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Imagine ruling a kingdom once you turn 18 years old.
Cleopatra VII was that young when she became Egypt’s pharaoh, the term for the country’s “ruler,” in 51 B.C.E. When Cleopatra’s father Ptolemy XII died that year, the throne passed to her and her brother, Ptolemy XIII.
She was born in 69 B.C.E. in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. Her family had ruled the country for more than 200 years, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, having originally come from North Macedonia in Europe.
The family’s reign over Egypt began with Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Although many in her family ruled Egypt before her, Cleopatra was the first in her family to learn the Egyptian language.
Cleopatra became a ruler with her brother, but Ptolemy XIII eventually tried to drive her from power. She turned to the powerful Roman ruler Julius Caesar for help. Caesar battled and won against Ptolemy XIII’s forces in 47 B.C.E.
When Ptolemy died, Cleopatra returned to the throne. She led with her youngest brother, Ptolemy XIV, until he died three years later — the same year Caesar was killed.
After Caesar died, Mark Antony became one of the three leaders of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra, known to use charm to gain power and who saw herself as a goddess on earth, made Antony fall in love with her. He eventually left his wife Octavia to be with Cleopatra, angering Octavia’s brother, Octavian, who went to war against the couple.
Octavian’s battle victory forced the couple to flee to Alexandria in 31 B.C.E., until he captured the city about 10 months later and unseated Cleopatra from the throne. Legend has it that Cleopatra died after Antony, in 30 B.C.E., by letting a poisonous snake bite her.
With that event, Egypt became a Roman province, which is an area within a country or empire. Cleopatra died as the last true pharaoh of Egypt.
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