Cleopatra Biography Essay, Research Paper
Cleopatra s Wiles
Mother, lover, warrior, femme-fatale. Mother of a country, lover of all that brings beauty, warrior of the state, femme-fatale over all men; this was Cleopatra Queen of the Nile. Cleopatra s intelligence, wit and beauty are still remembered and written about to this day. Born a Greek, Cleopatra adapted to the Egyptian ways and even learnt their native tongue, a feat which had not been ccomplished since the Ptolemies had first ruled. Although not a true Egyptian , she utilized her tremendous aptitude and cunning female ways to gain and provide, for her country that she so loved. Cleopatra was a born ruler and did so with a flourish that would later be her undoing. Cleopatra s seductive, yet absolute ability to keep Egypt in the means of profit and gain was accomplished through her fabled beauty, cunning intelligence and political know how and intimate details of
events surrounding her life. “He was moved by the beauty of the damsel, which was enhanced by the fact, being so fair, she seemed to have been wronged (Florus). Cleopatra s beauty was and still is to this day said to have been quite memorable. In 49 BC Cleopatra was in dire straits and had to cross enemy borders in order to speak with Caesar. This brief occurrence in her history can give us a somewhat hazy view of Cleopatra s body size. (Fraser 36) If she was able to fit into Egypt s tightly rolled carpets this may imply that Cleopatra was small and lithe. This is just rationalization. Cleopatra may not have been attractive as it is suggested throughout history. Her supposed beauty may have been one of the rare instances where intelligence, wit and personality far excel over appearances. (George 960) Another reason for believing that Cleopatra may not have looked as thought, may have come from the coins that were minted for a very short time to celebrate Antony and Cleopatra s uniting. On the face of the coin Cleopatra is pictured being fleshy of face and hooked nosed . This may have been true or it may have been, due to the artists lack of talent. (Shenkman webpg) Hellenistic coins on the other hand offer a more visually satisfying likeness. (George 961) It is thought that maybe the carvings of queens and pharaohs that are seen adorning walls all over Egypt may offer Cleopatra s portrait. This is not at all the
case since these are just generalized carvings that are used to depict all rulers. (Perl 40) Thus it is almost impossible to have a visual idea of Cleopatra s beauty. Therefore we must rely upon the writings of people of her time. A man by the name of Appian wrote Antony was amazed at her wit as well as her good looks… (George 960). Another
man by the name of Plutarch simply said her actual beauty, it is said, was not in itself so remarkable that none could be compared with her…. (George 960). This writing does not, as it seems, suggest that Cleopatra was not fair off face rather all of them point to the fact that she was in that day, a very beautiful woman whom, combined
with her personality, was a perfect queen idol. Cleopatra s coloring was another very bizarre and hard to exact fact. Ptolemies, Cleopatra s family, were Macedonian Greeks and their people had a wide range of hair and eyes shades, from light to dark. Their skin, too, could have been one of many light or dark shades. The precise skin, hair and eye color seems to depend on the source used. (George 961) Cleopatra s hair is a myth in its own right. She never wore
her hair in bangs, in fact it was not long at all. Since wigs were the height of fashion and depicted your wealth, Cleopatra had her hair shaved extremely close to her scalp as too accommodate her many wigs nd to prevent any unwanted lice as well. Upon her bald head she wore a wig of tight curls. This common idea of Cleopatra having bangs first came into play when the first Hollywood movie was made about her life in 1934. The actress who played Cleopatra, Claudette Colbert, wore bangs because of a personal fondness for them, whereas in the 1960 remake Elizabeth Taylor wore them because they were in style at the time. (Shenkman webpg) Although evidence throws a person in both directions it is a simple wish for us to believe in the fact that a woman held so much power over the opposite sex in the past with her beauty.
Up to this point Cleopatra s beauty has been the only topic discussed, but her appearance was far from the only thing that kept her royal bottom in the highest seat in Egypt. Cleopatra was a woman who was always thinking and always one step ahead of the domineering men of her time. A woman of incredible charisma and intelligence;
she spoke nine languages. (Shankman webpg) The first show of her ability to achieve her desires came when she was put on the throne in 51 BC and made to rule with her brother Ptolemy XIII. After a three year reign with Ptolemy in the shadow of her ruling, Ptolemies advisors finally convinced him to overthrow the throne and send
Cleopatra into exile. (Comptons Encyclopedia Cleopatra)Not so easily thwarted Cleopatra amassed an army on the border of Egypt and snuck through the gates ina rolled up in a carpet in order to get an audience with Caesar, whom was inside Egypt. Cleopatra then used her feminine charms and cavorting ways to captivate and convince Caesar to help her regain her throne. Caesar and Cleopatra from that night on were lovers. This relationship greatly benefited Cleopatra in the sense that she had Rome s alliance as long as Caesar was hers. Caesar later helped her defeat her sister Arsinoe and again regain her throne. (Webpg source 6) Cleopatra was outraged when instead of Caesar marrying her he forced her to hold the throne with her thirteen year old docile brother. Cleopatra saw an advantage in her and Caesars relationship when she discovered that she was pregnant with his son, soon to be born, Caesarion, or little Caesar . Hoping to gain more then just his name in marriage but as well a seat in Rome for her son, Cleopatra denounced that Caesar would claim Caesarion, thus making him a heir to Caesar s legacy. After Caesar s assignation, Cleopatra
fled to Egypt in fear of her life and made her son co-regent. It was not until two years later that Cleopatra saw another way to politically further herself. (Feinstein 24) This prospect came in the form Mark Antony one of three of Romes rulers. Mark Antony summoned Cleopatra to put her on a mock trial, and ask her about some past
relations with his enemies. Cleopatra being the drama diva she was, arrived in grand style in order to make a very influential impression on Antony. (Webpg source 6) Cleopatra had wisely judged Antony s Dionystic ways and the impression she made was one of great impact,
leaving him infatuated with her. Cleopatra knew exactly how to get into Antony s life and thus benifit hers. The Roman writer Plutarch wrote Plato admits four types of flattery, but she had a thousand. Were Antony serious or disposed to mirth, she had at any moment some new delight or charm to meet his wishes ; at every turn she was
upon him, and let him escape her neither by day nor by night. She played at dice with him, hunted with him; exercised in arms, she was there to see. At night she would go rambling with him to disturb and torment people at their doors and windows.. (Webpg source 6) This
exerpt goes to show how well Cleopatra intertwined their lives together, thus Antony believed her to be a part of his everyday life, like the drinking of water, the consumption of food. He could not live without her and therefore would do what he needed to keep her. Plus their relationship allowed him the access to Egypt s funds and army.
Cleopatra eventually lost Antony again for the period of four years in which she gave birth to his twins, he then came back to Egypt where he stayed. In 36 BC Cleopatra became his life and wife. Although Cleopatra never forgot his other Roman wife, she made it so that Antony could never leave her side, in fact she starved, cried, and fainted her way when Antony had intended to leave to visit his
Roman wife. (Comptons Encyclopedia Cleopatra) Although this undying devotion of Antony to Cleopatra was eventually his and their undoing. In 31 BC Antony was losing a sea battle, seeing this Cleopatra took her army and fled, seeing this he, the captain of the army,turned heel and abandoned his army to follow her. In this, Cleopatra had lost her alliance to Rome through Antony, for Rome believed him to be under a spell that kept him from acting rationally. Thus removing him from teh army and influence on Rome. (Heinrich 17)
Cleopatra s life was filled with extravagance and riches beyond compare. Egypt was an extremely well managed country and had the profits to show. Thus Cleopatra had the money to be as extravagant as she pleased. Her trip down the Nile to visit Mark Antony after being summoned was done on a impressively large barge-like ship. The ship was not a barge at it is commonly thought for it would not have floated, it was a boat covered in plated gold, silver oars, with billowing purple, scented sails. Pipers, and flute players playing below decks set the mood with music that drifted to shore.
Upon the ship Cleopatra had dressed as the goddess Venus, draped in gossamer silks, and pearls.(George 437) Her staff upon the ship were sea nymphs, and boys in Cupid costumes who fanned her beneath a gold
canopy.(Webpg source 7) This would have been an extremely decadent sight to Antony s Roman eyes. Yet Antony considered himself to be Dionysis incarnate and therefore again, Cleopatra had gained his admiration for her glamour. Antony had yet another surprise that night. Cleopatra did not step off her boat to greet him but instead invited him to dinner that night with his men. Antony was
greeted by Cleopatra. Antony s greedy eyes were focused on the pearls that Cleopatra wore that evening to flaunt Egypt s wealth and its mightiness. Beneath the feet of the guests was a foot of rose petals. The table had been set with solid gold dinnerwareand there were couches as well on which the soldiers could recline. At the conclusion of the meal Cleopatra announced to Antony s men that all were allowed to take their dinnerware as well as their cushions as simple gifts from Egypt. (George 437) As for Cleopatra s love affairs no one will ever know if it was love at first sight or simply benefit of countries that brought Cleopatra her two infamous lovers. Caesar may have used Cleopatra for her wealth and what it could contribute to the expensive Roman civil wars. Antony may have just been confused as to where his love and allegiance belonged when he had an opportunity early to marry Cleopatra, yet married his rivals sister. In any event Cleopatra seemed to get over and forgive these men for their faults which in any terms shows that she did harbor some affection, aside from political gain, for them.
In conclusion Cleopatra lived a gloriously interesting life and she has the history and Hollywood movies to prove it. Yet even being the femme fatale that she was we may never know if Cleopatra ever did have her heart swell with pride and love for Caesar, Antony or any man. She was a proud woman and believed in her rights as a queen, those rights did not, in her books, include being paraded through Rome, in chains. No one will ever know if she was thinking of love or revenge when she took her life in 30 BC but one can only give her the applause and quiet dignity deserving of a queen.