Was Cleopatra Black?


The practice of teaching Afrocentrism as ‘history’ may be more widespread than the SD Staff realizes. We are getting far more liberal arts grads these days who “know” that Cleopatra was black than who have ever heard of Dante or Immanuel Kant.


Without evidence to back it I find that most unlikely. The vast majority of universities and professors in the US still teach real history not history tampered with to make people feel better about themselves.

As a very-semi-pro historian with a strong amateur interest in Egyptology, I have lost count of the people whose second or third comment is “Cleo was black, you know.”

It’s become a very widespread meme/trope/legend.

(I just reply, “I didn’t know there were any black Greeks!”)

Was she black, like Congolese … I don’t think so … where are we drawing the line … there’s white and there’s not-quite-as-white-as-some-other-white-people-are … can we put the Greeks in the second category of white folk …

DNA evidence puts us all in Africa 50,000 years ago … written history only starts around 6,000 years ago … that’s a long time to differentiate skin color before anyone thought to it write down …

Pretty sure she was Greek, so maybe a bit darker than the average European, but not “black” by any stretch of the imagination.

Neither were the Pharoahs, Jesus or anyone else that the afrocentrists try and claim.

Maybe they were thinking of Foxxy Cleopatra.

The ancient Egyptians in Larry Gonick’s “Cartoon History of the Universe” were black (and jive talking too, natch). Dont remember what source, if anything, he cites in the expansive bibliography, though.

I own his books, BTW Gonick does explain why while most of the empire was with brown or dark skin they were divided when the Hyksos invaded from the Caucasus, around 1780 BC.

“White people ruling black people? It’s unheard of!” Said a dark Egyptian and another replied: “it can’t last!” Well, it lasted 200 years, but the Egyptians managed later to regain control. (Cartoon History of the Universe book 1, pg 133)

But that was not the only time when people of the north ruled Egypt, by the time Julius Cesar came to Egypt around 48 BC “Eight generations of Macedonian inbreeding” had produced a white Cleopatra, as Gomick made Cesar comment before banging Cleo. (implied, not graphically) (Book 2 pg 197)

She was Macedonian from the Ptolmaic Dynasty.

I mean, we still think Cleopatra was beautiful, when we know she didn’t fit any ideals of beauty now or at the time.

And I will point out that “black” has been used for just slightly darker skin. Think Black Irish.

Maybe. But probably not.

For those who don’t click, the site says that nobody knows the origin of the term. It may refer to slightly darker skin or black hair or several other things.

Which Cleopatra?

Cleopatra VII Philopator, duh.

The problem with people claiming that so many historical figures are black without any evidence at all is the “Boy who cried wolf effect.”

If someone told me that Alexandre Dumas was half-African, I’d immediately think “Oh boy, another one of those nut jobs.” if I didn’t know better.

Some people think they’re helping but in fact are hurting.

Nitpick: Quarter African (his father was the son of a French nobleman and a slave in Haiti). However, I take your point.

from the Wiki page: