“From Triumph to tгаɡedу: Unraveling the Fate of Cleopatra, the ɩeɡeпdагу Queen”

Cleopatra VII, the final ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt, met her demise on either 10 or 12 August, 30 BC, in Alexandria, at the age of 39. The prevailing belief is that Cleopatra took her own life by allowing an asp, an Egyptian cobra, to bite her. However, ancient Roman-era writers such as Strabo, Plutarch, and Cassius Dio presented a different account, suggesting that Cleopatra poisoned herself using a toxic ointment or by administering the poison with a sharp object like a hairpin. Modern scholars continue to debate the accuracy of these ancient reports concerning snakebites as the cause of her death, as well as the possibility of her being murdered.

Some academics propose the hypothesis that Cleopatra’s Roman political rival, Octavian, compelled her to choose her own method of death. The precise location of Cleopatra’s tomb remains unknown. Historical records indicate that Octavian permitted her and her husband, Mark Antony, a Roman politician and general who had taken his own life by stabbing himself, to receive a proper burial together.

Cleopatra’s death had significant ramifications, effectively concluding the final war of the Roman Republic between the remaining triumvirs, Octavian and Antony. Cleopatra had aligned herself with Antony, who was also the father of three of her children. Following their defeat at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC in Roman Greece, Antony and Cleopatra sought refuge in Egypt. Octavian subsequently invaded Egypt and defeated their forces. By choosing suicide, Cleopatra spared herself the indignity of being paraded as a captive in a Roman triumph, a celebration of Octavian’s military victories. Octavian would go on to become Rome’s first emperor in 27 BC, assuming the title Augustus.

Octavian ordered the execution of Cleopatra’s son, Caesarion (also known as Ptolemy XV), who was a rival heir of Julius Caesar, in Egypt. However, he spared Cleopatra’s children with Antony and brought them to Rome. Cleopatra’s death marked the end of the Hellenistic period and the Ptolemaic rule of Egypt, ushering in the era of Roman Egypt, which became a province of the Roman Empire.

The death of Cleopatra has been depicted in various forms of art throughout history. Sculptures, paintings, poetry, plays, and modern films have all featured Cleopatra’s demise. In ancient Latin literature, Cleopatra held a prominent place in both prose and poetry. While surviving visual depictions of her death in ancient Roman art are scarce, there is a wealth of Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Modern works. Ancient Greco-Roman sculptures like the Esquiline Venus and Sleeping Ariadne served as inspirations for later artistic representations of Cleopatra’s death, most commonly featuring the snakebite of an asp. Cleopatra’s death has often been associated with themes of eroticism and sexuality in various artworks, particularly during the Victorian era. Modern interpretations of Cleopatra’s death can be found in Neoclassical sculpture, Orientalist painting, and cinema.