by elle | 4/16/2009 11:06:00 AM
Archaelogists believe they may have found the site that holds Cleopatra’s tomb. Among the treasures found at nearby digs are coins that bear Cleopatra’s image and a bust of her.

You’d think these coins would be treasured primarily as priceless ancient artifacts or mementoes of a beloved queen. But they are valuable for another reason. A couple of years ago,** scholars examined another coin bearing Cleopatra’s image and determined: “The popular image we have of Cleopatra… that of a beautiful queen,” was wrong. Apparently, the news that Cleopatra might not have looked like Elizabeth Taylor was shocking to some.

Thus, we have the problem of figuring out what to do about Cleopatra--when you tie most of a woman's achievements/activities to her "incomparable" beauty, how do you now, when she is (ridiculously) judged by current standards to be "ugly," tell her story***? How does it change? To what do we attribute Caesar's and Antony's "weakness" (as affection or regard for a woman is so often called)? Surely, Cleopatra's intelligence or cleverness or personality could not have been enough?

These new coins rescue us, again, from those questions.
Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief archaeologist, said the coins found at the temple refuted "what some scholars have said about Cleopatra being very ugly".

"The finds from Taposiris reflect a charm... and indicate that Cleopatra was in no way unattractive," he said.
So she is, indeed, worth our continued fascination.

*Yes, I realize ancient cultures had their own beauty standards and that said standards are subject to change.

**Though the debate about Cleopatra's beauty predates this.

***And I do mean story in a popular sense. I know many historians recognize Cleopatra's political skill.



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Blogger AndrewMc on 4/16/2009 1:54 PM:

Very interesting, especially coming on the heels of the "Martha Washington was a hottie" talk in the press.