Cleopatra I of Egypt was the first of seven Egyptian queens named Cleopatra ranging from 193 until 30 BC, with the death of Antony’s wife, Cleopatra VII.
She was the first queen of Ptolemaic Egypt who did not belong to the Ptolemaic dynasty, Cleopatra was a Seleucid princess, and was probably born around 204 BC at Antioch in modern day Syria, her father, Antiochus III the Great was the Seleucid king, her mother was Laodice, daughter of King Mithridates II of Pontus, by Laodice, a member of the Seleucid Royal Family.
Cleopatra’s Father – Antiochus III the Great
Antiochus was of Greek descent, succeeding as king of the Seleucid Empire in 223 BC. He invaded Egypt during the Fourth Syrian War of 219, only to be defeated two years later by Ptolemy IV Philopator at Raphia in modern day Gaza. He then turned his attentions east, embarking on an expedition between 212 and 206, acquiring Armenia, Parthia, and even reaching India, before returning home via Arabia. He attacked Egypt once again during the Fifth Syrian War between 202 and 195, and invaded Greece, only to be defeated by Rome in 191, later campaigns proved unsuccessful and he was murdered in 187.
Her mother was Laodice III, daughter of King Mithridates II of Pontus, a territory on the southern coastline of the Black Sea, comprising of the northern regions of Asia Minor, in modern day Turkey, Laodice’s mother, was another Laodice, and sister to Seleucus II Callinicus, the father and predecessor of Antiochus. Laodice and Antiochus married at Antioch after his accession.
Cleopatra Becomes Queen of Egypt
Ptolemy IV died suddenly, and was succeeded by his infant son, Ptolemy V Epiphanes in 204. The Rosetta Stone commemorates his coming of age and coronation at Memphis in 197, he and Antiochus III decided to make peace, and Cleopatra was offered as a prospective bride for the teenage king, foreign marriages were not commonplace in Egypt, but the union was seen as a powerful alliance between the two eastern empires, Ptolemy who was aged around sixteen, and Cleopatra who was about eleven years old were married at Raphia in 193.
Following their marriage, Ptolemy and Cleopatra resided in the palace at Alexandria, where she became known as The Syrian, hence the epithet Syra which was later given to her, and she became Ptolemy’s vizier, later receiving all honorary titles bestowed upon her husband at his coronation by the priests at Memphis in 185, and became ruler with her husband.
Ptolemy V and Cleopatra I had three children, their first child was born around 186 and became the future king Ptolemy VI Philometor, and their second son became the future king, Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II ‘Physcon’, and they had one daughter, who became Queen Cleopatra II.
Regent of Egypt
Ptolemy V supported Rome against his father-in-law, Antiochus’s campaigns, and planned to wage war against the Seleucids but died in 180, leaving Cleopatra as Regent for their eldest son, Ptolemy VI, she ended war preparations against her brother, Seleucus IV Philopator, and exercised power alone in the name of her son, and she had her own coins minted and became known as Thea Epiphanes, meaning ‘God Made Manifest’. Cleopatra I of Egypt died in Spring 176 BC, aged around twenty-eight, and was succeeded by Ptolemy who was then aged about ten years old.