Cleopatra, the seventh and most famous queen of ancient Egypt, and the last of the pharaohs, committed suicide on this day in 30 B.C.
She was remarkable for more than her famed beauty. Her dynasty which died with her, the Ptolemies, took over the rule of Egypt once Alexander the Great’s influence had receded. While all her Ptolemy ancestors had followed Alexander’s influence, and spoke the Greek of the conqueror, Cleopatra learned to speak the Egyptian of her people, as well. She become one of the most powerful and beloved of the Ptolemy pharaohs.
Cleopatra also became the lover of two of the most powerful Roman leaders in history: Julius Caesar and Marc Antony — and bore children to both.
Cleopatra committed suicide when Marc Antony’s defense of Egypt against the invading Roman armies failed. Although fictional recreations — especially the more romantic versions — would like us to think Cleopatra wanted to die alongside Marc Antony, there is a strong argument to be made that she died because she did not want to be conquered. She had been queen of all she surveyed her entire life. To be humbled and at heel of an invader would have been an incredible adjustment for her and perhaps one she wasn’t prepared to make.