The Influence of Groups in Ancient Societies and Cleopatra's Leadership Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1588 Words
Date:  2022-07-08

Ancient societies were dominated by not only beliefs that affected the influence that groups had but also stereotypes that had a significant effect on the contribution of women. Women were viewed as inferior to men and hence denied leadership positions given their perceived lack of capacity and ability on output. However, this did not stop a number of women standing out during the time. One such woman is Cleopatra that rose to become a powerful influence in the Egyptian Kingdom (Bohleke, 1996). The story of her leadership journey provides a captivating view of female leadership including her strength and abilities. Her contribution to the shaping of ancient culture is presented below focusing on her life as a ruler detailing some achievements attained and failures that affected her legacy. As a prominent woman, her impact on the Egyptian society and the world as a whole reverberates to today as further highlighted in the essay following.

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Cleopatra presents a symbol that was used in the era after her leaving as a yardstick to measure womanhood. To some, she signified the corruption that womanly influence represented as also presented by Shakespeare in his works raising bias in view of her (Buick, 2005). Dwelling on the manipulation of Mark Anthony through the use of vapors, sighs, and tears, Shakespeare affirms this corrupt womanly influence. In addition to the above, Shakespeare presents passion as the main attribute that contributed to the downfall of Cleopatra. As if to reaffirm the same weakness, Distad (2018) focuses on the inability of women to fight in the battlefield as a reason for their non-inclusion in the armies during the time. Ancient society relegated women to the roles of taking care of families as the men went to the battlefield to engage in war. On the contrary, Cleopatra had significant achievements as a woman leader in Egypt. Her success as a woman political and military leader speaks volumes about her abilities which challenge the views of women as a weaker group. Decisions made over her rein were focused on protecting her country and her people that had slowly lost power to the Roman Empire. One of the notable decisions made by Cleopatra was to marry her brother that had a significant association with the Roman leadership (Harold, Anton, Duca & Henefin, n.d.). Coming from a line of queens that had exhibited abilities to raise armies and obtain victory at war for their country, Cleopatra focused on achieving the same and even better for the people of Egypt. Her leadership skills surpassed those of men bringing to the fore the abilities of women in ancient times.

Also evident in history was the value Cleopatra associated with independence and the power she wielded as a leader and a woman (Harold, Anton, Duca & Henefin, n.d.). In her first rule over Egypt, she co-ruled the country with her brother. Despite this form of arrangement, Cleopatra always emerged as the dominant ruler. At some point in their shared leadership, the brother banished her as too powerful considering the society asserted that the male rule was meant to wield more power compared to the female. Despite being banished, Cleopatra still held the belief that she was the right leader Egypt needed. Her intentions remained active leading to her association with men of power as a form of achieving her motives. In addition to the above, the people of Egypt considered her the best of the leaders providing her with continued support despite having a ruler that was her brother. The attitude was evident in the entire Egyptian society as women practiced business buying jewelry from traders emanating from other regions. Moore (2015) affirms that majority of the proceeds from this kind of business was ploughed back in while the remaining was used in the development of Egypt affirming the contribution of women in the country despite the views held by society then. The resulting effect changed in ideology with an increasing number of women joining the working class and prospering at the same. The views on Cleopatra and her working to achieve success for the people of Egypt was the central motivation embraced by society. From the same, the power of women and their independence was therefore acknowledged in society.

One other attribute evident of Cleopatra's reign was wise decision-making that saw her acquire powerful allies and dominance. Her connection to leaders such as Caesar and Anthony was not just on the basis of her beauty but on her intentions as the leader of Egypt (Tomkins, 2016). The Roman leaders fell for her beauty and provided the needed investment in Egypt territory giving her people more resources that developed the kingdom. Association with such leaders meant her kingdom was protected from external attack while she also managed to control the expansion of Roman dominance in it. Implementing such an approach would have proven difficult for male leaders further exhibiting the wits and resourcefulness of female leaders. For this reason, Cleopatra remains the female leader that had a significant influence on the ancient Egyptian woman in decision making (Walker & Peter, 2001). Influencing such development in Egypt led to Cleopatra challenging the view on women being inferior to men.

Cleopatra did not only change the ancient society through her power and leadership abilities but also her fashion sense reflected her contribution to female independence. According to Miles (2011), Cleopatra being a queen emulated her predecessors and maintained excellent fashion sense in dressing. In public, she appeared in luxurious linen made exquisite by the handwork involved and stylistic. Her dressing and the designs she wore were a center for attention to the majority in the ancient society (Murmane, 1977). Shakespeare described Cleopatra as an individual whose fashion sense and beauty influenced the wind affirming to her strong sense of fashion and the effect it had on ancient society. Her personality is another attribute of influence that saw her win over powerful men such as Caesar that contributed immensely to her power over Egypt. "She understood that Caesar liked women, especially bold scheming females whose intelligence challenged his own and whose wit struck sparks from his own brilliance" (Harold, Anton, Duca & Henefin, n.d., p.30). Using her wits, her beauty, and fashion abilities, she won of Caesar and used him to her advantage. Women in ancient society and today have embraced these attributes following her example.

Despite having been successful in her rule over Egypt, Cleopatra faced a major challenge in the 31 B.C that led to her downfall. In her last days as the leader and ruler of Egypt, she lost to Octavius in 31 B.C at the Battle of Actium (Buick, 2005). Her death has been a subject of discussion considering she committed suicide. Her actions were aimed at denying Octavius ultimate victory that would see her paraded through the streets of Rome bounded in chains as a sign of victory. Her decision to commit suicide is seen as another form of female power in that it denied Octavius a deserved victory in full. Committing suicide also meant that Cleopatra had the courage and dignity to keep and not lose it to an enemy as it would mean losing the same that the people of Egypt had. Her defeat therefore further symbolized her influence on the ancient society as a leader that refused to accept defeat. Despite the defeat, the legacy lives on with the influence developed in ancient society still revered worldwide with increasing number of women in power.


The journey of Cleopatra's leadership was filled with significant challenges given her gender. The first was acceptance by the people of Egypt and challenging social norms to become a powerful leader in spite of sharing power with her brother. Her decision-making abilities and wits building fundamental alliances provided her with the power she needed to rule over Egypt and control the dominance of the Roman Empire internally. Cleopatra set standards that surpassed those of male leaders and gained political and military dominance through the same changing ancient views on the abilities of females in society. Even in her death, she maintained control as she determined her death denying Octavius the victory in the 31 B.C war which further cemented her contribution to women abilities in leadership and political positions. Despite the reference to her approach as a corrupt womanly influence, Cleopatra still achieved significantly for the kingdom of Egypt and hence her recognition as a unique influence on ancient society.


Bohleke, B. (1996). In Terms of Fate: a survey of the indigenous Egyptian contribution to ancient astrology in light of Papyrus CtYBR inv. 1132 (B). Studien Zur Altagyptischen Kultur, 23, 11-46.

Buick, K. P. (2005). A QUESTION OF "LIKENESS": EDMONIA LEWIS'S "THE DEATH OF CLEOPATRA". Source: Notes in the History of Art, 24(4), 3-12. doi:10.1086/sou.24.4.23207945

Distad, M. (2018). Bad Girls of Fashion: Style Rebels from Cleopatra to Lady Gaga by J. Croll. The Deakin Review of Children's Literature, 7(4). doi:10.20361/dr29343

Harold, L., Anton, K., Duca, K., & Henefin, C. (n.d.). The Influence of Context on the Leadership of Cleopatra. ULR, 2(1). Retrieved from

Miles, M. M. (2011). Cleopatra: A Sphinx Revisited. University of California Press.

Moore, C. (2015). A queen's reputation: A feminist analysis of the cultural appropriations of Cleopatra. The University of Southern Mississippi.Murnane, W. J. (1977). Ancient Egyptian Coregencies. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.


Walker, S., & Higgs, P. (2001). Cleopatra of Egypt: From history to myth. London: The British Museum Press.

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