Cleopatra - Success and Leadership
Cleopatra (69-30 BC)
The last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt (pictured right)
Famous for her love affairs with the Roman leaders, Julius
Caesar and Mark Antony.
Why was she a great leader?
1. Charisma and intelligence
She wasn't a great beauty unlike Elizabeth Taylor’s famous portrayal of her in the film,
Cleopatra, which started her famous love affair with Richard Burton (pictured
right together in the film).
But Cleopatra was:
- a mathematician and brilliant businesswoman.
She won over Julius Caesar by arriving at her
palace rolled up in a Persian carpet.
2. Her lovers
She used her love affairs with Julius
Caesar and Mark Antony, pictured right, to protect her throne from Roman
rule and the ambitions of her husbands:
- Ptolemy XIII (drowned in the Nile after being defeated by Caesar)
- Ptolemy XIV (possibly poisoned by Cleopatra so that her and Caesar’s son,
Caesarion, would replace him as Pharaoh).
She also charmed Mark Antony, one of the three Roman leaders after Caesar’s murder in 44
It is said that she bet him that she could spend 10 million sesteres on a dinner and did so by dissolving one of
her pearl earrings in a cup of vinegar!
They first met at Tarsus (now in Turkey) where she won his heart by arriving in a huge gold plated
barge with purple sails and silver oars, dressed up as Venus, the goddess of
They married in 32 BC, forming a powerful alliance.
3. Heroic death
In 31 BC Antony and Cleopatra fought Octavian (also called Octavius,
pictured right) at the sea Battle of Actium.
Cleopatra’s fleet fled from the battle and Antony mysteriously followed her, leaving the rest of his fleet to
suffer a huge defeat and the loss of 300 ships and 5,000 men.
He fell on his sword, dying in the arms of Cleopatra who then poisoned herself with an asp (an
The ruthless Octavian (soon to become Augustus, the first Roman emperor):
- killed Caesarion (Cleopatra and Caesar’s son).
- took Cleopatra and Antony’s three children back to Rome to be raised as loyal Roman citizens (by Antony’s
ex-wife and Octavius’s sister, Octavia, pictured right).
4. Great ruler
She was only one of two women (the other was the English Celtic queen, Boudica) to challenge
the might of the Roman Empire.
Cleopatra also ruled her people with kindness and efficiency - for example:
- learning their language (which Pharaohs in her Greek family had never done for 300
- lowering taxes for farmers to encourage them to produce more grain.
She was devoted to Egypt and did everything possible to keep it free from Roman control.
She wanted to become emperor of the world, and she nearly did.
She amazed Julius Caesar (pictured right) with
her incredible determination to succeed.
Key quote on success
I will not be triumphed over.