Cassius Dios’ characterisations of Cleopatra and comparisons from ancient text sources.
Queen Cleopatra has been the subject of endless debate and study, with contradictory depictions from the Ancient Roman historians. Cassius Dio wrote a portrayal representing a woman of beauty and guile. The ancient text describes how she ‘was a woman of surpassing beauty’. According to Cassius’ depiction, Cleopatra was particularly intuitive to making herself inexorably alluring, using her beauty to seduce for her own means. She was able to manipulate some of the most powerful Romans of her time. With these means, Cassius writes, ‘She thought it would be in keeping with her role to meet Caesar, and she reposed in her beauty all her claims to the throne’. Cassius writes that she was motivated to use her beauty and do whatever it would take to gain Caesars’ pity and ultimately his love, to ensure the future of her throne.
The Egyptian queen was depicted often in Ancient Roman texts as a primitive woman, fearsome in her rule and sexually alluring with seeming wanton abandon, using her Machiavellian methods to exploit the powerful Romans, using her decadent wealth, extraordinary in its grandeur, to get the point across of the untrustworthiness’ of women in positions of wealth and power threatening the fabric of a traditionalist society, a view which, in part, echoed that of Plutarch’s ‘life of Antony’. As he wrote:
‘She treated him with such disdain, that when she appeared it was as if in mockery of his orders. She came sailing up the river Cydnus in a barge with a poop of gold, its purple sails billowing in the wind, while her rowers caressed the water with oars of silver…’
Plutarch wrote his biographic 150 years after Cleopatra’s rule. His depiction reads as scathing to the Queen, focusing on her supercilious behaviour and methods
Translations of such texts as Horace’s Ode, from Roman Histories of Egypt, exacerbated by the romans own political system of rejecting and...