Cleopatra: Fact and Fiction


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Cleopatra is one of the greatest romantic figures in history, the queen of Egypt whose beauty and allure is legendary. We think we know her story, but our image of her is largely gleaned from the film starring Elizabeth Taylor or from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. Shakespeare himself was inspired by Plutarch, who was only sixteen years old when Cleopatra died. So her story was never based purely on fact. In the middle of the first century BC, Cleopatra caught the attention of Rome by captivating the two most powerful Romans of the day, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. She outlived both and attempted to suborn a third, her mortal enemy, Octavius Caesar, the first of the Roman Emperors. Having failed to do so she destroyed herself. We can tell that Cleopatra was highly intelligent and politically astute. And she wielded great power. But Roman histories heaped opprobrium upon her. Cleopatra's detractors claimed that she used her feminine wiles to entrap Caesar and Antony. She he came to symbolize the danger of female influence to the safety of Rome. Her appearance was probably very different to that of Elizabeth Taylor, our most common modern-day image. Her ancestry was Macedonian Greek so her hair could have been fair; her eyes were probably dark brown but may have been blue; and her skin probably had an olive hue. She seems to have been not much more than 5 feet tall with fine bones and a slim, graceful figure. Plutarch observed that her actual beauty was apparently not in itself so remarkable. It was the impact of her presence that was irresistible. The fact that Cleopatra's legend still burns bright today is proof of of Shakespeare's description of her as a lady of infinite variety whom custom cannot stale.


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Product Information

General Fields

  • : 9781445669656
  • : Amberley Publishing
  • : Amberley Publishing
  • : December 2017
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : HB