- Jun 10, 2011
The circumstances of Cleopatra VII's rise to sole power are well-known. The beheading of Great Pompey, the accidental burning of the Great Library, Ptolemy XIII drowning as he fled in disgrace, the exiled Queen smuggled into Caesar's chambers in a carpet; the images have been told and retold through the centuries.
No less retold is the affair between Caesar and Cleopatra, the torrid six weeks in Alexandria where the stoic general uncharacteristically frolicked while there was still a war to be fought. True, Great Pompey was dead, but his sons still lived, commanding the faction loyal to the Senate and devoted to continuing the struggle in their father's name
After six weeks in sunny Egypt, Caesar was convinced by omens and advisers to set sail on the last day of February to return to war with the month and blessing of Mars. As he sailed under the Pharos Lighthouse that night, the general and the queen shared a last longing look over the wine-dark seas, perhaps aware they would never see each other again... or so hundreds of paintings would have you believe. In truth, Caesar was fighting a small bout of seasickness, and the young Cleopatra had gone to bed hours earlier to avoid being seen as a pining teenager.
She awoke in the pre-dawn gloom, screaming.
Once her servants had manged to calm her, her bodyguards were satisfied no attempt had been made on her life, and the high priests rudely roused from their beds, the Pharaoh proclaimed that her fellow god, Shai, Fate Itself, had announced Egypt's doom. No union between Rome and Egypt was possible (here her face was said to falter, sparking rumors that persist to this day that she intended to unite the two countries by having a son with Caesar). Egypt would suffer the fate of Carthage and she would be the last of the Pharaohs, if nothing was done.
The Sun rose on the first day of March, 707 AUC.