Although Cleopatra died thousands of years ago, her life is a source of fascination and wonder for many to this day. Cleopatra didn't live for especially long, but her time as pharaoh was mired in drama, romance, power, and intrigue. And thanks to a slew of paintings and sculptures created throughout the years, we have a pretty good idea of what Cleopatra looked like. However, there was another huge mystery surrounding her that stumped scientists and history buffs for decades — until a recent archaeological find solved this confounding puzzle.
Queen of queens
Cleopatra was a ruler beloved among her people. Throughout her reign, she revived the Egyptian economy, established trade with neighboring countries, and united the public through her creation of a prosperous and powerful Egypt. Yet it's her personal life that still captivates us.
Was she truly beautiful?
She has been the subject of artwork, plays, operas, poetry, and film, which all describe her as an otherworldly beauty. But as it turns out, Cleopatra’s supposed beauty is a relatively recent spin on her tale. In fact, early representations of the Egyptian queen, influenced by negative poems and historiographies recorded by the Romans, tended to be less than flattering.
That Cleopatra left her mark on the world is indisputable. And while she may have been vilified by the Romans, in more recent times she has become a symbol of romance and femininity. Indeed, her status as a modern cultural icon dates to the Victorian age and so-called “Egyptomania” – a fixation with all things Egypt, thanks in part to the archaeological discoveries of the day.
A European interpretation
Egyptomania provided the inspiration for a series of famous photos of Emilie Langtry, who posed as Cleopatra in 1895. Nicknamed “The Jersey Lily,” Langtry was a British-American socialite, producer, and actress. She was a darling of bohemians and society hostesses on the London scene and the images of her reclined in full Egyptian garb just might be the kitschiest ever tribute to Cleopatra.