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On the Reign of Cleopatra – A Assortment of Unmitigated Pedantry

On the Reign of Cleopatra – A Assortment of Unmitigated Pedantry

2023-05-26 00:19:11

This week on the weblog we’re going to speak about Cleopatra or to be extra particular, we’re going to speak about Cleopatra VII Philopator, who’s the one Cleopatra you’ve doubtless ever heard of, however that ‘seven’ after he title ought to sign that she’s not the one Cleopatra. One of many tendencies in scholarship over time in the direction of bigger than life historical historic figures – Caesar, Alexander, Octavian, and so forth. – has been makes an attempt to demystify them, stripping away centuries of caked on reception, assumptions and imitation to ask extra immediately: who was this particular person, what did they do and can we worth these types of issues?

Cleopatra, after all, has all of that reception layered on too. In antiquity and certainly till the trendy period, she was one of many nice villains of historical past, the licentious, depraved overseas queen of Octavian’s propaganda. Extra lately there was an effort to reinvent her as an icon of contemporary values, maybe most seen recently in Netflix’ current (quite poorly received) documentary collection. Plenty of each efforts depend on studying into gaps within the supply materials. What I need to do right here as a substitute is to attempt to strip a few of that away, to de-mystify Cleopatra and set out a few of what we all know and what we don’t know about her, with specific reference to the query I discover most fascinating: was Cleopatra really an excellent or succesful ruler?

Now plenty of the controversy sparked by that Netflix collection centered on what I discover the moderately uninteresting (however fairly sophisticated) query of Cleopatra’s heritage or parentage or – heaven assist us – her ‘race.’ However I need to deal with this downside too, not as a result of I care in regards to the consequence however as a result of I’m deeply bothered by how confidently the consequence will get asserted by all sides and the way swiftly these assured assertions are mobilized into classes that simply aren’t very significant for understanding Cleopatra. To be frank, Cleopatra’s heritage ought to be a distinct segment query debated within the pages of the Journal of Juristic Papyrology] by students squinting at inscriptions and papyri, seeking to make minor alterations within the prosopography of the Ptolemaic dynasty, each as a result of it’s extremely technical and unsure, but in addition as a result of it isn’t a difficulty of central significance. So we’ll get that out of the way in which first on this essay after which get to my fundamental level, which is that this:

Cleopatra was, I’d argue, at finest a mediocre ruler, whose formidable and self-interested gambles largely failed, to the spoil of herself and her kingdom. This isn’t to say Cleopatra was a weak or ineffective particular person; she was very clearly very smart, discovered, a virtuoso linguist, and a famously efficient speaker. However one could be all of these issues and never be a smart or skillful ruler, and I are likely to view Cleopatra in that mild.

Now I need to be aware the spirit during which I provide this essay. This isn’t a take-down of the Netflix Queen Cleopatra documentary (although it effectively deserves one and has acquired a number of; it’s fairly dangerous) nor a take-down of different students’ work on Cleopatra. That is merely my ‘take’ on her reign. There’s sufficient we don’t know or barely know that one other scholar, viewing from one other angle, may effectively come away with a distinct conclusion, viewing Cleopatra in a extra constructive mild. This is, to a level, a response to a few of the more moderen public hagiography on Cleopatra, which I feel air-brushes her failures and generally tries a bit too onerous to learn virtues into gaps within the proof. However they’re usually gaps within the proof and in a scenario the place we’re all to a level making knowledgeable guesses, I’m hardly going to trash somebody who makes a superbly believable however considerably in a different way knowledgeable guess. In historical past there are sometimes conditions the place there is no such thing as a proper reply – which means no reply we all know to be true – however many mistaken solutions – solutions we all know to be false. I don’t declare to have the proper reply, however I’m annoyed by seeing so many very sure mistaken solutions floating across the public.

Earlier than we dive in briefly to the boring query of Cleopatra’s parentage earlier than the far more fascinating query of her conduct as a ruler, we must be clear in regards to the troublesome nature of the sources for Cleopatra and her reign. Essentially we made divide these sources into two teams: there are inscriptions, cash and papyrus data from Egypt which point out Cleopatra (and one she wrote on!) however, as such proof is need to be, are sometimes incomplete or supplied solely restricted info. After which there are the literary sources, that are uniformly with out exception hostile to Cleopatra. And I imply extraordinarily hostile to Cleopatra, full of wrath and invective. At no level, wherever within the literary sources does Cleopatra get inside a rustic mile of a good shake and I’m saying that as somebody who thinks she wasn’t superb at her job.

The issue right here is that Cleopatra was the goal of Octavian’s PR-campaign, because it have been, within the run as much as his conflict with Marcus Antonius (Marc Antony; I’m going to name him Marcus Antonius right here), as a result of as a overseas queen – an intersecting triad of ideas (foreignness, monarchy and ladies in energy) which all offended Roman sensibilities – she was successfully the right goal for a marketing campaign geared toward profitable over the populace of Italy, which was, it seems, probably the most priceless army useful resource within the Mediterranean. That image – the overseas queen corrupting the morals of good Romans together with her decadence – rightly or wrongly finally ends up coloring all the subsequent accounts. After all that in flip results the reliably of all of our literary sources and thus we should tread fastidiously.

In the meantime, if you need to deprave me with decadence, you’ll be able to assist my analysis and this venture by way of Patreon. You too can assist this venture by constructing temples in my title at conventional spots on the Nile…or by simply sharing it with your folks, I suppose. I would favor a big temple advanced, nonetheless. I’ve at all times wished my very own giant temple advanced. In order for you updates at any time when a brand new submit seems, you’ll be able to click on beneath for e-mail updates or comply with me on twitter (@BretDevereaux) for updates as to new posts in addition to my occasional historical historical past, overseas coverage or army historical past musings, assuming there may be nonetheless a Twitter by the point this submit goes dwell.

(Bibliography Notice: This isn’t going to be a complete bibliography, as a result of that will be monumental. For readers seeking to get their bearings on Cleopatra, the usual current biography is D. Curler, Cleopatra (2010), which I cite closely right here in each settlement and disagreement. In the meantime the older customary biography is M. Grant, Cleopatra (1972); studying the 2 collectively may give you an actual sense of how the scholarship has and has not moved on Cleopatra within the final forty years or so. Additionally extraordinarily helpful is P.J. Jones, Cleopatra: A Sourcebook (2006) which pulls collectively nearly all the key sources for Cleopatra in a neat, readable English translation with useful notes. On the world of the Ptolemies, I leaned right here a good bit on G. Hölbl, A Historical past of the Ptolemaic Empire (2001), trans. Tina Saavedra and J. Bingen, Hellenistic Egypt: Monarchy, Society, Financial system, Tradition (2007), ed. R.S. Bagnall, the latter being a set of essays, practically all initially printed in French. There isn’t actually an excellent work that I do know of on the late Ptolemaic military, however P. Johstono, The Army of Ptolemaic Egypt 328-204 BC (2020) is a helpful reference, particularly for the way ‘ethnic’ classes each mattered and may be fictive within the military.)

On to the boring query.

Racing Cleopatra

It’s finest to start out by allotting with the traditional framing of this query, which asks, “was Cleopatra white or Black?” And the reply to each questions is ‘no,’ however for probably the most boring attainable purpose: ‘white’ and ‘Black’ as it’s being utilized in that sentence is a class that merely didn’t exist with that which means within the historical world. Completely the ancients might be bigoted about ethnicity and naturally they may bodily see skin-color, but as we’ve discussed before, it lacked each the resonance it has right now and the robust White/Black binary fashionable thought imposes. To place it one other approach, one may as effectively ask if the Allobroges have been French or Swiss; the very classes don’t have the trendy which means we attribute to them when transported backwards in time like that. When you requested the Allobroges, they’d be confused and inquire what the heck a France and a Switzerland was (and should you bought cute and requested them as a substitute in the event that they have been a part of the Confoederatio Helvetica, they’d get offended that you just’d confused them for his or her neighbors, which might get you no nearer to a solution) and even should you discovered the reply of in the event that they match into the borders of contemporary France or Switzerland, that will nonetheless be meaningless to each the Allobroges and your understanding of them.

However extra broadly what I discover very irritating about this debate isn’t just that the premise is flawed however that it’s usually engaged with undue confidence; the frustration of seeing confidence the place the proof can not assist it does seem to be this month’s theme. That is, it seems, not the type of query that’s value enjoying out in issues like Netflix documentaries; it’s really an especially unsure query (so no scholar may give you a assured reply) and a extremely technical query (so no member of the lay public goes to be remotely certified to have their very own opinion). So we’re going to discover the query of Cleopatra’s ethnic identification by the lens of the unsure.

We are able to begin together with her mother and father. Here’s what we know: Cleopatra’s father was Ptolemy XII Auletes (d. 51). His father was Ptolemy IX ‘Lathyros’ Soter (to not be confused with Ptolemy I Soter). Right here ends what we all know. If we assume that Cleopatra’s mother and father and grandparents have been all having solely authentic kids with their lawfully wedded wives, we are able to reconstruct Cleopatra’s household tree (or household vine, because the case could also be) and it appears to be like like this:

Chances are you’ll have to zoom in on this or pull it out right into a separate window to learn it. Notice that each colour is a singular particular person, which signifies that, sure, on this reconstruction Cleopatra’s household tree resolves right into a single married pair of great-great-great-grandparents

Sure, that’s a fully large quantity of inbreeding; the Ptolemies (after the primary) embraced the Egyptian customized whereby the Pharaoh, as a god, married his sisters, as different gods did. When of us insist that they’ll make certain that Cleopatra had no non-Macedonian ancestry, that is the household tree they’re . Now there’s a small downside with that assertion, which is that Cleopatra I Syra had a good bit of Persian ancestry and she or he makes up 50% of Cleopatra’s ancestors when you get excessive sufficient on this household tree. However there’s a a lot larger downside which is that this very sure trying household tree obscures some actually large query marks. How large? This large:

This model could also be considerably simpler to know with out zooming in. Technically, there are additionally really some modest query marks on Ptolemy XII’s paternal facet as effectively, so that is one attainable reconstruction of that.

Every thing instantly will depend on the way you fill in these gigantic question-marks. Numerous sources (e.g. Cic. Agr 2.16.42; Paus. 1.9.3) point out that Ptolemy XII Auletes was illegitimate (however no supply names his mom), however precisely what’s meant by that and the way his mom might need really been stays unclear. In the meantime, no supply names Cleopatra’s mom both, however one (Strabo) suggests, obliquely that she may not have been authentic, though that’s not the one studying of the passage and Strabo may not be fully dependable on this level. So the identification of these two query marks is instantly 75% of our downside. And guess what: these two query marks are basically unresolvable with a excessive diploma of certainty.

And right here we get into simply how technical this query could be: it has been steered by some students that Ptolemy XII’s mom might need been an unnamed however Egyptian lady from the home of the clergymen of Ptah in Memphis, one of many highest priesthoods in Egypt. That assumption relies on the studying of a single line of demotic textual content inked on limestone which appeared at first translation to posit the existence of a Berenice, the youthful sister of Ptolemy X Alexander, whose son was the Excessive Priest of Ptah (and thus her husband would have been as effectively). That led students to posit that maybe it was a typical follow for these two households to intermarry and that this is able to clarify the occasional unlisted wives among the many later Ptolemies.

Besides that this was, as famous, based mostly on the studying of a really quick demotic textual content which was messy and troublesome to learn and in 2011 Wendy Cheshire dropped a bomb on the entire notion by suggesting a extra believable studying of the textual content. And simply to be clear right here, the technical query is learn how to learn these pen-strokes:

From W. Cheshire, “The Phantom Sister of Ptolemy Alexander” Enchoria 32 (2010/11), 122-4. I can not remotely learn this textual content confidently. Nobody can learn it with certainty.

See, E.A.E. Reymond learn a few of these strokes as tꜣ sn.t h̬m.t (n) whereas Wendy Cheshire thinks they need to actually learn as tꜣ h̟ꜣ.t-sp n. I suppose. I confess I don’t learn demotic and so have in all probability gotten a few of each of their transcription mistaken right here, however I need to offer you a way of how deep within the weed we’re right here, debating barely legible pen-strokes in a language few historical historians can learn. Reymond’s studying, when translated runs (abbreviated), “Excessive Priest of Ptah Petubastis….the title of his mom being Berenice [the younger sister of] King Ptolemy […] went to Alexandria, the place he drank earlier than the king.” This could be extraordinarily uncommon as a result of such texts don’t normally point out siblings, a lot much less particulars like ‘youthful.’ Cheshire factors out that Reymond’s studying is basically unusual and that actually there’s a very formulaic building which satisfies what we’ve got of the textual content, which might render the identical passage, “Excessive Priest of Ptah Petubastis […] the title of his mom being Berenice, within the 12 months [number] of King Ptolemy […] went to Alexandria, the place he drank earlier than the king.” Itemizing the 12 months of such an essential occasion is a really regular factor to do and Egyptian dates work this manner. Furthermore we all know that some priestesses of Ptah have been named Arsinoe or Berenice (however no different Greek names) so the title Berenice doesn’t demand a genealogical affiliation with the Ptolemaic home.

Now I am going by all of that for 2 causes. First, once more, be aware simply how technical this query is: solely a handful of skilled Egyptologists who can learn badly-preserved demotic have any enterprise with this query. I can, to a level, translate their scholarship to you, however I don’t have the talents essential to make any new contribution to this argument and I’ve a PhD in historical historical past. I needed to do a good bit of background studying simply to know the arguments being made effectively sufficient to really feel like I may have the start of an opinion. This thus a type of problems with actual uncertainty I’ve talked about earlier than, although I’ll say on stability I feel Cheshire has the argument as a result of her proposed formulation is basically widespread whereas Remond’s proposed studying is, so far as I do know Ptolemaic paperwork (which is, admittedly, not very far) very unusual. When doubtful, those pounding hooves are horses, not zebras. Second, if Cheshire’s studying is accepted, we’ve got no proof in anyway that any Ptolemaic king, queen, prince or princess at any time or anywhere ever married into an Egyptian household or had kids with one ever.

Absent any proof that the insular Ptolemaic household had ever intermarried in that approach, it instantly turns into very onerous to argue that any specific question-mark within the household tree could be full of an Egyptian spouse or concubine…although after all it doesn’t make it unattainable. In that case, guesses about Ptolemy XII Auletes’ mom have tended to be that she was both a Macedonian elite from Alexandria or maybe even simply Cleopatra IV, his father’s spouse and is merely thought of illegitimate as a result of she was by no means his co-ruling queen (his mom was the important thing energy at courtroom on the time). However the true, accountable reply right here is: we don’t know or at most, we don’t know besides that she was in all probability Macedonian.

After which we’ve got Cleopatra herself; her mom is rarely named by any supply. On the one hand, we’ve got Strabo 17.1.11; recording an episode the place Ptolemy XII Auletes was briefly eliminated by a coup in Alexandria he notes, “He was overthrown by the Alexandrians, and of his three daughters, they proclaimed the eldest and legit one [Berenice IV] queen, the 2 toddler sons [Ptolemy XIII and XIV] have been altogether unnoticed of the succession.” The clear implication (although by no means fairly acknowledged) is that our Cleopatra, as one of many different two youthful daughters, wasn’t authentic. Exterior of this, we’re supplied no clues as to Cleopatra’s mom.

A variety of students, together with Duane Curler (op. cit.), have posited – accepting Reymond’s studying as a result of they have been writing earlier than 2011 – that Cleopatra’s mom was in all probability one other one of many priestesses of Ptah. However after all we’ve got an issue as a result of we’ve simply seen that the proof for that ever taking place is extraordinarily unsure. Curler additionally factors to Cleopatra’s affinity to Egyptian tradition and language as a clue in the direction of an Egyptian mom; for causes mentioned beneath I feel this argument has some benefit but in addition some weaknesses that maintain it from being conclusive. In brief, Cleopatra’s affinity for Egyptian tradition appears simple to overstate and she or he discovered many languages, not simply Egyptian. Lastly, Curler factors to the presence and stature of the clergymen of Ptah within the courtroom of the Ptolemies as proof however with out the proof of an precise marriage hyperlink all that exhibits is that the clergymen of Ptah have been essential, which isn’t information: the cult of Ptah was carefully related to the ruler-cult Ptolemy I and his spouse Arsinoe II. Its no shock they have been closely concerned within the courtroom, however plenty of clergymen closely concerned within the courtroom by no means married into the royal household (certainly, it seems all of them by no means did).

The main objections to this case are easy and previous to 1981 and Reymond’s studying of that inscription dominated the scholarship (see, e.g. Grant (1972)): first that no recognized Ptolemy, male or feminine, had ever married into an Egyptian household and second that Octavian’s propaganda towards Cleopatra, which resounds from the sources, admits no point out of an illegitimate beginning, which might have been a transparent and apparent factor for Octavian to counsel. Furthermore, given the date of her beginning, Cleopatra must have been conceived in 70 BC, and Ptolemy XII’s spouse, Cleopatra V Tryphaena nonetheless seems in royal paperwork in August of 69 BC, however vanishes earlier than February of 68 BC, both deceased or out of favor at courtroom. Consequently, with a spouse alive and out there to be Cleopatra’s mom and no suggestion within the mountain of Roman invective that Cleopatra was illegitimate, and no proof wherever that Ptolemaic rulers ever married into elite Egyptian households, the preponderance of the proof means that Cleopatra’s mom was Cleopatra V Tryphaena, which brings us again, roughly, to the primary household tree and its large inbreeding.

On the stability, I feel an Egyptian mom is kind of implausible however not unattainable for Ptolemy XII Auletes, if for no different purpose then we’re instructed that Cleopatra was the primary Ptolemy to trouble to be taught Egyptian and I discover it onerous to think about Ptolemy XII wouldn’t have finished so if that was his literal mom tongue. An Egyptian mom for Cleopatra additionally appears attainable and maybe extra believable, however I are likely to suppose considerably much less doubtless than not, just because if Cleopatra was born out of wedlock – a standing closely stigmatized in each Greece and Rome (as we are able to see by how usually it was thrown, as a slander, at her father!), we’d have greater than only a curious passage of Strabo saying so – it could have been an accusation throughout Octavian’s propaganda (and a few of Cicero’s earlier invective) and there’s no hint of it. Nonetheless, at that time, the query has been decreased to a Cleopatra who’s three-quarters Macedonian and one-quarter Egyptian or a Cleopatra who is kind of wholly Macedonian (with a little bit of Persian ancestry blended in from Cleopatra I Syra approach on the high). Pressured to decide on, I believe Ptolemy XII’s mom was Cleopatra IV and that Cleopatra’s mom was Cleopatra V and that Strabo is merely mistaken on this level, however that place is, as famous, exceptionally unsure. There may be, nonetheless, no proof and even notably helpful hypothesis to counsel that any of Cleopatra’s ancestors at any level within the Iron Age hailed from wherever south of Memphis, Egypt.

Which brings me again to my unique conclusion: this can be a query which is very technical, deeply unsure and in addition not really very fascinating or impactful. The one certainty attainable is that anybody advancing a solution to the query with certainty is wrongly sure.

In the direction of Assessing Cleopatra

As a substitute, I feel the fascinating query is just not about Cleopatra’s parentage and even her cultural presentation (although the latter will come up once more because it connects to the subsequent subject); moderately the query I discover fascinating is that this: “What kind of ruler was Cleopatra? Did she rule effectively?” And I feel we are able to ask that in two methods: was Cleopatra an excellent ruler for Egypt, that’s, did she strive to rule for the great of Egyptians and in that case, did she succeed (and to what extent)? And alternatively, was Cleopatra an excellent steward of the Ptolemaic dynasty?

These are associated however disconnected questions. Whereas we’ll get to the proof for Cleopatra’s relationship with the folks of Egypt, the broader legacy of the Ptolemies itself is very clear: the Ptolemaic dynasty and the Greek-speaking settlers it introduced have been an ethnically distinct ruling strata put in above native Egyptian society, an occupying power. None of Cleopatra’s royal ancestors, none of them had ever even bothered to be taught the language of the folks they dominated, whose taxes sustained their countless wars (initially overseas, later civil). Prime administrative posts remained restricted to ethnic Greeks (although the positions just under them, usually crucial ones, could be held by Egyptians), citizenship in Alexandria, the capital, remained largely (however not fully) restricted to Greeks and so forth. It’s clear these designations weren’t fully impermeable and I don’t need to counsel that they have been, however additionally it is clear that the Greek/Macedonian and Egyptian elite lessons don’t start actually fusing collectively till the Roman interval (after they have been each equally below the Roman boot, moderately than one being below the boot of the opposite).

Consequently, the curiosity of the Ptolemaic dynasty might be fairly a distinct factor from the pursuits of Egypt.

And I received’t bury the lede right here: Cleopatra, it appears to me, selected the pursuits of her dynasty – (and her personal private energy) over these of Egypt at any time when there was a alternative after which failed to safe both of these issues. Bear in mind, we don’t have quite a bit in the way in which of sketches of Cleopatra’s character (and what we’ve got is usually hostile); other than a predilection to be taught languages and to worth schooling, it’s onerous to know what Cleopatra favored. However we can see her strategic choices, and I feel these communicate to a ruler who evidently was unwilling or unable to reform Egypt’s ailing inner governance (admittedly ruined by generations of comparatively poor rule), however who shoveled the sources she had into dangerous gambles for larger energy outdoors of Egypt, all of which failed. That doesn’t essentially make Cleopatra a horrible ruler, and even the worst Ptolemaic ruler, however I feel it does, on stability, make her a reasonably poor ruler, or at finest a mediocre one.

However earlier than we bounce into all of that, I feel each a short clarification of the construction of this kingdom and transient timeline of Cleopatra’s life could be good simply so we’re clear on what occurs when.

For the construction of the dominion, we have to break up, to a level, the peoples in Egypt. Ptolemaic Egypt was not even remotely an ethnically uniform place. A lot of the rural inhabitants remained ethnically Egyptian however there have been substantial areas of ‘Macedonian’ settlement. Ptolemaic topics have been categorized by ethne, however these ethnic classifications themselves are tough. On the backside have been the Egyptians and on the high have been the ‘Macedonians’ (understood to incorporate not simply ethnic Macedonians however a wide-range of Greeks). The traces between these teams weren’t fully impermeable; we see for example a fictive ethnic grouping of ‘Persians’ who seem like Hellenized Egyptians serving within the army. In some unspecified time in the future, this group is appears to be merely rolled into the bigger group of ‘Macedonians.’ nonetheless it looks like, even into the late interval the ‘Macedonians’ have been largely ethnic Greeks who migrated into Egypt and we don’t see the Egyptian and Macedonian elites start to fuse till the Roman interval (after they each shared an equal place below the Roman hobnailed boot). However, this was a standing hierarchy; ‘Macedonian’ troopers bought paid extra, their army settlers bought estates a number of instances bigger than what their native Egyptian equivalents (the machimoi) bought, the tippy-top authorities posts have been restricted to Macedonians (although the posts just under them have been usually held by Egyptian elites) and so forth. And whereas there was some motion within the hierarchy, for probably the most half these two teams didn’t combine; one dominated, the opposite was dominated.

By way of Wikipedia, the Ptolemaic Kingdom at a interval of comparatively vast expanse, with the important thing cities we’ll point out right here, Alexandria, Memphis and Thebes, marked. Notice that the dominion Cleopatra inherited was not fairly this huge, having misplaced management of Cyrenaica, Cyprus and Palestine/Judaea.

To which we should then add Alexandria, the capital, constructed by Alexander, which had a particular standing within the kingdom in contrast to every other place. Alexandria was structured as a polis, which of course means it had politai; our proof is kind of clear that all the unique politai have been Greek and that new admission to the politai did occur however was very rare. Consequently the citizen populace of Alexandria was overwhelmingly Greek and retained a particular Greek character. However Alexandria was extra than simply the politai: it was an enormous, cosmopolitan metropolis with giant numbers of non-Greek residents. The biggest such group could have been Egyptians, however we all know it additionally had a big Jewish neighborhood and substantial numbers of individuals from principally in every single place. So whereas there have been, in line with Polybius, three main teams of individuals (Greek residents, Egyptian non-citizens and huge numbers of mercenaries in service to the king, Polyb. 34.14), there have been additionally a lot of different folks there too. I do need to stress this: Alexandria was simply one of the cosmopolitan cities within the historical world; however for probably the most half solely the Greeks (and never even all of them) have been residents there.

That’s in some ways a shamefully reductive abstract of a really advanced kingdom, however for this already overlong essay, it must do. On to the timeline.

Cleopatra was born in 69 BC, the center of three daughters of Ptolemy XII Auletes, then ruler of Egypt (he additionally had two sons, each youthful than Cleopatra). In 58 BC (Cleopatra is 11) her father, by all accounts an incompetent ruler, was briefly overthrown and his eldest daughter (Berenice IV) made queen; Cleopatra went into exile together with her father. In 55 BC, with Roman assist, Ptolemy XII returned to energy and executed Berenice. Ptolemy XII then died in 51, leaving two sons (Ptolemy XIII and XIV, 11 and 9 years previous respectively) and his two daughters; his will made Cleopatra queen as joint ruler-wife with Ptolemy XIII (a standard sufficient association for the Ptolemies).

Earlier than the 12 months was out, Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIII (or maybe extra accurately, his courtroom advisors) have been at odds, each attempting to say themselves as sole monarch, although by 49 Ptolemy XIII’s faction (once more, it appears to largely have been his advisors operating it) had largely sidelined Cleopatra in what had change into a civil conflict. Cleopatra travels to Syria to assemble a military and invades Egypt with it in 48, however this effort fails. She is ready, nonetheless, to ally with Julius Caesar (recently arrived in search of Pompey, who supporters of Ptolemy XIII had killed, to Caesar’s nice irritation). Caesar’s military – Cleopatra’s army power is clearly a non-factor by this level – defeats Ptolemy XIII in 47. Caesar appoints Cleopatra as joint ruler together with her youngest brother, Ptolemy XIV (he’s 12) and Cleopatra bears Caesar’s son, Ptolemy XV Caesar in 47, who we usually name ‘Caesarion.’

Cleopatra then journeys to Rome late in 46 and appears to have stayed in Rome till after Caesar’s assassination (March, 44) and the studying of Caesar’s will (April, 44). Ptolemy XIV (the brother) additionally dies on this 12 months and Cleopatra then co-rules together with her son, Caesarion. Cleopatra returns to Egypt, makes an attempt to dispatch troops to help the Caesarian trigger towards Brutus and Cassius, however fails and loses all the troops in 43. She is saved from being nearly definitely steamrolled by Brutus and Cassius by their defeat in 42 at Philippi. Cleopatra meets with Marcus Antonius in 41 and so they type an alliance, in addition to (in some unspecified time in the future) a romantic relationship. Cleopatra has three kids by Antonius: Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios (twins, born in 40) and Ptolemy Philadelphus (born in 36).

With Cleopatra’s sources, Antonius launches an invasion of Parthia in 38 BC which fits extraordinarily poorly, with him retreating again to Roman territory by 36 having misplaced fairly a good portion of his military (Cleopatra is again in Egypt ruling). In 34, Antonius embarks on an enormous reorganization of the Roman East, handing over large parts of Rome’s jap territory – in title no less than – to Cleopatra’s kids, a transfer which infuriated the Roman public and cleared the way in which politically for Octavian to maneuver towards him. By 33 and 32, each side put together for conflict which breaks out in 31. Cleopatra opts to go along with Antonius mixed land-sea army power and on the 2nd of September 31 BC, solidly outmaneuvered at Actium, she and Antonius are soundly defeated. They flee again to Egypt however don’t increase a brand new military and each die by suicide when Octavian invades within the following 12 months. Octavian reorganizes Egypt right into a Roman province ruled by an equestrian prefect. Octavian and subsequent Roman emperors by no means actually adopted the title of pharaoh, although the Egyptian priesthood continued to acknowledge the Roman emperors as pharaohs into the early fourth century – likely partially as a result of the faith required a pharaoh, although Roman emperors may by no means be bothered to truly do the non secular elements of the position and few ever even traveled to Egypt.

So ended the 21-year reign of Cleopatra, the final inheritor of Alexander.

Cleopatra and Egypt

One of many assertions one sees about Cleopatra – certainly, it’s central to the current Netflix documentary – was that she beloved the Egyptian folks and Egypt. And there’s not nothing there thus far, however there’s additionally a bit lower than you may suppose and quite a lot of causes to doubt Cleopatra ‘patriotism,’ because it have been, and deep attachment to Egypt.

The components normally pointed at to reveal Cleopatra’s attachment to Egypt are that she discovered the language, engaged with Egyptian faith and represented herself in Egyptian trend in royal art work and commemoration meant for consumption in Egypt. And that’s true, she did these issues! However the context usually lacking from utilizing that as a transparent indicator of Cleopatra’s cultural ‘Egyptianness’ is that, other than studying the language, these have been widespread issues for Ptolemaic rulers to do, even supposing the dynasty maintained a pronounced ethnic hierarchy in Egypt and aren’t usually considered being notably hooked up to its folks or tradition. However, there’s not nothing right here within the sense that Cleopatra confirmed – or no less than wished to indicate – greater than the traditional Ptolemaic attachment to Egypt as a spot and the Egyptians as folks, which is to say nearly any in any respect.

Let’s begin with languages, as a result of I feel this reality could be introduced in a considerably distorted approach. The language of the Ptolemaic courtroom was Greek, initially Macedonian Greek (the Macedonians had a pronounced accent), although Plutarch notes that a few of the later Ptolemies had misplaced their Macedonian accent (Plut. Ant. 27.3-4). Cleopatra, against this, was the first of the Ptolemies to trouble to be taught Egyptian (which ought to let you know one thing in regards to the character of Ptolemaic rule; think about if King Charles was the primary English king since George I and kings from the Home of Hanover to trouble to be taught English). The issue with this reality is that it’s incomplete, presenting Cleopatra as a Greek-speaker who discovered the language of her folks out of honest devotion, however that’s not what Plutarch says. Plutarch says:

She may flip [her voice] simply to whichever language she wished and she or he conversed with few barbarians fully by an interpreter, and she or he gave her choices herself to most of them, together with Ethiopians, Troglodytes, Hebrews, Arabians, Syrians, Medes and Parthians. She is claimed to have discovered the languages of many others additionally, though the kings earlier than her didn’t undertake to be taught the Egyptian language, although a few of them had deserted the Macedonian dialect.

So let’s unpack that. This isn’t a local speaker of Greek who discovered simply the language of her topics, however a spectacularly expert linguist who discovered a lot of various languages, fairly no matter if she dominated the folks in query. Operating by the listing, she evidently discovered Ethiopian, the language of the folks on her southern border, the speech of the Troglodytae, the individuals who lived on the coast of the Pink Sea (a hinterland of her kingdom). The ‘language of the Hebrews’ right here might be Aramaic moderately than Hebrew (which might additionally cowl a lot of Syria), whereas the language of the Medes and Parthians may imply each Old Persian and the Parthian language. To which we should add Egyptian, implied by that final sentence; it additionally appears pretty clear Cleopatra knew no less than some Latin. That is a part of why I discover arguments that use Cleopatra’s data of Egyptian as robust proof both for her Egyptian ancestry or deep attachment to Egypt lower than absolutely compelling; she was absolutely not Parthian and didn’t have a deep attachment to Parthia, however she discovered their language too. Once more, there’s not nothing right here, but it surely’s not a slam dunk both.

What of Cleopatra’s position in Egyptian faith? The current Netflix miniseries makes fairly a fuss about how Cleopatra’s first motion as queen – that we all know of, as a result of that is merely the primary second she is seen within the sources to us in any respect – is to partake in a spiritual competition putting in a brand new sacred bull in a shrine at Hermonthis, near Thebes in Higher Egypt and the way this was indicative of a deep love of Egyptian faith. And it might effectively have been, but it surely’s additionally value noting that Ptolemaic rulers had been participating in Egyptian faith for a very long time. A lot of the massive temple complex at Philae, for example – even farther from Alexandria than Hermonthis, I’d add – was constructed within the Ptolemaic interval, with main expansions by Ptolemy II and III. Much more relevantly to our topic, this was a to Isis; Cleopatra was not the primary Ptolemy by any means to assert that goddess for the dynasty.

By way of Wikipedia, a limestone stele (51 BC) now within the Louvre, exhibiting Cleopatra, dressed because the pharaoh, presenting choices to Isis (seated). Cleopatra’s title, in Greek (Κλεοπάτρα, inflected right here as Κλεοπάτρας) could be clearly learn.

Nor had this even been a brand new follow for the Ptolemies. Alexander was presumably topped pharaoh in Memphis within the conventional method, visited the oracle of Amun at Siwa and devoted a significant set of building works within the temple of Amun at Thebes. The Ptolemies adopted this mannequin. Ptolemy II went to Mendes to personally conduct the ritual of the method of the Ram of Mendes after which prolonged the temple, he presided over the inauguration of a temple at Pithom, and so forth. And on it went with Ptolemy III and on down the road (certainly, changing into a bit extra pronounced as we transfer into the later Ptolemies, starting with Ptolemy V Epiphanes, doubtlessly because of the growing weak spot of the Ptolemaic dynasty each internally and abroad). Ptolemaic kings have been commonly out and in of Memphis, the non secular capital of Egypt, constructing new Egyptian temples, attending Egyptian non secular rituals and so forth. The reason being that the job of Pharaoh was as a lot (if no more) a spiritual job because it was a political one and it was a job that solely the Pharaoh may conduct. And the concept a Ptolemaic pharaoh with a legitimacy downside may consecrate some temples to assist repair that wasn’t new both; Ptolemy VIII Physcon is out doing that factor within the mid-second century. Consequently, involvement in Egyptian faith was a requirement of the place, fairly other than the query of how a lot the holder of that place cared.

By way of Wikipedia, Cleopatra and Caesarion in aid in Egyptian fashion on the Temple of Dendera. Apparently, additionally depicted on this temple as an Egyptian Pharaoh is the Roman emperor Trajan (r. 98-117), which actually goes to emphasize that this type of depiction was customary no matter what ‘Pharaoh’ was being depicted or how concerned they have been in Egyptian faith or tradition.

Cleopatra, like every Ptolemaic ruler, engaged on this type of constructing, although it appears placing how a lot of her constructing program was composed of Hellenistic constructions in Alexandria, whilst Duanne Curler admits, “the queen was not a significant builder.” She restored the gymnasium of Alexandria, made main repairs to the Lighthouse, constructed a brand new precint in honor of Julius Caesar referred to as the Kaisareion, and apparently constructed a monumental tomb for herself, additionally in Alexandria. Examples of her constructing outdoors of Alexandria are pretty skinny: the completion of a temple at Dendera begun by Ptolemy XII, extensions to the temple at Hermonthis (the place she visited early in her reign), by no means fully completed and a temple to Isis in Ptolemais Hermiou in Higher Egypt. Cleopatra may hardly be accounted the good renovator of Egyptian faith or non secular websites.

Likewise the assertion that Cleopatra represented herself in Egyptian art work in Egyptian fashion and costume; that too was true of all the Ptolemaic rulers from the very starting. Certainly, Cleopatra’s self-representation as Isis was very a lot not new, however actually the traditional approach Ptolemaic queens have been represented (to match Ptolemaic kings being represented as Osiris). Right here, for example, is Ptolemy II Philadelphos (r. 284-246) along with his queen Arsinoe II represented in Egyptian fashion on a aid now within the British Museum:

By way of the British Museum (Inv. EA1056), a limestone temple aid exhibiting Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II, dated c. 260 BC. Initially painted, solely a few of the paint remains to be seen.

Like all Ptolemaic rulers earlier than her, Cleopatra introduced herself in an Egyptian type, conforming to Egyptian fashion, in Egyptian contexts. And, like all the Ptolemaic rulers earlier than her, she introduced herself in a Hellenistic type in Alexandria and on her coinage. Whereas you will note folks level to numerous busts and frescos as being photos of Cleopatra, it is just her cash the place we are able to say for sure that an effort was made to seize her likeness (her Egyptian portraiture, although labeled, follows Egyptian stylistics, not her precise likeness); we do not know if, for example, later Roman artists had any details about what she really regarded like or if the busts we suppose to be of her really are. Be cautious additionally of Greek and Roman frescos exhibiting fair-skinned ladies reported to be Cleopatra; nearly all ladies in Greek and Roman fresco are proven as fair-skinned; it’s a typical inventive conference. Cash, after all, file no pores and skin colour and neither do our sources for Cleopatra; anybody who thinks they’ll let you know what colour her pores and skin was is unduly sure.

By way of the British Museum (inv. TC,p237.1.CleMA), a silver tetradrachma of Cleopatra, dated to 36 BC minted within the Levant, exhibiting how she usually seems on her coinage.

Now this isn’t to say Cleopatra is doing nothing new. She does appear to have been considerably extra concerned in Egyptian faith than her predecessors, although the precise diploma to which that is true is tough to see as a result of we don’t have something like a full accounting of their actions; if it’s a distinction it’s a completely different in amount, not form. Definitely her constructing program wasn’t wherever near the size of the early Ptolemies, however maybe she took extra direct private involvement. As soon as once more, the unknowns listed below are formidable. Dorothy J. Thompson within the the Cambridge Historical Historical past takes this, together with Cleopatra switching her regnal title from ‘philopator’ (‘loves-father’) to ‘philopatris’ (‘loves-homeland’) to be indicative of a transparent effort by Cleopatra to be, “certainly queen of Egypt,” notably within the context of dynastic struggles together with her brothers: outflanking them by getting the favor of the folks.

By way of the British Museum (inv. 1875,1102.3) an earlier (c. 50-49BC) coin of Cleopatras, exhibiting her face on the obverse. Although this coin is a few 13 years sooner than the one above, the identical fundamental fashion of self-presentation, all the way down to the hair-style, is seen.

The issue with this narrative is the timing: Cleopatra makes that change in titles in 36/5 BC, which is to say in 12 months 16 of her 21 12 months reign, eight or 9 years after her final critical competitors for the throne, her youngest brother, had died. As a substitute, Bingen argues that the homeland Cleopatra is professing love for is the larger Macedonian empire – the empire of Alexander – which she might have appeared in 36 on the verge of reclaiming. Antonius was nearly to provide her (by her kids) sweeping parts of Roman Syria, Cilicia, Cyrenaica and Armenia; he would additionally give them titles to Medea and Parthia, which he didn’t management (although maybe in 36 he hoped to) however would characterize collectively the entire of the previous Seleucid Empire close to its top. Bingen notes the opposite change to Cleopatra’s titulature at this level was moderately than simply being ‘the goddess who loves her father’ she turns into ‘the younger goddess who loves her father and her nation;’ the added νεωτέρα (‘younger’) maybe being supposed as a hyperlink to Cleopatra Thea, Seleucid queen-consort of Syria from 150 to 126 BC and Cleopatra’s personal great-grand-aunt. Cleopatra, in any case, was about to attain the lengthy Ptolemaic dream of controlling all of Syria.

Strikingly the sources don’t inform us that Cleopatra was seen as any extra distinctively Egyptian than her father or that she had some groundswell of standard assist in Egypt. Certainly, Cassius Dio implies the other (Cass. Dio 42.34-6) that the Egyptians favored Ptolemy XIII within the succession dispute and it was solely the power of Caesar’s arms that turned the difficulty to Cleopatra. After all we’ve got to be considerably skeptical of this account too: Dio is marinating in a literary custom that may be very hostile to Cleopatra and in addition makes no effort to tell apart between the Alexandrians and the remainder of Egypt, two very distinct teams. In any case it’s clear that Cleopatra achieved no groundswell of assist in Egypt in these early years: she needed to increase her military in Syria and within the occasion it wasn’t the stronger power as she and Caesar spent the winter of 48/7 besieged in Alexandria by Ptolemy XIII’s then bigger military (Caesar had not introduced his full area military), till the arrival of a military out of Roman Syria led by a set of Caesar’s allies tipped the stability. Julius Caesar was by no means a very cautious commander, so if he checked out no matter power Cleopatra nonetheless had and mentioned, “we have to look ahead to reinforcements,” it couldn’t, at that time, have been very substantial. Afterwards, Caesar would depart 4 legions in Egypt to safe Cleopatra’s rule, which appears to not point out her nice reputation or any nice religion in her means to carry the dominion. After 44, she’s capable of rule with out direct assist, however after all after 44, she and her kids are the one dynastic choices left, her brothers and sisters all being useless (some at her hand). Lastly, when Octavian comes for her, there is no such thing as a main effort by anybody to cease him militarily. If Cleopatra had the love of the Egyptian folks at that time, we positive don’t see it.

For my part then, it looks like an argument could be made that Cleopatra had a reasonably modest propaganda effort in the direction of presenting herself as extra in contact with Egyptian faith, however the extent and high quality was at most solely a modest enchancment over the earlier Ptolemies and other than holding her on the throne (with Roman backing), it doesn’t appear to have achieved a lot.

However was she good for Egypt?

Cleopatra’s Rule in Egypt

Now we have to stipulate right here originally that the bar for late Ptolemaic rulers was fairly low. The Ptolemaic kingdom had been on a downward slide in energy and significance ever since its nice victory on the Battle of Raphia (217) and the Egyptian Revolt (205-199). The final Ptolemaic ruler to truly exert Egypt as a significant energy was Ptolemy VI Philometor (r. 180-145); in 168 Rome needed to intervene simply to maintain Antiochus IV (the Seleucid king of Syria) from overrunning the dominion. After Ptolemy VI Philometor, the dynasty was crippled by frequent coups, civil wars and succession disputes, many involving the turbulent, unstable politics of Alexandria, and a persistent army and monetary weak spot even supposing Egypt was fabulously rich.

The power of those later Ptolemies to attract significant army energy from the overall populace was additionally slim, which speaks to the inch-deep nature of their standard assist. Ptolemaic Egypt and Roman Italy had related inhabitants sizes, however the perfect military Ptolemy XIII may muster on the Battle of the Nile (47), in Egypt, was in all probability slightly below 30,000 troops(and never superb ones at that) for a battle for his very crown. Again in 216, when the very Republic was threatened, Rome had fielded a quarter of 1,000,000 males in a single 12 months; Carthage on the identical time may put practically as many males within the area (although they concentrated them in Spain). Heck, at Raphia (217), Ptolemy IV had managed to area 75,000 males, in a battle the place neither victory nor defeat would have been decisive. This was a enormously diminished kingdom.

In brief then, Egypt was a kingdom in determined want of reform: army, monetary and administrative reform. With a core inhabitants of maybe one thing like 5-7m folks, the perfect farmland in the entire of the Mediterranean, and the biggest, wealthiest commerce port of the day, Egypt had the potential to be a significant energy, if it was dominated effectively. Sadly, Cleopatra would do precisely none of this and as a substitute replicated all the identical patterns as her predecessors, additional weakening the dominion, impoverishing her topics and ultimately resulting in its demise.

We’ve already mentioned how Cleopatra might have launched into a program of attempting to generate legitimacy or goodwill from the overall populace. What I feel is notable right here is that what Egypt desperately wanted was some approach to mobilize the Egyptian populace to truly assist the regime moderately than merely tolerate it and pay taxes, maybe one thing like Rome’s response to the Social War (91-88). This, Cleopatra didn’t do. There is no such thing as a signal that her putative love for Egypt and Egyptians led to any type of change in the way in which that Egypt was administered. Her key advisors and officers, resembling we all know them (Curler (2010), 107-8 presents an summary) adopted the previous system: excessive workplaces have been held by Greeks, low workplaces by Egyptians, with the fundamental administrative construction she inherited from her father unchanged. At the same time as late as 33, as Curler notes, we see in Cleopatra’s rule that “the dichotomy […] nonetheless existed on the very finish of the Ptolemaic period between the rulers (and their Roman allies) and the dominated, the place the previous continued to acquire particular privileges.”

And by way of wikipedia, right here is the doc Curler is speaking about when she makes the quoted assertion above, penned in 33, with Cleopatra’s signature and a command γινέσθωι (‘so be it’) on the finish. So we might have solely a imprecise concept of what Cleopatra regarded like, however we’ve got her signature and so can forge her checks.

Then there may be the monetary facet. We even have a number of historical figures for the dimensions of Ptolemaic revenues and whereas they’re generally dismissed as unreliable or ineffective (e.g. Curler (2010), 106, “the web earnings of Ptolemy XII diverse between 6,000 and 12,500 abilities, though it’s not recognized what these figures imply”) Michael Taylor does an honest job of unpacking them in Soldiers and Silver (2020) and comes away assuming that Ptolemaic revenues in years of relative peace and stability have been round 63-75 million Attic silver drachmae (75-90m Ptolemaic drachmae; maybe one thing like 69 to 83 million Roman denarii), which was a staggering quantity. Even in dangerous and chaotic years, they could have been one thing like half that worth. For comparability, the state revenues of the Roman Republic after Pompey annexed all of Syria to it have been supposedly round 85 million denarii (Plut. Pomp. 45.3, he provides the determine as 85m drachmae). Which is to say, for all of Rome’s conquests, the notional monetary sources out there to Cleopatra – if she may get her kingdom so as – have been on the identical order of magnitude as these out there to the Roman Republic, which once more, regarded like this:

By way of Wikipedia, you need to have a look at the Inexperienced, however substract out most of Gaul (fashionable France). ALL of that Inexperienced produced roughly the identical revenues, below preferrred circumstances, because the yellow, below preferrred circumstances. Alas, Cleopatra’s rule was not preferrred circumstances.

We could be pretty sure then that Cleopatra didn’t get her kingdom so as as a result of we’ve got fairly good proof that Egypt suffered a power scarcity of funds all through her reign. The primary indicator right here is foreign money purity, since the usual response to finances shortfalls was to debase the foreign money (that’s, scale back the quantity of precise valuable metallic within the coin). Ptolemaic foreign money had at all times been ‘mild’ in comparison with the Mediterranean customary and its purity started falling within the late second century. That drop continued unabated by Cleopatra’s reign, together with her late coinages being at round 40% purity, in comparison with a recent Roman denarius at round 98% purity. Roman foreign money would solely hit this stage of debasement in the course of the Disaster of the Third Century, which ought to itself be considerably suggestive that issues aren’t going so nice with Cleopatra’s fiscal administration.

See Also

We don’t have an excellent window into Cleopatra’s funds. The sources are unanimous in claiming that the approach to life she lead was wastefully extravagant, although this after all could be a mirrored image of Octavian’s propaganda and the overall discomfort of elite Romans with anybody richer than they have been. Alternately, the issue could also be that the Ptolemaic system of taxation, undermined by a long time of repeated civil wars, was now not as much as the duty of pulling in adequate income, but alternatively Cleopatra nonetheless had cash sufficient to finance Antonius’ army operations. And no less than a few of our sources (e.g. Cass. Dio 42.34.1-2) counsel that the Egyptians themselves felt overtaxed, no less than early in Cleopatra’s reign. In any case, Cleopatra ought to nonetheless have had a considerable income, particularly after 44 when her rule was unchallenged.

So the place did all the cash go?

The Ambitions of Cleopatra

One of many difficulties in sketching the biographies of historical figures is that we’re usually solely very unreliably knowledgeable as to their character. My very own behavior on this regard is to see if I can not start to sketch the outlines of their character and values as a substitute from their choices, from the issues we are able to see that they did. For example, our sources current Marcus Antonius as a reckless, headstrong and emotional type of particular person and I are likely to imagine them not as a result of I feel they’re dependable (they’re not, all of our sources on Antonius are hostile) however as a result of I can see that in his generalship, which may be very a lot an emotive ‘leap-before-you-look’ fashion, which will get him into hassle repeatedly. Can we decide the same type of sample with Cleopatra?

I feel we are able to, and I feel the sample is that this: Cleopatra was an aggressive gambler whose precedence was constant: the upkeep and enlargement of her personal energy, pouring her time and sources into that goal. Now, Cleopatra as a ruler being one who used Egypt as little greater than a piggy-bank for her personal ambitions doesn’t essentially make her a lot worse than any of the opposite Ptolemies who largely did the identical factor, however I feel it moderately does put a dent within the picture of ‘Cleopatra the patriotic Egyptian Queen.’ Had her gambles paid off, she’d be Cleopatra the Nice, but it surely wouldn’t have benefited Egypt a wit. Nonetheless, they didn’t repay, partially as a result of whereas she was by all accounts very clever, she doesn’t appear to have been superb at all the expertise needed to truly succeed at these gambles. However how am I seeing the sample right here?

Effectively, Cleopatra seems in our sources in 51 BC on the demise of her father, being made co-ruler together with her brother Ptolemy XIII. As famous within the timeline above, throughout the 12 months she is at odds together with her brother and his advisors and by 49 is clearly on the shedding facet of the dispute. It isn’t stunning that the twenty-year-old Cleopatra lacked the political acumen to outmaneuver Potheinos and Ptolemy XIII’s different key supporters however it’s value noting that she does certainly lack it. That is going to arrange a sample: whereas Cleopatra was, by all accounts, a really gifted speaker, she doesn’t actually appear to have had the knack for getting forward in political conditions the place she wanted to win over a important mass of highly effective figures (moderately than one distinctive Roman) in a bigger political system.

By the spring of 48, Cleopatra is in Syria gathering a military to do some civil conflict, an episode which I feel illustrates two issues. First, repeated civil wars have been an enormous a part of the reply to the query of ‘the place did all the Ptolemies’ cash go?’ and right here Cleopatra is, shedding at courtroom politics after which instigating an enormous, costly civil conflict which might ultimately, amongst different issues, wreck giant elements of Alexandria (which then needed to be expensively repaired by her). Second, it’s clear that her Syrian military didn’t carry out effectively. Caesar exhibits up earlier than any decisive engagement, however Cleopatra’s forces largely vanish from the sources at this level and the truth that even with three thousand of Caesar’s Roman troops, Cleopatra and Caesar are rapidly bottled up in Alexandria, unable to interrupt out till assist arrives from Rome’s different Japanese consumer states. If Julius Caesar doesn’t suppose he can win a battle together with your military, nobody can win a battle together with your military. That is going to be a development: Cleopatra struggles not solely with politics (past the private) and cash, she can also be fairly dangerous at dealing with armies.

Thus far then, Cleopatra’s achievements are that she has triggered yet one more Ptolemaic dynastic civil conflict, managed to spoil each Egyptian armies (hers and her brother’s) and presumably sunk the dominion even deeper into debt from the price of it, however her gamble that she may safe sole efficient rule appears to have paid off. That’s good for Cleopatra however dangerous for Egypt, now weaker, poorer and much more weak to Roman affect. She now gambles even more durable, not merely backing Julius Caesar, however having a baby with him, tying her fortunes – and the fortunes of Egypt – to his in a reasonably direct approach.

She heads to Rome someday in 46, in all probability leaves in 45 and returns in 44, leaving once more solely in April 44, after Caesar’s assassination. It’s clear that her presence was a political legal responsibility for Caesar. The truth that Cleopatra stays for a month after Caesar’s demise suggests to me that she hoped to get Caesarion acknowledged as Caesar’s inheritor, which in flip means that Cleopatra had a poor grasp of Roman regulation and politics, each not realizing that her mere presence was a legal responsibility to the one particular person she wanted to succeed (and never be stabbed 23 instances) and in addition that the hunt to get Rome to acknowledge Caesarion as Caesar’s inheritor was nearly definitely hopeless. Caesarion couldn’t be Caesar’s inheritor; as a non-citizen Caesarion wasn’t even a sound goal as main inheritor of Caesar’s will and so the probabilities of getting him acknowledged as Caesar’s inheritor by a Roman courtroom was principally nil. In any case, Caesar’s will made Octavian his sole inheritor, which is a twist Cleopatra actually must have seen coming since Caesar was overtly making ready the guy and planning to deliver him alongside on his subsequent marketing campaign. Personally, I believe Caesar at all times knew Caesarion wouldn’t be acceptable in Rome and by no means had any intention of constructing him his inheritor; that Cleopatra doesn’t appear to have recognized this can be a placing indictment of her political acumen.

In any case, this gamble fails and Cleopatra returns to Egypt in 44, the place there are 4 legions, left by Caesar. With conflict brewing between the Caesarian faction (Octavian, Antonius and Lepidus) and the liberatores (the assassins of Caesar), each side request the 4 legions. She, for as soon as, tries to maintain choices open, stalling the liberatores whereas attempting to sneak the legions to the Caesarian governor in Syria (Dollabella) however the plan goes off mistaken and all 4 legions are captured by Cassius. Her course now decided by blunder, she places collectively a fleet and tries to sail to assistance from Octavian and Antonius in Greece, however by no means will get there as a result of her fleet is wrecked in a storm. Cleopatra’s development of at all times mishandling army forces continues unabated.

She leaves Egypt once more to fulfill with Antonius in 41 and right here I need to be aware that Cleopatra is in Rome in 46 and 44, at sea in 43 or 42 and now out of Egypt once more in 41. On the one hand, this does appear to verify that by this level there was no actual various to her rule, so she may safely go away the seat of energy. However, her failure to implement the significant reforms that the moribund kingdom so clearly wanted is comprehensible right here too, given how regularly she is out of city, because it have been, on this interval.

The assembly with Antonius results in her subsequent large gamble and she or he opts to again him utterly. It’s not clear how rapidly she went ‘all in’ on Antonius. It’s attainable she held some choices open till throwing her monetary muscle behind his doomed Parthian marketing campaign in 36, however I are likely to suppose the purpose at which she bears him twins (in 40), she presumably understands that she has linked her destiny to his. Strategically, it wasn’t essentially a foul concept to gamble on Antonius (each different dynast within the Roman East does too), however Cleopatra as soon as once more goes all in, making a scenario the place she definitely loses if Antonius does.

And right here is the place the traditional argument is that Cleopatra can’t be faulted as a result of the place of an monarch within the Japanese Mediterranean attempting to outlive the chaotic Roman civil wars was an unattainable one, to which the plain counter instance suggests itself: Cleopatra’s personal native rival Herod. Herod backed Antonius too, however in contrast to Cleopatra who was a reckless gambler strategically, he was cautious and saved his choices open and so when Antonius misplaced, Herod was ready to have the ability to cut price with Octavian and maintain his throne, his life and his dynasty. This was not an unattainable needle to string – although it was likely very troublesome – but it surely appears to have required a level of warning that Cleopatra lacked. The irony is that Herod definitely appears within the sources a a lot much less proficient fellow than Cleopatra, simply extra cautious, although definitely no much less ruthless.

For Cleopatra’s gamble, then, what was the payoff? It was definitely not a greater deal for the Egyptians. As a substitute, what Antonius ultimately promised her – the ‘Donations of Alexandria’ – have been large chunks of Roman territory: Cyprus, Cilicia, Cyrenaica, Syria and Armenia, with Cleopatra’s kids additionally getting titles as rulers of Media and Parthia which Antonius presumably hoped to beat however hadn’t. Really reassembling these territories would have recreated a kingdom on the core mixed Ptolemaic and Seleucid territories, the closest factor to reconstituting Alexander’s empire that anybody had finished for the reason that finish of the fourth century.

And I feel we have to perceive that that is what Cleopatra – cash-strapped, debasing the foreign money – is shopping for with the wealth of Egypt: an empire outdoors of Egypt. By spending her cash backing Antonius first towards Parthia after which towards Octavian, she’s hoping to purchase a renewed Macedonian Empire. There are plenty of issues she may have spent that wealth on. She may have tried to rebuild an Egyptian military definitely worth the title, or engaged in precise legitimacy constructing in Egypt, or just stabilized the foreign money. She doesn’t do these issues: she has cash in her pocket and so she gambles it on empire.

And loses. Once more.

Now our sources for the Battle of Actium (31) usually are not nice; they can not agree, for example, on what number of ships have been current and naturally they’re uniformly hostile to Cleopatra. However there are some issues which can be fairly clear: Antonius’ key supporters acknowledged nearly instantly that having Cleopatra with the mixed land-and-naval power was a legal responsibility. In addition they appear usually to have opposed her army judgment, which provided that Cleopatra has, at this level, mishandled each military and fleet she has ever touched, appears cheap. However Cleopatra doesn’t appear to have wished to depart and given the extent of her assist, Antonius may hardly ship her away. Her insistence on staying motivated the defections of a number of of Antonius’ key supporters, each Roman but in addition a few of his consumer kings. Cleopatra additionally pushed Antonius to formally divorce Octavia, a political misstep that empower Octavian’s PR machine in Italy. In brief, as in Rome in 46-4 and as in Alexandria in 51-49, Cleopatra, whereas charming, clever and eloquent, appears to have been fairly dangerous on the fundamentals of managing troublesome politics, alienating folks Antonius wanted to not alienate simply as her presence in Rome alienated folks Caesar wanted to not alienate.

Lastly, our sources declare that at Actium itself, it was Cleopatra’s flight which precipitated the collapse of Antonius’ fleet. Now on the one hand, I feel that is really a contact unfair to Cleopatra: Antonius’ personal blunders within the marketing campaign deserve a good bit of the credit score. Antonius had over-extended his forces (once more) and leapt past his means to safe his logistics (once more) and sadly for him M. Vipsanius Agrippa was not so silly as Brutus or Cassius to politely provide battle phrases handy to Antonius. In any case it’s clear Cleopatra together with her detachment retreated out of the battle with out partaking and Antonius chased after her, leaving the remainder of the fleet to be crushed. Curler interprets this as Cleopatra placing the protection of Egypt first and I discover this declare a bit unusual – there was no energy wherever however in Antonius’ fleet which may shield Egypt. If there was one second for Cleopatra to go all in and cost together with her ships and let the battle go the way in which it might, this was that second. As a substitute she flees for the time being when flight can not assist her. However then Cleopatra has mishandled each single military or navy she has but touched, and so she does once more at Actium.

I discover it placing at this level that Antonius and Cleopatra return to Egypt after the battle and, so far as we are able to inform, make no effort to organize for Octavian’s inevitable invasion. Antonius makes some desultory efforts en route to assemble a few of his remaining Roman forces (these fail), however Cleopatra doesn’t appear to have, for example, tried to boost an Egyptian military to defend Egypt. Cleopatra spends the remainder of 31 attempting to barter with Octavian, however makes no effort to organize a protection of Egypt and even to boost a significant military which could function a bargaining software. Crucially, and I feel this serves as a moderately grim closing phrase on Cleopatra’s efforts – nonetheless substantial they could have been – to woo the Egyptian folks. Even with a overseas invader on Egypt’s doorstep, there’s no proof of any native Egyptian rallying to Cleopatra’s trigger.

A Verdict on Cleopatra

This has thus all been very, very lengthy, however finally we’re to a verdict on Cleopatra as a ruler. And my view is that this: Cleopatra was the final in a line of ineffective Ptolemaic rulers; she might not have been probably the most ineffective, however she positive wasn’t efficient both. This isn’t to say she wasn’t a proficient particular person – once more, the sources are very clear that she was very discovered, knew an spectacular array of languages, was very clever, and was a extremely efficient speaker. However somebody could be all of these issues and nonetheless be a foul ruler or chief. And maybe it ought to be no shock that Cleopatra was dangerous at ruling and main. The place would she have discovered to do this? From her additionally famously inept father? The Ptolemaic line hadn’t produced a correctly succesful monarch within the full century earlier than Cleopatra assumed energy, so it isn’t stunning that she simply didn’t have the coaching in politics, state finance, administration, or army management that she would have wanted to be efficient in her position as queen. Nobody had managed to coach a Ptolemy to do any of that effectively in a very long time.

However, the observe file Cleopatra units is basically fairly poor. She fares poorly in political contests, be they in Alexandria (51-49) or Rome (46-44) or with Antonius (33-31). She was ready sufficient to carry on to energy in Egypt on her personal from 44 to 30, although it ought to be famous by then there have been merely no authentic options to Cleopatra. When there had been options, it had taken a minimum of Julius Caesar to maintain these options from overwhelming her. In the meantime, Cleopatra mishandles each single military or fleet she touches. Army management was a core job of Hellenistic monarchy and Cleopatra was shockingly dangerous at it, in all probability as a result of she was by no means sufficiently skilled to do it. Admittedly, the Ptolemaic military had not been notably succesful in a very long time, which is able to lead into the subsequent level, however nonetheless even when she had Roman legions to deal with, she misplaced them rapidly and with out doing any actual harm to her enemies.

In the meantime her monetary stewardship additionally appears poor. As famous, we see the telltale indicators of a kingdom dwelling past its means below Cleopatra (as below her predecessors): the regular debasement of the foreign money. Clearly a few of that cash was funneled into her gambles, like her assist of Antonius. Fleets are costly and so are armies and Cleopatra appears to have spent fairly a little bit of Egypt’s treasure funding each within the hopes of gaining territories outdoors of Egypt. Every of these failed gambles weakened Egypt, made it extra weak for the eventual Roman takeover, till the possibilities have been fairly actually spent.

The opposite issue we haven’t but mentioned on this level is the expense of her personal courtroom and life-style. The hostility of our sources make this tough too. They’re loaded with no finish of anecdotes meant to indicate that Cleopatra’s courtroom was excessively lavish and lavish, which was itself an intensification of a normal repute the Ptolemies specifically had for excessively lavish courtroom spending, even in comparison with different Hellenistic monarchs. However, it must be mentioned: Cleopatra had a repute for extra even in comparison with the Ptolemies who had a repute for extra as in comparison with Hellenistic monarchs who had a repute for extra in contrast with every other type of ruler or elite. Curler lists off the tales, that Cleopatra despatched letters to Antonius inscribed on onyx or crystal, that she as soon as dissolved a priceless pearl earring in vinegar to indicate she may throw a ten million drachma feast, that she referred to her gold and silver desk service as ‘ceramics,’ {that a} ‘Cleopatran’ feast remained a typical saying for hundreds of years. A lot of it have to be easy invective invented by Octavian’s supporters however additionally it is very clear (on this be aware Taylor, op. cit., 160-1) {that a} good portion of Egypt’s unbelievable wealth was spent on the spectacle and lavish court-life of the Ptolemaic monarchy. On the very least we are able to say that Cleopatra, at a second when royal funds must have been shopping for loyalty or weapons, didn’t desist from conventional Ptolemaic extravagance both.

Lastly, I feel it’s attainable that Cleopatra was extra hooked up to Egypt than different Ptolemaic monarchs. She did, no less than, trouble to be taught the language. She might have participated in and put extra inventory in Egyptian faith, although you wouldn’t comprehend it from her constructing agenda. She might have felt a duty for the Egyptian folks, although that feeling definitely didn’t lead her to maneuver in any seen approach to diminish the constructions of Macedonian rule. She might have felt an obligation to guard Egypt, however this didn’t cease her from funneling Egypt’s treasure and its future into one gambit after one other at larger energy past Egypt’s borders, leaving Egypt itself wholly undefended when the invader lastly got here.

However I don’t suppose so. The sources are pretty clear that Cleopatra was very clever and we are able to see that she was pushed, self-determined and strong-willed. Most individuals should not have the gumption to smuggle themselves right into a hostile metropolis to swing a one-on-one assembly with a overseas normal on which their life relies upon. And so forth the stability, I feel Cleopatra’s actions are in all probability an excellent indicator of what she wished to perform, which was first to safe sole energy in Egypt after which to increase that energy to embody as a lot of Alexander’s Empire as she may get. This was, in any case, by the point of her beginning, the two-and-a-half-century previous dream of her household. Why ought to Cleopatra, the final inheritor of Alexander be any completely different? On the altar of these ambitions, she appears to have fairly willingly sacrificed her siblings (not that they wouldn’t have finished the identical to her), her wealth and ultimately her kingdom.

And but for that ambition and drive, Cleopatra lacked the talents to perform these goals. She gambled her folks, her kingdom and her dynasty on a larger empire for herself and misplaced. She was definitely not the least spectacular Ptolemaic Pharaoh – that prize might effectively go to her father – however she was additionally removed from the best of them both.

The disgrace is that Cleopatra will get a lot consideration as the historical queen, contorted to fulfill the wants of the second as both villain or icon, that different figures get uncared for. Would you like a robust warrior queen? Let me introduce you to Zenobia of Palmyra. Or Amanirenas of Meroë, who in contrast to Cleopatra held off Octavian and saved her kingdom. However I feel it’s time we put apart Cleopatra the Villain and Cleopatra the Icon and as a substitute acknowledged the true Cleopatra: the formidable ruler who simply didn’t fairly have the proper expertise to drag all of it off, who destroyed her very kingdom attempting.

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