The Ptolemaic dynasty ruled Egypt for nearly three centuries from 305 to 30 BCE, before succumbing to the Romans. Surprisingly, they never became Egyptians while ruling Egypt. Instead, they isolated themselves in Alexandria, the capital city envisioned by Alexander the Great. Did you know who is the only Ptolemaic Ruler who read, write, and speak in Egyptian?
Cleopatra was the only Ptolemaic ruler who could read, write and speak Egyptian so that she can get communicate well in the land she ruled. She could also communicate in seven languages.
Are All Ptolemaic Rulers Egyptians?
One of the most intriguing and frequently misunderstood aspects of the Ptolemaic dynasty is why it never became Egyptian. The Ptolemies reigned as both Egyptian pharaohs and Greek monarchs. They remained completely Greek in every way, including language and traditions.
His distinct personality was preserved through intermarriage; most of these unions were between brothers and sisters, or even uncle and niece. This inbreeding was intended to stabilize the family, consolidating wealth and power. Although many considered it an Egyptian, rather than a Greek, occurrence, the mother goddess Isis married her brother Osiris – these sibling marriages were justified or at least made more acceptable by referencing Greek mythology tales in which the gods intermarried; Cronus married his sister, Rhea, while Zeus married Hera.
Ten of the fifteen Ptolemaic marriages were between brothers and sisters, with the other two between a niece or cousin. This meant that even Cleopatra VII, the last Ptolemy to rule Egypt and the subject of plays, poems, and films, was Macedonian rather than Egyptian.
According to one historian, she was descended from great Greek queens such as Olympias, Alexander the Great’s possessive mother.
In her defense, Cleopatra was the only Ptolemy to learn Egyptian and make any effort to understand the Egyptian people. Naturally, this inbreeding was not ideal; jealousy was common, and conspiracies were common. Ptolemy IV allegedly murdered his uncle, brother, and mother, while Ptolemy VIII allegedly murdered his fourteen-year-old son and chopped him up. (Source: World History)
Cleopatra the Last Pharaoh
Cleopatra VII, also known as simply Cleopatra, was Egypt’s final pharaoh. For 22 years, she ruled Egypt, controlling much of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Her father, Ptolemy XII, groomed her for the throne in the traditional Greek or Hellenistic manner, as did many other women of her era.
She endeared herself to the Egyptian people by taking part in many Egyptian festivals and ceremonies and being the only Ptolemy to learn Egyptian in addition to Hebrew, Ethiopian, and other dialects.
After defeating her brothers and sister, she realized she needed to maintain good relations with Rome in order to secure the throne. For centuries, dramatists and poets have pondered her relationship with Julius Caesar.
With Caesar’s death and the balance of power in Rome at stake, she sided with the Roman general Mark Antony, only to lose it all at the Battle of Actium. She sadly committed suicide after failing to find compassion in Octavian, the future Emperor Augustus. (Source: World History)