Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile


Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety: other women cloy
The appetites they feed: but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies; for vilest things
Become themselves in her: that the holy priests
Bless her when she is riggish.

- William Shakespeare
From Antony and Cleopatra

I wonder how the historical Cleopatra measured up to Shakespeare's vision of an endlessly fascinating woman, a woman of great allure. The romantic in me likes to think the real Cleopatra was an ageless woman of "infinite variety." We know that Mark Antony was certainly enthralled by this "Queen of the Nile." We also know that on this day in 30 B.C., Cleopatra VII Philopator took her own life.

"Cleopatra" is Greek for "father's glory," and her full name, "Cleopatra Thea Philopator," means "the Goddess Cleopatra, Beloved of Her Father." Cleopatra VII was co-ruler of Egypt with her father Ptolemy XII Auletes, her brother/husband Ptolemy XIV, and later her son Caesarion (by Julius Caesar). After the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., Cleopatra formed an alliance with Mark Antony.

In 30 B.C., Antony and Cleopatra faced military defeat at the hands of Octavian (Antony's rival and Julius Caesar's legal heir) whose forces were poised to invade Egypt. As Octavian approached Alexandria, Antony's armies deserted to the enemy and a distraught Antony and Cleopatra both committed suicide. According to legend, Cleopatra used an asp to kill herself. The New World Encyclopedia says that the term "asp" actually pertains to a variety of poisonous snakes, but in the case of Cleopatra, it "refers to the Egyptian Cobra, which was sometimes used to execute criminals."

Cleopatra's son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion, was killed by Octavian. The three children of Cleopatra and Antony were spared and returnd to Rome where they were raised by Antony's wife, Octavia. Mark Antoy's rival, Octavian, later became known as Caesar Augustus, the first ruler of the Roman Empire. The month of August is named after him.

It is also noteworthy that Cleopatra was a rare female ruler in a thoroughly male-dominated world. In fact, I can't think of another woman who held such a position of power and influence in ancient history. Can you?


The Blue Jays certainly have had their problems with the Boston Red Sox this season. They were thumped yesterday by a score of 10-1 in their second game of a series with the Red Sox here in T.O. It was a game that starting pitcher Shaun Marcum would like to forget. For that matter, so would I.

- Joanne

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