Most of us are aware that Cleopatra is the name of a blockbuster movie (1963), in which Elizabeth Taylor played the role of Queen Cleopatra. We are also aware that Cleopatra was a beautiful lady and she was involved in love affairs with the two most powerful men of her time.
Born to Ptolemy XII Auletes, in 70 or 69 BC, Cleopatra was a member of a family of Macedonian Greek origin that ruled Egypt during the Hellenistic period. She was born as Cleopatra VII Philopator, but is better known in history simply as Cleopatra. According to history, she was an educated, enlightened and enigmatic lady of her time and the last Independent Pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt. After her demise, Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire. However, her death is still shrouded in the mist of mysteries.
Initially, Cleopatra ruled jointly with her father Ptolemy XII Auletes. After the death of her father, she continued to rule, this time jointly with her brothers Ptolemy XIII, whom she married, according to the custom of the country. Eventually she became the sole ruler and represented herself as the reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess Isis. To solidify her power and grip on the throne, she effectuated a close connection with Julius Caesar, seduced him and elevated Caesarion, her son with Caesar, to co-ruler in name.
After the fall of Julius Caesar, she aligned with Mark Antony in opposition to Caesar's legal heir Gaius Julius Caesar Octavius (later known as Augustus). This time, she again used her lethal charm, seduced Mark Antony and gave birth to the twins, fathered by Antony, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene II, and also a son, Ptolemy Philadelphus. It is believed that, Antony committed suicide after losing the Battle of Actium to Octavius, and Cleopatra also followed suit. According to tradition, she killed herself by means of an asp (Egyptian cobra) bite on 12 August 30 BC.
For centuries, the history and the enigmatic myth of Cleopatra has been a stupendous attraction and lyrical inspiration for artists all around the world. Cleopatra’s legendary beauty, seductive power, love affairs with the two most powerful men of her time and her tragic, dramatic, but absolutely poetic death has been the attractive theme in generations of creative minds.
It is interesting that, many artists of the Renaissance and the 17th century painted Cleopatra as a white skinned beauty with attractive golden locks, as she was a member of a family of Macedonian Greek origin.
The death of Cleopatra has inspired more paintings than even her love life and the golden days of her reign. A painting by the Filipino painter Juan Luna on the subject was a second prize winner during the National Exposition of Fine Arts in Madrid and Luna was awarded a pension scholarship for that. After the competition the painting was sold for 5,000 pesetas, considered as the highest price for a painting in those days.