Cleopatra: The Historical and Literary Queen Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1268 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Women

Cleopatra: The Historical and Literary Queen

Everyone has heard the name Cleopatra. For over two millennia now, Cleopatra's name has been synonymous with the ultimate in beauty, glamour, seduction, and feminine wiles. Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen who committed suicide by allowing an asp to bite her arm rather than submitting to a humiliating Roman defeat, has spent the centuries since her death gaining a reputation for being a seductress, a temptress, and the most beautiful woman of her time. It is not surprising that she would be thought of as such. Contemporary writers who actually saw her, spoke with her, or knew her, have painted a picture of a woman whose beauty had no rival, a woman so gorgeous that the ruler of the greatest nation on the face of the earth at the time fell completely under her spell, a woman who inspired intense rivalries for her attention, and who knew the art of love like no other.

Then, there is also Cleopatra the politician. A dynastic queen of the Ptolemy line of Hellenistic Greeks, Cleopatra was groomed to rule, and rule she did. When she became queen in her own right, she proved just as adept at navigating the churning waters of politics that Egypt's ties to Rome produced as she was at making men fall under her spell. In fact, she often seemed to use her renowned feminine wiles in order to further her own political fortunes. After all, a woman who had both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony under her spell could be nothing short of formidable.

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But is the Cleopatra of contemporary literature, the Cleopatra of plays and movies and novels, at all similar to the real Cleopatra? Was the real Cleopatra truly both as beautiful and intelligent and shrewd as our contemporary mythology has led us to believe? Where is the line drawn between fantasy and reality where Cleopatra is concerned? Is there a line at all? Plutarch perhaps says it best:

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Her actual beauty was not in itself so remarkable; it was the impact of her spirit that was irresistible. The attraction of her person, joining with the charm of her conversation and the characteristic qualities of all she said or did, was something bewitching. It was a delight merely to hear the sound of her voice." (Lorenzi, 1)

Plutarch's description of Cleopatra is very similar to other contemporary accounts of her. Another account by Plutarch states that when the people of Athens saw Cleopatra, they pitied her, as she was not nearly as young or beautiful as Mark Antony's rightful wife, Octavia (Dryden, 1137). So, despite our modern fascination with Cleopatra as a glamorous beauty, the historical accounts suggest she was anything but. In fact, contemporary images of Cleopatra found on coins of the time as well as statuary, seem to suggest a woman with rather harsh, masculine features, including a long, hooked nose and a matronly face. Cleopatra, in fact, bore many of the same features as her ancestors; portraits and statues of her relatives reveal that the long, hooked nose was a family trait. It seems, then, that Cleopatra's looks, on their own, would not be enough to give her the ability to make powerful men fall to their knees before her and beg for her attention. Cleopatra had to have something else, something that made her irresistible.

It seems, from historical accounts, that Cleopatra was a master of charm, rather than a great beauty. And it was this charm that made her the object of desire for the men she wanted. Mark Antony is even said to have lost all rational control over himself because of his infatuation with her (Stadter, 165). She had a musical, lilting voice that was a delight to listen to, and knew how to put on an impressive… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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