Peering into the past, the annals of history teem with formidable figures, but few captivate the imagination quite like Cleopatra VII, the last active ruler of Egypt’s Ptolemaic Kingdom. So who was this legendary queen, the face that launched a thousand ships, and the woman whose allure changed the course of history?


The Alluring Enigma: What Did Cleopatra Really Look Like?

While Shakespeare and Hollywood might have us believe Cleopatra was a paragon of beauty, historical evidence is more nuanced. Ancient coins bearing her likeness show a strong, aquiline nose, prominent chin, and deep-set eyes, a countenance more commanding than conventionally beautiful. Moreover, her appeal transcended mere physical traits. Plutarch, an ancient historian, famously remarked that Cleopatra’s charm lay in her intellect and conversational skills, suggesting an allure that was far more profound than skin-deep.

Debating Identity Controversy: Was Cleopatra Black?

This question, nuanced as it is, comes loaded with a historical and cultural context that cannot be overlooked. The consensus among historians is that Queen Cleopatra was of Greek Macedonian descent, born to the Ptolemaic dynasty that governed Egypt after Alexander the Great. There’s also evidence suggesting she might have had some Persian or Syrian ancestry. The proposition that Cleopatra was black, largely proposed in the late 20th century and speculated from the Netflix series Queen Cleopatra, is considered a part of Afrocentric historiography, which posits that Cleopatra could have had African ancestry through an unrecorded, indigenous Egyptian lineage. Despite this intriguing proposition, the fact remains that the precise ethnicity of Cleopatra continues to be a topic of academic debate and speculation, with the main consensus that Queen Cleopatra was not black.

The Final Act: How Did Cleopatra Die?

The death of Cleopatra, much like her life, is shrouded in mystery and romanticism. According to historical accounts, she died by suicide on August 12, 30 BC, following the defeat of her forces against Octavian, the future first Roman Emperor. The story of the asp — a poisonous Egyptian cobra — is one of the most enduring legends associated with Cleopatra’s death. However, the veracity of this account is disputed, with some suggesting she might have used a poisonous ointment instead. Regardless of the method, Cleopatra’s demise marked the end of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and the beginning of Roman Egypt.

So, who was Cleopatra? A queen of beauty and intellect, a woman of mystery and power, a figure who continues to fascinate us centuries after her death. Her story, an amalgam of fact, speculation, and myth, remains a testament to her enduring appeal and the indelible mark she left on the world.


  1. Britannica: Cleopatra | Biography & Facts
  2. Cleopatra
  3. National Geographic: Who was Cleopatra?