Cleopatra, the truth behind the myth!
Cleopatra is a name known throughout the world as synonymous with beauty, strength and power. But some of the facts about her are even more amazing than the stories!
Whilst designing the Cleopatra Spectrum and styling the photoshoot, I realised that although I knew her name and her appearance, I knew very little else about her. So I did a little research and found some pretty intriguing history that you might like to share!
To begin with, Cleopatra wasn't even Egyptian! She originated from Macedonian Greece where she was the descendant of Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Ptolemy took the reigns of Egypt after Alexander’s death in 323 B.C. and Cleopatra was ruthless enough to follow in his footsteps!
She believed herself to be a living goddess, often using stage effects to prove it! In 48 B.C., when Julius Caesar arrived in Alexandria, she had herself wrapped in a carpet and smuggled into his personal quarters...to appear as if by magic! Caesar was overwhelmed and it certainly seemed to have the desired effect because they soon became lovers!
Her first meeting with Marc Anthony was even grander! She dressed herself like the goddess Aphrodite on a golden barge and floated up to him while her attendants dressed as cupids fanned her with Ostrich feathers!
Cleopatra's great beauty is sometimes questioned because coins with her portrait on show her as quite butch with a big hooked nose! It is thought that perhaps this was done to try to show her as a strong and manly leader to those subjects whom she never met.
What is certain is that she spoke as many as a dozen languages and had intellectual skills in philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and was also a brilliant orator who was well respected and revered among scholars.
As with many royal families, it’s likely that her own parents were brother and sister in order to keep the bloodlines strong. She eventually married both of her adolescent brothers, the first of whom (Ptolemy XIII) threw her out of Egypt when she tried to seize power. She joined with Julius Ceasar to defeat him in battle and he was found drowned in the Nile!
Next she married her younger brother Ptolemy XIV, but then had him murdered when her son was old enough to join her as co-ruler! As if that wasn't bad enough,in 41B.C. she had her sister Arsinoe executed so she couldn't challenge her position of power!
Cleopatra left Egypt in 46 B.C., going to live with Caesar in Rome with their lovechild, Caesarion. She was forced to flee Rome after Caesar was stabbed to death in the Roman senate in 44 B.C., but had already made her mark on the city. Her exotic hairstyle and pearl jewelry became a fashion trend, and according to the historian Joann Fletcher, “so many Roman women adopted the ‘Cleopatra look’ that their statuary has often been mistaken for Cleopatra herself.” And indeed to this day her influence on fashion continues.
She spent the Winter of 41-40 B.C. living with Marc Anthony in Egypt. They formed their own drinking society known as the “Inimitable Livers” and indulged in nightly feasts and wine-binges!
In 30 B.C. Cleopatra and Antony famously took their own lives, he by fatally stabbing himself in the stomach. We all know the legend that she died by enticing an “asp” to bite her, but the truth is that no one really knows what happened. The historian Plutarch claimed that Cleopatra was known to hide a deadly poison in one of her hair combs, so many historians now suspect she actually used a pin dipped in snake venom to commit suicide.
Cleopatra was renowned for her incredible Golden outfits, so in the 1963 Elizabeth Taylor film 'Cleopatra' had a $200,000 budget just to cover the cost of the costumes (65 costume changes no less!) It remains one of the most expensive movies ever made!
So that is a pretty incredible legacy, worthy of Game of Thrones itself!
Ruthless, irresistible and determined...she certainly made her mark on history!
Release your inner Cleopatra and channel her strength!
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