The young princess Cleopatra VII, known today as simply Cleopatra, became the queen of Egypt in the year 51 B.C. Thrust onto the world stage by her father, Ptolemy XII, she ruled a country in tumult, one on the verge of crumbling under the mighty Roman Empire.
Only 17 years old when she took the throne, Cleopatra quickly became one of the most powerful rulers Egypt had ever known. She bonded personally and politically with two of ancient Romes most powerful leaders, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Then, barely two decades after coming to power, this queen took her own life in a climactic act of defiance against the Romans, still hungry for her kingdom.
While we know these facts of Cleopatras life and times, much remains to be discovered. Who was Cleopatra? What, and whom, did she hold dear? Was she the exotic beauty depicted by artists and filmmakers, or did she lure her famous lovers with her intellect and her power? From the underwater ruins Continue reading
For centuries, ancient writers had praised the Egyptian cities of Canopus and Heracleion as visions of splendor. Such descriptions had long sparked the interest of historians and archaeologists in the modern world, but the cities themselves were nowhere to be found. Finally, in 1992, researchers from the Institut Europen dArchologie Sous MarineEuropean Institute of Underwater Archaeology (IEASM)set out to search the Alexandrian waters. Literary texts, ancient inscriptions, papyrological documentation, and archaeological information provided by Egypts Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) all indicated great promise in this region. Still, scientists had only a faint idea of the monuments and artifacts hidden in these shallow waters. Their discoveries now reveal that Canopus and Heracleion formed a rich network with nearby Alexandria, a network that allowed the entire region to flourish. Today the sunken cities contain only remnants of this network, but artifact by Continue reading
California Science Center
Los Angeles, CA
May 23, 2012 – December 31, 2012
Milwaukee Public Museum
October 14, 2011-April 15, 2012
Cincinnati Museum Center Cincinnati, OH
February 18-September 5, 2011
The Franklin Institute
June 5, 2010-January 2, 2011
Check back for the announcement of more locations.
No other queen of the ancient worldnot Hatshepsut or Nefertiti, not Helen of Troy or Boudicca of the Celtscarries with her the intrigue of Egypts Queen Cleopatra VII. Her life, her politics, and her romantic encounters have given her a magical appeal that has captivated the world ever since. Over the years, her tale has been told and retold, and often reinterpreted; her image has been reinterpreted by age after age in light of each proceeding style of art and fashion. And still Cleopatra remains rich, ruthless, and incredibly alluring.
And to think that this is a woman whose appearance we cannot even know for certain. Years ago, a British Museum curator examined the royal statues of the queen and the coins stamped with her image and stated that her face was not what one would consider beautiful by modern standards. Reports that the queen was fat, frumpy, and had a large hooked nose, bad teeth, sharp eyes, and a fat-folded neck, spread throughout the press. Ancient Continue reading
The Search for Cleopatra
Archaeologists search for the true face—and the burial place—of the worlds first celebrity.
Photograph by George Steinmetz
Where, oh where is Cleopatra? She’s everywhere, of course—her name immortalized by slot machines, board games, dry cleaners, exotic dancers, and even a Mediterranean pollution-monitoring project. She is orbiting the sun as the asteroid 216 Kleopatra. Her “bath rituals and decadent lifestyle” are credited with inspiring a perfume. Today the woman who ruled as the last pharaoh of Egypt and who is alleged to have tested toxic potions on prisoners is instead poisoning her subjects as the most popular brand of cigarettes in the Middle East.
In the memorable phrase of critic Harold Bloom, she was the “world’s first celebrity.” If history is a stage, no actress was ever so Continue reading