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Methodology | Was Cleopatra black? | Was she good looking? | Cleopatra's wager | Cleopatra's family | Women in Antiquity


"Cleopatra: from history to myth" by Mary Beard in the Guardian (March 2003). Review article on Chauveau/Lorton and Maria Wyke. This is an excellent article on Cleopatra, methodological and source-critical issues, and women in antiquity generally.

"After Cleopatra's death in 30BC, the quantity of material—mostly from Rome itself—increases vastly. But, even for the most hard-headed of historians, the real Cleopatra is impossible to extricate from her Roman myth—or, for that matter, from the complicated and loaded myths of gender, passion, desire and transgression woven by the love poets, in whose work she plays a significant part"

Audio: "The Uses of Cleopatra." Chicago Public Radio discussion program "Odyssey" [October 22, 2001], prompted by the "From History to Myth" arriving in Chicago, interviews Barbara Ciega (Exhibition Developer), Martin Mueller (Northwestern professor) about Cleopatra and the exhibit. Hosted by Gretchen Helfrich, who raises an interesting point about how the "Cleopatra as a devoted mother" image has faded—it's neither threatening nor sexy.

Was Cleopatra black?

"Cleopatra: The Enduring Icon" review of the "From History to Myth" exhibit, by Lamaretta Simmons, F Newsmagazine (Art Institute of Chicago) 2002. Includes a section on the "Was Cleopatra black?" question.

Amazon. World's Great Men of Color, vol. 1, by J. A. Rogers (1947). Covers Cleopatra together with such luminaries (and, alas, dubious blacks) as Aesop, Hannibal, and Zenobia. Stanley Burnstein, in a review of Rice's Cleopatra, identifies this as the source of "popular historiography" of Cleopatra's blackness. Martin Bernal did, however, give the notion more legs and scholarly heft.

Amazon. We Can't Go Home Again: An Argument about Afrocentrism by Clarence Earl Walker. Controversial attack on Afrocentric historiography, focusing on attempts to make Egypt "Black." Library Journal writes that Walker "questions Afrocentrism as a form of historical consciousness. He argues that it is based on 'European romantic racialism' and is a 'therapeutic mythology' designed to restore the self-esteem of black Americans damaged and disoriented by 'Eurocentrism.'" Amazingly, this book hasn't stirred much internet debate, apart from some comments on Amazon.

Reflections on Cleopatra's skin color by Laura S. Moncur. Also at the Sri Lankan Sunday Leader. Moncur looks forward to the day when, "the pharaohs of Egypt may once again rule all of the known world, and our time was merely a 2,000 year footnote listed on the Egyptian tablets."

Was she good looking? has a great "Cheesecake" section where Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson brush shoulders with the "the Classics"—Madonna, Helen of Troy and Cleopatra, who gets a fun, flip run-down of her amorous pursuits and questionable looks:

"All rather surprising, since, as you can see by this image on a coin minted during her lifetime, she wasn't 'all that and a bag of potato chips.' She's not even the bag of potato chips... She almost isn't even the bag."

Web Archive: "The beauty myth" by Jae-Ha Kim, published in the Chicago Sun-Times (October 19, 2001). This is mostly an interview with David Foster, the Field Museum's Cleopatra point-man, but it hits the beauty issue.

"Cleopatra: raving beauty or fat, beaky-nosed witch?" (good title) by Hugh Pearman, for the Sunday Times (April 2001), but this is a pre-edit version. I'm not so hot on some of his analysis, but the writing is good.

The Cleopatra Costume on Stage and in Film a project by David Claudon, a marvellous run-down of Cleopatra in literature and film, seen throught the lense of costume.

Was Cleopatra as beautiful as they say? by N.S. Gill,'s Ancient History guru.

Was Cleopatra as beautiful as they say? A few words on the issue by's N. S. Gill.

Cleopatra: Queen of the Nile by Michael Sones, from Beauty Worlds. Some on her beauty, but not exclusively so.

Cleopatra's wager

"The Cleopatra Cocktail" by Prudence J. Jones, abstract of 1999 American Philological Association talk, explaining the chemistry. Dr. Jones taught a course on Cleopatra at Rutgers, but no course materials are online.

Joe Kissell's "Interesting Thing of the Day" retells the story, with due attention to differences in the sources and the scientific facts.

The pearl story from James Grout's Incidental notes on Cleopatra VII, part of the Encyclopaedia Romana.

Cleopatra Queen of Egypt and the Pearl: An obscure legend about pearls debunked by Barbara Nell. Lengthy, labored effort to explore the origin and meaning of the pearl story, armed with internet resources and a consiratorial frame of mind. She completely misunderstand's Cleopatra's sojourn in Rome:

"Female royalty of conquered territories were taken to Rome to function publicly as trophy slave-wives."
(If so, why were Roman traditionalists upset?) Even so, her effort and creativity is fun. Her conclusion:
"She held the banquet because it was her duty to provide interesting events, an etiquette banquet, for the often boring, usually vulgar, and sometimes depressed Roman representative, Marc, and the long present watchdog, Plancus. And that's the fleshed out event, not the decadent odoriferous spin that's been handed down for two thousand years, and I'm not sorry for that. It does sit well with me that Cleopatra was a sharp cookie."
Also here.

Cleopatra's family

Easy-to-follow simplified family tree from A Woman Called Egypt, a grade-school student project.

King Juba II of Numidia and Queen Cleopatra Selene of Mauretania on Cleopatra's daughter and her husband, with a focus on the coin evidence. Compiled by Jim Phelps.

Amazon. The World of Juba II and Kleopatra Selene: Royal Scholarship on Rome's African Frontier by Duane W. Roller (Routledge Classical Monographs). The Mauritanian king Juba was no doubt a fascinating character—a scholar-king who wrote books on geography, painting, biology and drama—made more fascinating by his marriage to Cleopatra's daugher by Mark Antony, Cleopatra Selene. Unfortunately, his works are all lost, except for some meagre fragments, and you can't fill a page with facts about Selene, so I wonder how Roller managed to write 400 pages on the subject!

Publisher's blurb.

Stemma of Cleopatra Selene, with very detailed scholarly arguments connecting the dots.

Women in Antiquity

Amazon. Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt: A Sourcebook edited by Jane Rowlandson, with contributions by Bagnall, Wilfong, Ann Hanson—ie., a who's who. The book brings documentary papyri on women to the "general reader," if they want it; I'm game, though.

Reviewed by Joan Burton, BMCR, June 1999.

Amazon. Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt by Joyce A. Tyldesley.

The Roman Mistress: Ancient and Modern Representations by Maria Wyke.

Reviewed by Marice E. Rose, BMCR 2002. Includes discussion of modern films

Les femmes dans l'ancienne egypte by Jean-Claude et Bernard Brinette. Translate

Women and Gender in Ancient Egypt an online exhibit from the Kelsey Museum at the University of Michigan, curated by Terry Wilfong.

LibraryThing: Catalog your books online.

If you enjoy this site you may also like these other sites by me:

Ancient Library. Exciting new project to put dozens of classical dictionaries and other works online.

Alexander the Great on the Web. Links to over 1000 images and 200 images of Alexander.

Genghis Khan on the Web. Comprehensive directory of resources about the great Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan.

Angels on the Web. Angels in religion, culture and art. With over 550 images.