“QUEEN OF KINGS”:
CLEOPATRA THEA NEOTERA
The Ptolemies showcased their elite women in their art. Ptolemaic queens were regularly represented on the official coinage and in portraiture, usually paired with their husbands. R. R. R. Smith speculates that their prominence made them likely models for Hellenistic portraiture of women in the East, both royal and non-royal women alike. The Ptolemaic queens were portrayed in a highly idealized style with broad cranium and narrow delicate chins, unlined faces, rounded lips, and almond-shaped eyes. Their hair was waved or more often arranged in a series of overlapping sections that resemble the outside of a melon; this was designated the “melon hairstyle” (melonenfrisur) by German scholars.
It was thus very much in the natural course of things that numismatic and statuary portraits of Cleopatra were commissioned. The commencement of Cleopatra's co-regency with Ptolemy XIII, when she was around 20, marked the official debut of her public imagery. Just as the portraiture of Auletes and the other Ptolemies was based on that of the dynasty's founder, Ptolemy I Soter, so too was that of Ptolemy XIII. Cleopatra's portraits were similarly rooted in prototypical images of Egypt's earlier Ptolemaic queens and princesses—the many Arsinoes, Berenices, and Cleopatras.
The accident of Cleopatra's birth had placed her at the center of power and was something to be relished and capitalized upon. There is every indication that she maximized her opportunities and did so with grandeur