The Death of Cleopatra
Cleopatra’s suicide was not a spur of the moment incident. Cleopatra had thought it all through and had even built herself a tomb and filled it with all her precious treasures. It wasn’t until she was threatened with the thought of being brought back to Rome by Octavian and being dragged through the streets, as his trophy, bound and cuffed in chains that she put the plan in motion.
In the summer of 30 B.C. Cleopatra started planning her own death. She depended greatly on her two most trusted servants, Iras and Charmion. Both of these woman agreed that they would die along side of Cleopatra though neither of them were actually strong enough to do the deed themselves. Cleopatra turned to her physician Olympus for advice. She told him of three most important characteristics she was looking for in a method: 1) not very painful, 2) must be quick, 3) must not disfigure her in any way. Olympus decided that the poison from a snake would be her best bet.
The issue then became what type of snake she would use. Not wanting to choose the wrong type of snake, Cleopatra brought criminals into the palace and ordered slaves to apply the poison from a snake. She did this daily until she found the reaction that she envisioned for herself. It was the bite of an Asp, an Egyptian Cobra, she sought for her demise.
Cleopatra finally put her plans into motion when she had a peasant deliver the Asp hidden in a basket of figs to her at her tomb. This was also where her love, Antony, was buried. She decorated the tomb with garland, and kissed Antony’s grave stone. She then ordered her bath, her two women dressed her in her jewels (including the great double crown of Egypt), and then a luxurious meal was served. She wrote to Octavian asking that she be buried along side Octavian. Not waiting for his response, she let the Asp bite her. Her servants died along her side as well.
It had been said that this was far from an execution, but “it was...
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Plutarch. Plutarch Lives, IX, Demetrius and Antony. Pyrrhus and Gaius Marius (Loeb Classical Library). New York: Loeb Classical Library, 1920. Print.
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