Berenice IV of Egypt

Berenice IV of Egypt

Berenice IV (Greek: Βερενίκη), born in Alexandria, Egypt in 77 BC, died in Alexandria 55 BC, was the daughter of Ptolemy XII of Egypt and probably Cleopatra V of Egypt Tryphaena, sister of Cleopatra VI Tryphaena of Egypt, and the famous Cleopatra VII (lover of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony). Berenice loved fashion, parties, and jewels. She was quite lazy and fearful, especially of the peasants, slaves and any form of lower social class. She spoke only her native tongue, was poorly educated due to her lack of work ethic, and ignored the peasants, making her a poor leader. Despite her flaws, she was a kind and loving person towards her friends and family, and was also very beautiful.

In 58 BC, Ptolemy XII and Cleopatra VII fled to Rome in search of political and military aid against Berenice's elder sister Tryphaena, who had become far too powerful. After Tryphaena's death in 57 BC, possibly poisoned on behalf of Berenice, she at age 20 became the sole ruler of Egypt due to her father's absence, and with him and Cleopatra absent she had no worry about being overthrown or overpowered and executed.

As a lone woman ruling Egypt, she was expected to marry and have a man as a co-regent. When she did not, her consuls forced her to marry Seleucus Kybiosaktes, but she had him strangled and remained as sole ruler. The public feared the Ptolemic reign would fail to continue due to Berenice's foolishness. It is also believed she cared far too much for fashion and luxuries, leading to rising expenses. She later married Archelaus, but he was not co-regent. Archelaus had been appointed to the priesthood at Comana at Cappadocia by Pompey, and claimed to be a son of Mithridates VI. Strabo instead says his father was Archelaus, a general of Mithridates VI in the First Mithridatic War who defected to the Romans.

The reign of Berenice ended in 55 BC when her father retook the throne with the aid of the Romans led by Aulus Gabinius, and had Berenice beheaded, ordering her head to be brought to him on a tray while Cleopatra secretly watched. Archelaus, who according to Strabo had previously had a friendly relationship with Gabinius, died in battle against the forces of Gabinius.


* Strabo 12.3.34 and 17.1.11
* Appian Mithrid. 114
* Plutarch Antony 3.2 - 3.6
* Dio Cassius 39.12 - 39.14, 39.55 - 39.58

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