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The Gemara in Sanhedrin 90b relates:

(Source from Sefaria.org)

(Partial Quote)

.....שאלה קליאופטרא מלכתא את ר"מ

Queen Cleopatra asked Rabbi Meir.....

My Question:

What Queen Cleopatra was this?

If she was a ruler of Egypt how can it be that she encountered Rabbi Meir who lived in the time of the Tannaim, which spanned the period of 10-220 CE, while she lived from 69-30 BCE?

Based on this, it must be that she was a different Queen Cleopatra1, but over whom or what was she queen?


1. And not the queen of Egypt

  • 1
    R' Meir was closer to 200CE than 10 CE. By that time, the name Cleopatra had gained popular fame in the secular world. IIRC, a couple queens of that historical time (and after) adopted the chosen name of Cleopatra as a title. Not only Egyptians used it. – David Kenner May 10 '18 at 19:24
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    Can you support your footnote? I mean, maybe she was a different Cleopatra, but also queen of Egypt? (Note she could've been a queen consort rather than a queen regnant.) – msh210 May 10 '18 at 19:28
  • @msh210 if you know of any later Cleopatras please let me know – TrustMeI'mARabbi May 10 '18 at 20:29
  • I'm no expert on queens of the ancient world. The issue isn't whether I know of any but whether your question as worded is reasonable. Maybe it is to someone with more knowledge than me: but I suspect many are in the same boat as me. – msh210 May 10 '18 at 21:29
  • They was more than one Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. – ezra May 11 '18 at 21:14
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Stam, Cleopatra is mentioned other times in gemara (avodo zara 8b, nida 30b) and there it is clear that its talking about the last ruler of Egypt before the Romans appointed a governor over Egypt. this is the lashon of rashi in avoda zara 8b:
בימי קלפטרא מלכתא - של אלכסנדריא כדאמר בהמפלת במסכת נדה (דף ל:) ונלחמו רומיים עמה ונצחוה ותפסו הם המלוכה

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From Soncino Talmud, Sanhedrin 90b, footnote 33:

[Not of 'Anthony and Cleopatra' fame. Bacher, Agada der Tanaiten, I, 68, n. 2, regards [H] (Cleopatra, the Queen) as a corruption of [H] the Patriarch of the Samaritans (v. Gen. Rab. XCIV, 6). Cp. Koh. Rab. V, 12, where the disputant of the belief of the resurrection of the dead with R. Meir is a Samaritan, [H].]

That is, the editor notes the anachronism, and cites Bacher who gives a possible emendation of the text, replacing קליאופטרה מלכתא with פטריקא דכותאי.

  • 1
    Nice find, but this doesn't seem very convincing without any text evidence. This would have to be a mistake made very early on, with every text having already changed to the mistake, and also having changed the grammar to match the female. It's more likely that it originally said Malka, and someone added in the Cleopatra. – רבות מחשבות May 11 '18 at 3:39
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    @רבות Oh, I completely agree. It’s pretty flimsy. I’m personally tempted to read the gemara metaphorically, where Cleopatra represents the culture of Ptolemaic (Greek) Egypt. This question reminds me of my favourite anachronistic (pseudo-)midrash, discussed here. – Joel K May 11 '18 at 5:46

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