Cleopatra Selene II

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Cleopatra Selene (II))
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Cleopatra Selene II
Queen consort of Numidia
Queen consort of Mauretania
Cleopatra Selene II bust, Cherchell, Algeria 4.jpg
An ancient Roman bust of either Cleopatra Selene II, Queen of Mauretania, or her mother Cleopatra VII of Egypt, Archaeological Museum of Cherchell, Algeria[1]
Born40 BC (presumed, exact date unknown)
Alexandria, Egypt
Diedc. 5 BC
Caesarea, Mauretania
SpouseJuba II of Numidia
IssuePtolemy, King of Mauretania
Full name
Cleopatra Selene
FatherMark Antony
MotherCleopatra VII Philopator

Cleopatra Selene II (Greek: Κλεοπάτρα Σελήνη; summer 40 BC – c. 5 BC;[2] the numeration is modern), also known as Cleopatra VIII (of Egypt), was a Ptolemaic Princess and was the only daughter to Greek Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Roman triumvir Mark Antony. She was the fraternal twin of Ptolemaic prince Alexander Helios. Her second name in ancient Greek means moon, also meaning the Titaness-goddess of the Moon Selene, being the counterpart of her twin brother's second name Helios, meaning sun and the Titan-god of the Sun Helios. Cleopatra was born, raised and educated in Alexandria, Egypt. In 36 BC in the Donations of Antioch and in late 34 BC during the Donations of Alexandria, she was made ruler of Cyrenaica and Libya.[3] After the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at Actium and their suicides in Egypt in 30 BC, Cleopatra Selene was brought to Rome and placed in the household of Octavian's sister Octavia the Younger (a former wife of Antony). Cleopatra Selene was eventually married to Juba II of Numidia and Mauretania and they produced a son and successor Ptolemy of Mauretania.

Early life[edit]

An ancient Roman sculpture of either Cleopatra Selene II or her mother Cleopatra VII of Ptolemaic Egypt from the Archaeological Museum of Cherchel, Algeria[4]

Cleopatra Selene had two full brothers, her twin Alexander Helios and the younger Ptolemy Philadelphos. Her older half-brother, Caesarion, was the son of her mother and her first partner, Julius Caesar. Cleopatra most likely planned her only daughter to marry her eldest son Caesarion. Her father also had five other children with previous wives.

Her parents, Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII, were defeated by Octavian (future Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus), during a naval battle at Actium, Greece in 31 BC. In 30 BC, her parents committed suicide as Octavian and his army invaded Egypt. Octavian captured Cleopatra Selene and her brothers and took them from Egypt to Rome, parading them in heavy golden chains in his triumph. The chains were so heavy that the children were unable to walk in them, eliciting unexpected sympathy from many of the Roman onlookers. Octavian gave the siblings to his elder sister (Mark Antony's former wife) Octavia Minor to be raised in her household in Rome.[5]


Coin of the ancient kingdom of Mauretania. Juba II of Numidia on the obverse, Cleopatra Selene II on the reverse.

Between 26 and 20 BC, Augustus arranged for Cleopatra to marry King Juba II of Numidia in Rome. The Emperor Augustus gave to Cleopatra as a wedding present a huge dowry and she became an ally to Rome. By then her brothers, Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus, had disappeared from all known historical records and are presumed to have died, possibly from illness or assassination. When Cleopatra married Juba, she was the only surviving member of the Ptolemaic dynasty.[6]

Juba and Cleopatra could not return to Numidia as it had been made a Roman province in 46 BC. The couple were sent to Mauretania, an unorganized territory that needed Roman supervision. They renamed their new capital Caesarea (modern Cherchell, Algeria), in honor of the Emperor.[7] Cleopatra is said to have exercised great influence on policies that Juba created. Through her influence, the Mauretanian Kingdom flourished. Mauretania exported and traded well throughout the Mediterranean. The construction and sculptural projects at Caesarea and at another city Volubilis, were built and display a rich mixture of Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman architectural styles.[8]

The children of Cleopatra and Juba were:

  • Ptolemy of Mauretania born in 10 BC [9]
  • A daughter, whose name has not been recorded, is mentioned in an inscription. It has been suggested that Drusilla of Mauretania was a daughter, but she may have been a granddaughter instead. Drusilla is described as a granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra, but she may have been a daughter of Ptolemy of Mauretania.[9]

Zenobia of Palmyra, Queen of Syria, claimed descent from Cleopatra, although this is unlikely.[10]


The Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania, a tomb of Juba II and his wife Cleopatra Selene II in Tipaza, Algeria
A likely depiction of Cleopatra Selene II wearing an elephant scalp, raised relief image on a gilded silver dish, from the Boscoreale Treasure, 1st century BC[11][12]

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.[13]

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.[14]

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. Their human remains have not been found at the site, perhaps due to tomb raids that occurred at an uncertain time (possibly shortly after the Mausoleum's construction), or because the structure was simply meant to serve as a memorial and not an actual place of burial.[15]

In fiction[edit]

  • Cleopatra is mentioned in the novels by Robert Graves, I, Claudius and Claudius the God.
  • Cleopatra is a significant character in Wallace Breem's historical novel The Legate's Daughter (1974), Phoenix/Orion Books Ltd. ISBN 0-7538-1895-7
  • Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran (2009) tells the story of Cleopatra's early life; from the demise of her parents until her marriage to Juba II of Numidia.
  • Lily of the Nile, Song of the Nile, and Daughters of the Nile, a trilogy by Stephanie Dray, tells the entire life story of Selene.
  • Querida Alejandría by María García Esperón (Bogotá 2007: Norma, ISBN 958-04-9845-8), a novel in the form of a letter by Cleopatra to the people of Alexandria.
  • Cleopatra's Daughter by Andrea Ashton (1979) also tells the story of Cleopatra Selene's early life.
  • Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter (2011) is a novel for teens about Cleopatra Selene. It begins with Cleopatra being named queen of Cyrenaica and Libya by her father and follows the events around her parents' suicide. In it, Ptolemy Philadelphus dies of an illness and Alexander Helios is poisoned by Mark Antony's wife, Octavia, after he drank wine meant for his sister. The book ends with Cleopatra's marriage to Juba II.
  • Selene and her twin appear briefly in the television series Rome.
  • Selene, córka Kleopatry by Natalia Rolleczek is a novel about Selene and her siblings from the death of their parents until Selene's marriage.
  • Selene is a lead character in Michael Livingston's 2015 historical fantasy novel The Shards of Heaven.[16][17]
  • Cleopatra Selene is a main character in "The Daughters of Pallatine Hill", by Phyllis T. Smith (2016)
  • Cleopatra Selene's birth and early life with her mother Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, are featured in "The Memoirs of Cleopatra" by Margaret George (1997) ISBN 0312154305

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ferroukhi, Mafoud (2001), "Marble portrait, perhaps of Cleopatra VII's daughter, Cleopatra Selene, Queen of Mauretania", in Walker, Susan; Higgs, Peter (eds.), Cleopatra of Egypt: from History to Myth, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press (British Museum Press), p. 219, ISBN 9780691088358.
  2. ^ Roller, p. 77
  3. ^ Roller, p. 76–81
  4. ^ Roller, Duane W. (2003). The World of Juba II and Kleopatra Selene: Royal Scholarship on Rome's African Frontier. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415305969, p. 139.
  5. ^ Roller, p. 82–85
  6. ^ Roller, p. 84–89
  7. ^ Roller, p. 98–100
  8. ^ Roller, p. 91–162
  9. ^ a b Cleopatra Selene by Chris Bennett
  10. ^ Roller, p. 244–56
  11. ^ Roller, Duane W. (2003). The World of Juba II and Kleopatra Selene: Royal Scholarship on Rome's African Frontier. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415305969, pp. 141—142
  12. ^ Walker, Susan (2001), "Gilded silver dish, decorated with a bust perhaps representing Cleopatra Selene", in Walker, Susan; Higgs, Peter (eds.), Cleopatra of Egypt: from History to Myth, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press (British Museum Press), pp. 312–313, ISBN 9780691088358.
  13. ^ Roller, p. 249–51
  14. ^ Roller, p. 250
  15. ^ Davies, Ethel (2009). North Africa: the Roman Coast. Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire: Bradt Travel Guides. ISBN 978-1-84162-287-3, p. 11.
  16. ^ "The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved January 29, 2016.
  17. ^ "Review: The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston". Kirkus Reviews. September 3, 2015. Retrieved January 29, 2016.


External links[edit]