1. She wasn’t just a pretty face
Cleopatra’s beauty has been admired and debated for centuries after her death, but this was not her only defining feature. She was fluent in her native Greek, Egyptian and as many as seven other languages, which often meant she could converse with diplomats without a translator. She also possessed knowledge of mathematics, physics and philosophy. She’s got me there, I’m not even a pretty face…
2. She wasn’t Egyptian
Ptolemy, one of Alexander the Great’s generals, set up his dynasty in Egypt. This means that the royal family Cleopatra claimed lineage from was of Greek and Macedonian heritage, not Egyptian. Although she was not ethnically Egyptian, Cleopatra was the first of her line to learn the native tongue and followed many of the countries ancient customs.
3. The month of August is a celebration of her defeat
After Octavian defeated Anthony and Cleopatra in Egypt, he was in a position to be the sole ruler of the Roman Republic, renamed himself Augustus and became the first emperor of Rome. In honour of this, he renamed the eighth month of the year August in memory of his victories both in Egypt and abroad. The only other man to have a month named after him in this fashion was Juluis Caesar. The month is, unsurprisingly, July.
4. She ordered her sister to be murdered
After Caesar’s murder, Cleopatra fled back to Alexandria and needed to safeguard herself and her son. To do this, Cleopatra ordered that her sister, Arsinoe, be put to death. Mark Anthony, who was now in a relationship with Cleopatra, ordered the execution in 41 BCE on the steps of the temple of Artemis and caused great scandal throughout the Roman world.
5. She knew how to make an entrance
When Julius Caesar landed in Egypt, he was said to have been enraged by the murder of his rival Pompey by Cleopatra’s brother, Ptolemy XIII. He seized the Palace at Alexandria and set about securing the country. Sensing that Caesar would be her best way to return to power, Cleopatra smuggled herself through hostile territory wrapped in a rug. When this was presented to Caesar as a gift, she unrolled and introduced herself.