Perceptions of Cleopatra
Investigate the ancient sources that discuss Cleopatra and answer the following question in 750 words. Essay Topic: "Was Cleopatra a heroic figure, temptress or vassal of Rome?"
Cleopatra is one of the most talked about figures in history. There is a large amount of controversy surrounding the character of this woman and what role she really played in Egyptian history. This paper will discuss how Cleopatra was really a true heroic figure, a woman who would go to great lengths for her country, rather than simply a vassal of Rome or a temptress.
Many believe that due to her supposed beauty Cleopatra was no more then a mere a temptress, this however, is not true. Many modern sources interpret her charms as they have been described in ancient sources to mean beauty and sexual attractiveness. This idea has been widely accepted when, in fact, by charm the sources were often referring to her intelligence and her ability to converse with men in a way that was not commonly seen in women of the time. In the following quote Cleopatra is described as not only beautiful but also very intelligent, she is noted as being well read and educated. ‘She was reputed to understand eight languages… to have written books on a variety of subjects… Cleopatra received a good education.’ Plutarch further supports this when he discusses Caesar’s infatuation with Cleopatra: ‘… Caesar was first captivated, for she showed herself to be a bold coquette, and succumbing to the charm of further intercourse with her, he reconciled her to her brother on the basis of a joint share with him in the royal power.’ Note that Plutarch does not mention any physical beauty that Cleopatra may or may not have. This suggests that intellect was valued over physical attractiveness at the time. The interpretation of charm as beauty is more a reflection of modern ideals then that of her time. From the evidence, it is clear, that Cleopatra was more than just a beautiful woman, but...
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