Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Golden Girl Project: Cleopatra

Golden Girl Project: Cleopatra

This is a new research study I'm going to do for my blog. It's called the Golden Girls Project, a study of the reality, myth and spiritual meanings of famous historical beauties. These Golden Girls capture the imagination. They've inspired people for decades, centuries and millenia. They are figures of love, fantasy, romance, myth and legend. These Golden Girls are daughters of love and light, daughters of the sun, earth and moon.

The first of the Golden Girls Project is about Queen Cleopatra.

First of all I was introduced to Queen Cleopatra in a magazine. I was only a kid. There was a drawing of a lady with brown ringlets, wearing a coronet, dressed in a blue Grecian gown, and sat among white pillars. This was the first image I'd seen of Cleopatra. There was a description of her, from saying she was the queen of Egypt, who bathed in milk, loved Julius Ceaser and Mark Anthony, and died from snake venom. It was very simple and fresh.

After this, on TV was a game show featuring actors dressed up as fallen figures of history. Among them was Cleopatra, who was dressed in a gold headdress and whose lips were painted gold. I became fascinated by Cleopatra then. I saw her as a possible role model, after Madonna! Then I watched her appear in "Carry on Cleo," a 60's comedy satire. Amanda Barrie portrayed Cleopatra as girlish and funny. Then I saw a very serious take on the Egyptian queen in the popular film "Cleopatra" starring Elizabeth Taylor. So from then on I realised Cleopatra had to look Egyptian instead of ancient Greek as the girls mag drew her. I was just a kid and learning a lot. When I was 15 years old, I bought a book on Cleopatra, with illustrations and details of he life. It was very academic. I haven't taken an interest in Shakespear so I've never studied Cleopatra in theatre.

So who was she really? Did she look like the Cleopatra queens from all the films? Why is she popular? What does it all mean when people in this day and age still obsess over a woman from centuries passed.

The Real Cleopatra

There's a lot of misunderstandings about Cleopatra. First of all, she wasn't actually an Egyptian. She was the queen of Egypt who ruled over Egyptians, following the rituals of the Egyptian pharaohs. Cleopatra was a Greek from Macedonia. Macedonia was once part of the Roman Empire, and sat in a region which is now near northern modern Greece, Albania and Bulgaria.

What did she look like? Many people assume she must've looked Egyptian and had dark eyes with bob cut hair and bangs. Looking at the earliest images of her, from the statues, ancient coins and wall art, she appears to resemble a Greek or Roman.  Some of the coins deliberately show her as an unflattering woman. Did she look like that? It might've been a stab at her by the Romans who disapproved of her.Who is to say she wasn't beautiful?

Did she bathe in milk? This is probably not true. The Romans made this up and they know that bathing in milk is quite foul because milk goes off quickly. It smells bad when it's off. Adding a little milk to soap substances and oils could've been likely as some women from Rome did this. Cleopatra would've preferred clean scented water, not smelly asses milk. Don't believe these Roman propaganda lies! I also doubt she was as unattractive as the Romans made out. The Romans themselves were full of gossip and bitching. They hated Cleopatra and demonised her a bit to the point of making her out to be so bloody awful.

Cleopatra in Films

From the beginning of cinema, Cleopatra was a favourite subject. Theda Bara played Cleopatra and portrayed her as being very ornumented, heavily adorned in jewels and trinkets, looking like a belly dancer. The make-up of the time gave her this spooky almost gothic Cleopatra. Claudet Colbert was a modern 30's Cleopatra in long sleek gowns and simple jewellery. Vivien Leigh made Cleopatra seem like abarbarian queen with the Germanic style clothes. Now Elizabeth Taylor was very ancient Egyptian in style as Cleopatra, with a touch of 60's glamour. There hasn't been anything quite like that last film about Cleopatra. No other Cleopatra has outdone Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra. In the future there will have to be more Cleopatra films and other Cleopatras played by different actresses. There is a plan for a new Cleopatra film that will star Angelina Jolie but how will she portray Cleopatra?

There is outcry at the moment about this. People don't want another Cleopatra with fair skin and pale blue eyes. They think Cleopatra was black. Cleopatra wasn't black, she was of Indo-European descent. She's always been a part of Western culture and art for more than two thousand years.
Who was Cleopatra? She was the grand daughter of Alexander the Great's general Ptolemy. The romance about Cleopatra might've been fictional. Mark Anthony had a fling with Cleopatra, then he murdered her sister, before returning to Rome to be with his wife! He remarried to a different woman. Then he returned to Egypt and gave Cleopatra children. Cleopatra married her brother.  

Did Cleopatra die from a snake bite on her breast? Cleopatra didn't die from grief that Mark Anthony was dead. She was afraid of being humiliated further by the Romans and decided to end her life. It seems there was a lot of many complications to her life. Plutarch made this assumption that an asp bit her breast and we don't know if there was any truth to it. However, there was a snake bite found on her arm.

She was Cleopatra VII of Egypt. Born in 69BC, Cleopatra had brothers and sisters. When she became a queen at age 17, her siblings plotted to kill her. From this time on Cleopatra's life has been involved with Julius Ceaser and Mark Anthony, who ath fathered her children.

There is a lot of myth surrounding Cleopatra. She seems to be one of those figures that is timeless. She is someone who people want her to be. They would like her to look a certain way, be a certain way and adhere to the beautiful legend from ancient  Egypt. The only thing is she isn't really from Egypt's most ancient past but the latter stage of Egypt's power. She was the last queen of Egypt. 

Cleopatra's suicide - Discovery news

Image at the top is "Cleopatra" by J. E. Bowser. Visit the artists site.

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