Such a policy of hostage-taking was fairly common in ancient times, so we might have expected Selene to fully embrace the Roman way in order to survive. Indeed, like her more famous mother, she forged important alliances with the Romans and charmed her way into power. It may even be argued that she did so more successfully; she certainly did so with less bloodshed. Though Selene came to Rome as a chained prisoner, she so impressed Augustus that he married her to Juba II of Mauretania, making her the most powerful client queen in the empire.
But Selene’s importance may have to do more with her religious influence than with her statecraft. Today, we take for granted the concept of personal spirituality or a relationship with god. In much of the ancient world, however, religion was a covenant between the state and the divine realm. Insofar as personal or household gods existed for the Romans, worship was more orthopraxy than orthodoxy. That is to say, the emphasis was more on correct ritual than on faith or intimate prayer. For the Romans especially, religion was more a matter for men than women.
All of this started to change with the rise of henotheistic mystery cults, and as a forerunner of Christianity, the Isiac religion was one of the few in the ancient world to concern itself with social justice. In challenging temporal authority, the spread of Isis worship nurtured a nascent concept of personal spirituality without which our world might be very different today. And were it not for the influence of Cleopatra Selene—who fostered the Isiac faith in Mauretania while it was being suppressed in Rome—such a transition may never have taken hold.
Though she never returned to her mother’s Egypt, Selene would rule a mostly peaceful nation for at least twenty years, spreading the influence of Hellenism and Isis worship to Northwest Africa. She appears to have had complete autonomous powers of coinage, and often minted monies with depictions of her mother or her goddess.
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