Egypt’s Many Cleopatras

Though greatly outnumbered by many male pharaohs of approximately 36 dynasties, Ancient Egypt did have its fair share of female rulers. Everyone knows about Cleopatra, but she wasn’t the only one; seven Egyptian queens carried that name.

Cleopatra I Syra :
Cleopatra I Syra. (source: Wikipedia).

This first Cleopatra was a princess of the Seleucid Empire; she became queen of Ptolemaic Egypt by marrying Ptolemy V. After her husband died in 180 BC, she ruled as regent for her son, Ptolemy VI; she was the first Ptolemaic queen to rule without her husband.

Cleopatra II :
Egyptian - Intaglio Portrait of Cleopatra II - Walters 421319.jpg
Cleopatra II. (source: Wikipedia).

This Cleopatra was the queen of Egypt with two successive brothers/husbands and her daughter; this was often in opposition to her brother Ptolemy VIII. Her first reign, with Ptolemy VI, ran from 175 to 164 BC; her second reign ran from 163 to 145 BC; and her third reign from 145 to around 139 BC, was with her younger brother Ptolemy VIII and her daughter Cleopatra III. After those reigns, she also ruled from 131 to 127 BC as a sole ruler, and then again with her husband and daughter from 124 to 116 BC.

Cleopatra III :
Cleopatra III. (source: Wikipedia).

This Cleopatra ruled Egypt from 127 to 101 BC. From 142 to 131 BC and then 127 to 116 BC, she ruled with her mother and her husband; from 116 to 101 BC, she ruled with her sons Ptolemy IX and Ptolemy X.

Cleopatra IV :

This Cleopatra was briefly queen of Egypt from 116 to 115 BC, alongside her brother/husband Ptolemy IX Lathyros. Around 115 BC, her mother, Cleopatra II, forced her and Ptolemy to divorce; after this, she fled to Cyprus, where she married first Antiochus IV Cyzicanus, and later his half-brother Antiochus VIII Grypus of Syria.

Cleopatra V :
A likely sculpture of Cleopatra V Tryphaena (also known as Cleopatra VI), 1st century BC, from Lower Egypt, now in the Musée Saint-Raymond[1]
Cleopatra V. (source: Wikipedia).

This Cleopatra was the only surely attested wife of Ptolemy XII. Her parentage is unclear; she may have been the legitimate or illegitimate daughter of Ptolemy IX, or the daughter of Ptolemy X.

Cleopatra VI Tryphaena :

This Cleopatra was the queen of Egypt alongside Berenice IV, who was either her sister or her daughter. She co-ruled for only a year before her death of unknown causes in about 57 BC.

Cleopatra VII Philopator :
Photograph of an ancient Roman marble sculpture of Cleopatra VII's head as displayed at the Altes Museum in Berlin
Cleopatra VII Philopator. (source: Wikipedia).

This Cleopatra is the one that everyone knows; her exploits are legendary. The last active ruler of Egypt, she reigned from 51 to 30 BC. She accompanied her father into his exile in Rome, as well as upon his return; after Ptolemy XII Auletes died in 51 BC, Cleopatra co-ruled with her brother Ptolemy XIII, which unfortunately ended in conflict. After a period of unrest, she ruled alongside her brother Ptolemy XIV; at the same time, she had an affair with Julius Caesar that produced a son, Caesarion. After ordering her brother’s murder in 44 BC, she named Caesarion her co-ruler as Ptolemy XV. In 41 BC, she began an affair with Mark Antony; eleven years later, after Antony’s suicide, she killed herself by poisoning.

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