August 12th 30 BC: Cleopatra dies
On this day in 30 BC the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra VII, committed suicide. She came from a family of Greek origin who ruled Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. Upon the death of her father Ptolemy XII in 51 BC Cleopatra became co-ruler with her brother Ptolemy XIII (and later her other brother Ptolemy XIV). She famously became lovers with Roman leader Julius Caesar, with whose help she was restored to rule after her brother had tried to oust her; she eventually became the sole pharaoh of Egypt. Cleopatra travelled to Rome with Caesar, but returned to her native Egypt upon his assassination. After Caesar’s death, she began a relationship with Mark Anthony as they worked together against Caesar’s successor Octavian. However their attempt was in vain, and at the sea Battle of Actium on the Greek coast in 31 BC they suffered a resounding defeat by Octavian’s forces. The two fled back to Egypt, where Anthony committed suicide after his troops deserted him. Cleopatra followed soon after, supposedly killing herself by means of an asp bite on August 12th 30 BC. With the fall of these two powerful figures, Octavian was able to consolidate his rule and become the first Roman emperor as ‘Augustus’. Caesarion, Cleopatra and Caesar’s son, who had been ruling as co-ruler with his mother, was killed by Augustus’s forces and thus Egypt soon became a province of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra remains a famous figure for her political astuteness and remarkable leadership of Egypt and has been popular in art and literature, including William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.