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Cleopatra the Great: Why Cleopatra Was the Smartest and Most Intelligent Ruler of Egypt

I may be a little biased.

Cleopatra. Name brings up many words: seductress, selfish, mistress, harlot, and many other negative words. What about smart or great ruler? Yes, she might have died without insuring her country's independence, but she did all she could to try to accomplish it. She was wickedly intelligent and knew how to use her feminine ways to get what she wanted. If Caesar had not died she could have accomplished all she wanted for herself and for her people. Cleopatra was truly one of the greatest pharaohs of Egypt. She had the makings of a great world conqueror and general, always thinking ahead, knowing her opponent, and being intelligible. And as said in The 100 Most Influential Women of All Time “it was both her desire and ambition that made her the Queen of Kings.” 

First off there is no way to defend her intelligence if there is no discussion on her education. Cleopatra came from a Greek dynasty of pharaohs; she was though the only one to bother with learning the Egyptian language. A Greek biographer by the name Plutarch commented on Cleopatra’s voice once saying “she was like an instrument of many strings, she could pass from one language to another.”  This most definitely was referring to her ability to speak many languages. She also knew many other languages, this would help her in discussing alliances and treaties with other nations herself, instead of sending someone and getting the wrong story. This was something most looking to conquer the world never bothers to learn, when clearly it helps in coming to such power. She learned languages of the Ethiopians, the Hebrews, Troglodytes Arabians, Syrians, Medes, and the Parthians. Cleopatra loved to read and learn—she had a library she was proud of and it killed her when it was half burned down during the civil war with her brother. Cleopatra knew that if she wanted her country and people to be powerful they must be educated. The one thing the history books leave out is that she brought in the best scholars to educate her people and also during her time re-built her library, which became the biggest one in the world. If she defeated Octavian there would be a grand chance that Egypt would be one of the best education capitals of the world. There is not much discussed on her education, which is pitiful because if people would have expanded more on it she would be know better for her intelligence than her sins. Her father gave her the best teachers; it is said, in medicine, history, speech, military tactics and other subjects that would make a great queen. It is said though Cleopatra learned her seductive ways from prostitutes but it is more widely believed that she taught herself. Either way, she was smart for using her feminine ways to get her way, might not have been the most pure way, but it was smart.

Cleopatra came to rule around 51 BC after her father Ptolemy died. It was her father’s will that she marry her brother Ptolemy XIII who was only ten and she eighteen. They were to rule together, but Cleopatra wanted sole rule. Here we see her ambition. Cleopatra was altogether safe not being sole ruler, and she did though not have as much political power as her brother, even though it was really his advisers that ruled. Being next to him insured her well being. Cleopatra wanted to expand Egypt and possibly her rule; she knew without her brother in the picture it would be much easier. When her brother learned of her desire to rule alone he had her exiled from Alexandria. Cleopatra was not defeated though she used her education on military ways to gather a small mercenary army in Syria. Her army and her as well returned to Egypt camping just outside the capital. It was an all Mexican Stand Off between the siblings. Her brother sent an army to meet hers but just before any civil war of sorts could break out between brother and sister, Caesar called both siblings to his presence.

Julius Caesar was a 52-year-old Roman General who was in Alexandria in the summer of 48 BC and was pulled into the “ family feud.” Cleopatra though was denied entrance by her brother’s forces. Being a woman of intelligence, Cleopatra knew how to get Caesar's attention. She had her self rolled up in a carpet, smuggled into the palace and when presented to Caesar, seductively rolled out. After this Julius was “love struck” by the princess and he help her regain her throne. Cleopatra was smart; she did what no other general, king, or any person looking to have higher power thought of doing, mostly because she was a woman. She used her feminine ways to her advantage and unlike so many other “capturing the throne” stories, she did not have to kill anyone to get it. Her brother rebelled against Caesar’s decision but, during a civil war, drowned in the Nile. His drowning insured her the throne.

Cleopatra’s biggest personality trait was her confidence, which played a big factor in her ruling and life; she believed she was daughter of Isis. This made her think of herself as a goddess. So when people booed her or said cruel things, they never fazed her. She would never lose sight no matter what of what she wanted to accomplish. This here is one reason why she made such a great queen and if it was not for Octavian she would possibly gone down in history as the world's most powerful general. Like so few do, Cleopatra thought far ahead into the future, more so after she gave birth to Caesar’s son. She had her younger brother Ptolemy XVI and her sister Arsinoe killed. This assured no one was left to threaten her rule or the future rule of her son. 46 BC was when her son was born she named him Ptolemy Caesar or Caesarian. To assure he would rule Egypt one day she had him recognized by priest of Hermonthis as a Son of God Amon. Truly though he was the son of Caesar.

When Cleopatra went to Rome upon Caesar’s request we see how much she truly cares for her people. Cleopatra made it know that her son, Caesarian was Caesar’s; this made the Senate very uneasy. In doing so Cleopatra thought she could force Caesar’s hand to making him heir to Rome instead of his nephew. Cleopatra, seen to be thinking ahead again, thought this could insure world dominance for her, knowing that if her son become ruler of Rome and Egypt that it would become one of the strongest powers the world had ever seen. This also would insure complete and utter freedom from Rome. The Romans feared and hated Cleopatra but she showed no care in the matter, making her a bit more fearsome. How this made her fearsome was that the people saw nothing could make her lack confidence in her future plans. This all could have worked out, and we probably would have never heard much of Marc Antony, if Caesar was not killed March 15th, 44 BC.

This ruined Cleopatra’s plans, or in her seeing made it more difficult to ensure her power. Cleopatra was one of many reasons he was assassinated, the people knew if he changed his will saying Caesarian was his son, that Rome would fall to Egypt in a sense. Cleopatra fled back to Egypt, but this did not make her weaker nor give up her plans. This is the true confidence of a smart general. No matter how many things go wrong or battles are lost she had that air of “yes things have gone bad, yes battles have been lost but there is still a war to win.” Giving up would not be found in her character.

One of Cleopatra’s smart ideas to keep her people independence from Rome was she did trade with other countries. Mostly Eastern like Arabia and India, this helped build Egypt economy. It built it so big that she started to show the world that Egypt was becoming a great world power fast and quick. Though Cleopatra to her people was a great queen, she still had her critic and it was no coincidence they were Roman. Horace a first century poet was quoted talking against her, making her out to be a threat to Rome. “She is a crazy queen… plotting to demolish the capital and topple the Empire.” Another poet, Luran was quoted calling her “the shame of Egypt.” But Cleopatra was no shame—she did what she could for her people’s independence 'til there was absolutely no way out.

Now comes Marc Antony, Caesar’s Master of the Horse. After Caesar’s death Antony dueled with Octavian and Caesar’s murders, but Cleopatra stayed neutral in the matter. She knew this would irritate the man, and knew to have an alliance with him she had to be in the same room to use her feminine ways to seduce him. Cleopatra also was accused of giving many resources and war support to Cassius during Antony’s battle with Parthians. Later Antony learned she very did such a thing. Cleopatra, thinking like a military general, knew if she sent help to Antony he would be keener to help her. Cleopatra sent her navy out to help Antony at Philippi in 42 BC. The fleet though was hit by a storm destroying her fleet, forcing her back to Egypt. She needed his support. Again her seductive ways come into play again. When Antony ordered her to meet him in Cicily to explain her neutrality and this accusation, she did not go straight to him. She instead went up the River Cydnus in a golden boat bringing many gifts to him, letting him know her power through wealth. This in a way mocked him, again Cleopatra showing just because she is a woman does not mean she will be afraid when trouble arises.

Allying herself with Antony, Cleopatra thought this would insure Octavian from entering Egypt. For a bit it did, there was just childish mudslinging between Antony and Octavian. In 34 BC Antony married Cleopatra, seen again Cleopatra knew if Antony was her husband it would make them even more powerful, and all their children legitimate. To irritate his rival Antony announced that Caesarian was Caesar’s real son and heir. To Cleopatra this would make her look more like a threat to the world around Egypt. Octavian fought back though telling the senate and Roman people that he found Antony’s will, telling them it said he was going to turn over Roman possession over to Cleopatra and make Alexandria the Roman Capital. Cleopatra knew if Alexandria was the Roman capital and her son become true heir to all, she would finally make Egypt a threat to all and the biggest world power in history.

In the years of 32-31 BC, Antony planned a campaign to Persia, which was known as Parthia. Cleopatra saw this was a prime opportunity to increase her empire, which it was. She encouraged this campaign and supported it as well. Unfortunately it was unsuccessful. Here it is shown that if situations that were not a hundred percent in her control had gone as she had hoped, she along with Egypt would be talked about in history books much differently. Cleopatra knew she would need a giant force, and she had many ships stationed in the Mediterranean. She ordered to have the. brought, by land, and placed in the Red Sea. On their way though Cleopatra’s common enemy, the Nabataea’s, set all the ships on fire. This ruined her naval plans. Antony returned to Alexandria where it quickly became clear to both war was inevitable with Octavian, Caesar’s nephew and heir. Cleopatra and Antony quickly rallied their forces. She previously tried to plead with Octavian, giving him many jewels and riches in exchange for clemency. He would only give it though if she would kill Antony. At that time she was not privy to this deal, and declined. When Octavian came knocking Cleopatra advised, here it is seen she had military tactics as well going on in that mind, to attack Octavian’s small fleet coming in at Actium. This would have weakened Octavian greatly but Antony ignored her advice. In sight of this Antony and his men started to lose horribly and the battle started to arise in Alexandria.

Realizing that again she had put her faith in the wrong man—Caesar was the right man but he died—she quickly devised one last plan to at least save her people, family, and herself. She did love Antony, but she knew with him Octavian would not listen. She did not want to kill him herself though, so she hid in her mausoleum and sent word to Antony that she had been killed. So saddened by the news he fell on his sword was brought to Cleopatra where he died in her arms. Cleopatra in a way did what Octavian asked of her, but now it was clear to her that she was to lose this war. She had to try one last time to ensure her safety, her family's, and Egypt’s. Octavian assured her all would be well as he talked with her through her bolted mausoleum doors. She did not believe him though, and she realized she had lost and right before she was to stab herself one of Octavian’s guards, who snuck in, stopped her from doing so. Octavian wanted her alive so that he could parade her through the streets of Rome to show his triumph. Cleopatra would not allow him this, she knew she would die in Rome, she wanted a “Roman Free Death,” so she devised a plan. For two days he had convinced Octavian to let her prepare Antony’s body for burial. After he was buried Cleopatra had gotten one Of Octavian’s men, Dolabella, to keep her informed of his plans. Dolabella informed her that Octavian planned to leave for Rome in three days. Cleopatra’s plan was executed like wildfire, she convinced his guards to leave her alone so she could bath and while takes a letter to Octavian. The letter told Octavian she wished to be buried with Antony, he knew what this meant and rushed to her room. It was too late. She had killed herself with poison from a snake. Cleopatra might not have gotten what her over all want in the world was, but in the end she got what she wanted like always. This was an embarrassment to Octavian and in a way a big loss. Rome wanted to see her dragged through the streets more than anything.

Cleopatra was wildly intelligent, confident, ambitious, and skilled in the way of seducing. She may have never accomplished what she dreamt, but she could have. She never gave in to a man’s rule, she knew that Octavian was different from the other Roman men in would not being seduced in to helping her and letting her be a free queen at the same time. Her people would have still lost their independence, and her child would have quite possibly lost their heir to the throne. Cleopatra was smart in when knowing when it was time to quit. Cleopatra was more than a mistress and a seductive queen, she was a woman who knew what she wanted and she was a queen that was for her people. She sacrificed her reputation, purity and some morals to do what was right to achieve these dreams. She cared more for her people’s independence then herself. She knew becoming a threatening world power would be the only way to assure that. Cleopatra was more than a Shakespeare Hollywood love story; she was the smartest ruler of Egypt. 

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