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In modern times Cleopatra has appeared in both the applied and fine arts, burlesque satire, Hollywood films such as Cleopatra (1963), and brand images for commercial products, becoming a pop culture icon of Egyptomania since the Victorian era.

Ptolemaic pharaohs were crowned by the Egyptian High Priest of Ptah at Memphis, Egypt, but resided in the multicultural and largely Greek city of Alexandria, established by Alexander the Great of Macedon.

Ptolemy XII responded to the threat of possible annexation by offering remuneration and lavish gifts to powerful Roman statesmen, such as Pompey during his campaign against Mithridates VI of Pontus, and eventually Julius Caesar after he became Roman consul in 59 BC.

Most likely a posthumously painted portrait of Cleopatra with red hair and her distinct facial features, wearing a royal diadem and pearl-studded hairpins, from Roman Herculaneum, Italy, 1st century AD Ptolemy XII remained publicly silent on the death of his brother, a decision which, along with ceding traditional Ptolemaic territory to the Romans, damaged his credibility among subjects already enraged by his economic policies.

Cleopatra then had Ptolemy XIV killed and elevated her son Caesarion as co-ruler.

In the Liberators' civil war of 43–42 BC, Cleopatra sided with the Roman Second Triumvirate formed by Octavian, Mark Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.

After the death of Cleopatra, Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire, marking the end of the Hellenistic period that had lasted since the reign of Alexander (336–323 BC).

In the Donations of Alexandria, Cleopatra's children with Antony were declared rulers over various erstwhile territories under Antony's authority.After their meeting at Tarsos in 41 BC, Cleopatra had an affair with Antony that would eventually produce three children: Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene II, and Ptolemy Philadelphus.Antony used his authority as triumvir to carry out the execution of Arsinoe IV at Cleopatra's request.The naval fleet of Antony and Cleopatra was defeated at the 31 BC Battle of Actium by Octavian's general Agrippa.Octavian's forces invaded Egypt in 30 BC and defeated those of Antony, leading to his suicide.She also spoke Ethiopian, Trogodyte, Hebrew (or Aramaic), Arabic, the Syrian language (perhaps Syriac), Median, Parthian, and Latin, although her Roman contemporaries would have preferred to speak with her in her native Koine Greek.

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