The name ‘Cleopatra’ (roughly meaning ‘glory of the father’), was popular for female royalty in Egypt during the last, ‘Ptolemaic’ dynasty. Descended from Ptolemy I, a Macedonian general from the army of Alexander the Great, this particular bloodline kept itself ‘pure’ through intermarriage, most pharaohs ‘keeping in the family’ by marrying their sisters. Hence the names ‘Ptolemy’ (‘warlike’) and Cleopatra were endlessly recycled.
Officially, only seven princesses with the name ‘Cleopatra’ are credited as sitting on the throne of Egypt, although there is some confusion over the length of reigns and the degree of real power held. The last, Cleopatra VII, is the most famous, thanks to her romantic dalliances with Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. Following her suicide in 31 BC, Egypt was absorbed into the Roman Empire.
Read more about ancient history in issue 43 of History Revealed, on sale now. Or why not subscribe and save 33% on the newsstand price