Cleopatra's Daughter: From Roman Prisoner to African Queen (Hardcover)

Cleopatra's Daughter: From Roman Prisoner to African Queen By Jane Draycott Cover Image

Cleopatra's Daughter: From Roman Prisoner to African Queen (Hardcover)

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The first modern biography of one of the most influential yet long-neglected rulers of the ancient world: Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Antony and Cleopatra.



“A vibrant, fascinating portrait of a great woman who deserves her place in the pantheon of Roman queens.” —Emma Southon


As the only daughter of Roman Triumvir Marc Antony and Egyptian Queen Cleopatra VII, Cleopatra Selene was expected to uphold traditional feminine virtues; to marry well and bear sons; and to legitimize and strengthen her parents’ rule. Yet with their parents’ deaths by suicide, the princess and her brothers found themselves the inheritors of Egypt, a claim that placed them squarely in the warpath of the Roman emperor.


“Supported by a feast of visual and literary references” (Caroline Lawrence), Cleopatra’s Daughter reimagines the life of Cleopatra Selene, a woman who, although born into Egyptian royalty and raised in her mother’s court, was cruelly abandoned and held captive by Augustus Caesar. Creating a narrative from frescos and coinage, ivory dolls and bronzes, historian and archaeologist Jane Draycott shows how Cleopatra Selene navigated years of imprisonment on Palatine Hill—where Octavia, the emperor’s sister and Antony’s fourth wife, housed royal children orphaned in the wake of Roman expansion—and emerged a queen.


Despite the disrepute of her family, Cleopatra Selene in time endeared herself to her captors through her remarkable intellect and political acumen. Rather than put her to death, Augustus wed her to the Numidian prince Juba, son of the deposed regent Juba I, and installed them both as client rulers of Mauretania in Africa. There, Cleopatra Selene ruled successfully for nearly twenty years, promoting trade, fostering the arts, and reclaiming her mother’s legacy—all at a time, Draycott reminds us, when kingship was an inherently male activity.


A princess who became a prisoner and a prisoner who became a queen, Cleopatra Selene here “finally attains her rightful place in history” (Barry Strauss). A much-needed corrective, Cleopatra’s Daughter sheds new and revelatory light on Egyptian and Roman politics, society, and culture in the early days of the Roman Empire.



Jane Draycott is a lecturer in ancient history at the University of Glasgow. A Roman historian and archaeologist, Draycott has excavated sites ranging from Bronze Age villages to World War I trenches. She lives in Scotland.

Product Details ISBN: 9781324092599
ISBN-10: 1324092599
Publisher: Liveright
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2023
Pages: 336
Language: English
[A] labor of love… Draycott gathers evidence from whatever sources she can find…and deploys her considerable erudition to paint a vivid picture of the historical context…. Draycott is open about her agenda: not only to tell Cleopatra Selene’s story, but to remind us that competent female rulers existed in antiquity and that the traces of their lives deserve to be located and pieced together.
— Shadi Bartsch-Zimmer - New York Times Book Review

[W]ell-informed and convincing . . . Selene is a figure for our times, as Ms. Draycott rightly points out: a woman who wielded power in a male-dominated world, a wife who crossed racial boundaries in her marriage, an exile who found success in two adoptive homelands.
— James Romm - Wall Street Journal

[W]ell-researched and full of interesting facts and details that history buffs will find satisfying and exciting.
— San Francisco Book Review

In Cleopatra’s Daughter, her first modern biography, the enigmatic life and rollercoaster fortunes of Cleopatra Selene — the only daughter of Queen Cleopatra VII and Roman general and politician Marc Antony — are lushly rendered by historian Jane Draycott . . . Filled with fascinating insights and impressive research, Cleopatra’s Daughter resurrects one of history’s forgotten women ‘who succeeded quietly rather than failed loudly.

— Peggy Kurkowski - Washington Independent Review of Books

Archaeologist Draycott uses primary sources as well as art and historical artifacts to construct an engaging portrait of Cleopatra Selene and her turbulent times.
— Kristine Huntley - Booklist

[A] lush biography... Among other topics, Draycott sheds intriguing light on race and ethnicity in the Roman empire and the opportunities women had to wield power and influence. This peek into the ancient past enthralls.
— Publishers Weekly

In this deep work of historical excavation, Draycott.... re-creates with keen contextual evidence the life and turbulent times of Cleopatra’s surviving daughter… A vivid portrayal of the difficult journey of an overlooked African queen.
— Kirkus Reviews