Cleopatra: A Sphinx Revisited

Cleopatra: A Sphinx Revisited

Cleopatra: A Sphinx Revisited

Cleopatra: A Sphinx Revisited

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

Cleopatra VII, Queen of Egypt, still fascinates us. Her life, her reception in Rome, and the continuing interest she attracts, so many centuries after her lifetime, are subjects that have been taken up in a wide variety of fields. This book presents a set of papers that consider Cleopatra and her legacies from the points of view of scholars working in archaeology, art history, history, and literary and film studies. We considered questions about the combinations of Greek and Egyptian culture that proved so successful for the Ptolemies; their art and architecture, some of it newly recovered in underwater excavations at Alexandria; and Cleopatra’s personal ingenuity as a woman in adapting to the requirements for ruling her country. Also significant is the Roman response to Egypt and to Cleopatra herself. This includes the literary evidence for Roman attitudes toward Egypt and Cleopatra, and the history of the Egyptian temples and monuments in Rome. The Egyptian monuments in Rome and the reading of Roman authors kept alive interest in Cleopatra, and, together with Napoleon’s adventures in Egypt, were responsible for persistent modern curiosity about Egypt. They inspired various periods of “Egyptomania” in early modern Western art and eventually became the basis for Cleopatra’s depiction in early film. So strong was her personality that Cleopatra came to represent Egypt itself. In these studies we can witness how Greece, Egypt, and Rome interacted with each other and continue to influence our cultural perceptions, and how this symbolism has been used and reused through the centuries.

These topics were addressed at a symposium on Cleopatra and Egyptomania held at the University of California, Irvine, in March, 1999. We wanted to enhance the experience of graduate students in Classics and Visual Studies at UC Irvine . . .

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