Cleopatra II or III

This head of a queen most likely represents Cleopatra II or her daughter, Cleopatra III. There were 7 Cleopatra’s of Egypt overall, with the 7th being the most notable, going just by “Cleopatra” to the masses. Despite this, the other Cleopatras’ reigns were also filled with notoriety and left some splendid artefacts, such as this head below.

Head of Cleopatra II or III
Dimensions: 24.7 x 17.8 x 22.5 cm
Walters Art Museum. 22.407

Cleopatra II led a rebellion against Ptolemy VIII in 132/1 BC, and drove him and Cleopatra III out of Alexandria at the end of 131 BC. At this time Ptolemy VIII is said to have had Ptolemy Memphites, his son by his older sister, Cleopatra II, dismembered and his head, hands and feet sent to Cleopatra II in Alexandria as a birthday present.

Cleopatra II ruled in Alexandria as sole ruler until 127 BC. Ptolemy VIII had retained the allegiance of parts of Egypt and gradually expanded his control from there. In 127 BC, he took over Alexandria, Cleopatra II being forced to flee to Syria, where she joined her daughter Cleopatra Thea and her son-in-law Demetrius II Nicator. The latter was unable to offer effective support to his mother-in-law, as Ptolemy VIII pitted against him a rival for the Seleucid throne.

Cleopatra III, Cleopatra II and Ptolemy VIII before Horus at Kom Ombo.
Cleopatra III, Cleopatra II and Ptolemy VIII before Horus at Kom Ombo.

A public reconciliation of Cleopatra II and Ptolemy VIII was declared in 124 BC. After this she ruled jointly with her brother and daughter until June 116 BC when Ptolemy died. Among amnesty decrees seeking to heal the conflicts stirred by the recent civil war, Cleopatra II’s murdered son Ptolemy Memphites was deified as the God Neos Philopator in 118 BC.

Ptolemy VIII left the kingdom to be ruled by Cleopatra III and one of their sons. At the wishes of the Alexandrians, Cleopatra III chose Ptolemy Lathyros, her elder son, as her co-ruler. However, Cleopatra II retained seniority in the ruling triumvirate.
Cleopatra II disappeared from historical records sometime around October 116 BC. She is believed to have died in about 116 or 115 BC.

Cleopatra III

Cleopatra III was also known as Cleopatra Euergetis while associated with her husband Ptolemy VIII or her son Ptolemy X. She is attested as Cleopatra Philometor Soteira while associated with her eldest son Ptolemy IX. According to Strabo, she was sometimes known as Kokke when discussed in relation to her son Ptolemy X. She ruled at first with her mother Cleopatra II and husband Ptolemy VIII from 142 to 131 BC and again from 127 to 116 BC. She then ruled with her sons Ptolemy IX and Ptolemy X from 116 to 101 BC.

Head of Cleopatra II or Cleopatra III
Ptolemaic, c. 140-120 B.C.
Walters Art Museum. 22.407