alexander helios

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On this day in history, August 12th, two thousand and forty six years ago, Cleopatra VII, the last active ruler of Ancient Egypt, committed suicide.

Eleven days previously, her husband Marc Antony had already done the same. The couple had been engaged in a civil war against Octavian, the great nephew of Julius Caesar who had been declared his legal heir. During the final battle in Alexandria, Antony suffered serious desertions among his troops and lost the fight. Upon his return, he falsely heard Cleopatra had killed herself and fell on his sword.

After Antony’s death, Octavian arrived in Egypt and effectively took Cleopatra and her children by Antony prisoner. She had sent her eldest son Caesarion, her only living child with Caesar, away for his own safety. She knew that Octavian planned for her to march in chains behind his chariot during his triumph parade, and would very likely have her killed afterwards. Rather than suffer such humiliations and indignity, she chose to take her own life.

Popular history and mythology leads us to believe that she was killed by inducing an asp to bite her, after having locked herself in her mausoleum with her two handmaidens. However, many modern scholars believe that she instead took a mixture of poisons, since the venom of an asp does not cause a quick or painless death. Octavian and his men found her too late to do anything, Cleopatra was already dead and one handmaiden, Iras, was nearly dead on the floor. The second, Charmian, was straightening the Queen’s diadem. According to legend, one of the men asked if this was well done of her mistress, and she shot back “Very well done, as befitting the descendant of so many noble Kings.”

Upon her death, Octavian honoured her wish to be buried in her mausoleum at Antony’s side. He took her children with Antony, the twins Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios, along with their younger brother, Ptolemy Philadelphus, to Rome with him as prisoners of sorts. They were fated to march in his triumph parade in their mother’s place, the chains so heavy they could hardly walk. After this they were given to Octavian’s sister Octavia, who had been Antony’s third wife, to look after.

Cleopatra’s son with Caesar, Caesarion, was nominally sole ruler of Egypt after his mother’s death. Eleven days after her suicide, he was found after being lured back to Alexandria under false pretenses of being allowed to rule in his mother’s place. Octavian ordered his murder, on advice that “Two Caesar were too many.”

With Cleopatra’s death, and Caesarion’s subsequent murder, the rule of the Ptolemaic Dynasty came to an end and Egypt became a mere Roman Province.

[Cleopatra] is unlikely to have been over-concerned about her children’s legitimacy as, in Egypt and her territories, their position as children of the world’s most powerful queen goddess would have been unchallenged. In any case, under Egyptian law, there was no formal civil or religious wedding ceremony.
—  Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt, Joyce Tyldesley, p.170

Happy Birthday today, December 25th, to Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene II. They were the twin children born to Cleopatra VII and Marc Antony, sometime late in 40 B.C. The date of the 25th has been given for their birth by some sources, but many also say the exact date is unknown.

After their parents were defeated by Octavian, with both subsequently committing suicide,  they were taken to Rome alongside their younger brother, Ptolemy Philadelphus. Octavian, who had wished to have Cleopatra paraded through the streets, settled instead for her children; shackling them in golden chains so heavy they could barely walk. After his Triumph parade they were raised in the household of their father’s third wife, Octavia Minor.

What happened to Helios is unclear. There is no record of any marriage plans for him, or any descendents, nor any sort of career in the military or government. It is thought by some that he and Philadelphus either died of illness or were murdered.

Selene was married to Juba II, sometimes between 20 - 26 B.C. becoming Queen of Numidia and Mauretania. Selene and Juba had at least one son, Ptolemy of Mauretania, and possibly a daughter named Drusilla. It is unknown exactly when she died but, upon her death she was buried in the Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania, where Juba would also be interred upon his death, and the structure still stands today.

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the royal meme | the royal children 1/5

Kleopatra VII, the last Greek-Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt, had four children in her lifetime: with Julius Caesar, she had  Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar, aka Caesarion, who reigned jointly with his mother starting in 44 BCE. With Mark Antony, she had the twins, Alexander Helios and Kleopatra Selene II (the latter who to become Queen of Mauretenia) and Ptolemy Philadelphos. ( for @tiny-librarian )

Head of the God Helios
In the style of Lysippos; Middle Hellenistic period; marble
Archaeological Museum of Rhodes, Rhodes

“For you, Your Majesty,” Antony said solemnly, placing the coronet on Alexander’s head, where it was all but lost in his thick curls. “And you.” He had one for Selene, this one with more poppies. She accepted regally.

“Well done,” he said. “You see, that queenly gesture comes from you,” he said to me. “It’s inherited, not learned.”

I put my arms around their shoulders. Antony seemed inordinately proud of them, as if they were the only children he had ever had.

—  The Memoirs of Cleopatra - Margaret George
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After the deaths of their parents in 30 BC, Cleopatra Selene, Alexander Helios, and Ptolemy Philadelphos—the children of Antony and Cleopatra—were taken to Rome to be raised as one of the fourteen children/wards of the imperial compound of the first Roman Emperor, Octavian Augustus. The fascinating stories of these young people—friends and enemies, good and evil, successful and destroyed—all brought together in one household were made famous in several novels about Princess Selene, principally Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran. 

On this day in history, August 12th, two thousand and forty five years ago, Cleopatra VII, the last active ruler of Ancient Egypt, committed suicide.

Eleven days previously, her husband Marc Antony had already done the same. The couple had been engaged in a civil war against Octavian, the great nephew of Julius Caesar who had been declared his legal heir. During the final battle in Alexandria, Antony suffered serious desertions among his troops and lost the fight. Upon his return, he falsely heard Cleopatra had killed herself and fell on his sword.

After Antony’s death, Octavian arrived in Egypt and effectively took Cleopatra and her children by Antony prisoner. She had sent her eldest son Caesarion, her only living child with Caesar, away for his own safety. She knew that Octavian planned for her to march in chains behind his chariot during his triumph parade, and would very likely have her killed afterwards. Rather than suffer such humiliations and indignity, she chose to take her own life.

Popular history and mythology leads us to believe that she was killed by inducing an asp to bite her, after having locked herself in her mausoleum with her two handmaidens. However, many modern scholars believe that she instead took a mixture of poisons, since the venom of an asp does not cause a quick or painless death. Octavian and his men found her too late to do anything, Cleopatra was already dead and one handmaiden, Iras, was nearly dead on the floor. The second, Charmian, was straightening the Queen’s diadem. According to legend, one of the men asked if this was well done of her mistress, and she shot back “Very well done, as befitting the descendant of so many noble Kings.”

Upon her death, Octavian honoured her wish to be buried in her mausoleum at Antony’s side. He took her children with Antony, the twins Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios, along with their younger brother, Ptolemy Philadelphus, to Rome with him as prisoners of sorts. They were fated to march in his triumph parade in their mother’s place, the chains so heavy they could hardly walk. After this they were given to Octavian’s sister Octavia, who had been Antony’s third wife, to look after.

Cleopatra’s son with Caesar, Caesarion, was nominally sole ruler of Egypt after his mother’s death. Eleven days after her suicide, he was found after being lured back to Alexandria under false pretenses of being allowed to rule in his mother’s place. Octavian ordered his murder, on advice that “Two Caesar were too many.”

With Cleopatra’s death, and Caesarion’s subsequent murder, the rule of the Ptolemaic Dynasty came to an end and Egypt became a mere Roman Province.

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