Cleopatra: The most powerful woman in historyNicola
Cleopatra – aka the Queen of the Nile – is one of the most famous women in history, best known for her seduction of Julius Caesar and the love of her life Marc Anthony, as well as being remembered for her intellect and beauty.
But, is what we remember Cleopatra for, mere hype from ancient Rome, or fact? Here’s the what’s what on Cleo.
Insisting on being called a Queen, Cleopatra wasn’t really favoured by the Roman people during her phase of scandalous activity, and at a time when Rome had removed its monarchy. Plus, she lured Anthony into a war against Rome, after the death of Ceasar.
She was however honored as a scholar with cult status and well known for her extreme charm. And, boy did she like to make an entrance. Her extravagant entrances at important meetings would see her being flanked by assistants who fanned her with Ostrich feathers to keep her cool in the heat, whilst she was dressed like a Goddess.
The most famous entrance being her meeting with Ceasar, whereby she wrapped herself up in a carpet, in disguise, so that she could be dramatically be rolled out of it, at his feet, to surprise him. It’s no wonder that she managed to seduce and manipulate those that mattered into seeing things her way and for her benefit, at least for a while.
She also gave birth to Ceasar’s child Caesarion, meaning ‘little Caesar’, who was the son and heir to the most powerful man in the world.
But, of course, Cleopatra was his mistress, as he was married to a Roman lady, which meant that following Ceasar’s death, Cleopatra was in a predicament that left her and her son in danger, forcing her to depart with haste.
Caesarion was, of course, eventually summoned back to Rome by the Emperor Augustus following her death, with a promise of power, only to be murdered in his teens in a twist of fate.
Whereas, Cleopatra’s three children that she had with Marc Anthony, were rescued by his widow Octavia, which was lucky for them. Cleopatra had truly been in love with Anthony, which was reciprocated, and they were of similar age, as opposed to Caesar, who was in his fifties during their affair.
Did you know that when we refer to the month of August in our calendar, it was named by Augustus who set this month as a milestone, as a reminder of her defeat.
Questionably argued today is whether Cleopatra was in fact actually Egyptian, or the child of a dynasty founded by a Greek General to Alexander The Great and Macedonian, who held his Greek identity though ruled in Egypt. Egypt was also part of Africa at the time, and incest was the norm, across a vast Empire after 250 years of inbred offsprings, savagery, murder and barbarism to get to where you wanted to be. Cleopatra actually married two of her brothers during her reign to keep the bloodline going, as well as had her sister Arsinoe killed as she was a rival to the throne.
Cleopatra faked her death in a message, which was received by Anthony. Believing it to be true, he took his own life in the knowledge that his lover was gone. Shocked by the realisation that Anthony had truly loved her, but more concerned and aware that Augustus would happily drag her through the streets of Rome as a prisoner to be humiliated in front of thousands, she then committed suicide herself to avoid the embarrassment.
Even though for thirty years she held power ruling Egypt, none of her surviving children ever lived to inherit Egypt, but her body was buried alongside Anthony’s which was her wish.
In fact, had it not been for the Greco-Roman scholars such as Plutarch, much less would be known of her mystery, historically.
We are truly fascinated by her and she has been immortalised in hollywood films and history. This clever woman spoke twelve different languages, and was a scholar of mathematics, astronomy and philosophy. Her lure therefore was her intelligence, not just her apparent good looks. She was no doubt less beautiful as Elizabeth Taylor or Sophia Loren, the women who portrayed her.
Her exotic clothing, hairstyles and jewellery started trends among women, and she bathed in milk and honey to smell sweet. She dyed her hair and painted her nails with a mix of henna and juniper berries, and exfoliated her skin with sea salts and olive oil. No doubt it was this kind of routine and appearance that gave her reputation for beauty, while her drinking club that held feasts, party games, and alcoholic binges, gave her the reputation of a male equal with masculine traits. She certainly lived a life of luxury and enjoyed the havoc her reputation created as a match for men, and clearly Military Generals.
A 1963 film about her was one of the most expensive movies of all time.
The Queen of the Nile has been portrayed on the silver screen by the likes of Claudette Colbert and Sophia Loren, but she was most famously played by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 sword-and-sandal epic “Cleopatra.” The film was plagued by production problems and script issues, and its budget eventually soared from $2 million to $44 million, including some $200,000 just to cover the cost of Taylor’s costumes. It was the most expensive movie ever made at the time of its release, and nearly bankrupted its studio despite raking in a fortune at the box office.
Cleopatras name has become a byword of beauty, luxury and excess, and will be remembered as a woman who had a hold over the most powerful men in Western history and who changed the world.
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