Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Cleopatra VII is probably the most famous queen of Egypt, the last of the Ptolemies she is famous for her intelligence, cunning, ambition, determination, romances, chiefly with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony and her tragic death by snake bite to avoid Caesar Augustus having the satisfaction of dragging her through Rome in chains when he triumphed against her and Mark Antony in the Battle of Actium.
There has been much controversary and intrigue over Cleopatra over her skin colour,her beauty, her mother, whether her and Caesar were really in love and whether she and her ships deserted Antony or not during the Battle of Actium.
The Ptolemies were not Egyptian but from Macedonian rather and Cleopatra was the last of them, her family were incestuous and Cleopatra was the result of much inbreeding undoubtedly. However, it is thought that they mingled with the Persian aristocracy and probably Africans as well. Cleopatra's mother could have been African but no one really knows.
The most famous portrayal of Cleopatra is probably Elizabeth Taylor's gorgeous and glamorous version. In most movies and books Cleopatra is represented as being like Helen of Troy, an irresistible beauty who used her looks to win over Caesar and Antony. However, coins and a bust of her, from the time, imply she was plain, possibly with a big nose as one coin indicates. Whilst probably not ugly is thought she was no stunner either. Her outfits were probably not as elaborate or revealing as Taylor's either or Claudette Colbert's in the 1934 film, which got away with its risque outfits because censorship was not so strict.
Lyndsey Marshal in Rome gives one of the more accurate protrayals of Cleopatra. The t.v series Rome is known for trying to be more realistic and gritty, instead of the Hollywood version of history. There are flaws with Rome and inaccuracies but it is less lavish.
Interest in Cleopatra will probably only grow as will the mystery around her. She is one of the most interesting people of history and I have enjoyed both historical and fictional books, series and movies about her despite all their differences.
In my opinion she was a clever seducer, a woman with a brilliant, ambitious mind who knew just as much about politics and war as any man, she knew what talents she had and was not afraid to use them to their full extent to get what they want. Her downfall seems to have been her weakness for Antony, a man who was ruined by his own ambitions and indeed his affection for her. Rome needed Egypt for its wealth but Cleopatra was only happy to unite with Rome as an equal not a subservient but Augustus could not be seduced like Caesar and Antony and he was not prepared to ally with her when he saw victory.