Didyme was a native Egyptian mistress of Ptolemy II (283-246), the second ruler of Egypt’s Ptolemaic dynasty. Although little other information about her has survived, she was described as very beautiful both in the memoirs of Ptolemy VIII and in one epigram by Asclepiades. The latter says, “If she is black, what is that to me? So are coals, but when we burn them, they shine like rosebuds.”

OK, you could argue that’s a back-handed way of praising an African woman’s beauty. It’s a bit like saying “You’re pretty, for a black girl.” But then, most of the ancient Greeks would have grown up with a Mediterranean-centric standard of beauty since that was what they knew best. Nonetheless, Didmye must have been quite a babe indeed for Greek chroniclers to remember her as such.

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