Cleopatra - What We Think the Famous 'Beauty' Looked Like

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Statue of Cleopatra

Statue of Cleopatra
British Museum Bust | Statue of Cleopatra | Pictures of the Ptolemies | Theda Bara Playing Cleo | Liz Taylor as Cleo | Carving | Caesar Stands Before Her | And Augustus | And the Asp | And Antony Coin | Bust | Cleopatra's Needle | Death Statue. Cleopatra VII StatueRosicrucian Egyptian Museum San Jose, California. CC Flickr User Jon Callas

The famous Cleopatra (Cleopatra VII) ruled Egypt during the final years, not only of Egypt's independence, but, in a sense, Rome's. A single ruler we call the emperor would soon rule both. The man who would become the first Roman emperor, Octavian, later Augustus, took control of Egypt when Cleopatra died.

Cleopatra descended from the line of Ptolemies. A Macedonian, Ptolemy, follower of Alexander the Great, started a Macedonian line of pharaohs of Egypt. The Ptolemies were responsible for creating the wonderful museum and library at Alexandria, which was the training grounds for many renowned ancient Greek scientists. [See Scholars at the Library of Alexandria.] It is the same library that features prominently in the story of the pagan woman philosopher Hypatia, who was destroyed viciously under the auspices of the Christian bishop Cyril of Alexandria about four centuries after our Egyptian queen.

We Don't Know What Cleopatra Really Looked Like

Not too many monuments of Cleopatra remain because, although she captured the heart or at least the fancy of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, it was Octavian (Augustus) who became the first emperor of Rome following the assassination of Caesar and the suicide of Mark Antony. It was Augustus who sealed the fate of Cleopatra, destroyed her reputation, and took control of Ptolemaic Egypt. Cleopatra did get the last laugh, however, when she managed to commit suicide, instead of letting Augustus lead her as a prisoner through the streets of Rome in a victory parade.

British Museum Cleopatra Bust
Statue of Cleopatra
Pictures of the Ptolemies
Theda Bara Playing Cleo
Liz Taylor as Cleopatra
Cleopatra Carving
Caesar Stands Before Her
Augustus and Cleopatra
Cleopatra and the Asp
Antony and Cleopatra Coin
Cleopatra Bust
Cleopatra's Needle
Death of Cleopatra Statue

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Pictures of Cleopatra

British Museum Bust | Statue of Cleopatra | Pictures of the Ptolemies | Theda Bara Playing Cleo | Liz Taylor as Cleo | Carving | Caesar Stands Before Her | And Augustus | And the Asp | And Antony Coin | Bust | Cleopatra's Needle | Death Statue.

This series of pictures of Cleopatra show her as the popular imagination and Egyptian stone workers have portrayed her. This particular picture shows the heads of the Ptolemies, the Macedonian rulers of Egypt following the death of the empire-building Alexander the Great. Ptolemy had been a general and possibly close relative of Alexander. After When he died, his empire was split, with Ptolemy taking control of Egypt. As rulers, the Ptolemies remained distinctly Hellenistic (Greek/Macedonian), but adopted Egyptian customs, including the marriage between royal brothers and sisters. Cleopatra, who had married her brothers, as well as consorting with the Roman heads of state, was the last of the ruling Ptolemies.

British Museum Cleopatra Bust
Statue of Cleopatra
Pictures of the Ptolemies
Theda Bara Playing Cleo
Liz Taylor as Cleopatra
Cleopatra Carving
Caesar Stands Before Her
Augustus and Cleopatra
Cleopatra and the Asp
Antony and Cleopatra Coin
Cleopatra Bust
Cleopatra's Needle
Death of Cleopatra Statue

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Theda Bara Playing Cleopatra

Poster of Theda Bara as Cleopatra. 1917.
British Museum Bust | Statue of Cleopatra | Pictures of the Ptolemies | Theda Bara Playing Cleo | Liz Taylor as Cleo | Carving | Caesar Stands Before Her | And Augustus | And the Asp | And Antony Coin | Bust | Cleopatra's Needle | Death Statue. Poster of Theda Bara as Cleopatra. 1917. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the movies, Theda Bara (Theodosia Burr Goodman), a cinematic sex symbol of the silent film era, played a glamorous, alluring Cleopatra.

This poster of Theda Bara as Cleopatra is on the cover of Sally-Ann Ashton's 2008 book on Cleopatra, Cleopatra and Egypt.

British Museum Cleopatra Bust
Statue of Cleopatra
Pictures of the Ptolemies
Theda Bara Playing Cleo
Liz Taylor as Cleopatra
Cleopatra Carving
Caesar Stands Before Her
Augustus and Cleopatra
Cleopatra and the Asp
Antony and Cleopatra Coin
Cleopatra Bust
Cleopatra's Needle
Death of Cleopatra Statue

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Cleopatra and the Asp

British Museum Bust | Statue of Cleopatra | Pictures of the Ptolemies | Theda Bara Playing Cleo | Liz Taylor as Cleo | Carving | Caesar Stands Before Her | And Augustus | And the Asp | And Antony Coin | Bust | Cleopatra's Needle | Death Statue.

When Cleopatra decided to commit suicide rather than surrender to Augustus she chose the dramatic method of putting an asp to her chest -- at least according to legend. Here is an artist's rendering of this bold and defiant act.

Historian Christop Schaefer has made news in 2010 with his claims that Cleopatra didn't die from the bite of an asp but from using poison. This isn't really news, but people tend to forget, preferring to embrace the more courageous image of the queen clasping an asp or cobra, rather than drinking a cup of opiates and hemlock.

The Daily Mail's [ URL = www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1290617/Cleopatra-killed-cocktail-drugs--snake-bite.html ] "Cleopatra 'was killed by a cocktail of drugs - not a snake" detailed the German historian's analysis.

British Museum Cleopatra Bust
Statue of Cleopatra
Pictures of the Ptolemies
Theda Bara Playing Cleo
Liz Taylor as Cleopatra
Cleopatra Carving
Caesar Stands Before Her
Augustus and Cleopatra
Cleopatra and the Asp
Antony and Cleopatra Coin
Cleopatra Bust
Cleopatra's Needle
Death of Cleopatra Statue

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Coin of Cleopatra and Mark Antony

British Museum Bust | Statue of Cleopatra | Pictures of the Ptolemies | Theda Bara Playing Cleo | Liz Taylor as Cleo | Carving | Caesar Stands Before Her | And Augustus | And the Asp | And Antony Coin | Bust | Cleopatra's Needle | Death Statue.

This coin shows Cleopatra and the Roman Mark Antony. Following the assassination of Julius Caesar, who had been Cleopatra's lover, Cleopatra and Mark Antony had an affair and then marriage with children. Since Mark Antony had been married to Octavian's sister, this caused problems in Rome. Eventually, when it was clear that Octavian had more power than Mark Antony, Antony and Cleopatra (separately) committed suicide after the Battle of Actium in September 31 B.C.

Cleopatra doesn't look very glamorous in this depiction. Instead, she looks a lot like Mark Antony.

British Museum Cleopatra Bust
Statue of Cleopatra
Pictures of the Ptolemies
Theda Bara Playing Cleo
Liz Taylor as Cleopatra
Cleopatra Carving
Caesar Stands Before Her
Augustus and Cleopatra
Cleopatra and the Asp
Antony and Cleopatra Coin
Cleopatra Bust
Cleopatra's Needle
Death of Cleopatra Statue

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Cleopatra's Needle

London Cleopatra's Needle
British Museum Bust | Statue of Cleopatra | Pictures of the Ptolemies | Theda Bara Playing Cleo | Liz Taylor as Cleo | Carving | Caesar Stands Before Her | And Augustus | And the Asp | And Antony Coin | Bust | Cleopatra's Needle | Death Statue. London Cleopatra's Needle. CC Photo Flickr User nikoretro

This is a stretch, since Cleopatra's Needle is believed to be an obelisk for Thutmosis III, but it is possible that like people today, contemporaries of Cleopatra referred to the obelisk as Cleopatra's Needle (in the appropriate ancient language, of course).

British Museum Cleopatra Bust
Statue of Cleopatra
Pictures of the Ptolemies
Theda Bara Playing Cleo
Liz Taylor as Cleopatra
Cleopatra Carving
Caesar Stands Before Her
Augustus and Cleopatra
Cleopatra and the Asp
Antony and Cleopatra Coin
Cleopatra Bust
Cleopatra's Needle
Death of Cleopatra Statue

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Death of Cleopatra Statue

Marble statue of Cleopatra from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Washington D.C.
British Museum Bust | Statue of Cleopatra | Pictures of the Ptolemies | Theda Bara Playing Cleo | Liz Taylor as Cleo | Carving | Caesar Stands Before Her | And Augustus | And the Asp | And Antony Coin | Bust | Cleopatra's Needle | Death Statue. Marble Cleopatra Statue - Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. CC Flickr User Kyle Rush

Edmonia Lewis

' white marble statue of the death of Cleopatra was created from 1874-76. Cleopatra is still after the asp has done its deadly work.

The Death of Cleopatra
modeled ca. 1874-1875, carved 1876
Italian marble
63 x 31 1/4 x 46 in.

British Museum Cleopatra Bust
Statue of Cleopatra
Pictures of the Ptolemies
Theda Bara Playing Cleo
Liz Taylor as Cleopatra
Cleopatra Carving
Caesar Stands Before Her
Augustus and Cleopatra
Cleopatra and the Asp
Antony and Cleopatra Coin
Cleopatra Bust
Cleopatra's Needle
Death of Cleopatra Statue