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Cleopatra, the famed queen of Egypt, had a diverse heritage that traced back to Macedonian Greece through her family lineage. Her ancestor, Ptolemy I Soter, a general of Alexander the Great, established a Greek-speaking dynasty in Egypt after Alexander’s death in 323 B.C. Despite her Greek origins, Cleopatra embraced Egyptian customs and was the first of her dynasty to learn the Egyptian language.

While historians generally acknowledge Cleopatra’s Greek ancestry, some suggest she may have had Persian and Sogdian Iranian heritage as well. This was because her family had intermarried with the Seleucid dynasty. Her official coinage and portrait busts support this, which depict her in a Greek style. However, there is debate among scholars about the authenticity of certain portraits attributed to her.

Portrait of Cleopatra VII. Inv. No. 38511. Rome, Vatican Museums, Pius-Clementine Museum.

In 2009, a BBC documentary proposed the possibility that Cleopatra might have had North African ancestry based on examining a skeleton found in a tomb in modern-day Turkey. It was believed to be that of Cleopatra’s sister or half-sister, Arsinoe IV. However, this claim is disputed by scholars due to the lack of conclusive evidence and the uncertainty surrounding the identity of the remains.

About Cleopatra

Cleopatra was a remarkable woman ruler who demonstrated intelligence, shrewdness, and strategic prowess in a male-dominated world. She assertively defended her right to rule, eliminating threats posed by her brothers when they opposed her goals. Through calculated alliances with Caesar and later with Mark Antony, she safeguarded her own authority and Egypt’s autonomy. Cleopatra’s diplomatic acumen ensured Egyptian independence at a time when many other states succumbed to Roman dominance.

Being a native Greek speaker, she displayed an exceptional willingness to connect with her subjects by mastering the Egyptian language, a feat uncommon among rulers of her time. This forward-thinking approach and linguistic adaptability highlight Cleopatra’s progressive mindset and adeptness in communication.

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