Archaeology Cleopatra seduced the Romans with her irresistible . . . mind

Discussion in 'Archaeology' started by mscbkc070904, Mar 14, 2005.

  1. mscbkc070904

    mscbkc070904 Premium Member

    LONG before Shakespeare portrayed her as history’s most exotic femme fatale, Cleopatra was revered throughout the Arab world — for her brain.

    Medieval Arab scholars never referred to the Egyptian queen’s appearance, and they made no mention of the dangerous sensuality which supposedly corrupted Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Instead they marvelled at her intellectual accomplishments: from alchemy and medicine to philosophy, mathematics and town planning, a new book has claimed.

    Even Elizabeth Taylor, who famously played the title role in the 1963 epic Cleopatra, would have struggled to inject sex appeal into this queen. Arab writers depict Cleopatra’s court as a place of intellectual seminars and scholarship rather than the more traditional vision of kohl-rimmed eyes and hedonistic intrigue.

    “They admired her scientific knowledge and her administrative ability,” the book’s author Okasha el-Daly, who is based at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College London, said.

    In Egyptology: The Missing Millennium he writes that “Arabic sources often refer to Cleopatra as ‘the virtuous scholar’ and cite scientific books written by her as the definitive works in their field”. She was also regarded as a great builder, he claims, responsible among other things for a canal to supply Alexandria with Nile water.

    Cleopatra was born in 69BC, the last of the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great’s invasion in 332BC. The few images of her that survive suggest that she was not a great beauty by modern standards. Despite this she succeeded in seducing Caesar and his former ally Mark Antony, who left his Roman wife Octavia for her.

    European scholars finally learned to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics in 1822 with the help of the Rosetta Stone. But Dr el-Daly believes that a ninth-century Arabian alchemist, Ibn Wahshiyah, got there first, opening up original Egyptian sources to medieval Arab writers.

    “There has always been a snobbery which suggested that medieval Arab scholars only cared about science and engineering,” he said. “They wrote about everything they found interesting. I even found one medieval scholar who had written a book on sex.”

    Kate Spence, a lecturer in Egyptology at Cambridge University’s Faculty of Oriental Studies, described Dr el-Daly’s work as very important.

    “Everybody has known that these Arab sources were around for ages.” she said, “but most of us working in this field don’t know enough Arabic to use them properly.”

  2. Bleys

    Bleys Phoenix Takes Flight Staff Member


    I love this description of her:

    Plutarch, a Greek historian, perhaps provides some insight into what it was that men found so irresistible about her, when he writes, "Plato admits four sorts of flattery, but she [Cleopatra] had a thousand. Were Antony serious or disposed to mirth, she had at any moment some new delight or charm to meet his wishes: at every turn she was upon him, and let him escape her neither by day nor by night She played at dice with him, drank with him, hunted with him: and when he exercised in arms, she was there to see…."

    Flattery will get you everywhere.....
  3. mscbkc070904

    mscbkc070904 Premium Member

    She was defintely a certified true DIVA!