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Heads or Tails?. Heads or Tails?. How was Cleopatra represented?. How was Cleopatra represented?.

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how was cleopatra represented1
How was Cleopatra represented?

Apart from Cicero’s letter (which you should have read), the accounts of Cleopatra were all written by Romans and after her defeat and death when Octavian/Augustus had become the first Roman Emperor. Do you think this affected the way they portray Cleopatra?

How fair a picture of her do they give?

cleopatra beautiful
Cleopatra = Beautiful ?
  • What qualities do you think Cleopatra had which attracted Caesar?
  • Do the portraits present her as attractive?
slide6

The queen as goddess

The existence of numerous statues representing Ptolemaic royal women reflects the important role that the queens played – living rulers were promoted and worshipped. Cleopatra VII called herself the New Isis, after her father, Ptolemy XII, who called himself Neos (the new Dionysus).

This is one of the best-preserved images of a Ptolemaic queen. It is one of a number of statues - with the queen wearing a corkscrew wig and holding a horn of plenty (signifying fertility and fruitfulness). The figure is clearly Egyptian in style, though with Greek attributes (the horn of plenty and the dress). The front of the headdress is decorated with a uraeus, the symbol of Egyptian royalty. The triple form is unique to Cleopatra.

It is possible that this is a survivor of the images saved after Cleopatra’s death. To a Roman it would have meant very little. To an Egyptian, it was a sacred object, and the scale of the figure suggests that it could have been placed in a shrine.

slide7

‘Lady of the Two Lands’

When Ptolemy XII Auletes (the 'flute-player') died, the 18-year-old Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII, were required to marry, as was the tradition. As the seventh of her name (Cleopatra meaning 'her father's glory'), she became Cleopatra VII, and like earlier queens, she was titled 'Lady of the Two Lands', that is, Upper and Lower Egypt.

This engraved glass gem, now very worn, could have been used as a seal, indicating an official or loyal individual's allegiance to Cleopatra.

The portrait features are relatively clear and show a full face, with straight nose and a strong chin with a down-turned mouth. However, portrait features are often distorted when produced on such a small scale, and it is the hairstyle and broad royal diadem in particular which indicate that this representation is of Cleopatra VII. As can be expected, she presents herself as a Hellenistic Greek queen. The hair is tied back in a bun in the usual Greek manner, and the dress is also Greek in style, with folds of drapery clearly visible.

However, remarkably, this Greek image is combined with the Egyptian royal symbol of a triple uraeus on her head. This feature usually occurs on Egyptian-style images of Cleopatra.

slide8

Silver coin of Cleopatra VIICoinage was just one element in a whole array of honours that could be granted to powerful individuals.

This extraordinary coin shows Cleopatra and Antony looking remarkably alike. Antony was said to remind people of the Greek hero Heracles in paintings and sculptures, with '... a very good and noble appearance; his beard was not unsightly, his forehead broad, and his nose aquiline' (Plutarch, Life of Antony, 4). However, here his portrait seems to have picked up Ptolemaic features, specifically the strong projecting chin of Ptolemy I, the founder of Cleopatra's dynasty, and the hooked noses of Cleopatra and her father Ptolemy XII.

Through Antony's protection, Cleopatra was trying to secure the future of her kingdom and restore the Ptolemaic Empire. Such coins raise the question of just who was using whom during this period. Recent study has revealed that, contrary to what was accepted before, the image of Cleopatra is on the obverse (front) of the coin, while that of Antony is on the reverse; this could be seen as significant in itself.

slide9

Limestone head of a women resembling Cleopatra

                  • In July 46 BC Julius Caesar returned to Rome after his successful campaign in Africa. During the triumphal celebrations Cleopatra travelled to the city, seeking a formal treaty of friendship with the Roman people. The queen lived luxuriously as a guest in one of Caesar's villas, an exotic addition to the somewhat conservative life of the republican city. He was well known as Caesar's lover and mother of his infant son, and her public appearances may have influenced women's fashions and hairstyles at the time. Her presence in Rome certainly revived cults of certain Egyptian gods and goddesses such as Isis, with whom Cleopatra was associated. Caesar also made the controversial gesture of having a golden statue of Cleopatra erected in the Temple of Venus, divine founder of his family, in his new forum in the centre of Rome.
  • Cleopatra's image is well known from coins issued during her life-time. This limestone head was once considered to be a portrait, but is now thought to show a woman who modelled herself on Cleopatra, perhaps even one of the entourage who travelled to Rome with her from Egypt. The woman's hairstyle is similar to that of Cleopatra on her coins, but more elaborately dressed in a series of twisted braids that are coiled up at the back. More importantly, the head is missing the royal diadem, a band of cloth tied at the back of the head that had been used to show royalty since Alexander the Great 300 years earlier.
slide10

Her beauty, so we are told, was not itself outstanding; it did not immediately strike those who saw her; yet being with her had an inescapable hold; when talking with her, she was persuasive, and the character which surrounded her whole manner in company had a force to it.

PlutarchLife of Antony27

Plutarch was born in AD 46 in the Greek town of Chaeronea. His Lives of various Greek and Roman personalities is one of his works. His aim was to explore the character of famous men to provide lessons for the future. He does not approach his subjects with the intention of telling everything which happens but restricts himself to those events and incidents which reflect upon the subject of the biography. The biography of Antony is paired with that of Demetrius. In both he sees them as suffering reversals of fortune. In his view both became too involved in luxury and enjoyment. But the contrast is that Antony was harsh and cruel in his attempt to impose power on the Romans and too often let slip the chance to win victories, distracted by Cleopatra. Plutarch sees in Antony’s story a lesson concerning success and its dangers. He is concerned with the influence of character on lives and actions and so he presents ‘rounded’ character portrayals in a way which will develop that theme. He is interested in stories and sometimes emphasises those rather than the great events happening at the time. However, he does tell the story chronologically so that there is a clear and simple timeline to follow.

slide11

But Dellius was sent by Antony, but when he saw Cleopatra, he understood her cunning and cleverness in conversation. Straightaway he realized that Antony was unlikely to do such a woman any harm, in fact it was more likely that she would have the greatest influence with him.

PlutarchLife of Antony25

Plutarch was born in AD 46 in the Greek town of Chaeronea. His Lives of various Greek and Roman personalities is one of his works. His aim was to explore the character of famous men to provide lessons for the future. He does not approach his subjects with the intention of telling everything which happens but restricts himself to those events and incidents which reflect upon the subject of the biography. The biography of Antony is paired with that of Demetrius. In both he sees them as suffering reversals of fortune. In his view both became too involved in luxury and enjoyment. But the contrast is that Antony was harsh and cruel in his attempt to impose power on the Romans and too often let slip the chance to win victories, distracted by Cleopatra. Plutarch sees in Antony’s story a lesson concerning success and its dangers. He is concerned with the influence of character on lives and actions and so he presents ‘rounded’ character portrayals in a way which will develop that theme. He is interested in stories and sometimes emphasises those rather than the great events happening at the time. However, he does tell the story chronologically so that there is a clear and simple timeline to follow.

slide12

His love for Cleopatra was now burning all the more and his vices getting greater; these vices were always fed by his love of power, by the luxury he liked and the flattery from those around him. As a result, he decided now to wage war on his own country.

VeleiusPaterculus2.82

VelleiusPaterculus was born in either 19 or 20 BC. He served with Gaius Caesar (Octavian’s grandson) in the East and then with the future Emperor Tiberius in Germany. His book was written in AD 30. He took part in many of the events of the early years of the 1st century AD and was a senator himself. However, he is very uncritical of either Augustus or Tiberius. Although he was not alive at the time of Cleopatra, he would have access to memoirs and documents which we do not have today.

slide13

He [Antony] was so eager to spend the winter with her that he began the war too early in the season for campaigning, and then made such a mess of his management of the campaign. He was not in control of his own judgement, but he behaved as though influenced by some drug or magic spell; he was always looking in her direction, always thinking about how fast he could return to her rather than how best to defeat the enemy.

PlutarchLife of Antony37

slide14

In this way she so completely took control of Antony, that while Fulvia his wife was waging war on his behalf with Octavian in Rome, and a Parthian army commanded by Labienus was threatening Mesopotamia, and was about to invade Syria he let himself be carried off by her to Alexandria. There, like some a young man with time on his hands for leisure, he wasted his time spending it upon amusements and pleasures.

PlutarchLife of Antony28