Juba II and Cleopatra Selene: Was it a Love Match?

The King and Queen of Mauretania enjoyed an apparently stable marriage of at least twenty years in duration. In a time when spouses were swapped like fruitcakes at family gatherings, this was somewhat of an anomaly and leads many to wonder whether or not theirs was a love story.

Birds of a Feather

The two certainly shared a pathos. She was the orphaned daughter of the ill-fated lovers, Cleopatra and Mark Antony. She was a princess of Egypt without a throne to inherit. He was a deposed princeling, the orphaned son of King Juba I of Numidia. As children, both Juba and Selene had been marched as chained prisoners in a Roman triumphal parade. Both had also been pardoned, fostered by Augustus, and reared to adulthood as nominal members of the imperial family.

There is some indication that the match was suggested by the emperor’s sister, Octavia, who seems to have spent much of her life arranging marriages and tending to the children of others. Having observed Juba and Selene in her household, did Octavia sense that the young couple had romantic feelings for one another?

It’s entirely possible that as a Ptolemy, Selene’s love of learning drew her to Juba, the scholarly Numidian. A bust that has been identified as Juba II shows him to have been a remarkably handsome young man, so Selene may have found him quite attractive. Moreover, Juba seems to have been capable in military situations. What better way to earn the respect of Antony’s daughter?

Juba was, in fact, a remarkable man in every respect. A prodigy and scholar, he was insatiably curious. He wrote at least fifty books and made important contributions to the scholarship of the ancient world. He also seems to have been an able politician–at least insofar as it fell to him to stay on the right side of Augustus. Like other client kings, Juba walked a tightrope between national independence and obedience to Rome, but he never fell from grace–at least not during Selene’s lifetime. (Perhaps we can credit some of his good political sense to her.)

In summary, Selene would’ve had every reason to love Juba and it’s equally possible that Juba’s heart went out to the young Egyptian princess who, like him, had lost everything. Her status and influence over his reign suggests his deep respect, perhaps even a subservience to her.

Indeed, there are many indications that the marriage between Juba and Selene was an amicable one. The two managed affairs in Mauretania as co-rulers. Selene had the power to mint her own coins and her influence is felt everywhere in the relics of their capital city. Juba seems to have wholeheartedly embraced the legacy of the Ptolemies on his wife’s behalf and in 20 BC they started to appear on coins together. Perhaps theirs was a love match.

On the other hand, marrying Selene off to the newly made king of far-away Mauretania was a political convenience for Augustus.

A Princess Bride

Both Mark Antony and Cleopatra always had their partisans–even after defeat. As their daughter, Selene would have made a tempting prize for any Roman who intended to challenge Augustus for power. What’s more, any Roman son born to her may have served as a rallying cry to Mark Antony’s legions and loyalists. (That Antony’s offspring remained a threat to Augustus can be demonstrated by the example of Iullus Antonius, whose status as a member of the imperial family did not protect him when he was accused of having taken the emperor’s daughter as a lover and was implicated in some manner of treason against Augustus.)

In short, Selene was a dangerous girl to have in Rome.

Moreover, as the daughter of Cleopatra, neither could she be easily married off to one of the client kings in the East. Selene was the last of the Ptolemies; her blood was the most royal blood left in the world. She maintained a persuasive dynastic claim to Egypt and its surrounds. A marriage to Selene might help cement an alliance with Rome–but Selene’s Ptolemaic legacy might also create ambitions in a king to turn against Rome and ally with Parthia instead. And if that weren’t bad enough, as her mother’s daughter, Selene’s presence in the East might well have ignited a rivalry with King Herod.

Thus, marrying Selene to Juba and sending them both to Mauretania was the wisest political course of action. Mauretania was closer to Spain than to Egypt–none of Cleopatra’s old allies would be near by to whisper mischief in the ear of her daughter. Moreover, Juba seems to have been completely trusted and completely beholden to Augustus. Perhaps it was thought that Juba could control Selene and prevent her from pursuing any ambitions she may have had to return to Egypt. Also, it may have crossed Augustus’ mind to ensure Juba’s loyalty by rewarding him with the most prestigious princess in the western world.

We must recall that in the world of imperial politics, love seldom played a role in marriage–and if it did, it often had disastrous results. Augustus built his career on the idea that unlike a besotted Mark Antony who allegedly betrayed his country for love, his first love was and always would be Rome. Augustus seems to have set out to prove it by rather ruthlessly meddling in the love lives of his family, arranging and re-arranging marriages to suit his political purposes with apparent disregard for the feelings of those involved. (Just one example is when he forced his step-son Tiberius to divorce the wife he adored and then, when he discovered that Tiberius had followed his former wife with tears in his eyes, he forbid the two from seeing each other ever again.)

Beyond the cold, hard political realities, there are other indications that all was not flowers and rainbows between Juba and Selene.

Won’t Someone Think of the Children?

Though Selene’s parents were two of the most famously fertile individuals in ancient history, it is only certain that Selene had one son–a son who was born to her late in life and may have hastened her death. The name she chose for him is both the single most telling detail about her life and the most mysterious. Breaking with ancient tradition, her son wasn’t named after Juba or his family. Instead, Selene’s son was named Ptolemy. The importance of this cannot be overstated. It indicates that even after having been married to Selene and ruling his own country for at least a decade, Juba’s lineage was still considered to be inferior to hers. Perhaps it indicates that she was the true ruler of Mauretania. It also may have led some to question whether or not he was even the father of the boy.

That only one known child would have come from such a long marriage puts the idea that it was a love match to the test. In a time when it would have been considered their duty to produce children, perhaps Juba and Selene did not fancy sharing one another’s bed. On the other hand, child mortality rates were extremely high in the ancient world. There may well have been other children that we just don’t know about.

An inscription from ancient Athens indicated that Juba had a son and a daughter, who is unnamed. However, this daughter need not have been the child of Cleopatra Selene. Historians have argued that as a Roman citizen, Juba was unlikely to have broken with Roman law and taken more than one wife at a time. It must be pointed out, however, that like Juba, King Herod was also a Roman citizen and had more wives than he could keep track of. Juba’s father had kept many wives and it’s entirely possible that the young king may have done the same to earn the respect of his Berber peoples. It strikes me that admirers of King Juba II who insist that he couldn’t have taken a second wife because he wouldn’t have taken a second wife may be projecting onto him some virtues of modern morality. After all, even the most Roman of the Romans–Julius Caesar–is rumored to have tried to pass a law that would allow him to take more than one wife. A more persuasive argument, to my mind, is that Archelaus the King of Cappadocia was unlikely to allow his daughter, Glaphyra, to play second-wife to Cleopatra’s daughter.

So, what of Juba’s daughter? We know that Juba was married a second time to Glaphyra of Cappadocia, and whether or not Selene was alive at the time, the daughter may have been hers. Professor Duane Roller has suggested that Juba may have reinstated the tradition of a harem, in which case this unnamed daughter may have belonged to a concubine. (If so, it seems less likely that she would be mentioned in an inscription.) But the most probable explanation is that the girl mentioned in the inscription is Selene’s daughter. If so, the girl was likely named in the tradition of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Another Cleopatra Something or Berenice or Arsinoe. (In my own forthcoming novel, Song of the Nile, she will be named Cleopatra Isidora.)

A third child is also hinted at. Some scholars have suggested that Selene may have had two sons, both named Ptolemy, one of whom died young. This would reconcile some confusion in the historical record about Ptolemy’s age, and might also explain why Selene would have tried for another child so late in life when it was so dangerous for her to do so. If true, it would mean that Ptolemy wasn’t the only son born to Juba and Selene, but the only surviving son.

If, however, Ptolemy’s was the only child ever born to Selene and Juba, this isn’t the only hint at marital discord between the two monarchs.

Opposites Attract?

The two main centers of Mauretania were Iol-Caesaria, the relics of which reveal Selene’s overwhelming influence, and Volubilis, the relics of which do not. Is it possible the two monarchs kept separate homes in separate cities? Certainly, Juba’s geographical work suggests a great deal of travel on his part–a pattern confirmed by his later activities accompanying Gaius Caesar in the East. While Juba chronicled the flora and fauna of his kingdom, Selene was apparently busy at work, building up Iol-Caesaria’s architecture, reproducing Alexandria in miniature. It may have been a case of complementary strengths creating a strong union–or it may have been a case of a married couple pursuing their own interests, the other be damned.

Though Selene and Juba are thought to have been married in 25 BC she would not appear on the coinage of the realm as a co-ruler until 20 BC. Moreover, the way each would present themselves on coins is extremely telling. Juba’s coins are in Latin, with only one known exception. His coins are deferential to Rome, in perfect order. Selene’s coins are always in Greek, often flouting the emperor’s official narrative by celebrating her dead mother–an enemy of Rome, elevating the goddess Isis–who was deeply out of favor with Augustus, and hinting that either Egypt would soon break free of its bonds or that she represented the throne of Egypt in exile. The coins are the most enduring record of Selene’s reign as queen and they are so provocative that it leads one to wonder what proclamations or official documents must have been flying back and forth across the Mediterranean.

Perhaps this was a calculated strategy between Juba and Selene to present different faces to different powerful factions, thereby maintaining a balance of peace in Mauretania. Juba was the obvious choice to appease the concerns of Roman settlers; he wasn’t just a king; he’d also been granted magisterial powers elsewhere in the empire as an agent of Augustus. Meanwhile, Cleopatra Selene could give the native Berbers and imported Alexandrians of her kingdom the appearance of token resistance to Roman hegemony. After her mother, she was the best hope for Isis worshippers, the best representative of Hellenism, and the last vestige of the Ptolemaic dynasty. It may have been a shrewd thing for Juba and Selene to pretend that they had different visions for their kingdom.

On the other hand, the stark contrast between the way Selene and Juba presented themselves may reflect a genuine schism. Selene seems never to have suffered the slightest censure for her hubris, and one can only surmise that this is because she enjoyed an extraordinary relationship with Augustus. Either that, or Augustus decided to leave it to Juba to discipline his wayward wife. What awkward family dinners may have been the result?

Unfortunately, the mystery surrounding Selene’s death makes it even more difficult to determine what kind of emotional relationship the two shared. If the poem written by Crinagoras of Mytilene that describes Selene as having died during a lunar eclipse is taken literally, astronomers can narrow down the possibility to a few dates. The current theory is that Selene died in 5 BC while her son was still very young, and that the best evidence of her death is that Juba married Glaphyra some time between 1 AD-6 AD. As a Romanized prince, the argument goes, Juba simply would not have married Glaphyra if Selene was still alive.

However, the strange circumstances surrounding Juba’s marriage to Glaphyra raise all manner of questions. For one, Juba appears to have met Glaphyra while on expedition. If Selene was deceased, it would mean that our grieving widower would have left behind–for a number of years–at least one young child and a kingdom in flux without a ruler. This may be why it has more traditionally been supposed that Selene was in control of Mauretania while Juba was away. Her regency would also explain the cache of coins that has been discovered, indicating Selene minting her own currency as late as 17 AD–a currency that featured her and her alone. More interesting is the nearly concurrent uprising of the Berber tribes in Juba’s lands with his hasty divorce from Glaphyra, upon which he hot-footed it back to Mauretania.

Did a resentful Selene allow the political situation to get out of hand so that Juba would be forced to return home? Was he compelled to divorce Glaphyra to keep his throne? If so, was it because Augustus worried about an alliance between Juba and the Judean dynasty, or because Selene would not tolerate a rival?

It has been suggested that the puzzling cache of coins depicting Selene alone was minted by Juba as a commemorative of his late wife–perhaps to smooth over tempers, to remind his people who the mother of his son had been, perhaps as an apology for marrying Glaphyra, who seems never to have set foot in Mauretania. If so, this would indicate some measure of deep and abiding affection for Selene–if not on Juba’s part, then at least on behalf of the Mauretanian people over which she ruled for so many years.

So, was it a love match? You tell me!

Comments (49)

  • Hmm…it’s so hard to say. You’ve provided such strong evidence for both sides. I think it’s clear that if they did not love each other, they at least respected each other deeply–in the ancient world, I doubt that Selene would have become so powerful without her husband’s explicit or implicit approval!

    I don’t think that a lack of children until later in life is necessarily an indication of marital discord. Either Selene or Juba (or perhaps both) may have been of low fertility. Although the ancients were very skilled in medicine, they just didn’t have access to the fertility treatments we have today. Like you say, child mortality was very common in the ancient world. Perhaps they had several children who died, or perhaps, like poor Katherine of Aragon, Selene had difficulty carrying to term.

    I don’t know enough about the time period to say much further, but I think that if they didn’t love each other, they at least respected each other and recognized their mutual importance. Maybe we should look to Selene’s mother’s relationships for a clue. Cleopatra seems to have genuinely cared for both Caesar and Antony, and they for her. But at the same time, they recognized how they could benefit each other, and had no problem forging political as well as romantic relationships.

    • The lack of children isn’t necessarily an indication of marital discord, you’re right. Especially if taken in isolation. It’s really only as part of a larger pattern that it has any relevance, I think. And you make a great point regarding Cleopatra VII. If Juba were convenient to her purposes, Selene may have endeavored to love him.

  • Alana Hernandez(13 years old)

    i think they were in love just the way it was explained right there in the paragraphs made it seem a little harsh,though i specificaly belived that jubaII was fighting for kleopatra seleneII and Alexander Helios\’s freedom all that time because juba was also said to be Octavians spi which everything which juba heard out of line was reported to octavian himself. Then there was talk of someone named the red eagle which no one knew who it actually was and no one suggested octavians body gaurd or would suggest it so it gave him an advantage over all. in another hand i belive it was a true love story indeed but nothing is more of a love story than Queen Kleopatra and MarAnthony who both at the end comited suicide one of them for love and another not to be humiliated and to keep her dignity as the queen of eygpt though i am looking foward to reading your book \”Song of the nile\”

    • Thanks for your comments, Alana! The Red Eagle is a figure that Michelle Moran invented for her novel about Cleopatra’s daughter, but he’s an archetype of other figures that existed in Roman history. ;)

  • Allison, a retired librarian

    Thank you for all your detailed background! I’m usually a fan of historical fiction set in medieval or Renaissance Europe, but I just finished reading Michelle Moran’s Cleopatra’s Daughter and haven’t been so fascinated by ancient Roman/Egyptian history since seeing the Masterpiece Theatre production of I, Claudius years and years ago. Your site has certainly whet my appetite to read your own version of Selene’s story.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. The Julio-Claudians are fascinating aren’t they? Michelle Moran’s book was wonderful. I walk in the shadow of big shoes with my own series. I hope you’ll stop by again and let me know what you think of it.

  • Shannon

    I read Michelle Moran’s book and thought it was wonderful. Have begun researching Selene because of that. Looking forward to reading your book and seeing a different angle.

  • Bonnie Mitchell

    I also read Michelle Moran’s book about Cleoptra Selene, I am reading Beatrice Chanler’s (copyright 1934) right now and almost finished. I plan on reading yours next. I love Egypt around Cleopatra’s (and her mothers) time, so I am happy to find more to read. I know Chanler’s is more historical, but I enjoy learning and imagining about that time period. I want to hope that those two young people loved each other in some way. They seemed not to have a choice but to be married as did any of the other young people at that time connected to Octavian. He did all the choosing for them whether they wanted it or not. I read the excerpt from your book and can’t wait to start it, I hated when it ended. If I read correctly, yours is the beginning of a series, how wonderful.

  • Boonie Mitchell

    Shannon, the Beatrice Chanler book is called Cleopatra Selene The Queen of Mauretania. I found it on Borders Marketplace website. It was published in 1934. It has alot of citations for proof (or cause for arguement or wandering of the imagination)which I really liked. Hope you enjoy it. Stephanie I love the fact that a book I also enjoyed was the main inspiration of a new series of books I am coming to love.

  • Bella

    http://www.gottnotes.com/ArticlesSearchforJesus.html I think this website gives an interesting twist to the story of Cleopatra Selene’s daughter perhaps she was Mary Magda-lene was the daughter of Juba II, a black-skinned King, and Cleopatra Selene, Queen of
    Mauretania/Libya; she was the grand daughter of Marc Antony and Cleopatra, the last Queen of Egypt.

  • Emma(13 years old)

    I am a non-stop reader. Which ome people think is very odd, but i adore history and ancient egyptian books. I loved Cleopatra’s Moon, and cannot wait to read this book, but I find it intresting that no one really mentions Selelnes slight relationship with Marcellus while she is held captive in Rome. That she is juggling her decision between Juba and Marcellus. That and the fact of her mother did do the same thing, and Selene mentions she didnt want to be like her mother. I love the Ptolomies reign full of of love and mystery, most of all the dominent power between empires, I must go book shopping!!!!!

    • Hi Emma! I’m so glad that you read and enjoyed Vicky Schecter’s Cleopatra’s Moon. As far as I’m aware, the relationship with Marcellus is something invented by the author of that book. There’s certainly nothing in the historical record to contradict it, and it seems entirely plausible to me. I’m just not aware of anything in the historical record to support it. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened, though :P

    • Thanks for writing, Emma! I don’t know that we have any historical evidence for a relationship between Cleopatra Selene and Marcellus. It’s certainly a viable relationship and interesting to think about, but it didn’t fit my series.

  • Emilia Barnecut (12 years old)

    I have deeply reaserched Cleopatra and her daughter and I have found that she had at least two, mabye three children, one boy and a girl. The boys name was Ptolemy and one girl’s name was Cleopatra Slene II and her other daughter’s name was Livia Drusilla who was named after Octavian’s wife Livia. Livia was also married to Marcus Antonius Felix making me belive that she existed, while there is no concrete evidence that Cleopatra Slene II existed besides the fact that Cleopatra Slene would probaly name one of her daughter’s after herself. One common theory is that since girls weren’t the very important that historians and scribes mostly only wrote about boys, hence Cleopatra Selene’s son’s fame and not her daughter’s. I have yet to read your books but I look forward to my next trip to the bookstore so I can read them and lend them to my many Cleopatra-Loving friends.

    Thanks for the intruging article,
    Emilia Barnecut

    • Thanks for stopping by, Emilia! I hope you will enjoy my take. The series will cover Selene’s daughter and the grandchildren of Cleopatra as well. I hope you come back and tell me what you think of my books!

    • Thanks for writing, Emilia, and for having such an interest in the ancient world. Cleopatra Selene II is actually the heroine of my story. We are fairly certain that she had a daughter, but her name was not preserved for history. She would probably have had a dynastic name, which is why I chose Cleopatra Isidora.

      She has often been confused with Drusilla, who is almost assuredly Selene’s granddaughter, and not daughter.

  • Emilia Barnecut (12 years old)

    I have a quick question: Why, in some article’s and books, do people spell Cleopatra’s name like this: Kleopatra and vise-virsa?

    • Hi Emilia! Here’s the answer to your question. The Greeks spelled it with a K–Kleopatra. The anglicized version is with a C. Because my readers are mostly English speakers, I made a conscious decision to adopt the most familiar spelling: CLEOPATRA.

    • The Greeks would have used a K but because we have translated the name into English, it’s typically written with a C.

  • niriksha

    I read Michelle Moran’s Cleopatra’s daughter and was very fascinated. I dont think Selena had any kind of relationship with Marcellus as he was being loyal to Julia. And is it true that Alexander Helios was gay and had a relationship with Lucius?

    • Hi Niriksha! Thanks so much for writing.

      We don’t have any actual evidence of any relationships Selene had other than her marriage to Juba–but as historical writers, both Michelle Moran and I were free to take a little artistic license. As for Alexander Helios, we know nothing of his personal life. Michelle Moran’s take on him might be an educational look at gay life in the ancient world, but is made up. My take on Helios is very different in my books, but who knows which one of us is right?

  • Tutt

    Could it be Selene named her son or both sons Ptolemy to commemorate her youngest brother who died at the age of seven during the voyage to Rome when Selene, Alexander and Ptolemy were taken by Augustus for his Triumph?

  • Michelle

    That mauretania became the richest client kingdom shows Juba at least had a healthy respect for his wifes financial capabilties. I am amazed that Augustus didn’t divorce Juba and Selene when she proclaimed her loyalties it appears he was fully capable of doing so.

  • Michele

    I’m sure that even though they probably weren’t in love, at least they respected each other a lot. I like to think they were in love, because they had a myriad of things in common, and I’m just a hopeless romantic and love a good romance! I’m thinking about writing a novel about Juba and Selene’s relationship, but it won’t be like Cimderella because every marriage has difficulties, right? This blog has helped me stabilize my plot a little more, and I’m a young author, and like I said, a hopeless romantic. So I like to think theirs was a love story.

  • ismael

    Hello, King Juba 2 is my ancestor, I am a Berber from Algeria.

    thank you for your interest of King Juba 2. Unfortunately he is a forgotten king, although he was so respected and recognized by the Hellenistic world for his achievements. I hope your book will be a best seller.

    I think it was a real love story. Otherwise he would not have been so prolific.

    • Ismael, you’re a descendant of King Juba II? If so, this is just about the most exciting thing ever to happen to me! How do you trace your lineage? I’d love to talk to you about Algeria, too.

      I admit, I’m very hard on Juba in the first two books of the series, but he will be the clear hero of the third!

      • ismael

        I will not say I descended directly from him, we are just from the same region. The remains of his city in Tipaza are still there.

        his Mausoleum too http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Mausoleum_of_Mauretania

        you know he was more than a King. He wrote treatises on painting, theater, history, geography and medicine.
        He built many public buildings, places or forums, theaters, baths, temples, public parks.

        Unfortunately history forgot him.

  • Maddy

    I read for you first book and I enjoyed it, but I thought that you were harsh on Juba. I think that the number of children to not mean how much a couple cares for each other. Many couples care deeply for eachother and still cannot have many children even with today’s medicene. After I read your book I looked up Selene. I found this and thought you might like to see it. “A daughter of Cleopatra and Juba, whose name has not been recorded, is mentioned in an inscription. It has been suggested that Drusilla of Mauretania was a daughter, but she may have been a granddaughter instead. Drusilla is described as a granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra.” I think it was a love story.
    Also, I thought the choice of having both of Selene’s brothers live long lives seemed odd. From what information I found, all of the male heirs of Cleoparta seemed to not survive. Added to the fact that a grown son would have been a major threat to Rome.
    I look forward to your next book.

    • Thanks for reaching out, Maddy! I love hearing what people think of my books. As for Juba, I was definitely hard on him in the first book and second books of the series, but stay tuned. I think readers will be happy with how things turn out in the last book. As for Drusilla, she was almost certainly Selene’s granddaughter, but I believe the inscription about Juba’s daughter refers to Selene’s daughter and she shows up in Song of the Nile and in the last book as well.

      Please see my author’s notes regarding Selene’s brothers, no worries!

  • lily

    Hey Stephanie I read both books and I had some questions 1. Your books great and I hope you write more:). 2. Did emperor have a relshinship with selene ?

    Thankyou oh yeah and sorry about.any spelling mistakes

    • Thanks for contacting me, Lily. I’m currently working on the third book in the trilogy about Selene’s life. It will be out next year. If you’d like to be alerted when it’s published, please join my newsletter.

      As for your second question, I don’t have an easy answer. The historical record points to the fact that she had an extraordinary relationship with Augustus–he quite plainly indulged her–but whether or not that relationship was amorous or not, we don’t know. I imagined a very complicated relationship for them in my books, but my authors notes make clear where I’ve taken liberties.

  • lily

    Thankyou and I cant wait for the thrid book :)

  • michelle

    Lack of children doesn’t mean lack of affection look at Augustus and Livia forty years married with no children and he never divorced her, or the reletionship could have been like Trajan and Plotina, great affection but that Juba and Augustus could have simply taken their desires elsewhere. Sounds awful to us now but their were diffirent exepectations in marriage in the Ancient world.

    Which is why i long to write a story about Antonia the younger she has been eclipsed by her strong willed mother in law Livia and her strong willed daugter in law Agrippina, but her husband Drusus was renowned for his faithfulness to her and when he died she refused to remarry despite being a young woman and pressure from her uncle Augustus. she lived well into old age and after the death of Livia became the most powerful woman in the empire. A fascinating woman and a love story indeed!

  • Daniela

    Hi Stephanie!
    I was quite thrilled when I read this article that I could not help myself from joining the conversation (even though is almost 2 years after).

    On whether Juba II & Selene’s marriage being a love match or not, based on the archaeological record, one can see that there was defenitely some degree of affection and consideration between the two of them (at least from Juba II side). I mean, he practically allowed Selene to rebuild Alexandria at Iol/Caesaria, placed her face on coins allong with his, and naming their heir Ptolomy may imply a loving/trusting relationship between the two of them. Then again, all of these could have been based solelly for political purposes; what better way to keep Selene from revolting, or jeopardizing their alliance to Augustus, by keeping her content and occupied with the architectural program. Also, it would be really interesting to compare how the concept and practice of marriage changed from the ancient Egyptian practice from the Roman and Berber practices. From what I know, only the royal family (mainly the Pharaoh) were allowed to have multiple wives; however, this was mainly prior the Hellenistic period in Egypt, and probably would have changed or incorporated graeco-roman influence into the practice of marriage by then (meaning, only having one wife, which could have been what Selene and Juba would have been familiarized with).

    Also, it is also really difficult to determine their relationship based on the number of children they had. Even though high mortality rates among children was common during ancient times, Selene could have also experienced a couple of miscarriages. It would be interesting if Selene would have suffered from low fertility due to the incestual unions from earlier members of the Ptolomaic Dynasty; nonetheless, since none of Cleopatra VII’s children were product of incest, this might not have been the case for Selene. Also, how many generations would have had been born out of incest to this be even considered as a genetic defect (which could be reflected in low fertility)? I can also agree with the idea that they just did not like each other, and that they could have only shared an encounter for the solely purpose of conceiving a possible heir to Juba II’s throne.

    I love when you suggest the idea of a resentful Selene (now that would have been an ackward family dinner once Juba II returned to Mauretania). Imagine if Selene would have inhertited her mother’s strong personality?! I would definitely would not like to anger her. It was also really interesting the idea of Selene being a threat to Augustus if she was to remain in Rome. Being the last of the Ptolomies, Augustus could have easily get rid of her without causing an uproar (such as allowing her to commit suicide or dying from a “disease”); yet not only did he kept her alive, he made her a queen as well.

    I think that more archaeological evidence needs to be found in order to fully support if their union was in fact a love match or not. Probably we won\’t be able to find traces of a loving relationship like in the case of Ramses II and Nefertari (her tomb and the temple at Abu Simbel). Evidence for Juba’s and Selene’s relationship reminds me to that of Akhenaten and Nefertiti in the sense of Nefertiti being a co-ruler along with her husband, and her appearing in various works of art and in architecture as well (all of them implying a loving relationship between the Amarna rulers). Nonetheless, if by allowing Selene’s face to be put on coins and allowing her to display her Egyptian heritage through architecture and in name (naming their son Ptolomy) was the way Juba II decided to display his love to Selene, then that is more than enough evidence to convince me that there was love between them.

    • Oh, Daniela, I’m delighted that you chimed in.

      Multiple wives is also a Berber King tradition, so Juba would have had that to turn to. The traditional argument is that he was so Romanized that he only had one. Everyone can read into that situation what they please, I think.

      I like to think it was love between them, but I realize, too, that in the norms of the time during which they lived, love might have been as irrelevant to them as it would have been to their subjects.

  • little c

    Thank you sooo much for writing this book! you have inspired me so much and I know that I will never be able to get over my obsession with juba ii and kleopatra selene viii. I do have a question though. I’ve heard, well researched about kleopatra selene and juba and i am curious whether it is true or not that their marriage was arranged. Like, did selene marry juba out of love, or because she couldn’t have Marcellus in ‘Cleopatra’s Daughter’?I wasn’t too sure, and I don’t want to assume anything. And is it true that you third book of the NILE series is coming out in December?
    Thank You SOOOO Much,
    -Little C

    • Thank you for your kind words. I’ve written all we know in the article above about Juba II and Kleopatra Selene in terms of their potential love affair, but I have my own theories and I explored them in DAUGHTERS OF THE NILE which is now available for pre-order and will release December 3rd. In it, I think you’ll find a very satisfying love story ;)

  • michelle

    Juba was also a traveller, could it not have been he left Selene in charge while he did his own thing the lack of children may suggest he just wasn’t around much? The only other woman in his life was Glaphyra but my own personal view on the marriage was more of safety from Herod given what had happened in her first marriage? Daughter’s of the Nile is on the Christmas list!

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