Queen Cleopatra

Queen Cleopatra.. From the Beyond

‘Queen Cleopatra..from the Beyond’ Illustration by Angela Zafiris

Servant: “My Queen have you heard the latest that is being said about you?”

Queen Cleopatra: “Uggh. What are they saying again?”

Queen Cleopatra. Queen of Egypt as well as the Queen of Divisiveness.

For over a hundred years Hollywood has made countless films about Queen Cleopatra. All of them were played by a caucasian actress. They were light-skinned and dark-haired women. Everyone had grown accustomed to that. Then, recently the streaming service, Netflix in their historical docu-series ‘African Queens’ cast a black woman to play the Queen. This has created a lot of controversy, and uproar from a lot of people of different ethnicities..

I think that it is well-established that Queen Cleopatra was a Greek woman who was descendant of the Ptolomies. She was a product of the Hellenistic Empire, built by Alexander the Great. Cleopatra’s ancestor Ptolomy I Soter was Alexander’s classmate in Macedonia, as well as one of his generals. Egypt was placed in Ptolomies’ hands after the death of Alexander the Great. Also, it is well documented that Macedonians were very particular about their bloodline, even in Greece. Alexander was half-Macedonian and half-Epirote. Both were/are Greek states, yet he was insulted for not being ‘pure- blooded’ by people in his father’s court. The Ptolomies would have carried this mentality with their bloodline and as a result were very inbred. Hec, Queen Cleopatra even married her teenage brother!

The casting of Queen Cleopatra was never controversial in the past, so why is it now? In recent years if the actress is causcasian it’s ‘white washing’ if she is black it is ‘black-washing’ or Afrocentrism.

In my opinion Queen Cleopatra has reached near mythological proportions, and that is one of the problems Many people want her as part of their culture. People have their own fantasies and ideas about her. They have their fantasies of how she may have looked and behaved. However, with so many depictions of her in statues and coins and commentary about her by ancient sources, she should not be a such a great mystery, nor should their be doubts about how she looked or what her ethnicity was.

To solve the casting issue, it seems that the best, and most logical solution would be to cast a Greek actress. But, I have heard very few people even admit to this-if any! Which begs the question as to why Hollywood and many western journalists are so dismissive of modern Greeks, as well as Egyptians? Why do they have this cultural bias? Who and what is to blame for this? Is it their arrogance? Jealousy? Is it a result of the brainwashing from ‘Anglophilic Hollywood?? What is it?? Why are people -both black and white- trying to erase our rich culture and history?

For a long time I have been all too aware of this erasure, bigotry and dismissiveness of my people. Take a look at any channel with the subject of Greeks and Greece and then read the comment section. Or go on reddit-even worse.. There is so much slander and hatred towards my people by certain people from certain countries. We all know who they are. They believe that we have been ‘breeded out’ due to the many invaders that reached the shores of Greece. These are the type of people who don’t believe that neither modern Greeks or modern Egyptians are the genetic continuation of their ancestors. These claims are erroneous as well as racist, and downright dangerous! There have been many DNA tests done, and the results are conclusive, and unanimous.

These are our ancestors! Deal with it!

There have been many films made about Greek history and mythology, but there has never been a strong and loud debate about why Greeks don’t get cast in these roles. Unfortunately, the Greek lobby abroard isn’t strong. There are no famous Greeks. The few that have some sort of notoriety are too ‘white-washed’, or ‘Anglicized’ that even non-Greeks make fun and them. This is extremely problematic. We are not a large group so every voice counts. I feel that a person without passion for their culture, and person who is far removed from their cultural identiy is a very tragic person. As you are empty and souless without a culturaly identiy.

So, the problem is both the white-washing as well as the black-washing of these two mediterranean peoples. Both the Egyptians and Greeks have a rich and extensive history. Their is a mutual respect and admiration for each other. I am grateful that people are finally having this discussion all over social media platforms like YouTube, The ‘documentary’ was bad as it erases Greek culture and history, but it was good because more people have become aware of the problem and more people have learned the truth about Queen Cleopatra. That she was indeed an intelligent, crafty, strong, strategic Greek-Macedonian woman who was much, much more than her romances. She built armies, defied Rome and went to war against Rome. She made Egypt more independent by trading with regions outside of the Roman empire. And for those reasons she deserves all the admiration and the respect of a true Queen. 🙂