Cleopatra’s True Racial Background (and Does it Really Matter?) | OUPblog

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Cleopatra’s True Racial Background (and Does it Really Matter?)

Racial profiling and manipulation have been around for a very long time. It has become an issue in contemporary politics, and over 2500 years ago the Greek historian Herodotos wrote that ethnicity was regularly turned to political ends. Cleopatra VII, the last queen of Egypt and a woman of great ability, is often a victim of racial profiling, as today people can be more interested in her racial background than her many accomplishments. Such concerns have recently come to the forefront with the announcement that in at least one of the several Cleopatra movies currently planned, a white (instead of black) actress would play the role of the queen. It is hard to imagine that race would be more important than acting ability, but clearly others disagree.

It has been suggested – although generally not by credible scholarly sources – that Cleopatra was racially black African. To be blunt, there is absolutely no evidence for this, yet it is one of those issues that seems to take on a life of its own despite all indication to the contrary. What follows lays out the evidence for Cleopatra’s racial ancestry, but one must not forget that this is of little importance in assessing the legacy of the queen in world history.

Let us consider exactly the evidence for Cleopatra’s racial background. It’s a little complicated, so do follow closely! She was born in early 69 BC as the descendant of a line of Egyptian kings in a dynasty that went back 250 years. Her ancestor Ptolemy I, a companion of Alexander the Great, founded the dynasty in the late fourth century BC. Ptolemy was Macedonian Greek in origin (he grew up at the royal court of Alexander’s father in Macedonia, the northern part of the Greek peninsula), and established himself as king of Egypt in the convulsive years after Alexander’s death. The descent passed through six successor Ptolemies until it reached Cleopatra’s father. So Cleopatra was no more than eight generations away from being pure Macedonian Greek.

But what about the mothers? Women are always difficult to find, even in royal dynasties, and it is here that questions of her racial background have been raised. For the first six generations the wives of the ruling Ptolemies also came from the same Macedonian background as their husbands. So until the time of Cleopatra’s great-grandfather, the ethnic makeup of the dynasty was still pure Macedonian Greek. In fact two of her ancestors married their sisters, thus reinforcing the Macedonian ethnicity.

It is with Cleopatra’s grandfather that uncertainties develop. Although he had two wives of traditional Macedonian background, he seems to have had at least one concubine of uncertain origin, who may have been Cleopatra’s grandmother. But this is by no means clear, and some sources indicate she was her husband’s sister, and thus pure Macedonian.

Assuming, however, that Cleopatra’s grandmother was not from the traditional Macedonian Greek stem, the question arises as to just what she was. Sources suggest that if she was not Macedonian, she was probably Egyptian. So by the time of Cleopatra’s grandparents, there may have been an Egyptian element in the racial stem.

Cleopatra’s father also had several wives. One was his sister, but again there is evidence that some of his five children had another mother. Yet the geographer Strabo (one of the few contemporary sources for the life of Cleopatra) wrote that all the wives of her father were women of significant status, which rules out any slaves or concubines, and makes it possible that Cleopatra’s mother was of the traditional Macedonian Greek stock. But this may not have been the case, so one may need to look elsewhere for the ethnic background of Cleopatra’s mother. Yet there is only one other ethnic group that produced women of status in contemporary Egypt: the Egyptian religious elite, which in fact had a long history of intermarriage with the Ptolemaic dynasty. So Cleopatra’s mother may have been Egyptian, but she probably also had some Macedonian background.

There are three other matters worthy of consideration. One is that Cleopatra was the only ruler of her dynasty who knew, in addition to her native Greek, the Egyptian language. This suggests close association with an Egyptian speaker, perhaps her mother. Secondly, Cleopatra’s daughter, who became queen of Mauretania (and was mixed ethnically herself, as her father was Roman), honored the Egyptian religious elite at her far-off capital of Mauretanian Caesarea (in modern Algeria). This makes sense if they were part of her ancestral family. And third – especially relevant in demolishing any suggestion that Cleopatra had black African blood – the representations of her in Greek and Roman art and coins do not show anything other than traditional Mediterranean ethnicity, although artists were perfectly capable of showing other ethnic groups.

To sum up: it is quite possible that Cleopatra was pure Macedonian Greek. But it is probable that she had some Egyptian blood, although the amount is uncertain. Certainly it was no more than half, and probably less. The best evidence is that she was three-quarters Macedonian Greek and one-quarter Egyptian. There is no room for anything else, certainly not for any black African blood.

Yet all this argumentation is rather silly. What is important about Cleopatra is that she became one of the most powerful rulers of her era. She was a skilled linguist, a naval commander, an expert administrator, a religious leader who was seen by some as a messianic figure, and a worthy opponent of the Romans. She was worshipped in Egypt for at over 400 years after her death. Race seems irrelevant in such a situation, and it goes without saying that people should be judged by their abilities, not their race. But sadly, even in twenty-first century America, this is far from the case. It is unlikely that Cleopatra cared about her racial makeup, but people over 2000 years later still obsess about it, thus trivializing her accomplishments.

Headline image credit: The meeting of Antony and Cleopatra, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Recent Comments

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Teresa Rolfe Kravtin, Lauren. Lauren said: Controversy over Cleopatra's true race–but does it matter? […]

  2. Peter

    It is ironic claiming Cleopatra being Macedonian Greek.There is no such thing as Macedonian Greek.Obviously, the Greek friends do follow Greeces historical falsifications as did this writer.It is shameful to say the least an outsider to fabricate true history.To put it in perspective;The City States were under the Macedonian yoke since 338 BC when the Macedonians defeated them at Chaeronea.Their history ceased to exist till 1829.Remember,Macedonia existed before Greece ever did.Greece annexed part of Macedonia in 1913,Never before Macedonia belonged to Greece.

  3. Naumovski

    There is no such thing as Macedonian Greek ethnicity for a historian you dont know much Macedonian and Greek are two separate ethnicities and I find it offensive when you refer to this mix, Macedonians are Macedonians stop distorting history, there is no Greek in this elemant whatsoever.

  4. Rou234

    Cleopatra was Macedonian Greek, anyone with a history degree knows ancient Macedonians had a Greek identity and culture or else they wouldn’t have spread Greek culture, identity, language, etc. from one end of the world to the other, and Cleopatra’s native language wouldn’t have been Greek. What’s shameful is to fabricate true history by trying to claim otherwise. CLEOPATRA: look it up, its Greek too and we know in ancient times where passports and identity cards didn’t exist to show one’s ethnic origins their names were used for such things.

  5. Afer

    Cleopatra was olive toned.

  6. Christian

    Interesting article, although I too contest the use of the phrase “Macedonian Greek”, although unlike my two learned friends above, I am not motivated by CONTEMPORARY POLITICS (viz. Republic of Macedonia vs Greece over the use of the name)- sticking to a purely ancient historical context here, as is the nature of this text.

    The Ancient Greeks had a very good understanding of who were Greek and who were not- there was never a grey area for them. Ancient Macedonians (called ‘Makedons’ by Herodotus and Thucydides) were never considered Greek; stories remain from ancient texts- notably Herodotus- of specific Macedonian kings like Alexander I (Macedon King during the early 5th century) claiming Greek ancestry, from the city-state of Argos I believe. Paraphrasing, he claimed to be:

    “A Greek king ruling over a barbarian people”

    Herodotus recalls him going over to Greek side before the Battle of Platea (479BC) and giving advice, despite the fact he was fighting with the Persians. He also recalls him participating in the Olympic games- something you had to be Greek to do.

    It is likely that Herodotus got most of his sources from Athens, who around the mid fifth-century would have wished to paint the Macedonian KING (as opposed to the general people) as Greek in order to maintain a steady supply of pitch and timber from the Macedonian forests, to maintain their navy. Whenever Athens had no use for the Macedonians, she considered them as barbarous as other tribal people north of Thessaly.

    The rhetoric of Demosthenes in the fourth-century certainly painted them as such, although this must be taken with a pinch of salt since he had utter political motives.

    The Macedonians that defeated the poleis in 338 at Chaeronea would go on to spread Greek language and traditions over Asia and yes, Egypt…Much like the Romans continued to up to the middle ages. But to class them as “Greek” themselves would be erroneous in my opinion. Although “Macedonians with Hellenistic identity” doesn’t really have such a nice ring to it.

    Sorry to waffle, very refreshing article aside from that.

  7. Kate

    Of course it matters! A white man can easily find hundreds of great white men in the history books. Finding role models and inspiration is more difficult for women, and especially difficult for women of colour. Even I get a little frisson from knowing that Elizabeth I was a redhead like me. I can only try to imagine the psychological impact for a Black woman if one of history’s greatest women, powerful, brilliant, daring, and alluring, was a Black woman like her.

  8. duane w roller

    Afer, I would be curious what the evidence is for this. As far as I know there is no evidence whatsoever for Cleopatra’s skin color.
    Duane W. Roller

  9. David Emery

    I heard Stacy Schiff suggest (book tour interview with Diane Rehm) that there might have been Persian princess in the bloodline. This makes sense to me, thinking about both the dynastic trend (Egyptian and otherwise) to tie to other ruling dynasties, and in particular the sense of “keep it in the family” (sorry!) between the successors of Alexander.

    And for the record, what does “person of color” mean in this context (or any other). Is a ‘classic’ light skinned Egyptian a ‘person of color’? What about a Persian? How much pigmentation is required to get this designation, or is this based on other either ethnic/racial characteristics?

  10. duane w roller

    To Kate: Your comments are worthwhile and interesting but really have nothing to do with Cleopatra herself.

    To David Emery: If there were any Persian blood, it would be so far back as to be miniscule. Stacy Schiff’s novelistic biography has a good deal of speculation in it. And you’re right that racial designations can degenerate into numbers and statistics, often used for nefarious purposes. Your comments demonstrate in the long run the very point I am trying to make: race doesn’t matter, and is usually used negatively.

  11. Chris Bennett

    It’s hard to disagree with the conclusion of this article — that Cleopatra’s ethnic ancestry is irrelevant to her career and achievements. Though I also think that the original article, while a little over the top, had a fair point to make: there should be no reason, other than acting ability, why Halle Berry or Rashida Jones could not have been cast as Cleopatra. Or Lucy Liu for that matter. But that’s modern politics.

    That said, there are a few points in this article which could do with some clarification.

    In a couple of places, it uses the phrase “sources suggest” to introduce a theory. This phrase is a little misleading: these sources are modern scholars, not ancient text. No ancient text has anything to say about the identity of either Cleopatra’s mother or her grandmother(s).

    Also, Strabo does not say that Cleopatra’s father had multiple wives nor that they were of high status. What he does say is that Cleopatra’s elder sister was their father’s only legitimate daughter — and the accuracy of that statement is disputed.

    While it is (most likely) true that Cleopatra spoke Egyptian, it’s a bit of a stretch to infer that this reflects her mother’s influence. She was clearly a skilled linguist, being able to speak 8 or 9 other languages beside — including Hebrew, Troglodytic, and “Ethiopian”. Why is this not evidence that her mother was a Jew? a Troglodyte? Or, indeed, black African?

    The theory that Cleopatra’s mother came from the Egyptian religious elite has been used to explain why her legitimacy was not attacked by Roman sources, by scholars who accept the accuracy of Strabo’s statement. But exactly the same theory has been proposed for her father’s mother — to explain why his legitimacy _was_ attacked by Roman sources, even though he was accepted as king in Egypt. In both cases, it is purely speculative. It rests on an earlier marriage (whose existence is also disputed) between a Ptolemaic princess (whose mother is unknown) and a High Priest of Ptah. It is the father of this High Priest who is the most likely subject of the statue found in Algeria.

    Cleopatra’s maternal ancestry, regardless of its ethnic makeup, has some relevance to establishing _ancient_ ideas of what constituted dynastic legitimacy. But the argument about whether she was black, like the argument about whether Macedonians were Greeks, is about _modern_ politics. It is tiresome and irrelevant.

  12. duane w roller

    I appreciate a scholar of Dr. Bennett’s stature taking the time to make his comments. While I don’t agree with everything he says, he did point out an error of mine in the original entry: it was not Strabo who mentioned the wives of Cleopatra’s father, but an Egyptian priest. Dr. Bennett also points out the confusing nature of the material, and reminded me of another theory, that Cleopatra’s mother was actually the wife of her father, which probably would reduce non-Macedonian ancestry even more.

  13. Demetri

    FYROM propagandists are out in full force it seems. Why they hide their ethnic Bulgarian roots and pretend to be “Macedonians” is beyond me. One would think they would be proud and cherish their own ancestors-instead of trying to oppress their own Bulgarian heritage. Truly bizarre.

    “We, the undersigned scholars of Graeco-Roman antiquity, respectfully request that you intervene to clean up some of the historical debris left in southeast Europe by the previous U.S. administration.”

    “On November 4, 2004, two days after the re-election of President George W. Bush, his administration unilaterally recognized the “Republic of Macedonia.” This action not only abrogated geographic and historic fact, but it also has unleashed a dangerous epidemic of historical revisionism, of which the most obvious symptom is the misappropriation by the government in Skopje of the most famous of Macedonians, Alexander the Great.”

  14. nadia

    I have watched the documentary called Cleopatra: Portrait of a Killer and it clearly states that Cleopatra had an African mother they based this theory with the recent discovery of her sister’s Arsinoe bones. If any of you are familiar with the story of Cleopatra becoming queen of Egypt you would know that she had to fight her sister Arsinoe to be restore to her throne. It is in discovering her bones that archaeologist, such as Neil Oliver can gives us an insight into the real Ptolemy destiny. To make matters even better they even have a picture of what they believed she even looked like in real life.

  15. Tanya Nevels

    I also viewed the documentary called Cleopatra! Her mother was African, and this is relevent because I will now tell my daughters the TRUTH about Cleopatra. They need to know that this powerful Woman in history ,looked just like US!

  16. Rudy Garcia

    P W Botha former Prime Minister of South Africa was also born in Africa and was therefore an African. We also know that he was white, member of the white segregationist elite and of Dutch descent. Just because Cleopatra was born in Africa does not make her black. The historical reality and fact is that she was a Mediterranean Caucasian of Macedonian – Greek stock.

  17. Paul de Souza

    It still detracts from the absolute truth, that ancient Egypt was a black place for a long time with African language, black cultural cues, and black trade and black Pyramid building, the Ptolemys’ didnt build a Pyramid, did they? No. If we focus on the “Eurocentric perspective” of Egypt it comes across as a European enclave and it is this that angers every Black African, already feeling the effects of centuries of discrimination and historical denials and destruction of thier heritage, Credit has been taken away from Black Africans for the Nubian contribution to ancient Egypt, and it is this issue that creates the furore regarding race and ethnicity of a Pharoh dynasty. Black Africans are central to ancient Egyptian culture, they are not a footnote. Egypt is in AFRICA, not Europe, and there is no such thing as a Macedonian Greek, and May I draw your attention to the work of Hilke Thuer who has deduced a strong probability that Cleopatra was MIXED RACE,m through insight into Arsinoes discovered remains.

  18. Daisy

    I don’t think its fair of you to refer to notions that others have raised as “just silly,” the fact is that we have an incomplete picture, why the door has been opened to such much gossip and radical suggestions, its all fair game in the realm of the imagination and personal interpretation, while she was the last Ptolemy to rule Egypt, and therefore had Greek ancestry as well, with 50 to 75 percent of her background a mystery due to her mother and grandmother all of us can only draw speculations, while you are doing some thinking… at the end of the day you too have to speculate about what might have been, and there’s nothing wrong with that. While she might not have had shared some Egyptian or African heritage… she also *might* have, perhaps it was another culture entirely that we haven’t considered yet, its something that nobody can ever prove one way or the other. I also believe you give a lot of extra weight to the way that she is depicted in Greek and Roman artwork, implying that this proves that she could not have been a woman with a background other than Mediterranean. The word that this “demolishes” the idea I found to be especially melodramatic. I am not a historian, but I am an artist by profession, and I think a statement like you made is almost unrealistically literal when it comes to the land of art. Throughout the world, in ever age, it is a human instinct, especially in scenes of some majesty or beauty, heroism to create art that you can identify with, if you look at an image of the Madonna throughout different cultures, be it Egyptian Coptic art, Greek Orthodox, the Renaissance movement or an African-American church, the main figure they want to convey usually is representative of their own culture. I think rather than telling us what Cleopatra actually looked like, an artistic representation, be it in the ancient world or modern, tells us more about the artist who made it, than its subject. If you look at Greek and Roman art to gain knowledge I think the only knowledge that you would come away with is that it was… Greek and Roman art. As a second point to consider, this is by no stretch of the imagination art of any realistic detail, these are beautiful periods, but it is stylized artwork, a coin bearing Cleopatra’s image may not be anymore plausible as a realistic human being than a tapestry or effigy of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine in the medieval era would. These are images of a very heightened, almost caricature-like reality, and not irrefutable evidence of what anyone would have actually looked like, often a work like this is barely feasible as a human being, let alone a specific personage. Third I would argue that it is a matter or perception whether or not ancient art portraying Cleopatra could reflect the East or not, The Tetradrachm of Cleopatra of the Syrian mint to me shows a striking woman whose features are not limited to a specific culture, a lady with thick deeply curling hair and bushy eyebrows, a round face with fleshy facial features, slack cheeks, a round skull, a powerful, strong nose, very large beautiful eyes with heavily veiled lids. It is a face as far as I’m concerned that might appear in Europe, or Asia, Africa, Australia, North or South America. While you ask does it really matter, you’ve laid out your argument with such passion and research that it doesn’t seem that it doesn’t matter to you. I think it is something that would be an empowering thing to remember no matter who you are that you are of the people of Queen Cleopatra. If I were British I would be proud to remember Queen Elizabeth as apart of me. If I were Sudanese I would count myself blessed to have been apart of a culture that produced Taharqa. An Egyptian person might find power in remembering Ramses II, we all want heroes whether it is a Greek person remembering Alexander the Great, or a Chinese man or woman remembering where they came from and their talented ancestors like Emperor Taizong of Tang. Whether it was Akbar the Great or Catherine Great, the human race looks to the past for people that they can admire, so with some doubts as to every part of who she was it is not at all surprising that we might want to fill in the blanks and find away to bring Cleopatra even closer to us, whether that is by thinking of her as a black woman or a white woman. There is power in an image of yourself. It is not because people care about color why people propose different theories about Cleopatra’s mixture of cultures… it is because they care about her, it is in deed her intelligence, her charisma, her bravery and her gifts to the world why we remember her… and want to be her.

  19. sandra

    I always am a bit suspicious when someone says, does knowing the racial ethicity of character in history matters. Especially when the Europeans have gone out of their way to rewrite history to suit their own agenda and esthetic taste. Even the American history and it’s characters have been distorted and it’s not as old as Epypt and Cleopatra.

  20. V

    No one wants to admit in Africa of all places, that Cleopatra had any black African blood. Give me a break. Egyptian blood is black African blood, and they had mixed peoples, too. It’s kind of hard to get away from black blood in Africa. Most dynasties in Egypt hailed from Nubia, modern day Sudan…and Kush…all from Noah’s black son, Ham. So, I’m not convinced that she wasn’t more like a Mariah Carey type. And if you’re talking about her likeness on those coins, that ship won’t float either. Her nose could very well be like that of one of the hostesses on ABC’s The Chew, Carla Hall. Turn her sideways and let an artist go to work, I’m sure you’d get a very similar coin to Cleopatra!

  21. George crawford

    It seems to me that most black people want Cleopatra to be black, and most white people want her to be white, I am a white male in my mid sixties, and I would be happy to find out that Queen Cleopatra the 7th was black.

  22. Rina

    To keep it simple, her race does matter such as any other powerful figure in our history…..

  23. Shara

    I feel that her race is important to a certain degree because I come from a culture (Black American) whose historical importance has been methodically denied and erased. The author of this article dismissed the point that Kate made as irrelevant but she her point is absolutely astute. Please watch the documentary “Hidden Colors” and you will understand why it is important to so many to clarify the lineage of great historical figures.

  24. ptrish

    Seems like she was 1/4 black If anything pers call her mixed and stop Being racist on both sides.the history now thinks most ancient egyptians were super tall red heads and blondes so she coulda had a bit of white,black,and greek .

  25. emo

    All this talk does indicate that Cleopatras “ethnicity does matter”. Personally I take this theory of mine she was not just of Ptolemaic stock, the Seleucids were also inbred to a certain degree retaining the blood of upame or apame, a Persian princess. Then later, they intermarried with the Persian-Greek Pontic kings strengthening the Persian blood. It was then that the first Cleopatra came. She was a cousin tp the Ptolemy but she was known as his cousin. Obviously after that we know that the ptolemy, the later ptolemies truelying became inbred as well as they were the worst rulers and a series of politics took place. I have no other reason to not believe that cleopatras parents were inbred. StraBos statement makes a firm stand but he does not elaborate. With the inbreeding, Cleopatras Persian heritage is justified to its quantity, she was a quarter to this Theory and looks very much like it. Another justification is that she looks almost exactly like her father implying stronger genes or pure inbreeding though her parents were probably double cousins and double relatives.

  26. carloman

    ask any copt (modern descendents of egyptians) if they are black and you will get your butt kicked.

  27. Bre

    Wow. I couldn’t even finish the article. So just because there is no “evidence” she was black African (although there is) she is presumed to be white? And acting ability?? So they couldn’t find a black or brown actress? (They didn’t try to) there were and are plenty of amazing actresses that were more true to cleopatras REAL race that could have given a performance just as if not BETTER. Cleopatra was mixed race, mulatto looking. And the race IS very much important because white people have been portrayed as victors and dominant. Black people are not portrayed this way, and on purpose. White people are always seen as default, when that is not the case. When they portray all powerful historical figures as white, that subliminally send the wrong message. So yes IT DOES MATTER. CLEOPATRA WAS A STRONG BLACK WOMAN.

  28. Mishida24

    It matters, it matters.. And to say it doesn’t shows color blind ignorance. Not something to be proud of.. Little girls and women everywhere need to know she was black. I’m sorry but the writer here sounds angry about the true possibility that she was brown or black.

  29. Eleanor

    “Macedonian greek”? This does not make any sence: it is Macedonian or greek?

  30. Natarsha May

    Simple….Macedonians are one kind, Greeks are another they do not co exist. As for morons stating Macedonians are Bulgarian roots seriously if they were Bulgarian they will be called Bulgarian but they are Macedonians. It seems to me Greeks like to put their finger in every historian pie especially if it involves Macedonia. Lets find out what ancient roots they have come from ???
    Greeks seem to proclaim everything belongs to them. go figure so ridiculous.
    Who cares what color and blood line Cleopatra’s mother is from etc, etc.. she ruled Egypt was their Queen came from a Macedonian Dynasty(Descent)she was clever, highly intelligent, spoke fluently in several languages.

  31. Nick the Greek

    The real battle raging right now is clash of civilizations. We have seen recently, in recent living memory, the slow incremental erosion of Western Culture, Western Civilizational Principles, and Western Civil Societies common understandings of shared common heritage…all of these things eroded intentionally, all in the name multiculturalsim. To accomodate large numbers of outsiders into the West, it was deemed necessary to diminish civilizational principles the host culture was grounded on.

    The mindset, to erode (i) Western Culture, (ii) Western Civilizational Principles, (iii) Western Civil Societies common understandings of shared common heritage developed from inside the West itself, in the highest echelons of diplomatic office. Anti-Western fifth-columnist mind-architects, working in positions of influence, advised the Western worlds self-styled Guardian and chief Protector to recognize FYRoM like ‘Republic of Macedonia’ – a provocative anti-Hellenic, anti-Western act.

    Macedonians contributed greatly to the development of Western Culture, Western Civilization and Western Civil Societies common understandings of shared common heritage. FYRoM contributed nothing towards these things. Why should South-Slavs benefit from Greek achievements! Blurring the distinction between Macedonians and ex-Yugoslavs intentionally, erodes Western Civil Societies common understandings of shared common heritage…this is the first step towards crumbling the foundations Western Civilization was grounded on – a provocative anti-Western act!

    GW Bush was the least educated President of all the Presidents of the United States of America…he needed advice on most matters. The advisors that surrounded him took advantage of his handicap, they issued him poor-quality advice, substandard advice, advice that was academically-flawed…advice that was anti-Hellenic at heart and anti-Western by nature. FYRoM is Paeonia not Macedonia. The peoples there are Slavic not Hellenic. Confusing Paeonia for Macedonia and mistaking ex-Yugoslavs for Macedonians intentionally, are anti-Hellenic acts, anti-Western by extension. The President can excuse and absolve himself but his advisors cannot – they committed crimes against the West that are only now, seen for what they are.

    Clash of Civilizations – The West lost it’s way, and in that void, allowed the erosion of Western Culture, Western Civilizational Principles, and Western Civil Societies common understandings of shared common heritage to such a degree that anti-Hellenic, anti-Western 5th Columnists fight to have FYRoM re-labelled from Paeonia to Macedonia, in order to usurp the Macedonian name for sovereign state-name, nationality, language and ethnicity. Afrocentrists fight to have Western Culture re-labelled African. Turkocentrists fight to have Trojan history re-labelled Turan history. But worst from all of these anti-Hellenic causes, is the fight to have the Wests history start from Karalos Magnos – Charlamagne 800 AD, completely erasing Greek and Latin contributions towards Western Civilizations cultural development.

    The West did lose it’s way – eroded, damaged but not beyond repair! The Western worlds self-styled Guardian in Chief and Chief Protector is focused like a lazer beam on preservation of Western worlds cultural-historical narrative. Common heritage with clear understanding from whence it began. Western Culture is worth preserving…without it, what do we have, but competing causes trying to erode it!

  32. Theo

    It does really matter since she’s being bad decipted as a white european woman while she lived an old and distinguished african civilization. Ancient egyptian people descendend from black african tribes and middle east people.

  33. Kirk Dougherty

    While I agree with Dr. Roller that Kleopatra VII’s
    ethnicity is of no importance when considering her achievements and place in history, it obviously did matter to the ancient Romans who often referred to her only as “the Egyptian” in their histories. W.W. Tarn thought this to be merely a term of abuse signifying her non-Roman status. However, a good look at the ancient evidence reveals that this was likely a racial slur.
    I find it bewildering that historians have refused to accept Strabo’s comment that Kleopatra’s older sister, Berenike IV, was Ptolemy XII’s only
    legitimate daughter using the argument that the Romans never questioned Kleopatra’s legitimacy. Well, they wouldn’t have given the fact that Rome, in the person of Julius Caesar, had placed her firmly on Egypt’s throne following
    the Alexandrian War. Octavian, the future Augustus and Caesar’s heir, would have been foolish to ignore this. Furthermore, Strabo, who was a contemporary of these personages, was most likely inferring that Kleopatra wasn’t born of
    her father’s sister-wife Kleopatra V Tryphaena.
    That Kleopatra had Egyptian blood, and possibly an Egyptian mother, stems from Plutarch’s inference that she was the only Ptolemaic ruler who had learned the Egyptian language. Many view this simply as another example of the linguistic versatility given to her by Plutarch. However, Kleopatra’s eventful and relatively short life makes the number of languages she seems to have mastered more plausible had she been reared speaking a Semitic language, such as ancient Egyptian, along with, of course, Greek.
    A funerary stele of one of the high priests of Ptah
    at Memphis plus a statue fragment of another found at the site of Caesarea, where Kleopatra’s daughter lived and ruled, illustrates the close relationship between the Ptolemaic rulers and this powerful Memphite priestly family. If Kleopatra’s mother was an Egyptian, she most likely sprang from this influential clan. This raises the possibility that Kleopatra may have spent much of her childhood in the ancient Egyptian capital. Let’s recall that Kleopatra’s relationship with the citizens of the Ptolemaic capital, Alexandria, were always strained whereas that with the native Egyptains was such that they offered to rise up in her defense against the Romans at the very end.
    Finally, there are the two most accepted portrait heads of Kleopatra VII which can be used to illustrate how her face and ethnicity were altered to present a particular message to a particular audience. The Vatican head, though missing its nose, is strikingly realistic and probably as close as we’ll ever get to the real Kleopatra. It is a typically Middle Eastern type with a full rounded lower half, large eyes, pendulous lower lip, and
    receding chin. The facially complete Berlin head
    Hellenizes the same features and thus washes away all traces of the Middle Eastern type. If indeed Kleopatra was of partly Egyptian descent through her mother, the Berlin sculpture would have served to emphasize her Macedonian-Greek blood and her right to rule as a Ptolemy.
    The more realistic Vatican head is generally considered a copy of the gilt bronze figure of her that Julius Caesar had placed next to the cult statue of Venus Genetrix in that goddess’ temple
    in Rome. There was no need for legitimizing propaganda in that case.
    In closing, I’ll only briefly comment on Kleopatra’s skin color by referring those interested to the Fayum mummy portraits which provide a range of possibilities. She certainly wasn’t black. The Romans would have had a field day trumpeting that. Instead, they referred to her as “the Egyptian.”

  34. Darryl

    The Bible is a history of blacks and all you so call scholars know this is true from Adam to Jesus stop the madness Euro- Trash

  35. Shaquon Adams

    You people are notorious for trying to take my ancestors great achievements and over shadow them with ridiculous conclusions based on non circumstantial evidence. So might i proudly as a black man, yes it matters and yes she was of African decent.

  36. Malaika

    My people are Native American, and just as America was stolen from us and inhabited by the white man, which eventually evolved mixing of blood, the same occurred in Egypt. Just like the “Americans” today are not native.historically, nor are the Egyptians who inhabit Egypt today

  37. ShirCora

    It seems…as I read this…the author is truly stuck on the notion of proving that Cleopatra was not black…the question has always been was she White, Black, Greek or Egyptian …when I hear that question I laugh because as a Black woman I reminisce on my life and how I was always taught about Egypt as if it existed on its on axis or something when In fact Eygpt is African…and how the powers that be have tried to separate Egypt from Africa. And doing so is like trying to separate Trenton from NJ as if the two exist alone. Egyptians of the past are not and did not look like Egyptians of today (which are in fact of Arab descent) The famous Egptians or Africans I should say, we’re most likely as black as my beautiful skin. And when I here the question, was Cleopatra Egyptian, is funny because it’s a way of not acknowledging Africa at all. Does it matter if she was White or Black…because we know she wasn’t Asian…yes. And it matters greatly because there seems to be a force that wants to prove she wasn’t Black or African. I have the common sense to know why history has tried to hide the identity of her mother. Maybe because she was as African (Egyptian) as my enslaved great great, grandparents, but you decide! Lol I’m just sayin!

  38. Laura deLuna

    Um… Mediterranean/Greek does not equal white… Their skin tone/ethnicity whatever is closer to that of middle eastern people than anything else… Not Caucasian in the least.

  39. Tonya

    I have noticed that race never seems to matter when a noted individual is deemed an ethnicity other than White. So, when in doubt, the race of the individual defaults to White. If it does not matter, why are the individuals not depicted as as a hue other than White? Why the natural default to White? It is bull when people say race does not matter. If it didn’t matter Julius Caesar could be depicted as Indian, Chinese or Nigerian. In that case, people would say that it is historically inaccurate. When it comes to Cleopatra or Hannibal, it just doesn’t matter. Which only goes to show that it definitely matters to those in power. Guess what, it also matters to people who have little representation in history books because people (especially young children) need to feel as though their ethnicity (which is inclusive of culture) MATTERS. All people need to know what role their ancestors played in history. Bottom line, as historians, accuracy matters. PERIOD.
    Also, check out the BBC’s findings:
    Maybe you will believe these credible, White archaeologists.

  40. valeta starks

    I find it interesting that when white women are always celebrated in this racist country, and the mere fact that Cleopatra was black and considered the most beautiful woman,leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of a biased European society. Egypt was eventually ruled by the Hitites, which were African Americans. Because racism such a soulish part of this country,you would rather knock of the noses of great Egyptian statues so no one would know they were african,and say that it could not be possible that one of the most beautiful women in the world was African..check your history…every race in the world was generated from the womb of an African woman…why do you think all races have African DNA?

  41. Son of Africa

    whites are always claim jumping Black history and figures. I would suggest you johnny come latelys to youtube Dr Ben jochannan and dr Henrik Clarke.
    whites are culture robbers.

  42. Cherish Barnwell

    This article is trash… Yes it matters…the race and ethnicity of Cleopatra is essential to her legacy. Im guessing whoever wrote this is white. Clearly. To say “Does it even matter” is ignorant.

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