Remembered in history as alluring, powerful and glamorous, Cleopatra, whose beauty enraptured Roman leaders and changed the fates of many, was not very attractive by the standards of the modern ideal. The layers of fat that encircled her wide, short neck were called “Venus rings” by art historians. Her hook nose was also seen as beautiful by women of the time, who preferred a downward-pointing, high, noble-looking nose. Even despite such points of contemporary beauty, however, Cleopatra was still fairly average in appearance for the time- being around 5ft, the average of the time, it was her seductive ambition that was her key trait and the one that she is best remembered for. Her immortalisation as a beauty was actually due largely to her other qualities- intelligent, powerful, and hungry for more power, ruthless and determined. Still, as a woman, is she immortalized as an extraordinary beauty because this is the highest form of praise possible? It is ironic that it was other qualities that allowed her to play her part in history, that her choice to focus on these manipulations allowed her to be viewed as beautiful- and also that the personal qualities she possessed are those that have been dismissed as “unattractive” in women in most cultures.
It is her story that remains alluring and we try to imagine the enthralling and mysterious woman who played her part in it. Willed as joint ruler of Egypt with her 12-year old brother Ptolemy XIII who she married at age 17 after the death of their father, she was quickly deposed because of her wilful ways, and her young brother left as a puppet king. She schemed a way to regain her empire, having herself wrapped in a blanket to be delivered as a present to Julius Caesar. When he unwrapped it, the 54-year old general found 22 year old Cleopatra inside, and the two became lovers. And after Caesar’s army defeated the Egyptian army, they remained lovers, but Cleopatra married another brother, Ptolemy XIV. Caesar and Cleopatra also married, and Cleopatra went to Rome with Caesar, with their hopes being that they could unite the two countries. After Caesar was murdered, Cleopatra returned to Egypt with their son, and continued to rule with her brother.
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