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Cleopatra Selene II, Boscoreale

Cleopatra Selene II, Boscoreale

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Queen Cleopatra Selene – Cleopatra’s forgotten daughter

Cleopatra Selene married Juba II sometime around 20 B.C. [12] Evidence for this is shown on the commencement of their joint coinage. [13] One face of the coin shows “Rex Juba” and the other side of the coin is “Basilissa (queen) Cleopatra” in her divine persona as Isis. [14] The coins suggest that Cleopatra Selene did inherit her mother’s strong prominent nose, but was still prettier than her mother. [15]

A contemporary poet, Crinagoras of Mytilene, also wrote a poem to commemorate the marriage. The poem goes:

“Great neighbouring regions of the world, which the Nile, swollen from black Ethiopia, divides, you have created common kings for both through marriage, making one race of Egyptians and Libyans. Let the children of kings in turn hold from their fathers a strong rule over both lands.” [16]

When they arrived in Mauretania, they found ruling to be a hard task. The kingdom of Mauretania was a vast territory. It encompassed modern-day Algeria and Morocco rather than today’s Mauretania. [17] Because they were once two territories combined into one vast territory, there were two capital cities. The kingdom also contained a few Greek and Roman colonies. [18]

However, Cleopatra Selene was capable of ruling the kingdom. While Juba II was king of Mauretania, he never had any prior experience in ruling. Cleopatra Selene was once declared queen of Cyrenaica and Libya, and for a short time, Egypt. Therefore, her prestige allowed her to rule alongside her husband as a queen in her own right. [19] She even issued coins in her own name and often referred to her Greek and Egyptian heritage. [20]

Mauretania needed to be modernized. Thus, they renamed the capital of Iol to Caesarea in honor of Augustus. They built many grandiose buildings that had both Roman and Alexandrian architecture. [21] They also built a lighthouse that resembled the Lighthouse of Alexandria. [22] They also filled their court with scholars and artists who were from all parts of the Roman Empire. Therefore, Mauretania was a cosmopolitan kingdom mixed with Greek, Roman, and Egyptian culture. [23]

Cleopatra Selene and Juba II ruled Mauretania for almost two decades until her death at the age of 35. Based on her eulogy composed by the poet, Crinagoras of Mytilene, her death seemed to coincide with a lunar eclipse, which took place sometime around 23 March 5 B.C. [24]

“The moon herself grew dark, rising at sunset, covering her suffering in the night, because she saw her beautiful namesake, Selene, breathless, descending to Hades, with her she had had the beauty of her light in common, and mingled her own darkness with her death.” [25]

This was a fitting death for a queen who was named after the moon. Her son, Ptolemy co-ruled with his father, Juba II. Once Juba II died in 23 A.D., Ptolemy became the sole ruler. However, in 40 A.D., Ptolemy was executed under the orders of Emperor Caligula. The reason for his execution is unknown. [26] Emperor Caligula’s successor, Claudius, took advantage of Mauretania’s situation. He annexed the kingdom and turned them into Roman provinces. [27]

While not much is known about this largely forgotten figure, it is clear that she was a capable queen. She had coins engraved with her image and poems written about her. She, alongside her husband, ruled for twenty years over a large kingdom. Thus, she was obviously a smart, competent ruler who died while in the prime of her life. While she never got the recognition of her infamous mother, she may well have have been a more successful queen in her own right.

Draycott, Jane. Cleopatra’s Daughter . vol. 63, History Today Ltd, London, 2013.

Roller, Duane W. The World of Juba II and Kleopatra Selene: Royal Scholarship on Rome’s

African Frontier . Routledge Ltd, Abingdon, Oxon, 20032004,

Whitehorne, John. Cleopatras . Taylor and Francis, 2002, doi:10.4324/9780203036082.

Cleopatra Selene II

Cleopatra Selene II (Greek: Κλεοπάτρα Σελήνη summer 40 BC – c. 5 BC [2] the numeration is modern) was a Ptolemaic princess and Queen of Numidia (briefly in 25 BC) and Mauretania (25 BC – 5 BC). She was an important royal woman in the early Augustan age.

Cleopatra Selene was the only daughter of Greek Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Roman Triumvir Mark Antony. In the Donations of Antioch and of Alexandria, she was made ruler of Cyrenaica and Libya. [3] After Antony and Cleopatra's defeat at Actium and their suicides in Egypt in 30 BC, Selene and her brothers were brought to Rome and placed in the household of Octavian's sister, Octavia the Younger, a former wife of her father.

Selene eventually married Juba II of Numidia and Mauretania. She had great influence in Mauretania's government decisions, especially regarding trade and construction projects. During their reign, the country became extremely wealthy. The couple had a son and successor, Ptolemy of Mauretania. Through their granddaughter Drusilla, the Ptolemaic line intermarried into Roman nobility for many generations.

Dynastic politics, defeat, decadence and dining: Cleopatra Selene on the so-called ‘Africa’ dish from the Villa Della Pisanella at Boscoreale

This article examines the so-called ‘Africa’ dish, part of a treasure trove of silver table-ware discovered in a cistern at the Villa della Pisanella, a villa rustica destroyed in the eruption of Vesuvius in ad 79. It proposes a new interpretation of the dish's iconography and argues that the woman in the centre of the emblema is Cleopatra Selene, while the attributes surrounding her reference her parents Cleopatra VII and Marcus Antonius, her brothers Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus, her husband Juba II of Mauretania, and their mythological ancestor the demi-god Heracles. Thus the emblema serves as a meditation on the fates of Antony and Cleopatra VII, descendants of Heracles who chose the path of vice, a choice that resulted in their defeat by Octavian at the Battle of Actium. Octavian's virtue, victory and clemency, combined with his guardianship of their children, ensured the subsequent promotion of their daughter Cleopatra Selene as a key figure in his dynastic and political strategy, through her marriage to Juba II and the couple's appointment as client rulers of Mauretania. Also supposedly descended from Heracles, Juba II and Cleopatra Selene chose to follow in their illustrious ancestor's footsteps along the path of virtue. In common with other pieces from the treasure trove, the ‘Africa’ dish alludes to recent historical events and personages, utilizes death as a means of promoting the enjoyment of life, and incorporates popular elements of Greek mythology, all the while offering banqueters an erudite puzzle to solve during the course of their banquet.


Controversy surrounds Cleopatra's exact date of death. A discovered hoard of Cleopatra's coins was dated at 17 AD. It has traditionally been believed that Cleopatra was alive to mint them however, this would mean that Juba married the Cappadocian Princess, Glaphyra during Cleopatra's lifetime. To explain this strange marital problem, historians have supposed some sort of rift between Cleopatra and Juba that was eventually mended after Juba's divorce from Glaphyra. Modern historians [ who? ] dispute the idea that Juba, a thoroughly Romanized king, would have taken a second wife. The argument goes that if Juba married Glaphyra before 4 AD then his first wife, Cleopatra, must have already been dead. (The counterargument can be made that even contemporary client kings with Roman citizenship, such as Herod the Great, took multiple wives, and that Juba's father had more than one.)

The following epigram by Greek Epigrammatist Crinagoras of Mytilene is considered to be Cleopatra’s eulogy. [9]

The moon herself grew dark, rising at sunset, Covering her suffering in the night, Because she saw her beautiful namesake, Selene, Breathless, descending to Hades, With her she had had the beauty of her light in common, And mingled her own darkness with her death.

If this poem is not simply literary license, then astronomical correlation can be used to help pinpoint the date of Cleopatra's death. Lunar eclipses occurred in 9, 8, 5 and 1 BC and in AD 3, 7, 10, 11 and 14. The event in 5 BC most closely resembles the description given in the eulogy, but the date of her death is simply not ascertainable with any certainty. Zahi Hawass, former Director of Egyptian Antiquities, believes Cleopatra died in AD 8. [10]

When Cleopatra died, she was placed in the Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania in modern Algeria, built by her and Juba east of Caesarea and still visible. A fragmentary inscription was dedicated to Juba and Cleopatra, as the King and Queen of Mauretania.

History of the West

Cleopatra by Edward Mason Eggleston The famous picture of a red-haired Cleopatra

Did she really look like Elizabeth Taylor? We will never know, but the odds are she did not – what we know from coins and ancient busts speaks against it. She may have had red hair, as in the famous picture, but most likely she shaved all her bodily hair, as it was Egyptian custom, and wore elaborate wigs. It seems clear, however, that she knew everything about ancient make-up, using belladonna to dilate her pupils and stibium (also called kohl, antimony sulphide) to colour her eyebrows. Very little, however, speaks against Cleopatra VII Philopator‘s force of personality, wits and political shrewdness.

Although she was, technically spoken, survived for a few days by her and Caesar‘s son Caesarion as sole ruler, she was in practical regards the last true pharaoh of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, successor to the various Egyptian Empires in the lands of the Double Crowns.

Papyrus document, right bottom corner an annotation by the queen’s own hand

Her descent features more than a few incestual, er, complications – within her last four patrilineal generations (father to father), there were three brother-sister marriages and the same number of uncle-niece marriages, so that in the end her family tree looks suspiciously like a vertical line – in fact, she only had two pair of (instead of four) great-grandparents – of which one was the son and daughter of the other!

In her youth as a scion of the royal Macedonian but thoroughly Hellenized family of the Ptolemies, founded in 305 BC by Alexander‘s general, companion and historian Ptolemy I Soter (c. 367 – 282 BC), she stood out by her talent for languages – she was the first of the family to learn the Egyptian language, but also spoke Ethiopian, Troglodyte, Hebrew or Aramaic, Arabic, some Syrian language – perhaps Syriac – Median, Parthian, and Latin in addition to her native Koine Greek.

From 81 BC on, mayhem, murder and very irresponsible financial planning within the royal family ended with the Romans’ – initially under Sulla – titular takeover of Egypt as collateral for outstanding loans. Cleopatra’s father Ptolemy XII succeeded as a client king of Rome hanging on to power – by his nails – from 80 to 58 BC and again from 55 to 51 BC with a small interruption when having been intermittently deposed by his daughter and Cleopatra’s elder sister Berenice IV.

After Berenice’s fall and subsequent beheading, Cleopatra was made co-ruler with her father some time in 52 BC, but faced serious problems after her father’s death in 51 BC. Irregularities of the Nile flooding had left the land in famine and a debt of 17,5 million drachmas to Rome (it is hard to assign a present-day value to the then-drachma, but for a long time in ancient Greek one drachma represented the daily wage of a skilled worker) petrified the state’s fiscus – aggravated by the lawless behaviour of the largely Germanic/Gallic-Roman garrison left by the financiers of the Empire.

Two factors further complicated Cleopatra’s new royal position – her younger brother Ptolemy XIII, whom she had initially rejected as co-regent but probably married for the sake of tradition – aspired to power and the ascendancy of the Roman civil war, which began to extend to Egypt.

By the summer of 49 BC, Cleopatra was fighting her brother and losing, when Pompey’s son Gnaeus Pompeius arrived from Greece with a request for military assistance against Caesar – which was granted by both Ptolemy and Cleopatra alike in their last concurrent decision. Eventually, she had to flee to Roman Syria, where she attempted to find troops for an invasion of Egypt. Yet the invasion soon stalled, and she was forced to camp outside the town of Pelousion in the Eastern Nile Delta over the winter.

Cleopatra Testing Poisons On Those Condemned To Death by Alexandre Cabanel

Having lost the Battle of Pharsalus in August 48, Pompey decided to make Egypt the basis for his tactical retreat but was promptly murdered by agents of Ptolemy XIII soon after having made landfall near Pelousion. Ptolemy believed to have perfected nothing but a masterpiece – having removed Cleopatra’s supporter Pompey, thus weakening his sister, and simultaneously earning Caesar’s gratitude for the removal of his enemy.

Uh oh. Caesar was royally angry about the coward murder and ordered – from the royal palace – both Cleopatra and Ptolemy to stop the nonsense, end the war, kiss and make up. We know what happened then: Ptolemy decided on war and Cleopatra on love, arriving at Caesar’s quarters, as Plutarch recounts, in a rug or bed sack.

Caesar’s subsequent attempts to find a solution for Egypt momentarily fizzled, and he had to endure the famous siege of the palace – protected by 4000 guards and most likely in the arms of the queen – until reinforcements arrived in the spring of 47 BC. Ptolemy XIII, his sister Arsinoe IV (half-sister to Cleopatra) and their supporters were defeated quickly, but Caesar remained wary of the intricacies of Egypt and the preceding chaos of the sole-female-rulership of Berenice and proceeded to set up Cleopatra with her younger brother Ptolemy XIV as co-rulers. While his consulship had expired at the end of 48, Mark Antony had provided him the dictatorship of Rome until the end of 47, and thus he possessed the proper legal authority.

In April 47, Caesar departed for Rome, leaving three legions in Egypt, and his son Caesarion was born on June 23. In Rome, Caesar paid respect to his childless marriage with Calpurnia by keeping his mouth horkos odonton in public while Cleopatra blazoned forth the news of his paternity to everyone.

In late 46 followed the visit of Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIV to Rome which is so memorably depicted in Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor. The queen had to remain outside the pomerium, i.e., outside the holy precinct of the inner city, for no monarch was allowed to enter she was put up in a villa in Caesar’s garden.

They were still in Rome – unpopular with most of the senators – when Caesar was assassinated at the Ides of March 44. Perhaps she hoped for Caesarion to be named the heir to Caesar, but when that honour fell to Octavian, she left for Egypt, had her brother killed by poison (it is said) and elevated Caesarion to co-ruler.

Cleopatra and Mark Antony at the Funeral Bier of Julius Caesar, 1878. Lionel-Noel Royer

In the Liberators’ Civil War, forced by Mark Antony and Octavian against the assassins of Caesar, she was initially courted by both sides but quickly declared for Mark Antony. Alas, one of her own lieutenants, the governor of Cyprus, defected to the enemy and subsequently she had to attend a possibly dangerous confrontation with Mark Antony at Tarsus – which she, however, defused easily by a few lavish banquets and her considerable personal charms. Mark Anthony fell for her hook, line and sinker, and Arsinoe IV, who had only been banished before, and the treasonous governor were duly executed.

The lovely couple was fond of parties and even founded their own drinking club, the “Indestructible Livers” …

But the high life did not last long – trouble developed soon. After the defeat of Brutus and Cassius at Philippi, Octavian faced the task of simultaneously providing land for the retirement of the pro- and contracaesarian veterans of the civil war – most of the latter having been pardoned by Caesar before his death. The choice was either to enrage the citizens by confiscating the required land or enrage the veterans, who then might easily decide to support a possible opponent of the triumvirate. Octavian resolved in favour of the veterans by confiscating no less than eighteen towns and their hinterlands for the soldiers – driving whole populations out – which, of course, resulted in civil unrest.

On the terraces of Philae, by Frederick Arthur Bridgeman

Enter Fulvia Flacca Bambula, widow of two former supporters of Caesar and third wife of Mark Antony (from 47 or 46 BC until 40 BC). She was, through her family connections, by far the most powerful woman in Roman politics ever, and managed even during Antony’s absence in Egypt to raise eight legions – formally commanded by Lucius Antonius, Mark’s younger brother – in Italy for a civil war against Octavian and his veterans, the so-called Perusine War. She apparently committed, however, the critical mistake of not telling her husband of her campaign and Anthony’s supporters in Gaul – for the want of orders – did not come to her aid. The rebels subsequently lost the war and Fulvia fled to her husband in Athens. It would appear that the triumvir, upset with his dear wife, sent her into exile, where she dutifully died and sailed back to Rome to mend affairs within the triumvirate.

Antony thus had to return to Rome on urgent business and Cleopatra was absolutely not amused when he – in a scheme to lessen tensions within the triumvirate – not only married Octavia, the elder sister of Augustus, in Rome but also produced two daughters with her. Yet the Perusine War had critically lessened his subsequent political influence and Octavian gained the upper hand, first in Italy, and then in Gallia.

This was documented by a new agreement between the triumvirs in the Treaty of Brudisium, in which the West fell to Octavian and the East to Antony, while Lepidus received Africa Provincia as a sort of junior partner. In this context also fell the above mentioned marriage of Antony and Octavia.

Anthony then set out on his grand design, the war against the Parthian Empire – for which Cleopatra and Egypt had to chip in a most substantial contribution. The less is said about the campaign the better – there were a few successes but defeats as well and the “Endsieg” remained a chimaera. At least the campaign had a somewhat positive end when Anthony conquered Armenia in 35 BC.

Yet in the aftermath of this success, Anthony developed a clear case of megalomania – in addition to his infatuation, yes, besottedness with the queen. For a long time, he had followed a strategy to use the prestige and power of the Egyptian Ptolemy dynasty to set up a Hellenistic follow-up state to the Seleucid Empire in Asia and in 36 BC had presented a plan of making pseudo-donations to titular Hellenistic rulers – client kings – which were to form buffer-states on the Parthian borders. At this time, Octavian had agreed and such donations were presented at Antiochia. In 34, however, as Jenny Hill describes …

Frederick Arthur Bridgeman – Cleopatra on the Terraces of Philae

“… During this triumph in Alexandria (for his victory in Armenia the preceding year) , Mark Antony proclaimed Cleopatra the ‘Queen of Queens’ and claimed that he, not Octavian, was the adopted son of Caesar. He also formally pronounced Cleopatra and Caesarion joint rulers of Egypt and Cyprus, Alexander Helios (his first-born son by Cleopatra) the ruler of Media, Armenia and Parthia Cleopatra Selene II (his daughter, twin of Alexander) the ruler of Cyrenaica and Libya and Ptolemy Philadelphus (his second son by Cleopatra) the ruler of Phoenicia, Syria, and Cilicia.”

These declarations – usually called the Donations of Alexandria – meant not only the end of the triumvirate but were an invitation to war – not because of the titular land grants but because of Antony’s claim of the Caesarian inheritance for Caesarion – not Octavian. This Octavian could not suffer. His claim to rulership was adoption by Caesar – through which he not only had inherited possessions and authority but also the loyalty of Caesar’s veterans and personal popularity. This status being called into question by a biological son of Caesar – by the richest woman in the world – he could, politically, not possibly survive. Antony’s declaration meant war – but it hadn’t yet begun.

Cleopatra by William Wetmore Story

Sparks began to fly in earnest and a full-fledged propaganda war began. Octavian basically argued – very much in public – that Anthony was not only giving away the spoils of the Armenian war but also possessions that legitimately belonged to Rome and had been paid for by the blood of the legions, that Antony was but the “slave” of a foreign queen, to whom he had bequeathed huge properties – and that to his children, a most non-Roman idea. By his giving away provinces he also deprived deserving senators of proconsulships and was starting wars, as against Parthia and Armenia, without the senate’s consent. The pro-Antony faction in the capital accused Octavian of unspeakable crimes in Gallia and Spain in addition to homosexuality and cowardice. Par for the course, one could say.

In the eyes of most Romans, Octavians arguments were better and thus the political battle developed very much to his advantage. He was also able to rouse the feelings of the citizens of the capital in regard to the various executions without trial that had become standard procedure in the East – and of course in Egypt.

Marc Antony and Cleopatra planning …

In 32 BC, the senate formally deprived Antony of his powers and declared war on Cleopatra – not Anthony. It was very important for Octavius not to appear to start another civil war – thus Cleopatra – still very unpopular in Rome – was the perfect target. Yet the political majorities were not clear and almost half of the Senate left Rome and defected to Antony and Cleopatra in Greece.

War finally broke out, and the naval Battle of Actium on September 2, 31 BC, decided emphatically against the fortunes of the couple. In the August of 30 BC, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa led an invasion of Egypt which the wrought-out country was powerless to resist.

The Battle of Actium – September 2, 31 BC

Antony committed suicide in the mistaken belief that Cleopatra had done so already. When he, lethally wounded, was informed of the fact that she was still alive, he was brought to her and died in her arms.

Louis Gauffier – Cleopatra and Octavian Guercino – Cleopatra and Octavian

Octavian captured Cleopatra but allowed her to bury Antony in the usual fashion. She was destined to be led through Rome in Octavians’ subsequent triumph and afterwards ritually murdered. Robby House writes:

Another prevalent form of execution was that of Strangulation. This was perhaps the most popular form of execution for Rome’s greatest enemies although in those cases it was usually referred to as ritualistic strangulation which would often occur after the vanquished and shackled enemy was paraded through the streets of Rome as part of a Roman Triumph. While many of the victims were publicly strangled in the Forum area, perhaps the most famous war trophy was that of Gallic Chieftain Vercingetorix, arguably Caesar’s greatest foe in the field of battle. Perhaps out of some sort of pity, Caesar had him strangled away from the eyes of Rome’s citizens inside the confines of his cell in the Tullianum Prison (a.k.a. the Mamertine Prison).

Cleopatra knew very well what Octavian intended, and hence, after a few failed attempts, she took her own life – either on August 10 or 12, 30 BC.
The popular story goes that she died by the bite of an asp – an Egyptian cobra – but it is also quite possible that she took poison. Egyptian medicine knew many potent toxins, such as Hemlock, Opium, Belladonna or Aconitine, and combinations of them which yielded deadly potables or ointments. The snake story is, of course, the best copy, and hence it does not surprise that the subject was taken on by a plethora of painters and sculptors, of which we show a few below.

La mort de Cleopatre. Rixens Jean Andre. 1874. The Death of Cleopatra by Hans Makart The Death of Cleopatra by John Collier The Death Of Cleopatra – by Louis Jean François Lagrenée Cleopatra by Alfonso Balzico, 1874

Cleopatra, by Charles Gauthier, 1880 Cleopatra, taking her own life with the bite of a venomous serpent, by Adam Lenckhardt


premier siècle avant J.-C. - premier siècle après J.-C. découverte à Boscoreale (Italie) dans la villa de la Pisanella Argent doré musée du Louvre, département des antiquités grecques, étrusques et romaines

Objet présenté dans l'exposition : Moi, Auguste, Empereur de Rome 19/03 au 13/07/2014 au grand palais à Paris

Habituellement, on interprète cette figure féminine coiffée d'une dépouille d'éléphant comme une allégorie de la province romaine d'Afrique, (mais également de l'Egypte ou d'Alexandrie comme l'indique le cartel) voir une mosaïque avec cette représentation de la province romaine d'Afrique dans un musée de Tunisie (photo dalbera) www.flickr.com/photos/dalbera/2167359056/in/set-721576036.

Le cartel indique qu'il pourrait aussi s'agir d'un portrait de Cléopâtre Séléné, la fille de Cléopâtre VII et d'Antoine, élevée à Rome par la soeur d'Auguste après la victoire d'Actium, avant d'être mariée à Juba II, roi de Maurétanie. La coupe serait en ce cas une référence à la politique qu'Auguste mena en Afrique.

Cette exposition a été organisée par la RMN – GP et le musée du Louvre, Paris, avec l’Azienda Speciale Palaexpo – Scuderie del Quirinale et les musées du Capitole, Rome.

L'Exposition Moi, Auguste, Empereur de Rome, 19 Mars 2014 - 13 Juillet 2014, Grand Palais, Paris.

The following quotation and assessment comes from Walker, Susan Higgs, Peter (2001). Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN�, pp 312-313:

"Conspicuously mounted on the cornucopia is a gilded crescent moon set on a pine cone. Around it are piled pomegranates and bunches of grapes. Engraved on the horn are images of Helios (the sun), in the form of a youth dressed in a short cloak, with the hairstyle of Alexander the Great, the head surrounded by rays. The symbols on the cornucopia can indeed be read as references to the Ptolemaic royal house and specifically to Cleopatra Selene, represented in the crescent moon, and to her twin brother, Alexander Helios, whose eventual fate after the conquest of Egypt is unknown. The viper seems to be linked with the pantheress and the intervening symbols of fecunditity rather than the suicide of Cleopatra VII. The elephant scalp could refer to Cleopatra Selene's status as ruler, with Juba II, of Mauretania. The visual correspondence with the veiled head from Cherchel encourages this identification, and many of the symbols used on the dish also appear on the coinage of Juba II."

The following quotation and assessment comes from Roller, Duane W. (2003), The World of Juba II and Kleopatra Selene: Royal Scholarship on Rome's African Frontier, New York: Routledge, ISBN�, pp. 141-142:

"No certain portraits of Kleopatra Selene have been found at Caesarea, although the two pieces noted above may be the queen. A bone counter in the British Museum. shows the left-facing bust of a woman. with curls remindful of portraits of Kleopatra VII, but the piece has been suggested to be her daughter. More significant is a gilded silver dish in the Louvre, part of the collection found at Boscoreale in 1895. [It] has the figure of a woman depicted in high relief. Her features are remindful of those of Kleopatra VII, but are not the same. On her head is the scalp of an elephant on one breast is an asp and on the other a panther. To her left is a cornucopia with Helios engraved as a young man. On her right shoulder is a lion. The piece has a complex visual symbolism that points consistently to a North African context, with the cornucopia and lion especially remindful of the coinage of the Mauretanian monarchs. The suggestion that it is a portrait of Kleopatra Selene has much merit."

Individual Scholar Page

I am Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Research Fellow in Ancient Science and Technology at the University of Glasgow.

2018 in press Prostheses in Antiquity (London: Routledge)

2017 co-edited with E.-J. Graham Bodies of Evidence: Ancient Anatomical Votives Past, Present and Future (Abingdon: Routledge)

2012 Approaches to Healing in Roman Egypt (British Archaeological Reports International S2416) (Oxford: Archaeopress)

Peer-reviewed Contributions to Periodicals and Edited Volumes

2018 ‘Extremity Prostheses in Ancient Greece and Rome’, in V. Delattre and R. Sallem (edd.) Prosthèses: Amputer, Reparer, Appareiller (Paris: CQFD) 241-244 [2000 words]

2018 ‘Hair Loss as Facial Disfigurement in Ancient Rome?’, in P. Skinner and E. Cock (edd.) Approaching Facial Difference: Past and Present (London: Bloomsbury) 65-83 [8500 words]

2017 ‘When Lived Ancient Religion and Lived Ancient Medicine Meet: The Household Gods, the Household Shrine and Regimen’, Religion in the Roman Empire 3.2: 164-180 [7100 words]

2017 ‘Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: the Use of Real, False and Artificial Hair as Votive Offerings’, J. Draycott and E.-J. Graham (edd.) Bodies of Evidence: Ancient Anatomical Votives Past, Present and Future (Abingdon: Routledge) 77-94 [8000 words]

2017 co-written with E.-J. Graham ‘Introduction: Debating the Anatomical Votive’, in J. Draycott and E.-J. Graham (edd.) Bodies of Evidence: the Ancient Anatomical Votive Past, Present and Future (London: Routledge) 1-19 [8000 words]

2016 ‘Literary and Documentary Evidence for Lay Medical Practice in the Roman Republic and Empire’, in G. Petridou and C. Thumiger (edd.) Homo Patiens: Approaches to the Patient in the Ancient World (Leiden: Brill) 432-450 [6000 words]

2015 ‘The Lived Experience of Disability in Antiquity: a Case Study from Roman Egypt’, Greece & Rome 62.2: 189-205 [7000 words]

2015 ‘Smelling Trees, Flowers and Herbs in the Ancient World’, in M. Bradley (ed.) Smell: Senses in Antiquity II (London: Routledge) 60-73 [6000 words]

2014 ‘Who is Performing What, and For Whom? The Dedication, Construction and Maintenance of a Healing Shrine in Roman Egypt’, in E. Gemi-Iordanou, S. Gordon, R. Matthew, E. McInnes and R. Pettitt (edd.) Medicine, Healing, Performance: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Medicine and Material Culture (Oxford: Oxbow and Philadelphia) 42-54 [6000 words]

2012 ‘The Symbol of Cleopatra Selene: Reading Crocodiles on Coins in the Late Republic and Early Principate’, Acta Classica 55: 43-56 [5500 words]

2012 ‘Dynastic Politics, Defeat, Decadence and Dining: Cleopatra Selene on the So-called ‘Africa’ Dish from the Villa Della Pisanella at Boscoreale’, Papers of the British School at Rome 80: 45-64 [8500 words]

2012 ‘Mauretania’, R. Bagnall, K. Broderson, C. Champion, A. Erskine, and S. Huebner (edd.) The Encyclopedia of Ancient History (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell) [1000 words]

2011 ‘Size Matters? Reconsidering Horus on the Crocodiles in Miniature’, Pallas: Revue d’études antiques 86: 119-129 [5000 words]

2010 ‘The Sacred Crocodile of Juba II of Mauretania’, Acta Classica 53: 211-217 [2500 words]

Media Coverage Twitter @JLDraycott Country Focus United Kingdom Expertise by Geography Africa, Western Europe Expertise by Chronology Ancient Expertise by Topic Medicine, Science, Technology

Ten Interesting Facts About Cleopatra Most People Don’t Know

She has captivated our imagination for centuries. And is said to have been a beautiful and mysterious seductress that put political and military titans Julius Caesar and Mark Antony under her spell. While we may never know what Cleopatra looked like or how she was in person, there are some basic facts about her life that are clear: for one, she wielded great power and ruled over one of the greatest kingdoms in the ancient Mediterranean region.

After 2,000 years, historians, writers and Hollywood producers of all sorts continue to attempt molding her enigmatic persona into an image that, more often than not, fits their narratives. Even Augustus, Rome’s first emperor following Julius Caesar’s assassination, attempted to slander her. This, most experts agree, was out of fear for her ability to sway other men of power eventually threatening his position as Emperor of Rome.

Conceivably, Augustus understood the alliances Cleopatra had forged with Julius Caesar and then Mark Antony, potentially placed her a heartbeat away from becoming the queen of Rome. Hence, Augustus' depiction of Antony as un-Roman and enslaved “to the passion and witchery of Cleopatra,” helped to forever cement her image as a seductress of immense beauty.

Even Shakespeare’s description of Cleopatra, some sixteen hundred years later, further enshrined the Queen of Egypt as an eternal bewitching beauty when he wrote: “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale / Her infinite variety.”

Barring our thirst for creating an image of Cleopatra as the sensual, conniving and manipulative siren she probably was not, the following are interesting facts about the Queen of the Nile.

#1 — Cleopatra was actually Cleopatra VII.

Her public name was Cleopatra VII Philopator, and she was the last member of the Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty, hence the last Greek ruler of Egypt.

Her real name, however, was “Cleopatra Thea Philopator” which means “the Goddess Cleopatra, Beloved of her Father.” To most people there was only one Cleopatra: however, there were six others before her, not including Alexander the Great’s sister — the original Cleopatra.

#2 — Cleopatra was not ethnically Egyptian

While Cleopatra was born in Egypt, her genealogy goes back to Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Upon Alexander’s death in 323 BCE, Ptolemy took control over Egypt, eventually launching a dynasty of Greek-speaking rulers that lasted three centuries. Although Cleopatra was not ethnically Egyptian, she understood the need to not seem like a foreigner to her subjects. Consequently, she was the first of the Ptolemaic line to learn Egyptian and adopt many of the country’s ancient customs.

#3 — She was extremely intelligent

While we might not know how beautiful she was, there is one aspect of Cleopatra of which we are certain: she was exceedingly intelligent.

In spite of Roman propaganda painting her as an oversexed temptress, it is believed Cleopatra was a polyglot who could converse in close to twelve languages. She was educated in mathematics, philosophy, oratory and astronomy.

The Arab historian Al-Masudi (896–956 CE) described Cleopatra as a sage and a philosopher, “who elevated the ranks of scholars and enjoyed their company.” He also claimed that she wrote a number of books on medicine, charms and cosmetics. In the writing she called Cosmetics, she proposed treatments for hair loss and dandruff.

#4 — Cleopatra was born out of incest

Incest among the royals is nothing new. Some fourteen hundred years after Cleopatra, in the American Continent, the Inca kings also practiced incest as a way of keeping the purity of their bloodline. In fact, thirteen hundred years before Cleopatra, King Tut (Tutankhamun) was also a child of incest. His deformed body remains as evidence of this fact.

In the case of Cleopatra, many of her ancestors married and procreated with cousins or siblings. Furthermore, it is likely that her parents were in fact brother and sister. Cleopatra herself married both of her adolescent brothers, each of whom served as her ceremonial spouse and co-regent at different times during her reign.

In reality, the intermingling among blood relatives, especially when it involved access to the throne, was a legal necessity in ancient Egypt. From the beginning of its dynastic period, the transmission of the throne had been done in a matrilinear fashion. Hence, the kings had to marry their sisters in order to be qualified to rule.

#5 — She was ruthless

In addition to incest, the Ptolemaic family’s tradition extended to power grabs and murder a convention to which Cleopatra willingly adhered. As a result, she had a hand in the deaths of three of her siblings.

The first to fall was her sibling-husband Ptolemy XIII, who exiled her out of Egypt after she tried to take sole possession of the throne. The pair faced off in a civil war that eventually led to the Battle of the Nile in 49 BCE. Prior to this battle, Cleopatra teamed with Julius Caesar which facilitated her victory against her brother. Shortly after his defeat, Ptolemy XIII drowned in the Nile as he was fleeing the opposing army.

Following the civil war, Cleopatra, now a widow, married her younger brother Ptolemy XIV. However, she is believed to have had him murdered in order to make Caesarion, her son with Julius Caesar and her co-ruler.

The last of the siblings to die directly or indirectly at the hands of Cleopatra was her half-sister Arsinoe IV, who was queen and co-ruler of Egypt with her brother Ptolemy XIII from 48 BCE to 47 BCE. In 47 BCE, Arsinoe took an active role in conducting the siege of Alexandria against Cleopatra. She was taken as a prisoner of war to Rome by Julius Caesar following the defeat of Ptolemy XIII in the Battle of the Nile. She was then exiled to the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in Roman Anatolia, where she was later executed in 41 BCE by Mark Antony at the behest of his lover Cleopatra.

#6 — Cleopatra could also be a charmer

Greek biographer Plutarch wrote:

“To know her was to be touched with an irresistible charm. Her form coupled with the persuasiveness of her conversation and her delightful style of behavior — all these produced a blend of magic… her voice was like a lyre.”

From ancient writing, we know Cleopatra was slender, well-proportioned and exquisitely perfumed. She had the uncanny ability to be a seductress vamp one moment and an extraordinarily intelligent politician the next. When Julius Caesar summoned her brother-husband Ptolemy XIII in order to tell him to disband his army, he also asked for a meeting with Cleopatra.

History makes it abundantly clear that once the fifty-something Roman military and political giant met the young Egyptian queen, he was totally under her spell. The conqueror was summarily dominated by a woman who could be cunning and intelligent one minute, while acting as a playful kitten the next. They became lovers that very night. Caesar had been bewitched. Had he not been assassinated upon his return to Rome, he probably would have married the Queen of the Nile.

Council Mark Antony was no different. While Cleopatra initially was purposely coy, and traveled to Tarsus to avoid meeting him until she could do so under her terms, Antony’s fate was sealed. Once their eventual meeting took place, the Roman soldier, athlete, orator and well-known lover became her slave. It is said that Mark Antony became fascinated by Cleopatra’s ability to show a different facet of her personality daily.

Cleopatra played her cards right. She assessed his weaknesses and strengths and played to them in order to intertwine his life with hers. She played dice with Mark Antony, knowing he was a consummate gambler. Aware of his love for wine, she drank heavily with him. Knowing his fondness for practical jokes, she would join him in the streets of Alexandria in order to dupe unsuspecting citizens.

Consequently, Antony laid his sword at her feet, only to follow her to his grave.

#7 — Cleopatra was living in Rome, as the mistress of Julius Caesar, at the time that he was assassinated

Cleopatra was living in a Roman palace with her son Caesarion when Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March in 44 BCE. Her residence was on the other side of the river Tiber, across from Caesar’s household. It is believed that she did not take permanent residence there but rather would visit regularly from Egypt.

As soon as Caesar’s assassination took place, Cleopatra sensed danger and left at once with Caesarion. She knew how hard the people of Rome had worked to get rid of the kings that ruled the nation prior to becoming a republic. Cleopatra on the other hand not only insisted on being addressed as ‘queen’ but also on having an affair with the man who most thirsted for power.

Making matters worse, Caesar placed a statue of Cleopatra covered in gold in the temple of Venus Genetrix — the goddess who brings forth life. She, in turn, associated herself with Isis — the goddess of the moon, life, afterlife and motherhood. She often did this by dressing as Isis for ceremonial events and often looked to religious prophecy to justify her actions.

#8She had four children but only one survived to adulthood.

Cleopatra’s first child with Julius Caesar was Caesarion. She also had twins, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, as well as another son, Ptolemy Philadelphos Antonius, by Mark Antony. Cleopatra Selene eventually became the Queen of Mauretania.

While Caesarion was murdered under Octavian’s orders, the lives of Cleopatra’s other three offsprings with Mark Antony were spared. However, Alexander, aged 10 and Ptolemy Philadelphus Antonius, aged four, were moved to Rome and put under the care of Octavian’s sister, Octavia to whom Mark Antony was still married.

Some years later, Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus Antonius would disappear without a trace. It is believed they were killed by order of Augustus (Octavian).

Only Cleopatra Selene survived. Married to King Juba II of Mauretania, she had at least one child, Ptolemy Philadelphus, likely named in honor of his mother’s little brother. Her image was minted on coins along with Juba’s, suggesting that she ruled as an equal partner.

#9 — It’s unclear whether Cleopatra really died from the bite of an asp.

According to popular belief, Cleopatra committed suicide by allowing an asp (Egyptian cobra) to bite her but, according to Greek and Roman historians, Cleopatra poisoned herself using either a toxic ointment or by introducing the poison with a sharp instrument such as a hairpin.

#10 — Cleopatra successfully improved Egypt.

Cleopatra didn’t just want fame and fortune for herself. Her love affairs with Julius Caesar and later with Mark Antony weren’t just about her desire to consolidate her power as much as creating an alliance with a powerful state that could eventually help her kingdom to expand. In reality, Cleopatra wanted Egypt to remain independent from Rome and, to that end, she built its economy by establishing trade with many Arab nations.

Tracing the Physical Legacy of Cleopatra

On this year’s International Women’s Day today, Egypt Travel Blog would like to pay homage to one of ancient Egypt’s most famous figures and a woman whose life and legacy are worthy of remembrance.

Cleopatra is one of the most famous women in all of human history. She was a beloved queen of an ancient people who skillfully forged powerful alliances through love, lust, and marriage and waged war for the preservation of her empire. In the end, though, she and her mighty empire were ultimately defeated by the even mightier Rome, and Cleopatra is said to have committed suicide on 12 August 30 B.C. rather than witness the end of an independent Egypt.

With Cleopatra’s tragic demise also came the virtual disappearance of all physical traces of her existence from the earth, as the location of her burial site and remains have been lost to antiquity. But in a sense, a part of history’s greatest queen did survive for an unknown period of time – her DNA – via at least one known surviving child whose decedents criss-crossed the Mediterranean for centuries in royal marriage after royal marriage.

Cleopatra herself bore at least four children. The first of which we know was fathered by Julius Caesar, and the next three by fellow Roman Mark Antony. After Cleopatra’s death, her eldest son and successor, Caesarion, was assassinated on the order of Octavian, later the Roman Emperor Augustus. Her three remaining children were taken to Rome, but her two surviving male children soon mysteriously disappeared from history. This leaves only a daughter named Cleopatra Selene as her only surviving offspring.

After being paraded through the streets of Rome in gold chains with her brothers so that Rome could revel in its victory over Egypt, Cleopatra Selene, also known as Cleopatra VIII (her famous mother was not actually the first Cleopatra, but the seventh, although by far the greatest), was raised and educated in the royal Roman household before being strategically married off to King Juba II of the north African kingdom of Numidia (present-day Libya and Algeria, but then a Roman client-state). The couple were later sent westward to rule over another Roman client-state called Mauretania, which is now present-day Morocco.

With Juba II, Cleopatra Selene had a son that she named Ptolemy in honor of the last dynasty of pharaohs that ended with her late mother and brother. Ptolemy of Mauretania became king in 23 A.D. on the death of his father and in 38 A.D. his wife gave birth to a daughter named Drusilla. Two years later, King Ptolemy was called to Rome by the Emperor Caligula where he was assassinated on the ordered of the Emperor.

After she came of age, Drusilla was married off to the Roman governor of Judea, Marcus Antonius Felix, although we do not know of them producing any children. After he divorced her and married another local princess named Drusilla, Drusilla of Mauretania married again, this time to King Sohaemus of Emesa, another Roman client-state in modern-day Syria. With Sohaemus Drusilla bore a son named Gaius Julius Alexio, who became known as Alexio II upon becoming king in 73 A.D.

Alexio’s reign was short, however, and he died just five years later in 78 A.D., but not before producing a son and heir named Gaius Julius Fabia Sampsiceramus Silas, or Silas III after he became King of Emesa. King Silas continued to pass along Cleopatra’s bloodline to his offspring, including his heir Gaius Julius Longinus Soaemus, later King Soaemus.

At least one more generation of Cleopatra’s legitimate direct decedents is known to have ruled in Emesa, namely Gaius Julius Sulpicius, son of Soaemus. After that the historical record begins to get a bit murky. Some believe the line continued for several more generations until it circled back to join the Roman imperial line with the daughter of Emesean king Gaius Julius Bassianus, Julia Domna, who married Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus and bore him two sons who would become the emperors Geta and Caracalla.

Aside from “legitimate” royal descendants, it is highly likely that Cleopatra’s male descendants also had numerous extra-marital offspring who co-mingled with the noble and common populations across the ancient Mediterranean world. But knowledge of these common descendants and her royal offspring alike have since been lost to history. Regardless of an absence of her physical and genetic legacy, the historical record of Cleopatra’s greatness lives on and her incredible legacy remains larger than life.

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