Five Things You Didn't Know About Cleopatra


She has been gone for more than 2000 years, yet the memory of her remains very much alive. One of the best-known women who ever walked the earth, Cleopatra was famous for ruling and romancing in an era that brought the famed Egyptian pyramid and the great empires that lived and withered through time. While the famed ruler's supposed wit was celebrated and apparent beauty widely regarded, with numerous depictions of her in literature, films, plays and art, there were some truths about her you probably didn’t know:

Greek Ambiguity

Cleopatra’s name may be Greek, but she likely wasn’t. While her family descended from Ptolemy, a Macedonian general, it was a good 12 generations before the birth of Cleopatra. Factor in the unknown identity of Cleopatra’s grandmother and an ethnically diverse Egyptian population, and you’d find that her true racial identity pretty ambiguous.

Last Pharaoh

Since Rome took Egypt by the reins after the death of Cleopatra, her son Caesarion was the brief, sole ruler of Egypt before his spectacular defeat by Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. Since then, Egypt became Aegyptus and was never the same again.

Great Beauty

History often depicts Cleopatra as a woman of almost god-like beauty – something she was arguably known for, but it was likely her intellect that was her biggest weapon. The well-versed and eloquent Cleopatra spoke more than a dozen languages in addition to being quite the expert in philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, among academic subjects. Yet perhaps it wasn’t exactly Cleopatra’s physical appearance that made her so desirable, but rather, as ancient writer Plutarch describes, her “irresistible charm” and mellifluous voice that added to her perceived beauty.

Posthumous Fame

Cleopatra loved the extravagant life, and thought of herself as a living goddess. She would probably loved that even in death, she somewhat continues living lavishly, with an eponymous 1963 film about her going down in history as one of the most expensive movies ever. The movie was so expensive (think $44 million dollars in 1963) that it almost left its studio bankrupt despite its blockbuster box office status.

Famous Bet

Legend tells of a young Cleopatra wagering with her lover Marc Anthony that she could splurge a small fortune on a single meal. Then, in an ostentatious display (one she arguably favors), she dissolved a pair of her pearl earrings in a cocktail, and drank the crazy concoction. Today, skeptics argue that the event was unlikely, given numerous real-life experiments to re-enact the supposed situation. While pearls can be dissolved in vinegar or alcohol, it would take hours before a pearl noticeably wears away.

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