Cleopatra was a member of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Family members and ancestors in the Ptolemaic Dynasty had come from Macedonia on the Greek Peninsula. Ancient Macedonians had expanded from today's Greece into other regions. Alexander the Great had invaded Egypt, and from this the Ptolemaic Dynasty had come into power through his general. Cleopatra was descended from Alexander the Great. She was of Greek ancestry through him. Members of the Ptolemaic Dynasty continued to speak Greek rather than Egyptian. Cleopatra, by contrast, learned to speak Egyptian. Her name was of Greek origin.
Upon the death of her father, Cleopatra became a joint monarch with her younger brother. In the culture of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, female rulers were considered secondary to male rulers in the case of a joint monarchy. Cleopatra challenged this when she tried to militarily overthrow her brother.