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Cleopatra V of Egypt

Ptolemaic Queen of Egypt
The basics
AKA Cleopatra V Tryphaena of Egypt
Date of birth
Date of death 57
Spouse: Ptolemy XII Auletes
Children: Arsinoe IV of Egypt Cleopatra VI of Egypt Cleopatra Berenice IV of Egypt Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator Ptolemy XIV of Egypt
Father: Ptolemy X Alexander I
Brother(s): Ptolemy XI Alexander II
Mother: Berenice III of Egypt
The details

Cleopatra V Tryphaena of Egypt (Greek: Κλεοπάτρα Τρύφαινα, born c. 95 BC, died c. 69/68 BC or c. 57 BC) was a Ptolemaic Queen of Egypt. She is the only surely attested wife of Ptolemy XII. Her only known child is Berenice IV, but she was also probably the mother of Cleopatra VII.

Descent and marriage

Because of the poor body of source material Cleopatra V is a very obscure member of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Only few ascertained facts about her are known. Many aspects of her life are the subject of controversial theories. In all known ancient sources she is given the byname Tryphaena. She may have borne this name before accession to the throne when she assumed the traditional royal name Cleopatra.

In some sources Cleopatra Tryphaena, wife of Ptolemy XII, is referred to as Cleopatra VI. The ancient historian Werner Huß refers to her as Cleopatra VII Tryphaena.

The parentage of Cleopatra V is not recorded. She may have been an illegitimate daughter of Ptolemy IX or the legitimate daughter of Ptolemy X Alexander I. It is mentioned that in 88 BC, Ptolemy X Alexander fled Egypt with his wife Berenice III and his daughter. Cleopatra Tryphaena may be identical with this unnamed daughter.

Cleopatra V is first mentioned in 79 BC in two papyri. One of these papyri dates from the January 17, 79 BC. In that year she married Ptolemy XII, king of Egypt. They received divine worship as theoí Philopátores kai Philádelphoi (father-, brother- and sister-loving gods). Cleopatra’s Egyptian titles, found primarily at Edfu and Philae, include Daughter of Re, Female Ruler, and Mistress of Two Lands.

Death and identity

It is unclear how long Cleopatra V lived, and with which mentions of Cleopatra Tryphaena in the historical record she should be identified, as the numbering used to distinguish the Ptolemies is a modern invention. Cleopatra Tryphaena V vanished around the time Cleopatra VII was born (69 BC): her name begins to disappear from monuments and papyri, and there is a papyrus of Ptolemy XII from 69 BC that does not mention her but would be expected to do so had she still been alive.

There is some indication that Cleopatra may have died in 69 BC — she may have died in childbirth or was possibly murdered. Should she really have died that early, then the Cleopatra Tryphaena who is mentioned — after the expulsion of Ptolemy XII — as co-ruler of Egypt (together with Berenice IV) in 58 and 57 BC, and died around 57 BC, must be her daughter, numbered by some historians as Cleopatra VI Tryphaena. This is also supported by Porphyry.

On the other hand, there is a dedication on the Temple of Edfu from December 5, 57 BC that inscribes Cleopatra Tryphaena's name alongside Ptolemy XII's (who however was not present in Egypt at that time), which would have meant the king's wife rather than daughter and would be unlikely had Ptolemy XII's wife really died already twelve years earlier. Thus some, though not all, modern historians consider Cleopatra V to be identical with the purported Cleopatra VI Tryphaena, and have her living to c. 57 BC. This would comport with the account by Strabo, who reports Ptolemy XII to have had only three daughters; these can reliably be identified as Berenice IV, Cleopatra VII, and Arsinoe IV as the king's daughters, so that there would not be left any room for a Cleopatra VI. Werner Huss assumes, that quarrels erupted between Cleopatra V and Ptolemy XII in 69 BC and that as a result of these disputes Cleopatra V fell in disgrace and was compelled to resign.

Cleopatra V was presumably the mother of Cleopatra VII. Michael Grant comes to the conclusion that "on the whole" it seems most likely Cleopatra V was the mother of Cleopatra VII, noting that had Cleopatra VII been illegitimate, her "numerous Roman enemies would have revealed this to the world." He continues we should rule out the hypothesis Cleopatra VII was conceived by Ptolemy XII's second wife-to-be while Cleopatra V was on the scene, and that if this unknown second wife would have been Cleopatra VII's mother and later made "queen legitimized", Cleopatra VII would still have been considered a bastard and "her Roman foes would not have missed the hint." Duane W. Roller speculates that Cleopatra could have been the daughter of a half-Macedonian-Greek, half-Egyptian woman belonging to a family of priests dedicated to Ptah and was "only technically illegitimate" (however, he contends that whatever Cleopatra's ancestry, she valued her Greek Ptolemaic heritage the most), but notes if this unknown woman was not Cleopatra's mother, then Cleopatra V would be her mother. Part of his argument is based on Strabo's mention of Ptolemy XII's having only three daughters, Berenice being the only legitimate one. But as Grant notes that, of all the attacks on Cleopatra VII, her being illegitimate is not among them, and that it is only mentioned in a casual statement by Strabo.

Most scholars agree, that Berenice IV was a daughter of Cleopatra V, and a different wife of Ptolemy XII may have been the mother of the younger siblings of Cleopatra VII, that is Arsinoe IV, Ptolemy XIII and Ptolemy XIV. However, Christopher Bennett thinks, that Cleopatra V was the mother of all known children of Ptolemy XII.


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