Hold on to your togas folks, we’ve got some drama brewing in the world of entertainment. Netflix’s latest docuseries project, Queen Cleopatra is causing a stir among Egyptian locals due to the casting of black skin British actress Adele James. One lawyer even took legal action, citing historical inaccuracy and cultural insensitivity.

Adele James as Cleopatra
Adele James, Queen Cleopatra / Netflix

But that’s not all, oh no. A few years prior, the iconic role of Cleopatra was given to Gal Gadot, the former Israeli beauty queen. While some fans rejoiced at the news, others cried out about “cultural whitewashing,” a hotly debated issue in Hollywood where white actors play characters of other ethnicities. Some argued that the role should have gone to an actor of Arab or African descent to portray the Egyptian queen more accurately.

Cultural whitewashing / blackwashing Oh, woe is me! The world seems to grow more tumultuous by the day, with drama lurking around every corner. It feels as though every decision, every action, is fraught with the potential for controversy.

Ah, how I long for the days of yore, when we could act without fear of offending anyone. Forgive me, dear young ones, for waxing nostalgic, but it seems that the world has become so sensitive, so quick to take offense.

Gone are the days when we could speak our minds without fear of backlash. Now, it seems we must tread on eggshells, lest we offend the sensibilities of those around us. And with the rise of social media, it’s easier than ever to stir up drama and controversy.

Oh, to be thoughtless once more! To live in a world where we didn’t have to worry about every little thing we said or did. Alas, it seems that time has passed us by. But fear not, my young friends, for there is still joyed to be found in this tumultuous world. Let us embrace the chaos and find laughter amidst the drama.

Ah, to live in a world where everything was simpler, where the lines between reality and fantasy were blurred. A world where superheroes could punch their way through walls without worrying about the psychological ramifications of their actions.

Back in those days, we didn’t think twice about portraying people of different races as yellow or black or green or blue. We didn’t worry about the implications of that, or about whether it was offensive. We just enjoyed the stories for what they were – pure entertainment.

And the same went for our heroes. They didn’t need to be complex or realistic. They could just be powerful, with no qualms about killing their enemies. We didn’t need to worry about the consequences of their actions, or about the ethical implications of their decisions.

But times have changed, and with them, our sensibilities. We’ve become more aware of the impact that our words and actions can have, and we’re more conscious of the need for diversity and representation in our media.

And while that’s certainly a good thing, sometimes it’s nice to look back on those simpler times. To remember a world where we didn’t take ourselves quite so seriously, and where we could enjoy a good story without worrying about offending anyone, if we don’t really mean it!

But let’s take a step back and appreciate the complexity of this tale. No matter who ends up donning the iconic headdress and wielding the scepter, it seems there will always be controversy. Whether the actor is white, black, or somewhere in between, the story of Cleopatra is rich and multifaceted, with a history and culture that spans millennia. So, let’s keep an open mind and enjoy the ride, shall we?

Cleopatra in HERtory

Cleopatra VII Philopator, coin

Cleopatra VII Philopator, ascended the throne in 51 B.C. She is the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Her story is one that has captured the imagination of people for centuries. From her political savvy to her beauty, charming, tumultuous love life, there’s no shortage of drama in the tale of Cleopatra.

What do we know about Ptolemaic dynasty?

The Ptolemaic dynasty – a fascinating era in ancient Egyptian history. For 275 years, from 305 to 30 BC, they ruled over Egypt as the last dynasty of the ancient world.

It all started with Ptolemy, one of the seven somatophylakes – that’s just a fancy way of saying “bodyguard companions” – of Alexander the Great. After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, Ptolemy was appointed satrap of Egypt, which basically means he was in charge of the place.

But Ptolemy wasn’t content with just being a mere governor. Oh no, he had bigger ambitions. In 305 BC, he declared himself Pharaoh Ptolemy I, later known as Sōter or “Saviour”. And the Egyptians? Well, they actually accepted him and his family as the successors to the pharaohs of independent Egypt.

And so began the Ptolemaic dynasty, which would rule Egypt for the next few centuries. They were a Greek-speaking dynasty, but they quickly assimilated into Egyptian culture and adopted many of the pharaonic traditions. They even built impressive monuments like the famous Pharos lighthouse at Alexandria, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

But as with all good things, the Ptolemaic dynasty eventually came to an end. In 30 BC, the last Ptolemaic ruler, Cleopatra, committed suicide after her defeat by the Roman general Octavian (who would later become the emperor Augustus). And with that, Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire.


But beyond the legends and myths, who was the real Cleopatra? Born in 69 BC, Cleopatra was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, and be the first Queen (and all Kings) of Ptolemaic dynasty who learn Egyptian language.

She was known for her intelligence, her linguistic abilities (she spoke at least seven languages), and her beauty, which was said to be breathtaking.

But Cleopatra was much more than just a pretty face. She was a shrewd politician who knew how to play the game of power. Her reign was marked by conflicts with Rome, as she tried to maintain Egypt’s independence in the face of Roman expansionism. She famously aligned herself with Julius Caesar, and later with Mark Antony, both powerful Roman leaders.

Cleopatra’s romantic relationships with these men have become the stuff of legend. She was known for her charm and seductive powers, and many stories have been told about her extravagant gestures of love. But despite her reputation as a femme fatale, Cleopatra was also a capable leader who fought fiercely for her country and her people.

In the end, however, it was not enough. Cleopatra’s reign came to an end when she and Mark Antony were defeated by Octavian, the future emperor Augustus, in the Battle of Actium. Rather than face capture and humiliation, Cleopatra famously chose to end her own life by allowing herself to be bitten by an asp.

The story of Cleopatra is one that continues to fascinate us to this day. It’s a tale of power, love, and tragedy that has inspired countless books, plays, and movies. And while we may never know the full truth about the real Cleopatra, her legacy lives on as a symbol of strength and resilience in the face of adversity.

Black or White

We know that Cleopatra was beautiful, charming, intelligent, but was she white or black?

Portrait of Cleopatra VII. Inv. No. 38511. Rome, Vatican Museums, Pius-Clementine Museum.

Cleopatra’s ethnicity has been the subject of debate for years. Although there is no definite answer. But most historians agree that she was of Greek or Macedonian descent, It’s worth noting, however, that the Ptolemaic dynasty – the family to which Cleopatra belonged – was known for intermarrying within their own family. which, if following this the queen should have white skin.

The fact that we don’t know who Cleopatra’s mother was (she’s not listed in the family tree of the Ptolemaic dynasty) has led some to believe that she could have been the daughter of a black concubine. that remains a mystery is that of her mother and paternal grandmother. However, many experts say there is no evidence to suggest either woman was Black.

So, there’s this ongoing debate among historians about whether or not Cleopatra was black. Some African historians claim that Egypt was actually ruled by a black civilization and that most of the ancient Egyptians were black people. 

But not everyone agrees with this theory. Egyptologists argue that it’s actually a popular idea promoted by some African archaeologists who want to boost the pride of African youth. They claim that the Ptolemaic dynasty, which included Cleopatra, was actually white.

but Egypt at the time of Cleopatra’s reign was a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities, that there may have been some intermingling with Egyptians. which could have resulted in some degree of ethnic mixing over time. so, it’s possible that she may have had some non-Greek ancestry as well.

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It is important to approach the question of Cleopatra’s ethnicity with historical accuracy rather than projecting modern views on race onto the past. The concept of race as we understand it today was not prevalent in ancient times, and to ask whether Cleopatra was “Black” or “white” is an anachronistic approach.

It is more helpful to understand how ancient people considered their ethnicities and identities. Cleopatra herself had Greek, Macedonian, Egyptian, and Roman ancestry, and identifying her solely with one modern-day racial category ignores the complexity of her background.

So, the question of whether or not Cleopatra was black remains a mystery. There is evidence of ancient Egyptians who could be considered “Black” in the sense that they were non-Arab, non-Phoenician Africans, but references to “Black-skinned” Egyptians in ancient texts often had a gendered element. Women were associated with pale or “white” skin, while men were associated with dark or “black” skin. This division was based on gender, not ethnicity or modern racial categories.

When it comes to depictions of Cleopatra in art and media, we should not try to separate her various identities but understand that different objects were created for different audiences and reflect different aspects of her identity. In our modern search for singular identities, we limit Cleopatra in ways that were not relevant in her own time.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that Cleopatra’s ethnicity is just one aspect of her identity. She was a powerful and intelligent ruler, a skilled politician, and a masterful strategist. Her story is one that transcends ethnicity, and her legacy continues to inspire people of all backgrounds and cultures to this day.

So let us raise a glass to the Queen of the Nile and remember her not just as a seductress or a tragic figure, but as a complex and fascinating historical figure who left an indelible mark on the world. Cheers to you, Cleopatra, and may your legend continue to inspire us for generations to come.