Cleopatra was Egyptian…ish

Cleopatra was the last in a line of Greek rulers of Egypt

Cleopatra (aka, Pharaoh Cleopatra VII Philopator) was the final ruler of Egypt before the kingdom fell to the Roman Empire. During her rule she commissioned portraits of herself in the traditional Egyptian style and she could speak the Egyptian language (something that her family predecessors never bothered to do). All of this would make it seem like Cleopatra was Egyptian, except she was Greek.

Cleopatra was the last ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a 275 year rule that originated in Greece. The founder of this family dynasty was her ancestor Ptolemy I Soter who was one of Alexander the Great’s most senior generals. When Alexander died in 323 BCE he left a kingdom that stretched across the ancient world from Egypt to India and it had to be managed. After a series of deals & wars Ptolemy gained control of the Egyptian portion of the kingdom and declared himself pharaoh. Thus began the Ptolemaic dynasty.

Under this dynastic rule, native Egyptians were generally held to the lower classes while Greeks held the political and economic power. The Greek descendants of Ptolemy continued to rule over Egypt until Cleopatra’s defeat by Julius Caesar’s grandnephew Octavian in 30 BCE.