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Cleopatra III – 142-101 BC

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Monetary History of Egypt
Ptolemaic Dynasty

Cleopatra III

Died 101 BC

Wife and Niece of Ptolemy VIII
Mother of Ptolemy IX and Ptolemy X

Cleopatra III was one of the most ambitious women of the Ptolemaic Dynasty next toCleopatra VII. She was the niece of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II and was actually married to him while her mother was still his official wife. Cleopatra III bore two sons during her marriage – Ptolemy IX Philometor Soter II (Lathyros) and Ptolemy X Alexander I along with three daughters, Cleopatra IV, Cleopatra Tryphaena, and Cleopatra Selene.

When Ptolemy VIII died in 116 BC, Cleopatra III was left to decide the succession to the Egyptian throne between her two sons. Cleopatra III certainly favored her youngest son, Ptolemy X Alexander but the people favored his eldest brother Ptolemy IX (Lathyros). Despite her desires to have Alexander share the throne with herself, Cleopatra III was forced to conceed and Ptolemy IX, who had been governor of Cyprus, was recalled to Alexandria where he became co-ruler with his mother. Ptolemy X Alexander was then sent to Cyprus where he assumed the governorship in 113 BC.

Cleopatra III then declared the marriage of Ptolemy IX to his sister Cleopatra IV to be void. She then arranged his marriage to his younger sister Cleopatra Selene. Cleopatra IV fled Alexandria and went to Cyprus where she attempted to marray her other brother Ptolemy X Alexander. When this effort failed, she raised her own army and to headed to Syria where she used her army as a dowry and married king Antiochus IX Cyzicenus (son of Antiochus Sidetes and Cleopatra Thea).

Cleopatra III never gave up her wish for Ptolemy X Alexander to succeed to the trone of Egypt. Finally, after a joint rule of 10 years, Cleopatra III succeeded in discrediting Ptolemy IX in 107 BC by accusing him of attempting to murder her. Ptolemy IX was forced to flee Alexandria leaving behind his wife and his two sons. His brother, Ptolemy X Alexander, was now recalled from Cyprus and succeeded to the throne of Egypt while Ptolemy IX now assumed the governorship of Cyprus.

While Cleopatra III succeeded in brining the throne of Egypt into the hands of her personal favorite son, the stability of the Empire was severely shaken. Cleopatra III ruled with her son Ptolemy X Alexander for only 5 years jointly before she finally died in 101 BC. While Ptolemy X managed to hold the throne of Egypt until 88 BC, he was no doubt one of the most unpopular kings to rule during the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Eventually, Ptolemy X was driven out of Egypt by his own subjects and either died in a naval battle in 88 BC or was murdered. Thus the throne of Egypt finally passed to Ptolemy IX who returned from Cyprus to rule his Kingdom until his death in 80 BC at the age of 62. Ptolemy IX did not leave a legitimate heir himself thus passing the throne to his daughter Cleopatra Berenike who was forced to marry the son of her father’s rival Ptolemy XI Alexander. In the end, just 19 days after this marriage, Ptolemy XI murdered Berenike causing a popular uprising as the people stormed the palace and killed the newly crowned king.

Monetary System

Note: No coinage was struck with the portrait of Cleopatra III during her reign with Ptolemy IX or Ptolemy X.


Struck under Ptolemy IX (116-106 BC)

AR Tetradrachm (14.2 grams)
AR Didrachm (7 grams)
AR Drachm (3.5 grams)
AR Hemidrachm (1.85 grams)
AE 34mm
AE 27-25mm
AE 20-18mm
AE 15-14mm

Struck under Ptolemy X 106-101 BC

AR Tetradrachm (14.2 grams)

Monetary History of the World
© Martin A. Armstrong