Portrayals of Cleopatra Essay

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How and why historians’ portrayal of Cleopatra VII has changed over time The manner in which historians portray Cleopatra is a reflection of their context and their personal view is often evident. Various historians have many different interpretations based on their backgrounds and attitudes. Due to the constant change of society, the image of Cleopatra has been transformed from the power hungry, foreign queen using all means possible to extend her power, including exploiting her sexuality. Cleopatra’s contemporaries Virgil and Horace exemplify this view of Cleopatra in their epic poems. Historians of the first and second centuries AD, such as Josephus, Plutarch, Appian and Cassius Dio wrote for political purposes and portray Cleopatra as a strong political figure although their views are strongly biased towards Roman interests. As time passed, the attitude towards Cleopatra began to change as Europe entered the Renaissance, with Shakespeare’s Cleopatra being a much more passionate and tragic figure than the depiction of previous historians. Today, the typical modern belief depicted by films is that Cleopatra was a passionate and sexy queen of the Nile who drove men wild with desire and seduced every great leader she encountered. However Leonor Varela depicts a very different Cleopatra in Franc Roddam’s 1999 production than that played by Elizabeth Taylor in Mankiewicz’s 1963 production. The Augustan poets Horace[1] and Virgil are slanted towards Rome, as both were poet laureate to Augustus[2]. Horace’s writing is autobiographical and deals with moral and political issues with Greek and Roman mythology woven into the texture. Horace’s “The Cleopatra Ode”[3] from Odes supports Augustus’ causes and reflects his point of view although not commissioned by him. Cleopatra is depicted as a power-hungry woman seeking to control Rome, the propagandist view spread by
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