New analysis of a sculpture from the Egyptian Museum reveals that it depicts Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, the twin children of Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Antony and Cleopatra’s children were spared the fate of Caesarian, Cleopatra’s earlier child with Julius Caesar, who was viewed as competition and murdered by the new emperor Octavian (Augustus Caesar). After Antony and Cleopatra’s joint suicide following the battle of Actium in 31 B.C.E., the children were taken to Rome where they were raised by Octavia Minor, the sister of Octavian, but only after being paraded through the streets of Rome in heavy golden chains.
The sculpture, dated to the mid-late first century B.C.E., depicts two nude children standing in the coils of snakes. Alexander Helios, whose name means sun, wears a sun-disc on his head while his sister, whose name means moon, wears a crescent and lunar disc. The 33-foot sculpture was discovered in 1918 near the temple of Dendera, but was overlooked until a recent analysis in the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology. Identified by Italian Egyptologist Giuseppina Capriotti, the sculpture shows a boy with curly hair and a braid on the right side, typical of Egyptian children, and a girl with a so-called “melon coiffure,” a hairstyle associated with her mother Cleopatra and the Ptolemaic dynasty. While the details of Alexander Helios’ life are uncertain, Cleopatra Selene was later married to King Juba II of Mauretania.
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