Netflix has been diving headlong into the lives of powerful queens, and its newest four-part docuseries on Cleopatra is no exception. Queen Cleopatra delves into the life of one of the most iconic Egyptian queens to ever walk the planet. The series, which drops May 11, is definitely intense, and features Cleopatra (played by actress Adele James) saying things like “I would die for Egypt” and “I am a god.”
In case you’re not already familiar, Cleopatra became Queen of Egypt after her father, Ptolemy XII, died in 51 BC, per Brittanica. She was Egypt’s last monarch before it became a province of the Roman empire, and she was very famous for her successful political, er, alliances.
The new docuseries delves into Cleopatra’s various relationships with important, high-ranking Roman men, including her affair with Julius Caesar and marriage to Mark Antony. The Egyptian queen was incredibly smart, speaking at least eight different languages, and strategically savvy about her connections with these powerful men. She came to the throne at a time when women were not usually afforded much agency, and used these alliances to her benefit.
BTW, Cleopatra was likely married three times over the course of her life (including a marriage to at least one of her younger brothers), which makes for a very bizarre and fascinating history lesson.
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But who were all of Cleopatra’s husbands, and what’s the deal with her famous lovers? Pull up a seat. There’s some serious tea coming your way.
She likely married her brother 10-year-old Ptolemy XIII
Husband No. 1 is believed to have been her brother, Ptolemy XIII.
After her father, Ptolemy XII, died, the throne of Egypt passed to Ptolemy XIII and Cleopatra, Brittanica reports. It’s believed that Cleopatra, who was 18 at the time, married her 10-year-old brother at this point (although this hasn’t been proven). Not long after, Ptolemy attempted to depose his sister Cleopatra, and she was forced to flee Egypt for Syria. There, she raised an army to fight her brother.
Cleopatra was romantically (and politically) involved with Julius Caesar.
After being ousted from Egypt, Cleopatra sought help from Julius Caesar, the dictator of the Roman Empire, whose army’s strength could help her regain her throne. The two quickly became lovers and Caesar did, in fact, help her take her throne back from her brother, according to the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). Ptolemy XIII later died while crossing the Nile River as he fled from Cleopatra and Caesar’s forces, Brittanica says.
Queen Cleopatra had now established a strong political alliance with Caesar. And perhaps to sweeten the deal (and keep Caesar close to her), Cleopatra soon gave birth to Ptolemy Caesar, aka Caesarion, who is believed to be Caesar’s son, in June 47 BC.
She married her other brother, Ptolemy XIV.
That makes husband No. 2. Despite her ongoing affair with Caesar, Cleopatra married her other brother, Ptolemy XIV, Brittanica says.
Despite her marriage, her relationship with Caesar appeared to continue. She paid at least one state visit to Rome with Ptolemy XIV, where she stayed in Caesar’s private villa by the Tiber River.
Cleopatra later married Mark Antony.
Here comes husband No. 3. When Caesar was murdered in Rome in 44 BCE (you’ll remember the famed “Et tu Brute?” stabbing scene), it jeopardized Cleopatra’s political standing and hold on international power. Her brother-husband Ptolemy XIV died shortly after Caesar, and Cleopatra began to rule Egypt alone.
Mark Antony was the assumed heir of the Roman empire and in the aftermath of Caesar’s death, he demanded to see Cleopatra. She sailed into town in a barge while wearing robes that portrayed her as the goddess Isis, Brittanica says. Antony was hooked and went to Alexandria with Cleopatra, leaving his third wife Fulvia in Rome, and the two eventually married, History reports. The couple had three children, including twins named Alexander and Cleopatra. The couple eventually went to battle against Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian, for succession of the Roman empire, per ARCE.
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Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE. Mark Antony famously fell on his sword after hearing the (false) news that Cleopatra had died, Brittanica says. Cleopatra died not long after, and it’s thought that she killed herself after being bitten by a venomous snake called an asp.
I don’t know about you, but this sounds like the original inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives by the beach, and hopes to own a teacup pig and taco truck one day.