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CLEOPATRA°, a name common to several Egyptian queens, the most important of whom are the following: CLEOPATRA I, daughter of *Antiochus III and Laodice, daughter of *Mithridates , king of Pontus. Antiochus III, taking advantage of Egypt's weakness, conquered Judea and proceeded along the west coast of Asia Minor. To discourage the intervention of Rome, he betrothed his daughter to Ptolemy V Epiphanes. The marriage took place at Rafi'aḥ (Rafa) in 193 B.C.E., having been delayed several years on account of their youth. According to Josephus, it was agreed that Cleopatra be given *Coele-Syria including Judea as a dowry, but according to Polybius when the Egyptians laid claim to this area the existence of such an agreement was denied by *Antiochus IV . In any event Judea remained in Seleucid hands. Cleopatra bore two sons, Ptolemy VI and VII, and a daughter, Cleopatra II (see below). After her husband's early death, she ruled together with her son, Ptolemy VI Philometor (181 B.C.E.), until her own early death in about 173.

CLEOPATRA II married her brother Ptolemy VI and ruled from 169 to 164 B.C.E. with her two brothers. Under pressure from Rome, Antiochus IV was forced to leave Egypt. When Egyptian rule was divided in 163, Cyrenaica being awarded to Ptolemy VII, she continued to rule with her husband. During this period a friendly attitude was displayed toward the Jews, and the priest *Onias IV , who fled to Egypt, was sympathetically received there. Both he and Dositheus received important commands in the army and Onias was granted permission to erect a temple in *Leontopolis , modeled after the Temple in Jerusalem. In the struggle for the throne between Ptolemy VII and Cleopatra after Ptolemy VI's death in Syria (145) the Jews sided with Cleopatra and rendered her valuable assistance. When Ptolemy VII went from Cyrenaica to Alexandria to seize the kingdom, he was met there by an army under the command of Onias. The peace, which was brought about when Cleopatra married her brother, was short-lived, ending when Ptolemy VII married Cleopatra III. The Roman delegation under Scipio Aemiliamus apparently succeeded in reconciling the brother and sister, but the quarrel did not finally subside until about 125 B.C.E.

CLEOPATRA III daughter of Ptolemy VI Philometor and Cleopatra II. Her marriage to Ptolemy VII Physcon in 142 B.C.E. led to war between the latter and Cleopatra II, who was, at the same time, his sister, his wife, and the mother of his young wife, Cleopatra III. After their death Cleopatra III ruled jointly with her son Ptolemy Lathyrus, driving him out in 107, and replacing him by her other son, Ptolemy Alexander. Lathyrus fled to Cyprus and succeeded in winning over the army sent by Cleopatra to dislodge him; only the Jews from the territory of Onias, under the command of his sons Ananias and Hilkiah, remained loyal to Cleopatra. His position was strengthened when the people of Acre gained Lathyrus' assistance against Alexander *Yannai . When Lathyrus was victorious, Cleopatra mobilized her forces and herself joined her Jewish army commanders *Ananias and Helkias, in a successful march on Acre. Ananias having warned her that the annexation of the whole of Coele-Syria would incur the enmity of the Jews, Cleopatra concluded a pact with Alexander Yannai at Beth-Shean and returned with her army to Egypt (Jos., Ant., 13:284–287, 328–355; 14:112).

CLEOPATRA VII (69–30 B.C.E.) the last queen of Egypt before its conquest by Rome. When Herod fled from Judea to Alexandria in 40, he was well received by Cleopatra, who offered to appoint him as commander of her army. Anxious to reach Rome, Herod declined. After Herod became king of Judea, enmity developed between them, for his accession had frustrated Cleopatra's plans to annex Judea. Cleopatra incited Antony against Herod. She also lent a ready ear to the complaints of Alexandra, Mariamne's mother, who had quarreled with Herod for refusing to appoint her son Aristobulus as high priest. Cleopatra openly sided with Alexandra and it was as a result of her intervention that Herod was required to account to Antony for the death of Aristobulus. Though Herod succeeded in saving his throne, he was compelled to cede to Cleopatra Jericho and its environs together with certain areas of Arabia. These he subsequently leased from her; but this did not improve their personal relationship. When Antony prepared for battle against *Augustus , Cleopatra ordered Herod to take up arms against the Arabians who had failed to discharge their debts. Herod, though fully aware of Cleopatra's enmity toward him, realized the extent of her influence on Antony, to whom he owed his kingdom and accordingly took pains to prevent their personal differences from jeopardizing his position. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Herod had counseled Antony to do away with Cleopatra, as was rumored to Augustus. It is possible that Cleopatra's feelings toward Herod may have caused her evident dislike of the Jews of Alexandria. Cleopatra ruled for over 20 years, taking her life at the age of 39 after Augustus' victory over Antony. There is a reference in the Talmud (Tosef., Nid. 4:17; Nid. 30b) to Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, but it is unclear which Cleopatra is meant.


CLEOPATRA I: Polybius, Historia Universalis, 28:20, 8–10; Jos., Ant., 13:154. CLEOPATRA II: Livy, Histories, 45:11; Polybius, Historia Universalis, 29:23, 27; Jos., Apion, 2:49–52; Jos., Ant., 12:388; 13:63ff.; 20:236; E. Bevan, History of Egypt under the Ptolemaic Dynasty (1927), 283ff., 300ff.; B. Niese, Geschichte der griechischen und makedonischen Staaten, 3 (1903), 267ff. CLEOPATRA III: Jos., Ant., 13:285–7, 328–55; 14:112. CLEOPATRA VII: Jos., Ant., 14:375; 15:24–26, 191; Jos., Wars, 1:279, 360–1; Jos., Apion, 2:56–60; Plutarch, Antony, 36, 76–86.

[Lea Roth]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.