To What Extent Do Roman Depictions of Cleopatra Appear to Have Influenced How She Has Been Depicted on Tv and in Film?

The way in which we see Cleopatra today is created from the Romans depictions of her story and how she is portrayed in TV and film. She was described by the Romans as a negative but powerful figure upon Egypt, being portrayed as a careless and reckless leader, a ‘mad queen’ who was ‘preparing the ruin of the Capitol’. She was ‘crazed with hope unlimited and drunk with sweet fortune’. (Horace in Fear 2008, p.28)

When Antony left the Romans to join Cleopatra’s side, it seems this may have caused a clash of two cultures and that the Romans felt bitter and angry that Antony has left them to join such a poor leader. Although written 200 years after, Cassio Dio writes about a speech made by Augustus before the battle of Actum, he mentions Cleopatra and Anthony when he is recorded as saying ‘he is bewitched by that accursed woman’ and he is ‘enslaved by her’ which helps illustrate the powerful and seductive personality we see in Cleopatra today (Dio in Fear 2008, p.27).

In the 1917 film ‘Cleopatra’, we see a Queen who is very threatening and powerful and uses her strong personality to ‘bewitch and enslave’ Antony (‘Cleopatra’ 2008). The role of Cleopatra was played by Theda Bara, who at that time was well known for playing roles in which she was a sexual predator and manipulated men, which works well with the love story of Cleopatra and Antony.

The glamorous lifestyle in which we imagine Cleopatra today is usually from images from film and TV. The wealth and luxury of Cleopatra is shown with an image of a beautiful woman, usually with masses of gold in her hair, headpieces, colourful clothes and jewellery.

Plutarch was recorded as writing ‘She came sailing up the river Cyndus in a barge with gilded stern and outspread sails of purple, while oars of silver beat time to the music of flutes and fifes and harps’ (Plutarch in Fear 2008, p.10). This description portrays a woman of wealth and luxury. ‘Sails of purple’ and ‘oars of silver’ portraying the type of...