Exhibitions: Pharaohs, Queens, and Goddesses

Ptolemaic Queen: Cleopatra VII

Ptolemaic Queen (Cleopatra VII ?). Egypt, provenance not known. Ptolemaic Period, 305–30 B.C. Marble. Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 71.12

The last ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty (332–30 B.C.), Cleopatra VII ruled from 51 to 31 B.C. and lived a complicated and eventful life as she attempted to maintain Egyptian independence from Rome. She shared the Egyptian throne at various times with her brothers and later tried to declare her son by Julius Caesar the king. Afterward she married Mark Anthony, Caesar's heir. They had three children together. Defeated by Octavian (later the Emperor Augustus) at the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., Mark Anthony committed suicide and Cleopatra followed him eleven days later on August 12, 30 B.C. Of their three children, two were then raised in Rome and one married the king of Mauritania in present-day North Africa. The triple Uraeus on the queen's brow identifies her to some scholars as Cleopatra VII.

Though the Romans defamed her for political reasons, she remained a heroine in Egypt. Her political acumen allowed her to survive for over twenty years as she tried to steer Egypt on an independent course while the Roman empire grew and finally absorbed it.