My boss’s 17 year old daughter, Blonde Slacker Girl, just came into the office complaining about having to do a school History project on Cleopatra, and the differing views of her throughout history. She needed to find original source material.
I instantly went into “Ah well, Cicero met her when she came to Rome, and I don’t think he was impressed, so you could use his letter to Atticus about her. Then there’s Plutarch, of course, not exactly contemporary, but pretty ancient really. Oh and Cassius Dio, he’s bound to have had something to say, that’ll all be on the net.”
*looking these things up on the net for her as she stood behind my chair*
“Then we could look at The Bridgeman Art Library online, they’ll have loads of old paintings and sculptures of Cleopatra in their archive, and I bet they’ll show different aspects of her depending on when they were created. Visual depictions of people can tell you alot about how that person was viewed at the time the art was made. See, these Egyptian reliefs all show her looking big and powerful and not particularly beautiful. Very traditionally Pharaonic and Egyptian, not remotely Greek. Did I mention she was Greek? Well, of Macedonian extraction at least, because of Ptolemy, you know, after Alexander the Great died, Ptolemy got Egypt. Anyway, then later Roman stuff is all about her as a beautiful seductress, that’ll be because she got her claws into both Caesar and Mark Anthony. The renaissance stuff right up to the Victorian period is all showing her half-naked and with a snake on her boob, that’s an asp, a kind of viper, she committed suicide by snake bite, after Mark Anthony was defeated by Octavian. So that’s all about her doomed love. Very Gothic. So, these things say a lot more about the people who created them than about her, per se…”
*turns around to smile at stunned, open-mouthed Blonde Slacker Girl*
BSG: “How do you know all this stuff?”
For which, read: “Why do you know all this stuff?”