‘Queen Cleopatra’ (2023) Ending, Explained: What Happened To Cleopatra Selene II?

Published

The controversial documentary series “Queen Cleopatra” is about her struggle to retain her position as Queen of Egypt. From villainous siblings to foreign threats and wicked advisors, Cleopatra had far too many threats to deal with. Cleopatra was married to her brother, Ptolemy XIII, to co-rule Egypt, as was decided by Ptolemy XII in his will. As co-rulers, the siblings mostly struggled to come to an agreement. Ptolemy XIII was manipulated by his advisor, Pothinus, who considered Cleopatra a threat. Cleopatra disagreed with her husband over his decision to deny helping Pompey, and this, in a way, triggered the advisors to murder Cleopatra. Cleopatra managed to escape, and she eventually decided to spend the next two years in Syria. During this time, she formed her army and trained to defeat her brother and usurp the throne. When Caesar and Pompey traveled to Egypt, Cleopatra returned to her kingdom. She tried to win over Caesar’s support, knowing how her brother had destroyed his chance of building ties with the Roman dictator by presenting him with the head of Pompey. That was the beginning of Caesar and Cleopatra’s passionate love affair, which eventually led to mayhem. In this article, we discuss the pertaining questions that were addressed in “Queen Cleopatra” and what ultimately happened to the last pharaoh of Egypt.

Spoilers Alert 


Was Queen Cleopatra A Black Woman?

The trailer for “Queen Cleopatra” left the audience in splits. While many called it out for attempting to “blackwash” Egyptian history, some believed there was no harm in reimagining Queen Cleopatra as a black queen. The argument was: if white women could portray Cleopatra, why was it so wrong for a black woman to play the role? The documentary series was accused of spreading misinformation and was criticized for misrepresenting the Egyptian Queen.

According to the academics in the documentary series, there is a fair chance that Queen Cleopatra was of African descent. Due to the lack of considerable evidence about Cleopatra’s mother and grandmother, her origin remains speculative. She is often portrayed as a queen with “olive skin,” and Shakespeare described her as being tawny. She belonged to a dynasty of Macedonian Greeks, but the lack of information resulted in speculation. Since Cleopatra wanted to be remembered as an Egyptian queen, the academicians believe that it is only fair to imagine her as a woman of color. Cleopatra is also described as a “chameleon,” with her ever-changing depiction. The difference in depiction offers scope to imagine Cleopatra according to one’s beliefs. “Queen Cleopatra” does not make any claim about the queen being a black woman; instead, it discusses the possibilities and theories that exist and are worth pondering over. While we will perhaps never know for sure if Cleopatra was a black woman or not, the series reminds its audience that she was an African queen, and after all the whitewashing, it is important to remember that.

According to the documentary series, the portrayal of Cleopatra as a black woman is not completely baseless, albeit debatable. It is perhaps the nature of the discussion that triggers a reaction, and of course, the choice of representation was to bring to the table the debate around the queen’s origin. However, as an audience, it is extremely important to understand the discourse before choosing a side. Our idea of race cannot be applied to figures from ancient Egypt. Race clearly was not a decisive factor then, and perhaps that is the reason why there is barely any evidence confirming Queen Cleopatra’s race.


Why Was Queen Cleopatra Considered A Seductress?

The Roman Senate considered Cleopatra dangerous. They were afraid that her proximity to Julius Caesar could affect their political plan. She was a foreigner who had become influential in Caesar’s life. The Roman senator Cicero explicitly expressed his hatred for Cleopatra. The Romans were against the idea of a woman ruler, and Cleopatra’s sudden importance worried them. After Julius Caesar was declared the Roman Dictator, he planned to build a library in Rome that was similar to that in Alexandria. He also adjusted the Roman calendar according to the solar-based calendar that was followed by the Egyptians. The ones who plotted against Caesar started to spread false information, stating that he wanted to move the capital from Rome to Alexandria. He was also rumored to be a polygamist, further infuriating the common people. They were determined to villainize Cleopatra to fulfill their motive of getting rid of Caesar. The entire purpose of Cleopatra’s visit to Rome was for Caesar to recognize her son, which remained unfulfilled. While Cleopatra returned to Egypt, Caesar was declared dictator for the rest of his life by the Senate. Caesar was the first Roman to ever receive the title, and he was proud of his achievement. His face was on coins; he draped a purple rope; he had an elaborate throne made for himself, and he even commissioned his own statue that depicted him as a god. Not everyone was happy with Caesar’s rise. Rome was a republic, and the idea of Caesar trying to become the King of Rome was considered a threat to the Republican values of Rome.

Cleopatra’s return to Rome further raised concern, and on the morning of March 15th, when Julius Caesar was walking to the Senate, he was stabbed to death. The fear that a foreigner could become their queen and bring changes to the Republican idea of Rome, along with Caesar, led to his death. Cleopatra was devastated to find out that Caesar had not named their son as his heir and had instead appointed his nephew for the position. It was not just Cleopatra who felt betrayed; Mark Antony also shared a similar feeling. The two united to fight Octavian. After Mark Antony married Cleopatra, Octavian started to spread propaganda, accusing Mark Antony of behaving like an Eastern king and not caring about his people. The hatred was not just directed at Mark Antony but also at Cleopatra for seducing Roman men and using them to her advantage. She was accused of bewitching Caesar and Antony and was blamed for their downfall. Cleopatra was a political diplomat like the rest, and she did whatever was necessary to protect herself. But because she was a woman, her ambitions were considered evil, and she was subjected to extreme hatred.


What Happened To Cleopatra Selene II?

When Octavian entered Alexandria with his troops, Cleopatra and Mark Antony knew that the war was over. The Egyptian troops had defected, and Egypt was in the hands of Octavian. Even if Cleopatra managed to convince Octavian to allow her to keep the throne, Egypt would become a part of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra entered her tomb, which consisted of the wealth that Octavian needed to pay his troops, and she decided to start a fire and burn it all. During his dying hours, Mark Antony managed to reach her tomb. The historians believed that Mark Antony might have taken his own life after receiving Cleopatra’s note. Suicide was considered the bravest way to die, and Mark Antony died in his wife’s arms. While we do not know what the letter consisted of, it, in a way, prompted Antony to die rather than surrender to his enemy. Cleopatra was captured from her tomb by Octavian’s men. Octavian’s plan was to humiliate Cleopatra in his triumph, and he also held her children captive in Rome. Cleopatra was determined not to allow Octavian the pleasure of destroying her, so before he could take her back to Rome for his triumph, she committed suicide. Before dying, Cleopatra wrote a letter to Octavian, requesting to be buried beside her husband and also pleading him to declare her son the pharaoh of Egypt. Cleopatra decided how her life was going to end, and control was not something she was ready to give up, even in her last breath. While the method used by Cleopatra to commit suicide remains unknown, the cobra bite method is popularly used to depict her death. The Egyptian cobra represented royalty and was considered the perfect symbol to depict her. She left the world as the unconquered Queen of Egypt. The bodies of Cleopatra and Mark Antony were never found. It is possible that they were cremated instead of being buried. After Cleopatra’s death, Egypt lost its independence and thus became a part of the great Rome empire. 

“Queen Cleopatra” ends on a bright note. Octavian took away her three children, Ptolemy Philadelphus, Alexander Helios, and Cleopatra Selene to Rome. He paraded them in his triumph along with an effigy of their mother to add to their humiliation.  Surprisingly, after shaming them in public, Octavian sent the children to his sister, Octavia. Octavia was Mark Antony’s wife, and she ended up taking care of his children. Octavian could not spare the life of Caesarion. He was raised as a pharaoh and could become a threat. After being raised by Octavia, Cleopatra’s two boys were not mentioned in history again, but Cleopatra Selene became an important figure. She married Juba of Mauretania and became another African queen. Cleopatra Selene was also known for enjoying literature, philosophy, and art. From the tomb created by Cleopatra Selene, it became evident that she collected Egyptian statues to stay connected to her mother and her homeland. She named her son Ptolemy, and in a way, the dynasty continued with Selene’s granddaughter marrying into the Roman Imperial family.

While Cleopatra could not save Egypt, she managed to save her children and keep the dynasty alive. She was a queen who refused to bow down and resisted until her very last breath. Cleopatra died a queen, and even thousands of years after her death, she is remembered as an icon of power.


Subscribe
Notify of
guest

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

Must Read

DMT Guide

More Like This