Cleopatra, who became Queen of Egypt in 51 B.C., at the age of 19, was actually not
Egyptian. She was from Macedonia, a region in the north of Greece. She was descended from
Ptolemy, a general of Alexander the Great who became King of Egypt after Alexander’s death
in 323 B.C. Ptolemy founded a dynasty, but by the time Cleopatra ascended the throne, the
Ptolemies’ strength was falling and the Roman Empire was rising. Tribute had to be paid to the
Romans to keep them away from Egypt.
In compliance with Egyptian tradition, Cleopatra married her brother and co-ruler, Ptolemy XIII,
who was about 16 at the time. But it was a marriage of convenience only, and Ptolemy was
pharaoh in name only. For three years he remained in the background, while Cleopatra ruled
By 48 B.C. Cleopatra had so alarmed court officials in Alexandria by her independence, that
they conspired to overthrow her in favor of her more pliable younger brother Ptolemy XIII.
Cleopatra was forced to flee Alexandria and go into exile in Syria. Determined to regain her
throne, she began to amass an army on Egypt’s border.
Meanwhile in Rome, there was a civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey over who was to
rule the Empire. Pompey was defeated and headed to Alexandria, hoping to find refuge with
Ptolemy XIII, of whom he was a senate-appointed guardian. Pompey was murdered (and
beheaded) as he stepped ashore in Alexandria. Four days after the death of Pompey, Julius
Caesar landed in Egypt and summoned Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII.
Wary of being captured by her brother’s henchmen, Cleopatra set sail at night in a little boat
with only one of her trusted friends, slid through the harbor undetected and landed near the
palace in Alexandria. She was smuggled ashore in an oriental carpet tied round with a leather
thong and carried on the back of her friend Apollodorus right into Caesar’s palace.
Plutarch reported that when the carpet unrolled and Cleopatra fell out, Caesar fell in love with
her then and there. He was 53. She was 22.
Instead of annexing Egypt to Rome, Caesar set Cleopatra back on the throne along with her
younger half-brother, Ptolemy XIV, who was 12 years old. (Her former co-regent Ptolemy XIII
had drowned in the Nile while trying to flee.) Later Cleopatra and her co-ruler-half brother
made a red-carpet visit to Rome. Julius Caesar hosted them in one of his own palaces. She
was still in Rome on the Ides of March 44 B.C. when Caesar was assassinated. Horrified, she
quickly departed for home.
Marc Antony, Caesar’s heroic charismatic general, had expected to be named in Caesar’s will,
but instead, Caesar’s teenaged grand-nephew, Octavian was named beneficiary. (Many Rome
guides claim that Octavian forged the will!) Octavian and Antony joined together in Rome to
defeat Caesar’s enemies. Then they agreed to divide the Roman world. Octavian took the
west and Antony the east.
When Antony sailed for the East, in 37 B.C., he summoned Cleopatra, who came to him in
Antioch, Syria. Antony was smitten with her. (They say, “He came, he saw, SHE conquered!”)
Antony gave Cleopatra gifts of land in Phoenicia, Syria, Cyprus, Sicily, a coastal strip of Arabia
all the way down to the Red Sea – and the “side of Judea that produced balsam.” Cleopatra
wanted more. She felt that as a Ptolemy, she deserved all of Judea, which had once belonged
to her ancestors.
Cleopatra dominated Antony, but he would not take the entire territory away from Herod (the
GREAT; father to Herod Antipas), his loyal friend, and transfer it to Cleopatra. Instead,
Antony gave her smaller portions, including Herod’s royal date and balsam plantations in
Jericho and En Gedi.
Herod was so appalled at having the ambitious Cleopatra so close to Jerusalem, the capital of
his kingdom, that he leased back the territories from Cleopatra and paid her a very generous
fee. Just to be on the safe side, south of En Gedi, he built the desert fortress of Masada which
overlooked the spice route leading to Arabia.
It is said that Herod equipped this fortress as a refuge for himself, suspecting a double danger:
peril on the one hand from the Jewish people, who might dethrone him and restore to power
their former dynasty and the greater and more serious danger from Cleopatra,
Queen of Egypt.
Cleopatra, on her part, tried to seduce Herod and made no secret of it. She intended to lay a
treacherous snare for him. Herod seriously considered killing her, but his advisors dissuaded
him. Antony would be furious, they declared. Herod evaded her overtures, treated her
courteously, lavished gifts on her and escorted her to the Egyptian border.
Cleopatra’s downfall was Antony’s overwhelming desire to be with her. Antony hastily went to
war in the east too early in the season. As he hurried his army along, he made a catastrophic
mistake. His siege equipment – huge battering rams which broke down city walls, which was
carried in 300 carts – was forgotten and left behind!!! It was then captured by his enemy and
burned. His troops suffered from famine or were poisoned by the herbs they ate and the water
they drank. Antony lost about 24,000 men.
Cleopatra set sail to meet Antony by Sidon, on the Phoenician coast. Plutarch colorfully
described Antony’s frenzied drinking and constant rushing to the coast to see if her ships were
in sight. When Cleopatra arrived, she brought clothing for the soldiers, money to pay them and
cedars of Lebanon which he needed for ship-building at which the Egyptians were greatly
However, instead of attacking Parthia in the East, Antony returned to Alexandria with
Cleopatra. When it was discovered in Rome that Antony had willed Cleopatra, the Queen
of Egypt, all the eastern Roman Empire, should he die, Rome cancelled all Antony’s
power, reduced him to the rank of a private citizen and declared war on both him and
When the Roman fleets met at Actium (31 B.C.) on the eastern coast of Greece, Antony was
soundly defeated. He and Cleopatra sailed for Egypt. She saw the battle was over and
believed they lived to fight again. Cleopatra was only 39 years old. But Antony was a broken
Up on the hills overlooking the harbor of Alexandria, Antony watched as Octavian’s ships
entered. Thinking that he had been betrayed by Cleopatra, Antony fell on his sword and was
mortally wounded. He was taken to Cleopatra and died in her arms. His last words – according
to Shakespeare – were, “I am dying Egypt, dying…one word sweet Queen -- of Caesar seek
your honor and your safety.” Shakespeare has Cleopatra reply, “They (honor and safety) do
not go together.”
When Octavian (who had assumed the title, "Caesar" which became synonymous with
emperor) entered Alexandria, there was no resistance. Octavian tried to prevent Cleopatra’s
suicide. He probably intended to have her dragged through the streets of Rome in gold
chains. But Cleopatra had other plans.
After visiting Antony’s tomb and her own, she dressed herself, as if for dinner. A countryman
came to her with a basket of figs and an asp whose bite had the power to kill quickly. It’s said
that she died with the dignity with which she had lived – on a gold bed in her regal robes.
One of Herod the Great's wife was Cleopatra of Jersusalem.
Who was Cleopatra of Jerusalem?
(1) she was the fifth wife of Herod The Great of Judea, and he was her
third husband; her second husband had been the High-Priest Simon IV
(23-19BC), and she was his second wife. Her first husband is not
named, but is a matter of conjecture. The only thing we know for sure
is that she was a young widow when she married the high-priest.
(2) the identity of her first husband is thought to have been the
Patriarch of Jerusalem, who was a Davidic prince, who was
executed by Herod in 23BC during one of his persecutions of the royal
(3) now, from another point of view we compare these facts:
(a) the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra was pregnant when Julius Caesar
was murdered in Rome - when she returned from Rome to Egypt
she gave birth to a daughter, Cleopatra, in 44BC
(b) years later, in 30BC, when Octavius conquered Egypt he slew the
son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar saying that the world was not big
enough for two caesars, however, since females had no rights of
inheritance under Roman law he allowed the daughter to live and
married her off to an "obscure eastern prince"
(c) now, who is the identity of this "obscure eastern prince" - it is
supposed that he was the Patriarch of Jerusalem because of the
contemporary Near Eastern royalty then alive, he appears to be the
only logical choice
(4) thus, by conjecture, she was the daughter of Cleopatra of Egypt by
(5) this view is supported by apocryphal literature, the "Gospel of St
Joseph", says that during the sojourn of the Holy Family in Egypt that
the priests of Egypt presented Joseph with Egypt's royal regalia, and
the only reason that they would do that would be if his mother was the
daughter of Cleopatra, Egypt's last queen.