Two thousand and forty three years ago today, in 30 B.C., Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator, popularly known simply as Cleopatra, committed suicide.
She was the last Queen of Egypt, and the last Queen of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, a line of largely Macedonian Greeks who had ruled over Egypt for nearly 300 years since the death of Alexander the Great.
Her husband, Mark Antony, had fallen on his own sword only 11 days before, having been defeated by the forces of Octavian. She was well aware that Octavian intended to take her with him to Rome, to be humiliated and paraded through the streets chained to his chariot in celebration of his victory.
Rather than be subjected to such a fate, she instead took her own life. It is popularly thought that she did so through the bite of a venomous snake, but recent research has suggested that it was possible she took poison instead. Despite many artistic depictions to the contrary, she did not go to her death in the nude/near nude, but fully clothed and wearing all her Queenly regalia.
It is even said that one of her two most loyal handmaidens, who both followed their mistress to her death, was adjusting her crown when they were discovered by Octavian’s men. The other already lay dead, or nearly so, at her feet.
According to legend, one of the men angrily shouted something about this being a fine deed. The handmaiden still living, Charmian responded with “It is indeed most fine, and befitting the descendant of so many kings” before collapsing and dying herself.