HERstory: Cleopatra was more than what society would make of her

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Where do people go when they don’t want to accept Cleopatra as the leader she is? Da-Nile! Thank you ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be in the next issue of “The Whit.”

Bad jokes aside, it’s almost impossible to figure out who Cleopatra was. Thanks to Hollywood and Shakespeare, Cleopatra is more myth than historical these days. Cleopatra, as such an elusive figure, inspires questions: is she really the seductive queen who ended her empire for a man? Or is she someone who got lost in the history?

According to history.com, Cleopatra could speak three languages and was very well educated. Not much is known about the young queen’s early life, but she ascended to the throne at age 18 after her 10-year-old brother died.

Almost immediately after, there was a coup against Cleopatra and she fled Egypt to modern-day Syria. Cleopatra, the wonder woman, didn’t accept defeat. Instead, she raised an army and began a long civil war. 

Julius Caesar heard about the war and decided to visit Egypt. After he arrived in Alexandria, Cleopatra decided that she needed his support to win the war. If Cleopatra was a man, she’d probably have a diplomatic dinner with Caesar. But Cleopatra knew that the only way to convince Caesar to help her was to seduce him.

She decided to sneak into Caesar’s bedroom to seal the deal. By the end of that night Ceaser held full support for Cleopatra. United, the couple won the civil war and reclaimed Egypt. After a couple’s trip to Rome, Caesar was murdered (i.e. brutally stabbed by his coworkers). Cleopatra, wisely, decided that she didn’t want to stick around in Rome. 

Of course, there was a giant conflict to see who would rule Rome after Caesar’s death. The different sides wanted Cleopatra’s support, but Cleopatra didn’t want to help. I assume after being annoyed by Rome’s pestering, she decided to help the men who would avenge Caesar.

Afterward, Cleopatra decided that she wanted to meet Mark Antony, one of the new rulers of Rome. According to legend, Cleopatra sailed to Antony in a beautiful ship wearing the robes of Isis. Antony fell for her at first sight. (Side note: Cleopatra really knew how to seduce a man. I’m officially taking notes.)

Antony agreed to make an alliance with Cleopatra and ruled Egypt with her. He was forced to marry another woman because of political alliance, but this didn’t stop the lovers’ affair.

Complications with the relationship caused Rome to strip Antony of his power. It looks like Rome didn’t like that Cleopatra had Antony wrapped around her little finger. Antony started a war to regain his power and heard a rumor that Cleopatra committed suicide and decided that he couldn’t live in a world without Cleopatra and killed himself.

Of course, Cleopatra was heartbroken. She buried Antony and decided to commit suicide herself. Her wish to be buried next to Antony was granted and their remains were never found. There’s something oddly comforting knowing that Cleopatra’s wish transcends to even today. 

I realized after my research that people are unable to separate Cleopatra from the seductress and the cunning queen. It’s easy to be in denial of Cleopatra’s wiles because we’re taught that a woman can’t be promiscuous and clever at the same time. However, Cleopatra pushed past these stereotypes.

In a world where women couldn’t hold power Cleopatra, used the one weapon that most men couldn’t use, feminine charm. And honestly? I applaud her for it. Cleopatra knew what she wanted and she did whatever she could to get it. And that’s what I call a powerful woman.

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