A Woman to Know: Cleopatra Selene

... 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.
— Crinagoras of Mytilene

(image via Wikimedia)


She was born of one of the most famous romances in the world — Cleopatra Selene, child of Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Mark Antony of Rome. Their mother named her twin children with hopes for the power they'd one day hold in the ancient world: Alexander Helios, for the sun, and Selene, for the moon.

But following the tragic deaths of their legendary parents, Selene and Helios were "given" to the Roman emperor's sister (and their father's former wife), to be raised as royal Romans. Selene married the king of Mauritania, and while some records lose all track of her siblings, others suggest she brokered their continued protection as part of her queenly dowry.

As Queen of Mauritania and later, as the only surviving member of Egypt's Ptolemaic dynasty, Selene wielded immense influence in the ancient world. She and her husband built their kingdom into a hub of West African trade, with gorgeous libraries and memorials.

Selene made no secret of her Egyptian roots. She carved snakes into coins as symbols of her heritage, and she named her son Ptolemy, as homage to her mother's lost family.

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