Introduction to Humanities
7 July 2014
Hardly any personalities from the Hellenistic period (323 BC – 31 BC) are as renowned as Cleopatra VII (69 BC – 30 BC), the Egyptian queen. The focus of a wide array of Western historical texts, music, poems, literature, and arts, Cleopatra has been widely portrayed as a Queen who ruled her subjects and her Roman lovers through sex and gender. Despite such portrayals, very little is known about Cleopatra and there are doubts among historians that such accounts are an inaccurate depiction of Cleopatra. This paper will research studies on Cleopatra to determine whether the accounts of her ruling through sexual liaisons are accurate or they are propaganda developed to tarnish her impeccable reputation. The argument among scholars is that most of the accounts that currently depict Cleopatra VII as a Queen who used sex and gender to rule are erroneous. Roller argues that those accounts are the consequence of a perverse male-dominated historiography out to depict her as an extension of men in her life (2). According to Roller, modern and ancient male-dominated historiographies betray their chauvinistic attitudes towards Cleopatra in the manner in which they portray her primary accomplishments as the destruction of her male lovers (2). Such portrayals were necessary because of their effectiveness in discrediting Cleopatra’s achievements. Roller and Salisbury’s studies dismiss claims that Cleopatra ruled through sex and gender through his argument that Cleopatra was the first woman in classical era and the Hellenistic era to rule independently. Unlike other female rulers, Cleopatra did not ascend to the throne by succeeding her husband or her father (Roller 4; Salisbury 52). Although her father, Ptolemy XII, was the ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, she did not succeed him at the time of his death (Salisbury 52). Societal rules against female leadership prevented her from ascending to the throne as Ptolemaic dynasty decided that she would share the throne with her brother (Salisbury 52). This decision drove a wedge between Cleopatra and her brother, with the two eventually leading a war for the control of the Ptolemaic dynasty (Salisbury 52). This war ended in 47 B.C. when Julius Caesar, the then Roman King, intervened and decided the war in Cleopatra’s favor (Salisbury 52). Her ascendance to the throne was, therefore, independent of succession and sexual favors and gender had no influence on her style of leadership. Additionally, all the political favors Cleopatra obtained during her reign were down to her role in stabilizing the Roman Empire rather than her gender and sexual favors. Immediately after Julius Caesar’s assassination, Cleopatra went to Greece to avenge the assassination as the commander of her own fleet (Jones 57; Roller 4). After Brutus and Cassius’ defeat in Greece, King Antonius began believing that Cleopatra was the strongest hope of the Roman Empire’s survival and, as such, he gave her additional support as part of his efforts to gain her support (Roller 4). This support encompassed bestowing various possessions on Cleopatra (Kleiner 25) and extending her dynasty beyond the Asia Minor and Levant regions towards the Aegean region (Roller 4). Antonius underscored his support from 41 B.C to 40 B.C. when he went to the Ptolemaic Dynasty for a two-year personal vocation with the Queen. Such actions suggest that gender and sex did not play any role in Cleopatra’s successes (Roller 4). She got all the properties and territories because the Roman Empire felt beholden to her for her role in Rome’s stabilization. Further, Cleopatra’s survival as a queen necessitated hard choices that had nothing to do with men, gender, or sex. During her reign, Cleopatra encountered a disproportionate volume of crises that necessitated difficult decisions. Her response to all those situations made her a ruler whose stature was higher than that...
Cited: Anderson, Jaynie and GIovanni Tiepolo. Tiepolo 's Cleopatra. New South Wales: MacMillan Education, 2003. http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=K_zR2mHWPmoC&pg=PA54&dq=cleopatra+was+not+promiscuous&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NOinU7OYJ-uR1AXig4CADQ&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=cleopatra%20was%20not%20promiscuous&f=false
Aubyn, Eli. "Cleopatra 's corpse: Motivation for Cleopatra 's suicide in ancient texts." Studies in Mediterranean Antiquity and Classics 1.1 (2006): 1-18.
Hook, Sidney. The hero in history. New York: Cosimo Inc, 2008. http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=ZhEHmhHQAAkC&pg=PA178&dq=cleopatra+tricked+antony+into+suicide&hl=en&sa=X&ei=wtunU4iIBcaN0AWZ1oGIDg&ved=0CEAQ6AEwBzgK#v=onepage&q=cleopatra%20tricked%20antony%20into%20suicide&f=false
Jones, Prudence. Cleopatra: The last pharaoh. London: Haus Publishing, 2006. http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=8dI-XSUO-PcC&pg=PA55&dq=cleopatra+avenge+Caesar%27s+assassination&hl=en&sa=X&ei=MdinU5r4IYPcOt6ZgRg&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=cleopatra%20avenge%20Caesar 's%20assassination&f=false
Kleiner, Diana. Cleopatra and Rome. New York: Harvard University Press, 2009. http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=KQB8Q8yarkUC&pg=PA53&dq=cleopatra+naval+commander&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6d6nU5emD8yV0QXAvIDIBQ&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=cleopatra%20naval%20commander&f=false
Roberts, Peter. HSC ancient history. New York: Pascal Press, 2006. http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=Krh7n9AyS40C&pg=PA128&dq=cleopatra+was+not+promiscuous&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NOinU7OYJ-uR1AXig4CADQ&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=cleopatra%20was%20not%20promiscuous&f=false
Roller, Duane. Cleopatra: A biography. New York: Oxford Universi, 2010. http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=85rikTt-kBEC&pg=PA2&dq=cleopatra+first+woman+to+rule+independently&hl=en&sa=X&ei=adSnU7XkG8330gX_xoCIBA&ved=0CBwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=cleopatra%20first%20woman%20to%20rule%20independently&f=false
Salisbury, Joyce. Encyclopedia of women in the ancient world. New York: ABC-CLIO, 2001. http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=HF0m3spOebcC&pg=PA50&dq=cleopatra+war+with+her+brother&hl=en&sa=X&ei=_NSnU6GONoXW0QWelIDIDg&ved=0CEoQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=cleopatra%20war%20with%20her%20brother&f=false
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