Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Trisha. Trisha Wonders, “Who was Cleopatra?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Trisha!

If you could go back in time to experience one of the famous ancient civilizations, which would you choose? Would you head to Rome? Perhaps you'd prefer to visit Babylon? If you're like many kids, there's probably one destination you'd choose before any other: Egypt!

What does ancient Egypt have to offer? In addition to King Tut and the Great Pyramids of Giza, scholars and students of history have always been fascinated by the mysterious Queen of the Nile. That's right! We're talking about Cleopatra.

Although she was born in Egypt around 70 or 69 B.C., Cleopatra wasn't ethnically Egyptian. Instead, her roots could be traced to Macedonian Greece. Ptolemy I, a general under Alexander the Great, took over leadership of Egypt when Alexander died in 323 B.C.

Ptolemy's rule began a dynasty of Greek-speaking rulers over Egypt that would last for nearly 300 years. When Cleopatra's father, Ptolemy XII, died in 51 B.C., control of Egypt passed to 18-year-old Cleopatra and her 10-year-old brother Ptolemy XIII.

Unlike most of her predecessors, Cleopatra embraced Egyptian life and customs. She was the first of the Macedonian leaders to learn the Egyptian language. Unfortunately, her little brother's advisors plotted against her, forcing her to flee to nearby Syria in 49 B.C.

Cleopatra did not simply go away quietly. Instead, she raised an army of mercenaries and sought an alliance with Roman military leader Julius Caesar when he pursued a rival into Egypt.

With Caesar's help, Cleopatra was restored to the throne to rule alongside her 13-year-old brother, Ptolemy IV. Cleopatra's relationship with Caesar was more than strategic, though. In 47 B.C., she bore his son, Ptolemy Caesar, who eventually became known to the Egyptian people as Caesarion (meaning "Little Caesar").

In 46 B.C., Cleopatra and Caesarion joined Caesar in Rome. Her exotic beauty, style, and sense of fashion quickly left their mark on the city. When Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C., however, Cleopatra was forced to flee back to Egypt.

Shortly after Cleopatra's return to Egypt, Ptolemy XIV died. Some historians believe Cleopatra likely played a role in her brother's death. Cleopatra then strengthened her grip on the throne by naming her son Caesarion as her co-regent as Ptolemy XV.

Her involvement in Roman politics did not end with Caesar, though. In the wake of Caesar's assassination, a power struggle occurred that ultimately saw Mark Antony and Octavian split control of Rome.

Consistent with Egyptian tradition, Cleopatra believed that she was a living goddess. Like one of her predecessors, she closely associated herself with the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis. She became known as much for her intelligence as her beauty. Educated in astronomy, philosophy, and mathematics, Cleopatra also spoke approximately a dozen languages.

Dressed as Isis, Cleopatra sailed to Tarsus to meet with Mark Antony. Antony, who believed himself to be the living embodiment of the Greek god Dionysius, was the perfect military and romantic partner for Cleopatra.

Their story was famously told by Shakespeare in his play, Antony and Cleopatra. Cleopatra would have three children with Antony, who supported her rule in Egypt and helped her to prosper and regain much of Egypt's eastern empire.

When Antony appeared to reject his Roman roots in favor of Cleopatra and the children he had with her, the Roman Senate stripped him of his leadership. Octavian then declared war on Egypt, Cleopatra, and Antony.

On September 2, 31 B.C., Egyptian fleets led by Cleopatra and Antony met the Roman navy under Octavian in the Battle of Actium. Octavian's ships quickly defeated the Egyptians, so Cleopatra and Antony both fled back to Egypt.

Later, while under attack in Alexandria, Antony heard a rumor that Cleopatra had committed suicide. Although the rumor would prove to be false, Antony fell on his sword and died.

Cleopatra buried Antony and then met with Octavian who had proved victorious in battle. On August 12, 30 B.C., Cleopatra shut herself in her chamber with two female servants and committed suicide. Legend holds that she used a venomous snake known as an asp (probably a viper or Egyptian cobra) to bite her, although it's possible she poisoned herself, possibly with snake venom or a similar toxin.

One of the most famous female rulers of all time, Cleopatra was the last independent pharaoh of Egypt. Her reign was marked by vicious power struggles with family and passionate romances with Roman leaders Caesar and Mark Antony. Hers was a story deserving of being told by none other than Shakespeare himself.

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