Why Didn't They Tell You?


... that Cleopatra was not black because she was not of Egyptian origin

Featured Image: Ptolemaic Egyptians

With the release of the latest Cleopatra movie depicting Cleopatra as a black woman, much controversy has been stirred up over the question of the race of Cleopatra. I am quite certain that Cleopatra was not black, but white, because she was not of Egyptian stock but of Macedonian origin. Macedon, where Alexander the Great hailed from, was located in Southeastern Europe. As they are today, the Macedonians were closely associated with the Greeks when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and inaugurated the period of Macedonian/Ptolemaic rule in Egypt.

Egypt was conquered in 332 BC by Alexander the Great of Macedon as he went on his conquering rampage. When Alexander died, at a very young age, his conquered empire was divided up amongst three of his generals. The part that went to the general Ptolemy included Egypt. This Macedonian/Ptolemaic rule in Egypt lasted some 300 years, until 30 BC when Egypt was made a province of Rome by Caesar Augustus. Cleopatra was the last Ptolemaic ruler of Egypt. Dynastic Egypt had passed away with the end of the 30th Dynasty in about 343 BC. After that, Egypt was ruled by one group of foreign conquerors after another; the most far-reaching of all the conquests was the Islamic Arab conquest of the 7th century AD.

Because the Ptolemaic rulers did not impose their culture on Egypt but, instead, became egyptianized, one may be fooled into thinking that the Egyptians of the Ptolemaic period were the same as the dynastic Egyptians of, say, King Tut. Nothing could be further from the truth. King Tut was clearly a young black boy. The “Egyptians” of Cleopatra’s reign were clearly Europeans (See Featured Image).

Though they became Egyptianized, the Ptolemies did make significant contributions to Egyptian and world civilization in their own right. They built the city of Alexandria, named for Alexander the Great, into a great city that became the center of Greek learning and scholarship. It became an important outlet for the expression of Greek genius. Of course by the time of Cleopatra, Egyptian civilization is more than 3,000 years old and was more ancient to Cleopatra than she is to us today.

If one is looking for a black female to look up to as a great ruler that was a contemporary of Cleopatra, one need only look to the south of Egypt. Though Cleopatra struggled to keep Egypt’s independence, to no avail, to the south of Egypt in Nubia (Cush), Queen Amanirenas waged a five-year war against the Romans and, one might say, in the end won the war, in spite of losing or not winning, all or most of the battles. Adam’s conclusion was, “In their campaign against the Romans, the Meriotes apparently lost all the battles but won the war, in the sense that their larger objective was attained.” (W. Y. Adams, Nubia: Corridor to Africa, p. 41). Meriotes refers to the inhabitants of Meroe, capital of Cush, located between the 5th and 6th cataracts of the Nile River, during the reign of Amanirenas. The larger objective was to maintain Nubian independence and the status quo in the area of northern Nubia bordering on Egypt. That she did. She negotiated a peace treaty with Rome and set up diplomatic relations with the exchanging of ambassadors.

We can point to many important and admirable Black People from the ancient world; there is no need to try and claim Cleopatra as black.

Source for Ptolemaic images: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Remarkable-Egyptian-women-during-the-Ptolemaic-time-Panel-A-depicts-Queen-Cleopatra_fig2_312088643

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