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Meaning of Cleopatra's name
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 3:37 pm 
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I'm wondering, do any of you know what the name "Cleopatra" means?


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 5:14 pm 
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From what I have read it's an old Macedonian Greek name?
Alexander the Great had a step-mother and step-sister named Cleopatra (no relation to the 7 or so queens of egypt of the same name :D )


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2005 2:03 am 
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Merytre-Hatshepsut is right; the dinasty of Cleopatra began with Alexander the Great... or, more precisely, he was an ancestor of Cleopatra. She doesn't have anything to do with the old Pharaonic Dinasties...


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2005 12:00 pm 
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Alexander was not an ancestor of Cleopatra. The Ptolemiac Dynasty was founded by Ptolomey, one of Alexander's generals who was given control of part of Alexander's empire, and it included Egypt. He, along with others of Alexander's friends, inheirited on Alexander's death.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2005 12:44 pm 
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Cleopatra's name is a transcription of a Macedonian Greek name. I have the advantage of studying both Greek and Egyptian, and can guess instantly what the first part of her name means. It is from the Greek word 'kleos,' meaning 'fame.'

To the Ancient Greeks 'kleos' was the ultimate goal of the true hero; they sought to be known by all for having defeated invincible warriors, slept with Gods and in general for being the greatest man/woman ever to have lived. 'Kleos' is fame, honour and glory. It was not always obtained in using just means however, there was usually an element of killing and adultery involved! Odysseus is of particular not here because he didn't seek 'kleos' through the above methods, but rather through his 'many wiles.' But that's another story.

Anyway. That gives us the first part of KLEO-patra's name. The second part is from the epithet 'patroklos,' meaning 'the one who has attained the fame of their predecessors', literally, their 'father-fame.' So Cleopatra is a hybrid of two phrases meaning 'fame/honour/glory' and 'the one having the fame/honour/glory of their predecessors.' That completes her Greek name. I'd be happy to deal with her Egyptian epithets later, if you so wish. 'Cleopatra' was only a short segment of her grand titulary of royal names, the rest of which are in the old royal language of Egyptian.

It doesn't really have as sensical a meaning as some of the Egyptian names do, but I hope my explanation answers your question.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2005 4:00 pm 
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I don't know anything about Greek, Psusennes I. A couple friends of mine (husband and wife) are from Greece, and the language interests me--I enjoy hearing them speak it. I don't have time to try to study it, though.

Anyway, how do you suppose Cleopatra's name may have sounded in her time? It can't be as simple as just putting together "kleo" and "patroklos," right?

Similarly, "Ptolemy" is a more modern rendering, too, isn't it? Wasn't it pronounced more like "Ptolemaios" in the time of the Ptolemies?

I've read how the Greeks could not pronounce Egyptian and the Egyptians could not pronounce Greek. Consequently, as Ptolemaios Soter was in his procession going down the streets and the Egyptians were calling out his name, what came out was something more like "Ptloomees!" :lol:


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2005 4:12 pm 
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Psusenne I- Thanks!


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2005 3:05 am 
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'.....what came out was something more like "Ptloomees!"

Hah! :D

The Greek and Egyptian languages are clearly very different. The most obvious, and probably most confusing difference is that one is based on vowel sounds (in Greek vowels and their pronunciation can often change a word's tense, mood and meaning entirely), and the other is based on consonants and their augmentation by other sharp sounds (as far as we can tell). The difference is their sound is something comparable to the difference between Italian and Hebrew; So you can imagine that both cultures would have had lots of trouble with their pronunciation!

Cleopatra ("Fame of her fathers" or something like that) would have had her name pronounced as 'Clay-oh-padr-a/other noun ending'. Ptolemy was always a difficult one for the Egyptians. They even misspell his name on the Rosetta stone. You are correct to quote 'Ptolemaios' as the English transcription of his Greek name, the '-os' ending is used for masculine nominative.

I study it at school, and started it around the same time I took up Egyptian. :)


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2005 3:56 pm 
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Thanks, Psusennes I. That was helpful. :wink:


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2005 4:09 am 
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Thanks a lot! I made a mistake saying of Alexander... I wanted to say Ptolemy...


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 2005 11:55 pm 
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also it wasn't until the greeks came that the egyptian hieroglyphs were given vowels.

hence, kmt rather than kemet.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2005 12:18 pm 
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Errrm. . . . I think you might be getting confused.

The Egyptian hieroglyphic language has never had 'true' vowels, and even in Coptic they are very sparse. By the time the Greeks came along hieroglyphic was on its death bed, and since our knowlegde of its original pronunciation has pretty much died. Modern Egyptologists have managed to reconstruct an approximation of the language by adding vowels to Egyptian in much the same way that they are added to Hebrew, another semi-voweled language.

The Greeks themselves did very little to alter hieroglyphs - the language of the court became Greek when Alexander arrived in the November of 332BC.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2005 3:55 pm 
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Psusennes I is correct. The Greek alphabet was adapted from the Phoenician, I believe, and the Phoenicians had the first true alphabet as we would think of it. But no written language of the ancient Near East and Mediterannean had a true system of written vowels till the Greeks.

That being said, like the other Semitic languages, and as Psusennes I said, ancient Egyptian in written form did not contain vowels. The closest we come are such sound values as the "w," and those aren't true vowels but what linguists classify as weak consonants. Some of these sounds do not exist in most Western languages (like the glottable stop or the Semitic ayin), so the convention has been in the West to pronounce them as an "a" sound, but that doesn't really make them vowels.

The Greeks had plenty of other influences on ancient Egypt, but the ancient written language of hieroglyphs was only peripherally affected.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2005 7:04 am 
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Studying latin, I read on my book that the name of this wonderful queen is pronounced as "Cleòpatra" and not "Cleopàtra"... :D
See you

Chiara :shock:


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2005 9:33 am 
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Yeah - the Greek method of scansion (such as Homer's epic dactylic hexameters) have given modern liguists a lot to work with reconstructing Greek pronumciation. Cleopatra would probably have sounded something like 'Clay-o-padra." If I could find a copy of it written in proper Greek, with all the pitch accents, breathings and circumflexes then I'd have a better idea though.

See you soon to. Well. 'Read' you soon.


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