She was last Pharaoh of ancient Egypt. Brilliant and charismatic, she ruled over the great city of Alexandria and spoke 7 languages. And she stole ideas.
After Julius Caesar’s assassination, Cleopatra struggled against the politics of a divided Rome. So when the powerful general Mark Antony summoned Cleopatra to explain her loyalties, the Egyptian ruler pulled out all the stops.
Arriving in a treasure barge rowed by silver oars, Cleopatra dazzled in expensive silks and wore the biggest pearls ever discovered in her ears. She threw lavish banquets for Antony and his friends, all in the hopes of an alliance.
Mark Antony remained unconvinced - until Cleopatra wagered that she could spend 10 million sesterces (~$1.5 million today) on a single meal. But at the end of the extravagant feast, Antony expressed doubt she had delivered.
Cleopatra laughed, and told Antony he had not yet tasted the final course. At her gesture, a servant brought in two glasses of wine. Cleopatra removed a priceless pearl earring and tossed it into the wine. It dissolved and she drank the wine in a single swallow. She then offered the other earing to a stunned Mark Antony.
Unbelievably, the most expensive mixed drink in history wasn’t Cleopatra’s idea. (Although it's often credited to her.) Not long before, Clodius, the son of a famous Roman actor, served wine flavored by a pearl to each guest at a dinner party. Cleopatra, with her insatiable thirst for knowledge, had surely heard the tale.
A brilliant tactician, however, Cleopatra made the idea her own. With one bold, theatrical act, she proved to Mark Antony that Egypt was a powerful, rich ally with the resources to help him in his wars. He was blown away.
That is how Cleopatra built the most powerful partnership of the Ancient World from a stolen idea.