Emeritus Academy Lecture Series

Duane Roller
Department of Classics

"Cleopatra's Daughter: The Invisible Royal Women of the Ancient World"

May 6, 2020
4-5 p.m.
Grand Lounge, Faculty Club

Most people are familiar with the career of Cleopatra VII, queen of Egypt.  Less well known is her daughter, Cleopatra Selene, who became queen of Mauretania and presided over a scholarly environment from her home in Mauretanian Caesarea, in modern Algeria. Her elusiveness represents a academic problem in the study of women in antiquity.  Women are generally known only in connection with the men in their lives--their husbands and male children--and without them they drop from the historical record.  Such, in fact was the case with Cleopatra Selene, who is hardly documented after the birth of her son Ptolemy of Mauretania.  Another example is Calpurnia, the wife of Julius Caesar, who is not recorded after the death of her husband. Ancient women are often primarily remembered for their alleged aggressiveness or promiscuity: this is certainly the case with Cleopatra of Egypt; another example is Salome, mostly known today because she danced for the head of John the Baptist.  Even when there is evidence that these women had more complete careers, it has often been ignored: Salome became queen of Armenia.  Royal women were as significant to cultural history as their male counterparts, yet they were written out of the historical record (except as mothers and wives).  Their scholarship and political acumen were forgotten.  Modern scholars must look for elusive details in order to determine the actual careers of these women, who often are hidden behind centuries of male-dominated scholarship.  Often archaeological evidence--the coins that these women struck or the monuments that they raised--provides a less biased view of their careers.