* Your assessment is very important for improving the work of artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project
Cleopatra’s influence on Western culture Beatrice Howarth, 6 April 2017 Cleopatra’s impact on the historical and literary imagination of the West is well known. We tend to focus on her deeds, her plans, the sensational aspects of her career, alleged and otherwise; and, finally, her death. Cleopatra VII ruled Egypt for 21 years. She lost her kingdom once; regained it; nearly lost it again; amassed an empire; lost it all. A goddess as a child, a queen at 18. She had a child with a married man, three more with another. She died at 39 and her end was sensational. In one of the busiest afterlives in history, she has become an asteroid, a video game, a cigarette, a slot machine, a strip club…. Shakespeare attested to Cleopatra's infinite variety. A capable, clear-eyed sovereign, she knew how to build a fleet, suppress an insurrection, control a currency. She nonetheless survives as a wanton temptress, as her story is constructed as much of male fear as of fantasy. For centuries, the history and the myth of Cleopatra has been a great inspiration for artists all around the world. Cleopatra's beauty, seductive powers, love affairs with the two most powerful men of her time and her tragic, but poetic death has been the theme in the works of generations of creative minds, from Shakespeare, to Salvador Dali. Everyone from Michelangelo to Brecht got a crack at her. The Renaissance was obsessed with her, the Romantics even more so. During Art Deco, artists exploited the story of Cleopatra and transformed her from an important historical figure to the coquette, lovely seductress and femme fatale of the Gilded Age. This lecture focuses on what Cleopatra inherited. We will look at the cards that she was dealt, and place her squarely within the context of Hellenistic history. Cleopatra shines in Hellenistic history fully realized while all around her Egypt's Alexandria strives to remain a beacon of light in a darkening world. The Hellenistic period that we are discussing today begins with the death of Alexander, 323 BC and ends with the death of Cleopatra, 30 BC. Alexander established the largest empire the world had seen and spread Greek culture from Greece to India and Afghanistan. People from different races were able to trade and move freely and safely between Europe, Asia and Africa. Alexander’s premature death (33 years old) in Babylon (Iraq) in 323 BC was a setback but his vision did not die with him. During the next 300 years there was a fusion of the Ancient Greek world with that of the great Asian and African civilizations. Alexander owed a great part of his achievements to his teacher Aristotle, one of the greatest philosophers the world has known, and his father Philip, a brilliant general who gave him the tools to implement his vision. It was Philip's dream of uniting the Greeks and conquering the Persian Empire that on his death 336 BC was taken on by his successor, his son Alexander. Both ancient and modern historians recognize that without the military and political efforts of Philip, Alexander would have never been as successful as he was. It was Philip who created the strong Macedonian army and turned Greece into a powerful nation. It was Philip who invited Aristotle to come to Macedonia and educate Alexander and his companions. Alexander loved and cherished Aristotle and he was reported saying that he had received life from his father, but Aristotle had taught him how to live well. Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) together with Plato and Socrates are the preeminent Greek philosophers. Aristotle’s writings on physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology and zoology were the first to create a comprehensive system of Western philosophy, encompassing morality, aesthetics, logic, science, politics, and metaphysics. Alexander, during his campaigns, sent back samples of animals and minerals for Aristotle’s research and carried with him the copy of Homer's Iliad annotated by Aristotle, declaring that it was a perfect portable treasure of all military virtue and knowledge. Alexander’s vision was kept alive to various degrees by his companions/generals who were brought up with him in Macedonia. Three of Alexander’s Macedonian generals who fought each other over his empire established dynasties: Egypt and Palestine – the Ptolemies, Syria and Asia Minor – the Seleucids, Greece – the Antagonid dynasty. Parts of their territories changed hands from time to time, and the dynastic rulers also changed, but Egypt was ruled for 300 years by the descendants of Ptolemy I. The Roman conquests progressively put an end to the Hellenistic kingdoms during the second and first centuries BC and they became Roman provinces. The eastern conquests were lost progressively. The exception is Bactria (Afghanistan). Finds of coinage indicate that there was an independent Hellenistic kingdom in the area long after it had reverted to native rule. Central to Alexander’s vision was to spread Hellenism, treat all his subjects equally, adopt local customs and create new cities of which the most famous is Alexandria in Egypt. There are many Alexandria’s but only Cleopatra’s Alexandria still continues to be a significant city. In 331 BC Alexander had instructed Dinocrates, his architect, to follow Aristotle’s principles for planning the ideal city. Although they were Alexander’s plans it was the Ptolemies who implemented them and built the monuments that made Alexandria famous. Alexandria earned the title "Queen of the Mediterranean" when under the Ptolemaic Dynasty it truly became the cultural and economic centre of the ancient world. Part of its success was its location. Situated on the coast of the Mediterranean, it became the bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa. Both geographically and politically it was freed from many of the problems that affected many Hellenistic and later Roman cities and was enriched by maritime trade and its Greek intellectual tradition. Egypt was ruled from Alexandria by Ptolemy's descendants until the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 BC. The early Ptolemies raised the quality of Egyptian agriculture by reclaiming cultivatable land through irrigation and introduced crops such as cotton and better wine-producing grapes. In addition, they increased the wealth of their population by increasing foreign trade and making more luxury goods available to more people. Ptolemy and his descendants adopted Egyptian royal trappings and added Egypt's gods of Eternity to their own and building temples to them. This adoption of the Egyptian religion was really the secret to Ptolemy's rule (and that of his descendants including Cleopatra who identified with the goddess Isis). Alexander came and left, burning with the desire to bring the rest of the world under his influence, but Ptolemy saw the advantages Egypt could offer. The famed Satrap Stele, on which was carved a decree from Ptolemy at his installation as ruler reads, "I Ptolemy, the satrap restore to Horus, the avenger of his father, the territory of Patanut [Egypt], from this day forth for ever..." In addition to showing respect for the Egyptian religion and beliefs (something previous conquerors had failed to do), this inscription reminded the people exactly who it was who had liberated Egypt from the very unpopular Persian Empire, thus ensuring much support for the new ruler and his dynasty. The Ptolemies used the wealth of Egypt to build the ideal Greek city. The Pharos (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), the Serapeum the most famous of Alexandria’s numerous temples, the Mouseion, including its famous Library which at its peak housed more than 750,000 volumes. Many of the worlds sacred texts (like the Old Testament) were translated for the first time in Greek there. A new universal language was adopted throughout the Hellenistic world, the koine used by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius' to write his Memoirs and the Apostles to write the New Testament. The Mouseion brought together the best scholars of the Greek world. Aristarchus, 310 – 230 BC, was the first scholar attracted by Ptolemy I. He presented the first known model of the world that placed the Sun at the center of the known universe with the Earth revolving around it. Euclid, 325-265 BC, father of Geometry established a school for mathematicians were Archimedes, 287 BC – 212 BC studied, Eratosthenes, 276-194 BC, who provided the world with an incredibly accurate calculation for the earth's circumference. Hipparchus, 190 BC – 120 BC, criticized Eratosthenes' geography and refined it. Yet he and Claudius Ptolemy 85-165 AD were able to use the earth circumference calculations along with Pythagorean and Euclidian principles to determine the earth's diameter, distance to the moon and the moon's diameter. It was legal to study human anatomy through dissection at Alexandria and Herophilus, 335280 BC, the first anatomist, introduced the experimental method to medicine and performed dissections. He deducted that the brain was the seat of intelligence and not the heart. With medicinal plants and knowledge arriving from all areas of the world, medicine flourished in Alexandria. The last great Alexandrian physician was Galen (131-201 AD) who was summoned to Rome. Hypatia, that we will discuss next week, was the last of these great Alexandrian scholars. The Hellenistic period represents the zenith of Greek influence in the ancient world. Great libraries were built and scholars were paid by the state for the first time. Hellenistic kings became prominent patrons of the arts, commissioning public works of architecture and sculpture, as well as private luxury items that demonstrated their wealth and taste. Jewellery for example, took on new elaborate forms and incorporated precious and semiprecious stones which came from the East through new trade routes. Wealthy Greeks in Alexandria built luxurious houses with elaborate mosaics. Another example of Hellenistic art is a dancer who conveys motion exclusively through the interaction of the body with several layers of dress. The woman's face is covered by the sheerest of veils, discernible at its edge below her hairline and at the cut-outs for the eyes. Her extended right foot shows a laced slipper. This dancer has been identified as one of the professional entertainers, a combination of mime and dancer, for which the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria was famous during Cleopatra’s time. Portraits of Africans describe a new realism of Hellenistic art. Cleopatra’s inheritance and responsibility was to preserve and enhance the Hellenistic and Alexandrian culture in difficult times. By the time she became Queen of Egypt all other Hellenistic Kingdoms had become Roman provinces and Cleopatra’s father had to go to Rome to beg for his kingdom. Cleopatra was well endowed to defend Hellenism. She was famous for her scholarship (she could speak many languages) and political astuteness in understanding the strengths and weakness of Rome. She was determined to preserve Egypt’s independence. Born in Alexandria in 69 BC, educated by the scholars of the Alexandrian Library, she was a brilliant linguist and the first Ptolemy to learn Egyptian. As a scholar and supporter of the arts, she made generous donations to the Alexandrian Library and was reputed to be the author of treatises on agriculture and mathematics. Plutarch thought what made her attractive were her wit, charm and sweetness in the tones of her voice. Cleopatra was an astute politician and devoted her life to trying to save the last Hellenistic Kingdom from domination by the Romans. She was a competent administrator who managed a large and diverse kingdom extending from Asia Minor to Egypt and a naval commander who led her own fleet in battle. She originally ruled jointly with her father Ptolemy XII who died in 51 BC, and left his kingdom to the 18year-old Cleopatra and her brother, the 10-year-old Ptolemy XIII. The first three years of her reign were difficult, due to economic difficulties, famine, deficient floods of the Nile and political conflicts with her siblings. Although Cleopatra was married to her young brother, she quickly made it clear that she had no intention of sharing power with him. Cleopatra dropped Ptolemy's XIII’s name from official documents and her face appeared alone on coins. In the power struggle that followed Cleopatra was exiled and was only reinstated with Caesar’s help. At the death of Ptolemy XIII, she married as per Egyptian custom her second brother, Ptolemy XIV who also died as a child, so she became sole ruler of Egypt in 44 BC. According to legend, she had herself rolled up in a carpet and brought secretly to Caesar in order to secure his support. Cleopatra was more anxious to secure powerful political ties, than to seduce him. Yet from the beginning, Caesar and Cleopatra were instantly attracted to each other, especially to the power and ambition the other possessed. Nine months after that first meeting Julius Caesar’s only son Caesarion was born. With Caesar’s help and influence, Cleopatra solidified her grip on the throne. After Caesar's assassination in 44 BC, she proclaimed their son Caesarion King of Egypt. The Romans feared Caesarion who was elevated to coregent with Cleopatra, and proclaimed with many titles, including god, son of god and king of kings, and was depicted as Horus. In 41 BC, Mark Antony, one of the triumvirs who ruled Rome in the power vacuum following Caesar's death, sent Quintus Dellius to Egypt to summon Cleopatra to Tarsus to meet him and answer questions about her loyalty. During the Roman civil war she paid money to Cassius this way subsidising both sides of the civil war. Antony also wanted Cleopatra’s promise to financially support his intended war against the Parthians. Cleopatra arrived in great state, and so charmed Antony that he chose to spend the winter of 41 BC–40 BC with her in Alexandria instead of fighting the Parthians. Cleopatra had decided to align Egypt with Mark Antony in opposition to Caesar's legal heir, Octavian, later known as Augustus. Their love affair till their death in 30 BC has been celebrated for the last 2000 years. With Antony, she bore the twins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios, and another son, Ptolemy Philadelphus. Her unions with her brothers produced no children, as they were not consummated. Anthony gave Cleopatra the title of "Queen of Kings". Her enemies in Rome feared that Cleopatra, ...was planning a war of revenge that was to array all the East against Rome, establish herself as empress of the world at Rome, cast justice from Capitolium, and inaugurate a new universal kingdom. This is an account of the celebrations in Alexandria after Antony defeated the Parthians in 34 BC. A great crowd gathers in the stadium in Alexandria. All eyes are on two tiers of thrones. On the upper level sit Antony and his wife Cleopatra, robed as the Egyptian goddess Isis. On four lower thrones are their own three children together with Cleopatra's eldest son, Caesarion, the child of Julius Caesar. Antony distributes the kingdoms of the eastern Mediterranean to his new family. Antony declares Cleopatra to be the Queen of Kings and Caesarion the King of Kings, jointly ruling over Egypt and Cyprus and joint overlords of the kingdoms of the other children. To Alexander, his own son, aged six, he gives the territories east of the Euphrates; to Alexander's twin sister, Cleopatra, he gives Libya and Tunisia; and to his younger son, Ptolemy Philadelphus, aged two and appearing in Macedonian costume, he gives Syria and much of Anatolia. It is a gorgeous occasion, but one which will need to be explained on the battlefield. 2000 years later the Alexandrian poet Cavafy describes the event in a poem, the Alexandrian Kings. The battle between the forces of Octavian and Antony and Cleopatra takes place at Actium, in Greece, on 2 September 31 BC. What happened at the battle is disputed, but the famous couple are defeated. They escape to Alexandria, on Cleopatra's flagship. However, both commit suicide in the following year, when Octavian arrives in Egypt with his army and Antony’s soldiers tired of fighting defect to him. Cleopatra chooses to kill herself in a manner of great significance to her subjects. She has always taken her Egyptian role seriously, and is the only ruler of her dynasty in three centuries to have learnt the Egyptian language. She is already a prisoner guarded by Octavian’s guards in her own palace. So she arranges for a small poisonous snake, an asp, to be smuggled into her quarters in a basket of figs. She puts on her royal robes, lies on a couch of gold, and applies the asp to her breast. Sacred to Amen-Re, the Egyptian sun god, the snake both protects the royal house and deifies anyone it strikes. The queen's final moment is as dramatic, and as much remembered, as anything in her life. Her death brings to an end the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, the last Hellenistic dynasty to rule Alexander’s Empire. Octavian kills Caearion, briefly Egypt's last nominal pharaoh as Ptolemy XV, and takes Mark Antony's three children back to Rome to be displayed in his triumph with the vast treasures of the Ptolemaic dynasty. He also orders that all images of Cleopatra be destroyed. Egypt is a Roman province. However, Octavian could not kill Cleopatra’s legend. Her legacy survives in the numerous works of art and the many dramatizations of her story in literature, including William Shakespeare’s tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, Jules Massenet's opera Cléopâtre and the 1963 film Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor. Cleopatra was not regarded as a great beauty in the ancient world but as very clever and seductive woman. In his Life of Antony, Plutarch remarks that judging by the effect of her beauty upon Caesar, she had hopes that she would easily bring Antony to her feet. He thought what made her attractive were her wit, charm and sweetness in the tones of her voice. Cassius Dio also spoke of her allure: "For when she was in the prime of her youth, she was most striking; she also possessed a most charming voice and knowledge of how to make herself agreeable to everyone. Being brilliant to look upon and to listen to with the power to subjugate everyone In most depictions, Cleopatra is put forward as a great beauty, and her successive conquests of the world's most powerful men are taken as proof of her sexual appeal rather her political astuteness and strength of character. However, I admire her for her love of learning, her ability in keeping her Kingdom free for over 21 years against the odds and her bravery in the end. The last Hellenistic Queen was a worthy representative of Alexander’s empire.