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The Life of Cleopatra

            Born in 69 BC, Cleopatra VII was the inheritor of the Greek Macedonian, Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt. The founder of this glorious dynasty was Ptolemy Sooter or the 'savior', one of Egypt's greatest pharaohs and allegedly Alexander's (the Great) half brother. The Ptolemaic dynasties were known for their interbreeding practices which began with Ptolemy Sooter who married Bernice I, a royal Seleucid from Cyprus. Cleopatra VII was the grandchild of Ptolemy IX, whose illegitimate son Ptolemy XII Alutes the flute player married his sister Cleopatra V. Cleopatra VII was one among the couple's offspring. Upon the death of her father in 51BC, the young 18yr old Cleopatra ascended to the throne, along with her 10 yr old brother Ptolemy XIII. The next 21 years of her reign marked a significant turning point in Egypt's history. As Horace quoted "she was no ordinary woman ".
             Cleopatra was one of Egypt's most popular queens, and according to Plutarch she was the first ruler of her dynasty to speak demotic Egyptian and observe the rites of the ancient Egyptian religion. Her subjects seem to have repaid her for her care and loyalty. Having gained her position as queen by right of inheritance, Cleopatra still had to wrestle in order to keep it that way. "The age that produced Cleopatra was one in which self-preservation often meant the destruction of ones own kinsman"."(M.Grant). .
             Despite her rivals who were constantly scheming against her, the early years of her reign marked other significant problems. The Nile failed to flood enough to ensure adequate harvest. As a result, crops didn't flourish, putting the Egyptians in a state of famine. Externally, chaos in Rome was rampant; civil war was brewing between Pompey and Caesar in 49BC. This meant even more trouble for Cleopatra's kingdom as traditionally, they were expected to support the Romans both financially and economically. "Egypt at the time of her birth was a rich but politically unstable state" (Lucy Hughes-Hallett).

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