Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cleopatra's Daddy Issues

"Dad, seriously. The flute? Really?"
Everyone's parents are embarrassing when you're kid. But Cleopatra's dad? Totally cringeworthy.

See, her dad played the flute. All the time. In place of ruling. So people called him Ptolemy the Piper, and not in a good way, either. Turns out choosing to play a wind-instrument over taking charge of your kingdom doesn't inspire confidence. Imagine that.

And then, to add to the embarrassment, Daddy sold out to the Romans. He borrowed so much money from a Roman loan-shark--squeezing his people dry to pay off the interest--it was a wonder the entire economy didn't collapse. Rome then took some of Egypt's territories (because they could) and Daddy did nothing to stop them. His people were furious and let him know it with riots in the streets.

At one point, Daddy Piper took a little trip to Rome, taking 11-year old Cleopatra with him. He needed more support (*cough* money) from Rome, you see. So the king of Egypt swallowed his dignity and trolled for cash up and down the Tiber.

Everybody, including his own daughter, Berenice, was furious. So, in typical Ptolemy fashion, Berenice poisoned an older sister and took the throne. Daddy was sucking up to the Romans, after all, right? It was time for new leadership!

Only one problem. Daddy Piper wasn't ready to give up his throne. He convinced yet another rich Roman to "loan" him a Roman army. Yup, Cleopatra's dad used a Roman army to invade his own kingdom. Then he had his daughter Berenice killed as a traitor. He quickly resumed squeezing his people dry with even more ridiculous taxes in order to pay off even more Romans.
Young Cleopatra had...er, a "nose" for sniffing
out political strategies designed to fix what
her forefathers broke.

Young Cleopatra VII somehow kept Daddy's favor and he named her queen when she was 17. She inherited his great big Roman mess when he died a year later, leaving her to rule with her pre-pubscent little brother.

Is it any wonder then, that Cleopatra evolved a strategy of pairing off with Rome (via unions with leading Romans Julius Caesar and later, Marc Antony) rather than continuing the unhealthy, economy-sapping strategies that her father and grandfathers promoted? She was smart enough to know things had to change.

And change they did.

How? You'll have to find out by reading my book, Cleopatra Rules! The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen.

(Yup, I did. I went there. Did it work? Are you going to read it now?)


Narukami said...

Excellent post.

As you probably know, "flute player" had another meaning along the lines of Don't Ask--Don't Tell.

Seems the Alexandrians took their leaders seriously, but took their jokes about them even more so.

On NPR Sunday there was an Egyptologist waxing eloquent about how the current Egypt compared to ancient Egypt. Asked about the protests in Cairo he said that there was nothing like it in Egyptian history. I found that odd -- reading Goldsworthy and Grant and Faulkner, it is clear that the Alexandrians had no problem taking their leaders to task and the later Ptolemys, at least, were very conscious of this fact of life.

However... The people could tolerate a lot og 'high jinxs' from their leaders so long as the city prospered and the granaries remained full.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Very true, David! In fact, the riots in Alexandria were notorious for being violent and bloody! I wonder, though, if politically, some modern Egyptians don't consider the dynasties under Greek rule as proper Egyptian history. That might explain the oversight. But that is just conjecture.

In regards to the "flute player" double meaning, I could find now way of "going there," since this blog may be read by children or children's librarians. Your solution--"along the lines of Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was perfect and hilarious!

Trisha said...

It's so good to know that parents have been embarrassing forever.

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

awesome post!! i didn't really know all of the background on her father before. thanks!!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Yeah, Trish, it's funny how we can picture even the most powerful people in history rolling their eyes at their folks, huh?

Thanks for stopping by Carrie!

Sally said...

I caught your interview over at Cathy's Hall of Fame. I enjoy history and when it isn't written in academic prose that's exciting. I look forward to checking out your book.

Unknown said...

Hi Vicky,
I found your blog via Cathy C. Hall. I'm glad I landed here. So much interesting and fascinating information, and I love your style.
Oh, and I signed up to be a follower.
Good luck with both books!
Donna v.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Thanks, Sally! I hope you enjoy it!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Hi Donna, So glad to meet you! I signed up to follow your blog as well.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Good luck with your books! I'll load to my Kindle, and I look forward to reading your work. I also found you through Cathy C. Hall, and I'm now a follower.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Thanks, Lisa! Glad you came by!

Debra Mayhew said...

Hi, Vicky! I'm coming over from Cathy's blog, too. I enjoyed your interview with her. I've got a 13 year old and and 11 year old that I think would enjoy your book. I'm looking forward to reading it, too! And thanks for the info on Cleopatra's family in your post. By those standards, my family is totally normal. :)