Cleopatra VII Philopator (69 B.C. – Aug. 12, 30 B.C.) is likely the most well-known of all the ancient Egyptian queens. What many people do not know is that Cleopatra was more than likely not ethnically Egyptian.

Born during the Greek occupation of ancient Egypt, Cleopatra actually descended from a long line of Greek Macedonians who descended from Ptolemy I, one of Alexander the Great’s most trusted lieutenants. The Ptolemaic Dynasty ruled Egypt from 323 to 30 B.C., and for the most part, maintained their Greek heritage.

The name Cleopatra was given to a number of the female members of the family. Her mother bore the same name, as well as an older sister, which is why the famous queen is actually known as Cleopatra the seventh. She reportedly was the first member of her family who learned to speak the Egyptian language.

Debates about her ethnicity rage on, but coins minted during her lifetime are likely the most accurate depiction of the monarch.

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