AMONG THE MOST famous women to have lived, Cleopatra VII ruled Egypt for twenty-two years. She lost a kingdom once, regained it, nearly lost it again, amassed an empire, lost it all. A goddess as a child, a queen at eighteen, a celebrity soon thereafter, she was an object of speculation and veneration, gossip and legend, even in her own time. At the height of her power she controlled virtually the entire eastern Mediterranean coast, the last great kingdom of any Egyptian ruler.
At eighteen Cleopatra and her ten-year-old brother assumed control of a country with a weighty past and a wobbly future.
The Romans had the temperament of wolves. They hated the great kings. Everything they possessed they had plundered. They intended to seize all, and would “either destroy everything or perish in the attempt.”
With her death Egypt became a Roman province. It would not recover its autonomy until the twentieth century.