ptolemaic queen

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royal meme | monarchs 3/10

Kleopatra Selene II was born in late 40 BCE, the daughter of Kleopatra VII, the Macedonian Greek queen of Ptolemaic Egypt, and Mark Antony, triumvir of Rome.

“For the first ten years of her life Selene had been raised in Egypt as an Egyptian princess at an Egyptian court; the fact that her father was a Roman citizen, former consul and triumvir was virtually irrelevant at this stage of her life. However, once both of her parents were dead and Egypt had ceased to exist as an independent kingdom, the question of  what to do with Selene and her brothers needed to be answered. In the absence of any surviving relatives, responsibility for them passed to Octavian and he in turn passed it to Octavia. The children lived in Octavia’s house on the Palatine Hill…Augustus had gradually accumulated a collection of royal children…one of the latter was Gaius Julius Juba, the son of King Juba of Numidia (modern-day Algeria, Tunisia and Libya), who had committed suicide in 46 BCE after being defeated by Caesar at the Battle of Thapsus. Only a baby at the time, Juba had been taken back to Rome by Caesar and exhibited in the African section of his quadruple triumph. He had subsequently been raised in Caesar’s household until the dictator’s assassination in 44 BCE when custody of the child seems to have passed to Octavian and Octavia. Juba was awarded Roman citizenship and spent his childhood and adolescence in Rome during which time he was given a Roman education and encouraged in intellectual pursuits, which led to him writing scholarly treatises on a range of subjects. Although Octavia had herself been unlucky in love,she was apparently something of a matchmaker. In 25 BCE she was instrumental in arranging a marriage between Selene and Juba.

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As to the scene, it must be remembered that the Egypt of those days was not Egyptian as we understand the word, but rather Greek. Cleopatra herself was of Greek descent. The kingdom of Egypt had been created by a general of Alexander the Great after that splendid warrior’s death. Its capital, the most brilliant city of the Greco-Roman world, had been founded by Alexander himself, who gave to it his name. With his own hands he traced out the limits of the city and issued the most peremptory orders that it should be made the metropolis of the entire world. The orders of a king cannot give enduring greatness to a city; but Alexander’s keen eye and marvelous brain saw at once that the site of Alexandria was such that a great commercial community planted there would live and flourish throughout out succeeding ages. He was right; for within a century this new capital of Egypt leaped to the forefront among the exchanges of the world’s commerce, while everything that art could do was lavished on its embellishment.

Famous Affinities of History - Lyndon Orr
uscentrism: yes, we'd like Eurocentric and colonialist discourses to be challenged, we'd like non-European histories to be talked about, but...

hmm i feel like one person i follow for history stuff is making me really uncomfortable in how they seem to fetishise non-European cultures and our otherness (I say that as a Chinese). Probably not intentionally, but i just get uncomfortable at times. I get the premise of what they are doing is good, but I question its execution. They post interesting things at times but at the same time I personally feel there’s a lack of critical, historical analysis, nor a willingness to accept evidence that challenges their bias. And to often get defensive, insinuate people who disagree with them are internalised racists. Somehow, I feel they are not conscious of how they are ironically perpetuating the structures of oppression and the Western gaze they actually want to fight against.

anyway, so basically it was an issue over cleopatra’s ethnicity. We know she was part Greek at least, because she was a Ptolemaic Queen. (Alexander the Great died after he conquered Egypt, and one of his generals, Ptolemy took over. Cleopatra is descended from his bloodlines). In popular culture, she was portrayed as a fair-skinned woman- and was once played by Elizabeth Taylor. So, I do get where this idea of wanting to challenge potential whitewashing comes from.

  • So this person wrote a post suggesting how cleopatra was definitely not wholly greek and probably part egyptian. An Egyptian (I can’t be 100% sure but I think they are) took issue with it and it seemed they did not like it because they felt Cleopatra was part of an imperialist dynasty that conquered their country and further made them susceptible to Roman imperialism after that. Ergo, they did not like that the person was suggesting Cleopatra was an African icon without further evidence. But this blogger didn’t seem to get that and insinuated that they wanted Cleopatra to be “white” because they want to whitewash history? The asker’s tone might not have been the best but I kinda understood.
  • I mean like we Chinese find it important to make it very clear the Yuan and Qing dynasties were NOT Han Chinese, (the former was Mongol, the latter Manchu) as much as they continued the traditions of our emperors of old. We would not want, say, Emperor Hirohito, the Emperor of Japan during WW2 to be mistaken for a Chinese leader as Japanese rule was brutal. I am not sure who is right about Cleopatra’s ethnicity, but it’s more like I’m a bit uncomfortable at the way the discourse unfolds, the types of assumptions that tend to be evoked when challenged.

And I sort of feel this reaction is a product of tumblr US-centrism, where the dichotomy is “white vs POC”.So, anyone who does not favour the idea that Cleopatra is non-white is kind of treated with suspicion…which should not neccessarily be so if the person is an Egyptian themselves. “Whiteness” vs “POC” as a dichotomy doesn’t do justice to the complexity of ancient history, nor the way we non-Americans see themselves today. Because we should be mindful of how the “white” and “POC” dichotomy may be reproducing American hegemony, American narratives- and potentially a system of oppression that distorts narratives that exist outside of the US context.

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ancient history meme | women ( 2/7)

“A brave young woman who has always fought for what was right even when it was unpopular”. – Michelle Moran, ‘Cleopatra’s Daughter’

Kleopatra Selene II was born in late 40 BCE, the daughter of Kleopatra VII, the Macedonian Greek queen of Ptolemaic Egypt, and Mark Antony, triumvir of Rome. 

“For the first ten years of her life Selene had been raised in Egypt as an Egyptian princess at an Egyptian court; the fact that her father was a Roman citizen, former consul and triumvir was virtually irrelevant at this stage of her life. However, once both of her parents were dead and Egypt had ceased to exist as an independent kingdom, the question of  what to do with Selene and her brothers needed to be answered. In the absence of any surviving relatives, responsibility for them passed to Octavian and he in turn passed it to Octavia. The children lived in Octavia’s house on the Palatine Hill…Augustus had gradually accumulated a collection of royal children…one of the latter was Gaius Julius Juba, the son of King Juba of Numidia (modern-day Algeria, Tunisia and Libya), who had committed suicide in 46 BCE after being defeated by Caesar at the Battle of Thapsus. Only a baby at the time, Juba had been taken back to Rome by Caesar and exhibited in the African section of his quadruple triumph. He had subsequently been raised in Caesar’s household until the dictator’s assassination in 44 BCE when custody of the child seems to have passed to Octavian and Octavia. Juba was awarded Roman citizenship and spent his childhood and adolescence in Rome during which time he was given a Roman education and encouraged in intellectual pursuits, which led to him writing scholarly treatises on a range of subjects. Although Octavia had herself been unlucky in love,she was apparently something of a matchmaker. In 25 BCE she was instrumental in arranging a marriage between Selene and Juba.

The young couple had had their lives turned upside down as a result of the actions of their parents. Once they arrived in Mauretania they were free to make their own decisions, accountable to no one, except possibly Augustus. They had much to do: the new kingdom of Mauretania was a vast territory, encompassing modern-day Algeria and Morocco, rather than modern-day Mauritania… [Selene] possessed enough prestige to rule alongside her husband as a queen in her own right and consistently referred to her Greek and Ptolemaic heritage on the coins she issued in her own name as well as those she issued in conjunction with Juba. Their new kingdom was in serious need of modernisation, so they refounded [the capital] Iol as Caesarea in honour of their benefactor Augustus. They filled Caesarea with grandiose buildings inspired by those of Rome and also of Alexandria. These included a lighthouse in the style of the Alexandrian Pharos, set up on an island in the harbour, a royal palace situated on the seafront and numerous temples to Roman and Egyptian deities. Their royal court attracted scholars and artists from across the Roman Empire and became a cosmopolitan fusion of Greek, Roman and Egyptian culture. The couple ruled Mauretania for almost two decades, until Selene’s early death at the age of 35. Judging from a second commemorative epigram written by Crinagoras of Mytilene, her death seems to have coincided with a lunar eclipse, which would place it on or around March 23rd, 5 BCE.”  - Jane Draycoff

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Get to Known me Meme, Royalist Edition

[10/10] Monarchs - Cleopatra VII

For her actual beauty, it is said, was not in itself so remarkable that none could be compared with her, or that no one could see her without being struck by it, but the contact of her presence, if you lived with her, was irresistible; the attraction of her person, joining with the charm of her conversation, and the character that attended all she said or did, was something bewitching. It was a pleasure merely to hear the sound of her voice, with which, like an instrument of many strings, she could pass from one language to another; so that there were few of the barbarian nations that she answered by an interpreter.

Crown suggests Queen Arsinoë II ruled ancient Egypt as female pharaoh
Date: November 29, 2010 Source: University of Gothenburg

Queen Arsinoë II in the Philae temple, Aswan, Egypt.

Researchers are largely agreed on Queen Arsinoë II’s importance from the day that she was deified. She was put on a level with the ancient goddesses Isis and Hathor, and was still respected and honoured 200 years after her death when her better-known descendant Cleopatra wore the same crown. But the reasons behind Arsinoë’s huge influence have been interpreted in many different ways.

Maria Nilsson has studied her historical importance by interpreting her personal crown and its ancient symbols.“My conclusion instead is that Arsinoë was a female pharaoh and high priestess who was equal to and ruled jointly with her brother and husband, and that she was deified during her actual lifetime,” says Nilsson. “It was this combination of religion and politics that was behind her long-lived influence.”

The thesis is clearly structured around the crown and includes its wider context in the reliefs. Nilsson paints an all-round picture of the queen, how she dressed, the gods she was depicted with, the titles she was given, and so on.

Source: University of Gothenburg. “Crown suggests Queen Arsinoë II ruled ancient Egypt as female pharaoh.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101128194011.htm>.

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.

The phenomenon of Cleopatra must be set firmly in the context of Ptolemaic queens, shrewd, able, and ambitious. She was not a courtesan, an exotic plaything for Roman generals. Rather, Cleopatra’s liaisons with the Romans must be considered to have been, from her viewpoint, legitimate dynastic alliances with promises of the greatest possible success and profit to the queen and to Egypt.
—  Sarah Pomeroy, Goddesses Whores Wives and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity

Relief of Cleopatra I Syra holding a sistrum.

She was the first Queen of the Ptolemaic Dynasty to bear the name of Cleopatra, and the first Ptolemaic Queen to be sole ruler of Egypt. She was a princess of the Selecuid Empire which, at the height of its’ power included Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today’s Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.