Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How Did I NOT Know This About the Name, Cleopatra?

Olympias, mom of Alexander and his sister, Cleo the unknown.
One of the earliest Cleopatras that I learned about was Alexander the Great's little sister

What, I wondered, was Cleopatra of Macedon like? What if she was even smarter and more wily than Alex? What kind of life did she lead? How did she feel about her older brother getting to conquer the world while she was traded off to marry her own mother's older brother when she was a young teen?(Hmmm, maybe there's a book in there somewhere....). 

Sadly, we'll never know anything about her because, well, she was a girl, which meant no one bothered to record her life.

When the Ptolemies took over Egypt, they connected their blood line to Alexander's for political legitimacy. So, many royal women were named after Alex's little sister. Our famous last queen of Egypt was the seventh Cleopatra in the Ptolemy line and her daughter, Selene, was the eighth.
Snow happens, even in Athens. Here in Atlanta, it's more of an apocalypse. 

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that there was an even "older" Cleopatra in Greek history. Khione, the goddess of snow, had a sister named...Cleopatra! I learned this only because snow is a big deal right now in the South. Here in Atlanta, the entire city is on lockdown because of ice and sleet. Which got me wondering what the ancients thought about snow. When I searched for ancient Greek snow gods, up popped Khione and her sister, Cleopatra.

Well, knock me over with an olive leaf. 

Cleopatra was the daughter of Boreas, the god of the north wind, and Oreithyia, a mountain nymph.  Some sources say she is a goddess of twilight, sometimes known as Alcyone.

Would knowing this little factoid have changed anything in my novel, Cleopatra's Moon, or my biography of the queen, Cleopatra Rules? No. I can't think of any way I could've worked that in without making it weird.

But still. Thanks to the snow and ice trapping me in my house, I learned something new about the name of two of my favorite queens in history. I'll try to remember that when I get cabin fever.


Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

What a trip! Hope y'all are staying warm over there! :) e

Narukami said...

Great find!

Proof, once again, that there is always something new to learn even about topics which we may think we have exhausted.

Goddess of twilight eh ... that magical time when it is neither day or night. (Rod Serling chose 'Twilight' to use in the title of his signature series for good reason.) A time of transition -- just like Cleopatra's brief reign on the throne of Egypt.

As for a new novel about Alexander's sister ... Having no records is, as you no doubt realize, a blessing and a curse. You have free reign to write what you will, but making it work, getting Cleopatra to shine brightly in the very large shadow of Alexander will be a challenge.

That said, it might be worth exploring and with your knowledge of the period you might be able to make that work.

Amalia Dillin said...

I definitely want to read a book about Alexander's little sister, now.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Thanks guys. Narukami and Amalia, it honestly never occurred to me to write about Alex's little sister until I wrote this post!

Anonymous said...

Cool. She kind of looks like Alex, even has the same nose! I love this stuff!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Thanks for commenting, Anonymous. Obviously, I love this stuff too! ;-)