Anarchists of Style: Cleopatra

Cleopatra’s ancestors created the great library at Alexandria and built the lighthouse at Alexandria, one of the wonders of the ancient world. But nothing from this dynasty’s legacy matches the import—and the cultural wonder—inspired by Cleopatra herself, the beloved Egyptian queen who killed her husband–brother and bedded both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, two of the most powerful men in the world.

In matters of style, Cleopatra had a penchant for the dramatic. While in hiding from her brother, she was called to meet Caesar, whose help she desperately wanted. She smuggled herself into the palace, rolled up in either a rug or a sack, unveiling herself in front of the commanding Roman. Nude, the story goes. This was their first meeting, and said to be the beginning of their affair.She perfumed the sails of her ship.

She visited Caesar in Rome where her presence “revived cults of certain Egyptian deities such as Isis, with whom Cleopatra was associated.” She was a force and had great charisma—but was she really a great beauty? In 2007, a coin with her likeness was thought to debunk the myth of her good looks. A Guardian writer described her profile on this coin as “shrewish.” But one year later, scientists revealed an image in which Cleopatra’s likeness was recreated “from images on ancient artifacts.” In this reconstruction, she was multi-racial and stunning.

“For her beauty, as we are told, was in itself not altogether incomparable…” Plutarch
“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale/ Her infinite variety…” William Shakespeare


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1 Comment

  • Joy D. June 13, 2012 10.17 am

    Cleopatra, even though there has been so much work and research done, remains a mystery in many ways.


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