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Old April 17th, 2013, 02:57 PM   #1

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The love life of Cleopatra Philopator


Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator, the last member of the Ptolemaic Dynasty to rule ancient Egypt, is one of history's great seductresses. Or at least, that's how the story goes. Her irresistable charm, feminine wiles, and maddening beauty have been the stuff of Western legend for two-thousand years, and have been immortalized in art and cinema.

The hypothesis that Cleopatra was homely, if not actually ugly, in physical appearance is already well-known. We have very few contemporary pieces of evidence for her physical appearance. We have busts dating to the Julio-Claudian period (27 BCE - 68 CE) that depict her as a fairly attractive, while contemporary Ptolemaic coinage depicts her profile as everything from beautiful to hag-like.

Certain physical traits seem to have been heriditary in Cleopatra's family, and these include long, hooked noses and a tendency to become obese. Cleopatra's busts do gently hint at her having a strong nose, while some of her coins depict her as nasally well-endowed to an extreme that borders on grotesque. No reference is made to obesity in Cleopatra (though we can safely assume that the middle-aged mother of three in 31 BCE may not have been as shapely as the teenaged princess who seduced Caesar nearly twenty years earlier).

Nothing is known about Cleopatra's mother, and this has led to much debate about her ethnicity. A skeleton recently found in Ephesus, which could possibly be that of her murdered sister Arsinoe, may hint at partially sub-Saharan African ancestry. Even this may tell us nothing; there is no indication that Cleopatra and Arsinoe had the same mother. It was rumored that Cleopatra equated pale skin with beauty, and bathed in donkey's milk in the belief that it would make her skin fairer. This is, in fact, one of the very few ancient references to Cleopatra's physical traits. Though she was a descendant of a Macedonian general, Cleopatra herself may have had black African, Semitic, or even Celtic or Thracian ancestors. There is little reason to speculate when nothing is known about her mother, or the mothers of most of her forefathers.

Despite modern attempts at stirring controversy about Cleopatra's appearance, she could have hardly been ugly, to have become the lover of not one but two of the most high-profile men in Roman society. Even so, our sources agree that Cleopatra's personality is what made her irresistable. She was flirtatious, kittenish, and seemingly prone to making cutely unintelligent observations, and yet she was also fluent in a number of languages, cunning, well-read, and extremely bold. She was fascinating as a conversation partner. Her first encounter with Caesar would suggest that she was prone to thinking 'outside the box', and her depiction in a temple relief not as a Greek monarch, but an Egyptian pharaoh, would suggest she understood the country she was ruling much better than her ancestors had.

Cleopatra has been portrayed as a sex goddess for centuries. And yet, ancient sources only attribute two lovers to her - Julius Caesar, and Marcus Antonius. She married both of her brothers, as was Ptolemaic tradition, but their tender ages and the friction between the siblings makes it unlikely that these incestuous unions were consummated. Cleopatra was only eighteen when she first met Caesar, and had undoubtedly lived the sheltered life typical of female royalty throughout history - this has led Adrian Goldsworthy to suggest that she was probably a virgin at the time.

The union of Cleopatra and Antony was not quite the tragic romance of lore - both lovers had their own, separate agendas and ambitions, and were apart for long periods of time. Nonetheless, they may have married (by Greco-Egyptian, rather than Roman custom) and they were the parents of no less than three children. In the last years of her life, Cleopatra stands out partly as a devoted mother, but also as a Roman puppet attempting to prolong the inevitable.

Cleopatra was certainly devious and conniving (as any ancient monarch would have to be), but history hardly seems to defend her stereotypical image. She was probably neither remarkably beautiful or ugly; it was her personality that seemingly made her irresistable. The historical Cleopatra was a fairly responsible queen, and there is no evidence for her having any manner of sexual or romantic relations with any man except for Caesar and Antony - hardly the royal prostitute of legend.

Posthumously, Cleopatra was a victim of the Roman propaganda machine. The staunchly patriarchal nature of Roman society made the notion of a strong-minded female ruler reprehensible, even unnatural. The Romans had a tendency to turn all female monarchs and chieftains into either bloodthirsty amazons, or Eastern whores. Thanks to the grossly biased nature of our sources, we will never catch any more than the briefest glimpses of who Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator truly was. Even in death she remains alluring and tantalizing - just the way she may have wanted it to be.
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Old April 17th, 2013, 03:15 PM   #2

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Great text Salah(as always); it perfectly sums up Cleopatra's life!
Of all the famous enemies that Rome faced, she definitely ranks among the most dangerous: she conquered(even if only nominally) Parthia,Armenia,Lybia,Cyprus and other places in the Mediterranean basin without even fighting!!!


P.S. I recently watched the documentary dedicated to the figure of Arsinoe, his assassination(which shocked the public opinion in Rome) and the alleged recovery of her remains...The last Ptolemaics were one hell of a family
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Old April 17th, 2013, 03:27 PM   #3
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Exellent post and thread Salah.
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Old April 17th, 2013, 03:38 PM   #4

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Like your post Salah.

I have always been intrested in Cleopatra. Not really surprised about Cleopatra not being a beauty.

I too think the origin of Cleopatra being a political femme fatale came from the Romans. Just shows you how much the Romans really despised Cleopatra.
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Old April 17th, 2013, 03:49 PM   #5

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Another great post, Salah.

Of course I forget the reference in my rusty old age, but I remember reading one historian's suggestion that there were only two individuals the Romans truly feared in all their history.
The other was Hannibal.
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Old April 17th, 2013, 05:05 PM   #6
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Did Cleopatra have a son by Ceasar (Caesarion)???

Ceasar never acknowledged Caesarion but did alow him to take his name.

Certainly Marc Antony and Augustus believed him to be the on of Ceasar, although both had their reasons for doing so. Marc Antony to give himself a claim to the purple (as Caesarion's adoptive father), and Augustus because "Too many Caesars is not good" as he said before having poor Caesarion put to death.

Still the question remains was he actually Ceasars son?

And more intrestingly what would've happened had Augustus allowed him to live???
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Old April 29th, 2013, 09:34 AM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawnmowerman View Post
Did Cleopatra have a son by Ceasar (Caesarion)???

Ceasar never acknowledged Caesarion but did alow him to take his name.

Certainly Marc Antony and Augustus believed him to be the on of Ceasar, although both had their reasons for doing so. Marc Antony to give himself a claim to the purple (as Caesarion's adoptive father), and Augustus because "Too many Caesars is not good" as he said before having poor Caesarion put to death.

Still the question remains was he actually Ceasars son?

And more intrestingly what would've happened had Augustus allowed him to live???
I believe that he acknowledged him
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Old April 29th, 2013, 09:41 AM   #8

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Finally. Good text, beside the fact I had to use google translate every little in a while, because of all those nasty expressions. It would be even better if you added some of those coins. I'm burning to see that nose! lol
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Old April 29th, 2013, 09:42 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawnmowerman View Post
Did Cleopatra have a son by Ceasar (Caesarion)???

Ceasar never acknowledged Caesarion but did alow him to take his name.

Certainly Marc Antony and Augustus believed him to be the on of Ceasar, although both had their reasons for doing so. Marc Antony to give himself a claim to the purple (as Caesarion's adoptive father), and Augustus because "Too many Caesars is not good" as he said before having poor Caesarion put to death.

Still the question remains was he actually Ceasars son?

And more intrestingly what would've happened had Augustus allowed him to live???
Some say Titos Pullo created the son Under the auspices and command of invincible Lucius Vorenus!
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Old April 29th, 2013, 09:42 AM   #10

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Excellent post Sallah
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