Today, people think of Cleopatra as the ravishing female temptress portrayed in movies, when actually, she was not as beautiful as she is perceived to be. However, her seductive charms persuaded many great men of her time to help her on the road to becoming a successful leader. Despite not being raised with the expectations of becoming ruler of Egypt at an early age, Cleopatra succeeded in establishing herself through her influence on others as one of the world's most respected and remembered female rulers.
Cleopatra VII, born in 69 BC, was raised in Alexandria, the capital of Egypt at that time. Although her family resided there, they were not truly Egyptian, but rather Macedonian. When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, his general Ptolemy I, a Greek from whom Cleopatra and her family were descended, became king of Egypt. Hence the reason they lived in Alexandria.
Since she and her family belonged to the Ptolemy dynasty, she grew up surrounded by wealth and privileges. Ptolemy XII, better known as Auletes or "flute-player," was not only her father but also pharaoh of Egypt (Cleopatra-Daughter 1). Her mother, Cleopatra V Tryphaena, was actually her father's sister. Inter-family marriages were very common back then; in fact, they were highly recommended (Cleopatra-Daughter 1). Cleopatra had many other siblings including Cleopatra VI and Bernice, her two older sisters, Arsinoe, her younger sister, and Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV, her two younger brothers. It was expected that one day each of them would have their turn to rule, but what happened next was something Cleopatra hardly expected.
Her father was a somewhat weak and cruel ruler, and he was overthrown in 58 BC. He fled to Rome and Bernice took the throne temporarily. She had to marry a cousin in order to keep the throne, but their reign was cut short when Ptolemy XII regained control and killed her (Cleopatra-Daughter 1). When her sister Cleopatra VII died of an unknown cause, Cleopatra remained as the pharaoh's eldest child.