Cleopatra VII, the last pharaoh of an independent Egypt, had four children: Caesarion (with Julius Caesar), twins Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, and Ptolemy Philadelphus (the latter three with Mark Antony). But she only had descendants through one of her children: her sole daughter, Selene, who married King Juba II of Mauretania.
Selene probably had two kids of her own, after which her descendants faded into obscurity. But two hundred years later, Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra in Syria (who conquered Egypt in the third century AD) claimed descent from Cleopatra. Was it possible that Cleopatra’s descendants lived, throve, and survived to challenge her ancient frenemy of Rome?
How Cleopatra’s Daughter Survived…and Throve
As wife to Juba, a client king of Emperor Augustus, Cleopatra Selene reigned over his kingdom of Mauretania (not far from Juba’s ancestral home of Numidia). This was a strategic alliance for Juba, as Selene was practically a part of the imperial family—she and her full siblings were raised, after their mother’s suicide, by Augustus’s beloved sister, Octavia, who was also their stepmother (wife of their father Antony).
Portrait of Juba. (CC BY 2.5)
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