2. Cleopatra, Egyptian queen
Motherhood played a key role in the Egyptian queen's grip on power. Her romances and children with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony cemented her political influence in Rome and allowed her free reign to rule her own kingdom in Egypt. As a woman, Cleopatra needed a male consort to keep the throne; she found a convenient one in her son by Caesar, Caesarion. In 44 B.C., Cleopatra poisoned her current co-regent and younger brother, according to Stacy Schiff's "Cleopatra: A Life" (Little, Brown and Company, 2010). Three-year-old Caesarion became the official king of Egypt, with Cleopatra running the show.
She died at 39 after a 22-year reign, defeated along with Antony by Caesar's legal heir, Octavian. After Cleopatra's death, Rome annexed Egypt. Caesarion was killed, but Cleopatra's three children by Antony were spared. Her daughter, Cleopatra Selene, eventually became queen of what is now Algeria.