100 Greatest Women On Coins Series: Queen Cleopatra (or Cleopatra VII Philopator)

One of the most beautiful women in history and a part of the ancient Egyptian world, Cleopatra is a dominant figure in cultures near and far. While most have an idea in their head of who she was (because of a certain famous movie with a certain famous actress in the 1960s), most are still unaware of her lineage and the complex family of rulers built around her. With help from author Ron Guth, we will take a closer look at this top five pick from Whitman Publishing’s 100 Greatest Women On Coins publication and navigate through her interesting (to say the least) life.

#4 - Queen Cleopatra (or Cleopatra VII Philopator)

Cleopatra was only half-Egyptian and some believe entirely Greek. She descended from a line of fierce rulers beginning with Ptolemy I who came from Macedonia, a region in northern Greece. Cleopatra’s father, who was Ptolemy XII, stood eighth in line within the family dynasty. If that was not confusing enough, Cleopatra was not the only Cleopatra within her family lineage. Her mother was named Cleopatra V Tryphaena in addition to her daughter being named Cleopatra Selene II. Cleopatra VII herself ruled alongside four different Ptolemies during her lifetime including her father (Ptolemy XII), her brothers (Ptolemy XIII and XIV) whom she would marry to keep the bloodline pure as according to ancient beliefs, and her son (Ptolemy XV Caesarion).

When it came to her admirers, she held a lot of power over them due to her beauty, her mannerisms, and her voice. She was married three times including to both of her younger brothers. Her other marriage was to Mark Antony. Although never having been married to him, her first big romance with another happened with none other than Julius Caesar. Famous for his conquest of the Egyptian capital, Alexandria, he became one of the many fascinated with Cleopatra. Her son, Ptolemy XV Caesarion, was his as well. Julius Caesar would end up being assassinated and Cleopatra would make her way back to Alexandria where she met Mark Antony. They had twins together, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene II. They would marry just a few years later and have another son named Ptolemy XVI Philadelphus.

Cleopatra can be seen on a number of coins including ancient and modern. Her portrait is featured on a silver denarius that has an obverse featuring Mark Antony. She also is depicted on a bronze 40-drachma coin that was issued between 51 and 30 B.C. In more modern issues, she was featured on a gold 50-pound coin from Egypt in 1993. She is seen wearing a royal vulture headdress.

According to Guth, collecting difficulty is surprisingly easy. Ancient coins featuring Cleopatra are more readily available than modern coins and can be inexpensive.