Cleopatra I


Cleopatra I Syra1, queen of Egypt, daughter of Antiochus III king of Syria2 presumably by his first wife Laodice III3, born between c. 219 and 210, and probably before 2124, engaged to Ptolemy V king of Egypt 1965, married to him in 194/3 at Raphia6, mother of Ptolemy VI7, Ptolemy VIII8 and presumably of Cleopatra II9, incorporated in the dynastic cult with Ptolemy V in 194/3 as the Manifest Gods, Qeoi EpifaneiV10, senior coruler with Ptolemy VI September 18011, died between 9 Mesore year 3 = 10 September 178 and 9 Thoth year 5 = 14 October 17712.

Cleopatra I held title as queen of Egypt as follows13:

Horus               Hwn(t) zAt-HoA jr(t)-n-hoA mr(t)-nTrw-BAot Xor(t)-n-$nmw TAtt-zAt +Hwtj wr(t)-pHtj shr(t)-tAwj
                       rdj-n.s-Nbtj-rxyt-n-nfrw onj-sj-Nt-nb(t)-ZAw Tnj-sj-@tHr-m-mrwt.s14
Nomen              olwptrt

[1] PP VI 14515. Gr: Kleopatra h Sura. This is the first known occurrence of the name Cleopatra in the Seleucid house. E. R. Bevan, The House of Ptolemy 270, suggests that she was named after Cleopatra, the sister of Alexander the Great, who had, coincidentally, been engaged to Ptolemy I at the end of her life. There is some support for this in the fact that Seleucus III, the elder brother of Antiochus III, had originally been called Alexander (Porphyry in Eusebius, Chronicorum I (ed. Schoene) 253).

The epithet Syra (the Syrian) is given by Appian, Syriaca 1.5. Ý

[2] Appian, Syriaca 1.5. Egyptian sources, e.g. OGIS 773, pLouvre 9415, call her snt nsw, i.e. the king's sister. This is clearly a standard title for a Ptolemaic queen, of no genealogical weight; e.g. the same title is used for Berenice II. Ý

[3] So far as I can determine, no ancient source explicitly states this. It is, however, generally and reasonably assumed, essentially on the grounds that there is no other possible candidate. Cleopatra will certainly have been a legitimate daughter. Antiochus III married Laodice III very shortly after his accession (Polybius 5.43 -- see further below). She is known to have been living at least as late as Seleucid year 118 = 193 (L. Robert, Hellenica 7 (1949) 5 = OGIS 224), i.e. at the time of the marriage of Cleopatra. The only other marriage known for Antiochus III is to the daughter of Cleoptolemus of Chalcis, who he renamed Euboea, which took place in 191/0 (Polybius 20.8, Appian Syriaca 3.16, 4.20). Ý

[4] While her birthdate is unknown, Cleopatra will certainly have been a legitimate daughter, so we can bound her birthdate by looking at her relative position amongst her siblings.

i) Antiochus III married Laodice III in spring shortly after the revolt of Molon (Polybius 5.4). Molon's revolt dates to spring/summer 222. This is determined by backdating Polybius' account from the battle of Raphia as follows (cf. E. Grzybek, Historia 41 (1992) 190 at 197f.; my thanks to Renzo Lucherini):

ii) A son, presumably the later coregent Antiochus, was born the following year (Polybius 5.55), i.e. 221. This son must therefore be the oldest child.

iii) Antiochus III married his daughter Laodice to this Antiochus in 195 (Appian, Syriaca 1.4 -- the first incestuous marriage amongst the Seleucids). At about the same time as Cleopatra I's marriage to Ptolemy V in 194/3, her sister Antiochis married Ariarathes of Cappadocia, and Antiochus III attempted to marry another sister, name unknown, to Eumenes of Pergamum, who rejected her (Appian, Syriaca 1.5). From the relative status of these marriages we can infer that Laodice was most likely the eldest and Cleopatra most likely the second daughter. Assuming no twins, and that the births of these children were spaced a little over a year apart, it follows, from the sequence Antiochus-Laodice-Cleopatra, that Cleopatra was born no earlier than c. 219. Moreover, since all three daughters, including Cleopatra's two younger sisters, were of marriageable age in 194/3, they may be assumed to be 14 or older at that time, i.e. Cleopatra was born no later than 210/09.

iv) It is probable that this estimate can be refined further. We are also told (Justin 34.2), that Cleopatra I was an elder sister of Antiochus IV. He was at least the third son of Antiochus III, after the first Antiochus and the later Seleucus IV, and hence at least the fifth child; it follows he was born no earlier than 217. J. D. Grainger, A Seleukid Prosopography and Gazeteer, 15, 22, 51, argues that, since Antiochus, the eldest son of Antiochus III, died in 193 (A. Aymard, Rev Phil 14 (1940) 89), it is likely that Antiochus IV, like Seleucus III, was originally known by a different name. Such a son is known: a Mithridates, said to be son of Antiochus III, was put in charge, with another son, Ardys, of the march from Syria to Sardis in 197 (Livy 33.19). The existence of this Mithridates is confirmed epigraphically in an inscription of the same date (M. Wörrle, Chiron 18 (1988) 421). Grainger argues that he was evidently named after his maternal grandfather, so it is likely that he was the third son of Antiochus III, making him the future Antiochus IV. He supposes Mithridates was renamed "Antiochus" on his accession or after the death of his elder brother. Supposing him to have been at least 14 at this time, he will have been born in or before 211, meaning that his elder sister Cleopatra I was born no later than c. 212. Given the level of responsibility entrusted to Mithridates in 197, he -- and hence Cleopatra -- was probably older.

Against this argument, D. Ogden, Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death 139, notes two other possible placements of this Mithridates in the genealogy. Polybius 8.23.3 notes a Mithridates, described as a "biological son" of Antiochus III's sister, i.e., in Ogden's opinion, the Antiochis who was married to king Xerxes of Armenia in 212, as described in Polybius 8.23.5. If so, this Mithridates was evidently the son of a much earlier liaison of Antiochis, since he was an adult in 212. Ogden suggests (a) that the phrase "biological son" indicates that he was adopted by Antiochus III, or (b) that the phrase indicates that Mithridates was the son of an incestuous union between Antiochus III and Antiochis.

Option (b) is very unlikely in my view, for two reasons. (1) The general Hellenistic pattern of full sibling incest resulted in the sister being made queen, so Antiochis, not Laodice, should have been Antiochus III's queen (2) As an adult in 212, this Mithridates was evidently born at least several years before the accession of Antiochus III in 223; indeed, before the accession of his elder brother Seleucus III in 226. To my knowledge, no Hellenistic sibling marriage is recorded for a son who was not even heir to the throne.

Option (a) is rather more plausible. Assuming a birth date of c 230 or earlier for Mithridates son of Antiochis, such a son would be a fully mature adult in 197. One possible objection is that Mithridates is named with Seleucus as a son of Antiochus III, and the former is certainly the later Seleucus IV. However, there is no reason why such an inscription should make a distinction between a biological and adopted son.

Nevertheless, Ogden's premise is not well established. Mithridates is suggested as a candidate to replace Xerxes as king of Armenia, and is described as his sister's son in this context. It seems to me at least as likely that Polybius is contrasting him with Xerxes, i.e. saying that they were both sons of king Arsames by different wives, one of whom was Antiochus III's sister, and could therefore be expected to be more loyal to him. Evidently Antiochus III resolved the problem of Armenian loyalty differently, by marrying Xerxes to Antiochis. On this reading, Mithridates is an Armenian nobleman, and there is no need to identify him with the Mithridates of Livy.


[5] Polybius 18.51.10, Livy 33.40 record the engagement in books covering this year. Jerome, Commentary on Daniel 17-19, dates the engagement to Ptolemy's seventh Macedonian year = 198/7, however the circumstantial detail of Polybius and Livy makes their date more likely to be correct. Appian, Syriaca 1.4, identifies Ptolemy as Philopator, i.e. Ptolemy IV; this is obviously an error. Ý

[6] Livy 35.13. Dio Cassius 19.18 dates the marriage to the year Flamininus returned to Rome after granting freedom to the Greeks. Jerome, Commentary on Daniel 17-19, dates the marriage to Ptolemy V's 13th (Mac.) year = 192/1, but the joint cult title appears in the papyri before this. Ý

[7] Polybius 28.20.9. Ý

[8] Jerome, Commentary on Daniel 11.27-30. Ý

[9] See discussion under Cleopatra II. Ý

[10] See discussion under Ptolemy V. Ý

[11] pRyland 4.589, dated to year 2 = 179/8, names queen Cleopatra (I) ahead of king Ptolemy (VI) son of the divine (Ptolemy V) Epiphanes, as do others, e.g. pFreiburg 3.12. Additionally, bronze coinage shows her alone on the obverse with Ptolemy VI on the reverse (J. N. Svoronos, Die Münzen der Ptolemäer Nos. 1380-1382 (pl. 47a.9,13; 47b.15)), and there is a gold octadrachm showing the same (J. E. G. Whitehorne, Cleopatras pl. 3).

J.-Y. Carrez-Maratray, RdE 53 (2002) 61 at 67f., suggests that Cleopatra took the title "Philometor" during this regency, in the sense (not otherwise clearly attested) of "the beloved mother" (or perhaps "the loving mother"(?)). He cites two documents for this.

(i) pAmherst 2.42, dated 20 Pachon year 2 = 23 June 179, includes the plural form "Qewn Filomhtorwn" in the titulature of the eponymous priest. Carrez-Maratray supposes that this must refer to Ptolemy VI + Cleopatra I.

This seems very weak to me. In the actual dating formula, Cleopatra is named as the "Qea Epifaneia", and she is not attested anywhere else in her reign as a "Qea Filomhtor" and Ptolemy VI is not otherwise attested as Philometor till year 6 = 175. It seems more likely that the scribe just mechanically included the plural form in the eponymous titulary.

(ii) pGrenf. 2.15, dated 25 Thoth year 32 = 21 October 139, includes an unusual title in the eponymous cult of Ptolemais, between entries that are clearly Ptolemy V and Ptolemy VI. The surviving text reads: P[...................]mhtoroV Dikaiosunh[.....]lemaiou qeou FilomhetoroV. Grenfell & Hunt restored this as P[tolemaiou qeou Filo]mhtoroV Dikaiosunh[. Pto]lemaiou qeou FilomhetoroV, i.e. as naming Ptolemy VI twice without apparent reason and with a title ("Dikaiosyne" -- the just) that is otherwise unattested for him. Wilcken, who additionally noted that the term was grammatically feminine, suggested instead P[atroV KleopatraV qeaV Filo]mhtoroV Dikaiosunh[V Pto]lemaiou qeou FilomhetoroV, i.e. that it named Ptolemy V as the father of Cleopatra II and Ptolemy VI. Carrez-Maratray argues that at this time, when Cleopatra II was divorced and only honoured in the cult as Ptolemy VIII's sister, it was hardly likely that she would be placed in eponymous listing ahead of Ptolemy VI, let alone with an additional title. He proposes instead to restore it as P[tolemaiou qeaV Filo]mhtoroV Dikaiosunh[V Pto]lemaiou qeou FilomhetoroV, i.e. naming Ptolemy VI twice, once as the son of the Thea Philometor Dikaiosyne (i.e. in the period of the regency), and again in his own right. The Thea Philometor Dikaiosyne ("just mother & loving goddess") must then be Cleopatra I.

This is a much more interesting case. I have to agree with Carrez-Maratray that neither Grenfell & Hunt's nor Wilcken's interpretation makes much sense. Moreover, the other dynastic cults named in this papyrus are those of Queen Cleopatra (II) his Sister, Queen Cleopatra (III) his Wife, Queen Cleopatra (III) his Daughter, and Cleopatra, the Thea Epiphaneia, his mother, which attests both to a cult of Cleopatra I and to repetition of royal persons in the cult. The position in the cult listing -- between Ptolemy V and Ptolemy VI -- is also right for Cleopatra I. While I am hardly qualified to say that Carrez-Maratray's reconstruction is correct, it certainly seems plausible.

Nevertheless, even if one accepts this restoration, I hesitate to conclude that it implies that Cleopatra I took the title "Philometor". This is arguably the only possible attestation of the title to date, it occurs nearly 40 years after her death, it requires not only a reconstruction of the text but also an otherwise-unattested interpretation of the term "Philometor", and in any case the subject of the reconstructed phrase is not Cleopatra I but Ptolemy VI.


[12] Not considered in the Canon of Ptolemy, which lists the Ptolemies patriarchally, except for Cleopatra VII. Terminus post quem: pFreiburg 3.22; terminus ante quem: pdem BM 10230. These termini are based on her presence or absence in dating formulae alongside Ptolemy VI. See the discussion in J. Caimi, Aegyptus 57 (1977) 123.

An alternate viewpoint, still widely repeated (see, e.g., G. Hölbl, A History of the Ptolemaic Empire, 143) dates her death between 8 April and 17 May 176. This is based on the order in which she and Ptolemy VI are named amongst the priests in Ptolemais. pdem BM 10518 (unp. -- see H. Thompson in Fs F. Ll. Griffith 16, 33 (12)) dated 7 Phamenoth year 5 = 10 April 176 names Cleopatra I first, pdem Caire = pdem Soc. Aeg. Papyr. (M. El Amir, EP 8 (1957) 59) dated 14 Pharmouthi year 5 = 17 May 176 names Ptolemy VI before Cleopatra I. The implication which has been drawn from this that she died in March, April or early May. See e.g. J. D. Ray, The Archive of Hor 79.

Caimi points out how indirect this is, and notes also that pdem BM 10230, dated to year 5, names Cineas son of Dositheus, the priest of the cult of Cleopatra at Ptolemais from at latest year 5 = 177/6 to year 12 = 170/69, in the form "priest of king Ptolemy and Queen Cleopatra his mother", and also names only Ptolemy VI in the dating formulae. F. Hintze (Arch. Or. 20 (1952) 102), in discussing pdem BM 10230, had supposed that year 5 was a mistake for year 6, but Caimi additionally points out that BGU 10.1957, dated 7 Artemisios = 7 Hathyr year 5 = 11 December 177 names only Ptolemy VI, not Cleopatra I, as a current ruler in the dating formulae, and (reconstructed) names Cleopatra with Ptolemy V as his deified parents. He explains the order in which the two rulers are named in the priestly titulary in pdem BM 10518 as being a transitional artefact, i.e. that it took a while for the religious bureaucracy to respond to her death. This all seems very reasonable to me. Ý

[13] Transliterations follow J. von Beckerath, Handbuch der ägyptischen Königsnamen (2nd edition) 238 (5a). Ý

[14] "The young girl, daughter of the ruler, created by the ruler, beloved of the Gods of Egypt, adorned by Khnum, the regent of Thoth whose might is great, who pleases the two Lands, who gives the people in perfection to the Two Ladies, who Neith, the Lady of Sais, makes strong, who Hathor praises for her popularity". Her Horus title is given on the stile of the temple of Edfu, alongside those of Ptolemy V, which assures that the titles are those of Cleopatra I. H. Gauthier, Livre des Rois d'Égypte IV 287 XLIIC. Ý

Update Notes:

10 Feb 2002: Added individual trees
21 Feb 2002: Split into separate entry
15 April 2002: Added the epithet Syra (!)
19 May 2002: Corrected Egyptian date equations as necessary
31 Dec 2002: Revamped discussion on the birthdate of Cleopatra I to take account of points raised by Lucherini and Ogden
4 Jan 2003: Modify discussion on the birthdate of Cleopatra I to note that Mithridates is named along with Seleucus in Wörrle's inscription.
18 May 2003: Added Xrefs to the Lacus Curtius edition of Polybius and Dio
21 May 2003: Modify discussion on the birthdate of Cleopatra I on noting a possible different interpretation of Polybius 8.23.3
23 Aug 2003: Added Xrefs to online Justin
23 Oct 2003: Added Xrefs to online Appian
24 Feb 2004: Added Xrefs to online Commentary on Daniel
27 Feb 2004: Added discussion of Carrez-Maratray's proposal of Cleopatra I "Philometor"
13 Sep 2004: Add Xref to online Eusebius
11 Mar 2005: Added Greek transcription, link to Bevan
14 Sep 2006: Added link to Canon at Attalus
27 Nov 2010: Fix broken Perseus & DDBP links

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