he heard Cleopatra killed herself, he took his own life by stabbing himself in the stomach.



36Her tomb has never been found.

Cleopatra mummy
Did you know that for all her wondrous fame and glory, Cleopatra’s tomb has never been found? Of course, that means her mummy has never been found either.



37. Lovers buried together.

Cleopatra Marc Antony tomb
It's said that Antony and Cleopatra were buried in a secret place so that they'd remain together for eternity. Archaeologists continue the search for the couple’s lost tomb. Some say it may be at a site near the Mediterranean sea, beneath a temple to the god Osiris.



38. "Cleopatra" was the most expensive movie ever made.

Cleopatra movie
Elizabeth Taylor famously played Cleopatra in the 1963 film. The original budget was $2 million but ballooned up to $44 million due to script and production problems. Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra costumes cost $200,000 alone. Fortunately, it was a box-office hit. Adjusted for inflation, Cleopatra may still be the most expensive movie ever made.



39. Closer to Pizza Hut than the Pyramids

Cleopatra pizza hut
Did you know Cleopatra lived much closer to the time of Pizza Hut than the Egyptian pyramids? Amazing yet true.



40. August named for her defeat.

Emperor Augustus
When the Roman leader Octavian was offered a chance to name a month in his honor, he chose August, the month he defeated Cleopatra, instead of his September birth month. His success was founded on her loss, he took the name Emperor Augustus, and he carried a statue of her through Rome's streets every August in triumph.



41. Cleopatra was not related to King Tut.

Cleopatra King Tut
Cleopatra and King Tut ruled as pharaohs of Egypt, but the relationship ended there. King Tut lived 1,300 years before Cleopatra. In comparison, the United States is less than 250 years old. Additionally, Cleopatra came from Macedonian Greek descent, while Pharaoh Tutankhamen was a native Egyptian.



42. Egypt’s last pharaoh

Egypt's last pharaoh
Cleopatra was the last pharaoh of Egypt. She reigned with stunning glory and brought everlasting fame to her life and country. It's unfortunate to realize that after her death, Egypt’s great dynasties fell away. The glorious country disappeared under the sandal of Rome, becoming a mere province of the great Roman Empire.


42 Cleopatra Timeline Facts


1. Born 69 BC, died August 30, 30 BC
2. Parents: half-sister/brother?
3. Cleopatra = she who comes from a glorious father
4. 7th Cleopatra
5. Claimed to be goddess Isis
6. Not Egyptian
7. 1st ruler to speak Egyptian in 300 years
8. 1st to embrace the gods in 300 years
9. Not classically beautiful
10. Spoke at least 9 languages
11. Ruled alongside her father
12. Forced to marry kid brother
13. Deleted brother's face from coins
14. Blamed for Nile drought
15. Political error cost her the throne.
16. Fought brother to the death.
17. Caesar began as Cleopatra's enemy
18. Delivered herself to Caesar in a carpet.
19. Cleopatra was 21, Caesar was 52
20. Murdered both brothers?
21. Had sister killed in front of a temple
22. Had a baby with Caesar
23. Introduced leap years
24. Caused scandals in Rome
25. Caesar's statue of her caused outrage
26. She set fashion trends
27. In Rome when Caesar was murdered
28. Dressed as Aphrodite to meet Antony
29. Antony became a strong ally and lover
30. Started a drinking club
31. Had twins named Sun and Moon
32. Fought battle of Actium in 31 BC
33. Commanded her own warships
34. Killed herself with snake poison
35. Antony killed himself, too
36. Tomb has never been found
37. Buried with Antony?
38. Cleopatra: most expensive movie made
39. Closer to Pizza Hut than the Pyramids
40. August named for her defeat
41. Not related to King Tut
42. Egypt’s last pharaoh

So there you have it. 42 amazing, fascinating and interesting facts about Egypt's last pharaoh and queen, the glorious Cleopatra. Hopefully, you enjoyed this post!