Berenice IV Queen of Egypt

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Queen's Harem in Ancient Egypt

The sister of Antony’s Cleopatra assumed control of Egypt for two years during the exile of her father Ptolemy XII but was beheaded at age twenty-two.

Berenice IV was born in Alexandria around 77 BC, and was the eldest daughter of Pharaoh Ptolemy XII Auletes, and his wife Queen Cleopatra V Tryphaena. She may have had an elder sister named Cleopatra VI Tryphaena, who died in infancy, and the famous Cleopatra VII Philopator, the Cleopatra of the western imagination was born around 69 BC.

Bribing Rome

Ptolemy continued to impose heavy taxation across Egypt in the attempt to offer bribes to Rome for protection of his crown, Rome did support Ptolemy and considered him as a friend, but when Rome invaded the Egyptian controlled island of Cyprus in 57 BC, Ptolemy failed to act and a rebellion broke out in Alexandria.

Ptolemy’s Flight from Egypt

With the rebellion occurring in Alexandria, Ptolemy was forced to flee to take refuge in Rome, he took his youngest daughter, Cleopatra VII with him, and left the elder Berenice in Alexandria with her mother Cleopatra V Tryphaena to exercise control over the country.

Berenice Rules Egypt

Berenice and her mother assumed control over the entire country, and became too powerful for Ptolemy, back in Rome he protested before the Senate that Tryphaena had became too influential and powerful, and once again he offered bribes to Rome for their support.

The Young Egyptian Queen Rules Alone

The co-rule between mother and daughter was not to last, Cleopatra V is believed to have died that very year in 57 BC, and the twenty-two year old Berenice IV ruled Egypt alone from the palace at Alexandria.

Berenice’s Character

The eldest Ptolemaic princess was said to have been rather self-indulgent, lavishing herself in jewels and exquisite clothes, and she was said to have been rather haughty and had a disregard of the lower social orders, especially peasants and slaves, she was said to have been rather lazy, but at the same time she was said to have been very loving of those dear to her.

Egyptian Queens Can Not Rule Alone

Berenice had to marry to secure her succession, or face deposition, but she blatantly refused only to be forced into a marriage with a Syrian prince named Seleucus, she then proceeded to have the man strangled and continued her sole rule over Egypt, but within time she was married to a priest named Archelaus, who had family connections to the Kings of Pontus in Asia Minor.

Ptolemy Gains Roman Support

Ptolemy managed to bribe the Roman tribune Aulus Gabinius to raise an army and support Ptolemy and Cleopatra’s cause, Gabinius accepted and it was not long before their armies besieged Alexandria and Ptolemy was able to conquer his capital city in 55 BC.

Father Executes Daughter

In the Egyptian tradition, the eldest princesses held elevated positions within the royal family, clearly this was not the case in the Egypt of the Ptolemies, Archelaus was killed in the battle against Ptolemy and Gabinius’ forces, and Berenice IV was beheaded at the hands of her father’s men, Ptolemy XII Auletes claimed his throne, and ruled together with his youngest daughter Cleopatra VII Philopator.