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Cleopatra: A Sphinx Revisited

Edited by Margaret M. Miles
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 250
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Cleopatra—a brave, astute, and charming woman who spoke many languages, entertained lavishly, hunted, went into battle, eliminated siblings to consolidate her power, and held off the threat of Imperial Rome to protect her country as long as she could—continues to fascinate centuries after she ruled Egypt. These wide-ranging essays explore such topics as Cleopatra’s controversial trip to Rome, her suicide by snake bite, and the afterlife of her love potions. They view Cleopatra from the Egyptian perspective, and examine the reception in Rome of Egyptian culture, especially of its religion and architecture. They discuss films about her, and consider what inspired Egyptomania in early modern art. Together, these essays illuminate Cleopatra’s legacy and illustrate how it has been used and reused through the centuries.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95026-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Margaret M. Miles
  5. Cleopatra in Egypt, Europe, and New York: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)
    Margaret M. Miles

    In Cleopatra (69–30 B.C.E.) we see a heroic figure, an actual, historical woman who was extraordinarily brave and astute, and as queen protected her country, extended its boundaries, and held off the threat of Rome as long as she could. Charming and passionate, she had a personality so strong that she came to represent Egypt itself, symbolism that took on new meanings after she was conquered. The Roman view of Egypt and Cleopatra and the Egyptianizing monuments in Rome itself were used and reused through the centuries. This imagery continues to appear in film, television programs, and advertisement. To...

  6. 1 Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt
    (pp. 21-36)
    Sally-Ann Ashton

    The legendary Cleopatra the public knows—the passionate, infinitely various woman of Shakespeare’sAntony and Cleopatraand the stylized beauty of the 1930s and 1960s films—has little to do with the historical Cleopatra, and we can gain a sense of the historical woman by considering her alongside her predecessors, the earlier Ptolemaic queens. Such an account of the last Cleopatra, who ruled Egypt from 51 to 30 B.C., can also give us a wider understanding of both the late Ptolemaic period and, to some extent, her use of earlier traditions to support her aspirations. Here I shall examine how...

  7. 2 Cleopatra in Rome: Facts and Fantasies
    (pp. 37-53)
    Erich S. Gruen

    The fascination of Cleopatra continues to cast a spell on the public imagination. Few, if any, figures from antiquity have so wide a name-recognition.¹ Popular books, novels, movies, and television specials that feature this ruler of Egypt appear with regularity and can count on a large market for their wares. The subject, of course, entranced even Shakespeare and Bernard Shaw who produced two very different but still enthralling plays. Perhaps no one has had a broader impact upon the present perception of Cleopatra, however, than Joseph Manciewicz, whose spectacular film, which broke all financial records—for expenditure—and paraded Elizabeth...

  8. 3 Dying Like a Queen: The Story of Cleopatra and the Asp(s) in Antiquity
    (pp. 54-77)
    Robert A. Gurval

    The sultry actress Barbara Stanwyck never played the role of the Egyptian queen, Cleopatra. The accomplished director, Howard Hawks, best known today for his light comedies likeBringing up Baby(1938) andHis Girl Friday(1940) and suspenseful film-noirs likeTo Have and Have Not(1944) andThe Big Sleep(1946), never made a film about ancient Rome. But in their most famous collaboration,Ball of Fire(1941), the death of Cleopatra makes a surprising appearance. In a brief but cleverly scripted scene the Hollywood film intimates popular culture’s familiarity with the legendary queen and at the same time its...

  9. 4 Cleopatra, Isis, and the Formation of Augustan Rome
    (pp. 78-95)
    Sarolta A. Takács

    The English poet laureate Ted Hughes’ poemCleopatra to the Aspsuccinctly captures the essence of Cleopatra’s Egypt as a potent influence on the formation of Augustan Rome. This essay investigates the historical basis for that influence, part of the stimulus for the Augustan remodeling of the Roman Republic into the Principate. Whether this modeling was deliberate or unintentional is not my concern. I will argue, however, that the religious apparatus that supported succession in Cleopatra’s dynasty, in which the goddess Isis played a pivotal role, influenced and, in some ways, shaped Augustus’ political innovations. Ancient authors, papyri, and inscriptions...

  10. 5 Love, Triumph, Tragedy: Cleopatra and Egypt in High Renaissance Rome
    (pp. 96-131)
    Brain A. Curran

    In the 1963 film version ofCleopatra, the part of Julius Caesar is played by the suave British stage and screen actor, Rex Harrison (1908–90).¹ Seeing the film on the big screen at the symposium that inspired these papers, I was once again impressed by the urbanity and worldliness that this fine performer brought to the role. His sure touch is missed in the second part of the film, where the romance between Cleopatra and Antony tends to drag, despite the legendary behind-the-scenes romance of Harrison’s co-stars.² Two years later, Harrison took a leading role in another cinematic epic,...

  11. 6 The Amazing Afterlife of Cleopatra’s Love Potions
    (pp. 132-149)
    Ingrid D. Rowland

    The death of Elizabeth I of England in 1603 may help to explain northern Europe’s sudden resurgence of interest, in the early seventeenth century, in a very different queen, Cleopatra of Egypt.¹ In London, for example, Samuel Daniel “newly altered” his tragedyCleopatrafor performance and republication in 1607; William Shakespeare followed with his ownAntony and Cleopatra, first performed in 1608.² Meanwhile, German scholars reported the discovery of an old manuscript containing the texts ofLetters on the Infamous Libido of Cleopatra the Queen, exchanged among three people: Marc Antony, the famous physician Quintus Soranus of Ephesus, and the...

  12. 7 HRH Cleopatra: The Last of the Ptolemies and the Egyptian Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
    (pp. 150-171)
    Margaret Mary DeMaria Smith

    Because ancient Greek and Roman subjects make up the majority of the four hundred and eight paintings produced and numbered by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, he has long been known as the “painter of the Victorian vision of the ancient world.”¹ Only twenty-six of his paintings are linked to Egypt, most of them from early in the artist’s career, when Egyptian topics were of special interest to him.² Vern Swanson estimates that Egyptian themes constitute approximately 20 to 30 percent of Alma-Tadema’s work from the 1860s and 1870s.³ The artist began by painting scenes of life in the Egypt of the...

  13. 8 Glamour Girls: Cleomania in Mass Culture
    (pp. 172-194)
    Maria Wyke and Dominic Montserrat

    While Elizabeth Taylor was in Rome shooting the spectacular Hollywood epicCleopatra, women’s magazines began to advise their readers how to create “a new Egyptian look” whose models were Nefertiti and Cleopatra, Egypt’s two most iconic queens.¹ An article inLookmagazine for 27 February 1962 predicted:

    Superimpose two such famous glamour girls as Elizabeth Taylor and Cleopatra, and you are in for a beauty boom. In her role as Egypt’s seductive queen, actress Taylor’s exotic eye makeup, diverse hair styles (devised with 30 wigs), magnificent jewels and gowns are bound to inspire a new Egyptian look every bit as...

  14. 9 Every Man’s Cleopatra
    (pp. 195-207)
    Giuseppe Pucci

    The title of this essay, borrowed from John Dryden’sAll for Love(4.299), should suffice to explain my intention: I am concerned less with the historical Cleopatra than with the many Cleopatras different epochs have created to embody their own fantasies and desires. Leaving aside for the moment ancient Latin and Greek authors, my story could begin appropriately with Françoise de Foix, the mistress of Francis I of France, who demanded in 1519 the first modern translation of Plutarch’sLife of Antony, hoping to learn from an unsurpassed model in Françoise’s line of business. From Jodelle’sCleopâtre Captive(1552) to...

  15. Epilogue Cleopatra: The Sphinx Revisited
    (pp. 208-212)
    Peter Green

    Octavian trashed her statues, but a handful of coins survive

    to disconcert the romantic. If her nose

    had only been shorter, said Pascal—but that profile’s alive

    With determined character, its avatar Glenn Close

    Or, better, Meryl Streep. Anyway,there’s no art

    To find the mind’s construction in the face:

    she is what she was and did. Where should we start:

    Perhaps with the tricky question of genes and race.

    incest, wealth, privilege, cumulatively compounded

    from three Macedonian centuries, not dilute

    but distilled essence, royal arrogance only bounded

    by sun and Nile. So much, too, to refute:

    a palimpset of...

    (pp. 213-232)
    (pp. 233-234)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 235-238)