20+ Facts About Cleopatra That You Won’t Hear in School
Queen Cleopatra is perhaps the most famous woman of ancient times. Everyone knows her for her unbelievable beauty rituals and her love affairs with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. But we can only guess what the life of this great ruler was really like.
At Bright Side, we decided to research the most remarkable and unexpected facts from Cleopatra’s biography to find out why everyone knows her name, even thousands of years later.
She wasn’t conventionally beautiful but she drove men crazy.
The Ptolemaic dynasty ruled Egypt for 275 years and Cleopatra was the last of its rulers. Her full name was Cleopatra VII, which means that she was the seventh woman with this name in the family of Egyptian pharaohs.
According to the philosopher, Plutarch, Cleopatra didn’t have outstanding beauty the way she’s often portrayed in movies. However, she captivated men with her musical voice and demeanor.
However, after studying various Cleopatra sculptures and her images on ancient coins, scientists came to the conclusion that she had a large nose, rather narrow lips, and a sharp chin. She was 5 feet tall, and plump, according to today’s beauty standards.
Her beauty secrets became legends.
Cleopatra’s image is popular, even today. Marketing professionals promote beauty products by saying that Cleopatra used to use them. These are some of her best-known beauty secrets:
Cleopatra’s famous black eyeliner arrows were not for decoration, but for health. They helped her to avoid eye infections that were quite common in those days. Cleopatra’s eye makeup was made with kohl. It contained substances that prevented the development of such diseases. However, kohl’s lead content has caused it to be banned in the modern age.
When recreating Cleopatra’s makeup, most of our contemporaries use gold or nude colors. However, the queen painted her lips and cheeks bright red. For this, she used red ochre which was finely ground and mixed with water.
To keep her skin soft and clear, Cleopatra may have used rose water as a toner. Even William Shakespeare wrote about the queen’s affinity for rose water in Anthony and Cleopatra. Surprisingly, to this day, this ingredient can be found in most tonics and cleansers. You can do it yourself: just place the rose petals in a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Once the petals have lost most of their color, turn off the stove and let the beauty potion cool. If you’d like, you can add a few drops of vitamin E to the substance.
Cleopatra used henna as natural nail polish which gave her fingernails a lovely reddish-brown color.
Diet was also important to Cleopatra. She’d regularly eat pickled cucumbers believing it would help her appearance.
If you ever run out of brow product, toast up some almonds! The Queen of Egypt used burnt almonds to darken her eyebrows.
But her main strength was a powerful mind.
The Queen was rightfully considered one of the most educated women of her time. Her knowledge of literature, art, politics, and philosophy amazed her interlocutors. She was amazingly graceful and could perfectly play the lute and harp, and she also sang and danced. Additionally, Cleopatra knew multiple languages, even becoming the first Ptolemaic ruler to learn the native Egyptian language, so she rarely used translators, communicating with foreigners directly.
Once, when there was a rebellion and the Queen had to leave Alexandria. However, Caesar arrived at the capital, and she needed to meet with him in order to put down the rebellion. To walk through the angry crowd, Cleopatra was bound inside a bed sack to be smuggled into the palace to meet Caesar. Struck by her cunning, the Roman emperor fell madly in love with her.
Later, following Caesar’s order, Cleopatra’s golden statue was placed in the Temple of Venus, and she was worshipped as a goddess.
She won the hearts of the most influential men of her time.
Cleopatra realized that she could remain the Queen of Egypt only if she could seduce Mark Antony, especially hoping he could help her produce heirs. She decided to win the heart of this Roman general by all means. Cleopatra knew that Mark Antony thought of himself as the Greek god, Dionysus, and in order to impress him, she decided to play along with it. She appeared in the city dressed like the Greek goddess Aphrodite. The general fell in love with her immediately.
Her contemporaries said that Cleopatra’s behavior with Mark Antony was different from how she acted with Caesar. With the Roman emperor, she was always witty, charming, and graceful, and she talked about art, literature, and politics. But with Mark Antony, she behaved like a courtesan: she played dice and even participated in hunts.
Mark Antony, who was madly in love with her, did anything she wanted. He even divorced his wife, Octavia.
Cleopatra loved to shock others and keep her environment interesting.
- Queen Cleopatra studied mathematics, astronomy, rhetoric, and philosophy. She was the only representative of her dynasty who adopted Egyptian religion and was interested in the culture of Egypt. Before her reign, the Ptolemaic were not interested in the gods and customs of their people.
- Cleopatra had a wonderful sense of humor. She and Mark Antony formed their own society known as the “Inimitable Livers.” The group engaged in nightly feasts and wine binges. The Queen and Mark Antony loved to wander the streets of Alexandria in disguise and play pranks on its residents.
- The Queen had children from both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Caesar’s son’s name was Caesarion. With Mark Antony, she had twins, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene II, and Ptolemy Philadelphus.
- Cleopatra was sure that scents could be used as a tool of persuasion and she even had her own perfume factory. It even had an early spa.
Cleopatra was the last ruler of her dynasty.
The brother of Mark Antony’s ex-wife, Octavian, decided to go to war with Egypt. He managed to win the war, and the Egyptian queen fell into despair. She then learned that she would be paraded in chains during Octavian’s triumph. Cleopatra said, “I will not be led in triumph!”
On her last day, she threw a gorgeous feast for the winners. During this feast, she left for her bedroom. According to one version of the story, she took poison, and according to another, she pricked a snake so that it would bite her.
Cleopatra became the last queen of Egypt. Her death coincided with the decline of Egypt’s greatness, and the once-mighty empire turned into one of the Roman provinces. Her life was full of intriguing twists and turns and was so bright and unusual that Cleopatra is remembered and revered to this day.
What do you think about Cleopatra? Do you think she was an extraordinary woman or do historians exaggerate her merits? Share your opinions in the comments below.