She had two older sisters, Cleopatra VI and Berenice IV aswell as a younger sister, Arsinoe IV. There were two younger brothers as well,Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. It is thought that Cleopatra VI may have died as achild and Auletes had Berenice beheaded. At Ptolemy Auletes’ death, Pompey, aRoman leader, was left in charge of the children. During the two centuries thatpreceded Ptolemy Auletes death, the Ptolemies were allied with the Romans. ThePtolemies’ strength was failing and the Roman Empire was rising.
City after citywas falling to the Roman power and the Ptolemies could do nothing but create apact with them. During the later rule of the Ptolemies, the Romans gained moreand more control over Egypt. Tributes had to be paid to the Romans to keep themaway from Egypt. When Ptolemy Auletes died, the fall of the Dynasty appeared tobe even closer. According to Egyptian law, Cleopatra was forced to have a consort, who waseither a brother or a son, no matter what age, throughout her reign.
She wasmarried to her younger brother Ptolemy XIII when he was twelve, however she soondropped his name from any official documents regardless of the Ptolemaicinsistence that the male presence be first among co-rulers. She also had her ownportrait and name on coins of that time, ignoring her brother’s. When Cleopatrabecame co-regent, her world was crumbling down around her. Cyprus, Coele-Syriaand Cyrenaica were gone.
There was anarchy abroad and famine at home. Cleopatrawas a strong-willed Macedonian queen who was brilliant and dreamed of a greaterworld empire. She almost achieved it. Whether her way of getting it done was forher own desires or for the pursuit of power will never be known for certain.
However, like many Hellenistic queens, she was passionate but not promiscuous. As far as we know, she had no other lovers other than Caesar and Antony. Manybelieve that she did what she felt was necessary to try to save Alexandria,whatever the price. By 48 BC, Cleopatra had alarmed the more powerful court officials ofAlexandria by some of her actions.
For instance, her mercenaries killed theRoman governor of Syria’s sons when they came to ask for her assistance fortheir father against the Parthians. A group of men led by Theodotus, the eunuchPothinus and a half-Greek general, Achillas, overthrew her in favor of heryounger brother. They believed him to be much easier to influence and theybecame his council of regency. Cleopatra is thought to have fled to Thebaid. Between 51 and 49 BC, Egypt was suffering from bad harvests and famine becauseof a drought which stopped the much needed Nile flooding.
Ptolemy XIII signed adecree on October 27, 50 BC which banned any shipments of grain to anywhere butAlexandria. It is thought that this was to deprive Cleopatra and her supporterswho were not in Alexandria. Regardless, she started an army from the Arab tribeswhich were east of Pelusium. During this time, she and her sister Arsinoe movedto Syria. They returned by way of Ascalon which may have been Cleopatra’stemporary base. In the meantime, Pompey had been defeated at Pharsalus in August of 48 BC.
Heheaded for Alexandria hoping to find refuge with Ptolemy XIII, of whom Pompeywas a senate-appointed guardian. Pompey did not realize how much his reputationhad been destroyed by Pharsalus until it was too late. He was murdered as hestepped ashore on September 28, 48 BC. The young Ptolemy XIII stood on the dockand watched the whole scene. Four days later, Caesar arrived in Alexandria. Hebrought with him thirty-two hundred legionaries and eight hundred cavalry.
Healso brought twelve other soldiers who bore the insignia of the Roman governmentwho carried a bundle of rods with an ax with a blade that projected out. Thiswas considered a badge of authority that gave a clear hint of his intentions. There were riots that followed in Alexandria.