Cleopatra’s Death: Another Theory

The incipit of a brief item in the Telegraph:

The Queen of the Nile ended her life in 30BC and it has always been held that it was the bite of an asp – now called the Egyptian cobra – which caused her demise.

Now Christoph Schaefer, German historian and professor at the University of Trier, is presenting evidence that aims to prove drugs and not the reptile were the cause of death.

“Queen Cleopatra was famous for her beauty and was unlikely to have subjected herself to a long and disfiguring death,” he said.
He journeyed with other experts to Alexandria, Egypt, where they consulted ancient medical texts and snake experts.

“Cleopatra wanted to remain beautiful in her death to maintain her myth,” he says on the Adventure Science show screened by the German television channel ZDF.

“She probably took a cocktail of opium, hemlock and aconitum. Back then this was a well-known mixture that led to a painless death within just a few hours whereas the snake death could have taken days and been agonising.” [...]

via Cleopatra died of drug cocktail not snake bite – Telegraph.

Hopefully we’ll hear more about this … back in 2004 there was an item in the Times in which a forensic expert suggested it would have likely taken two hours for Cleopatra to die by the bite of an asp:

Feature: Cleopatra and the asp

… and a year later there was an item in Acta Theologica Supplementum 7 (not sure who the author is; the link is a pdf) on the subject which also suggested aconite as a possibility.

Garum Festival

Are Classicists aware of this event in Tunisia?

The Garum summer festival was held on June 26 at the Sidi Slimane Cultural Center in Nabeul, at the initiative of the Safeguarding Association of the city. It is a gastronomic and scientific event highlights yet an unknown aspect of the ancient Roman city, Neapolis (Nabeul).

Gurum or Garon, as it was known among the Greeks was a culinary preparation made mainly of “fish, salt and herbs” and was in use in Greek cuisine from at least the 5th century BC. The production and trading of Garum lasted for at least one millennium.

On the agenda of the festival, buffet and tasting of Garum dishes, an ancient condiment made in Neapolis, in Roman times, as a sauce made from pickled fish (tuna, mackerel, sardines).

An exhibition was also scheduled to present a variety of fish sauce may be related to garum, such as Vietnamese “nuoc mam” and “pissalat niçois”.

Lectures were presented on “the benefits of Garum sauces and nuoc mam”, “the Garum amphorae and the trade of cured products”, “The Garum, the salting and the purple in Djerba, as well as the analysis of industry index of Garum and curing in Neapolis.

The festival was inaugurated with a visit to the archaeological site of Neapolis to give an overview of the industry of Garum and salted fish manufactures in Roman times.

Excavations at the site between 1995 and 2006, covering 2000 square meters carried out by a Tunisian-French team was also showcased in Neapolis, hosted salted manufacturers which date back to a time was estimated between 1st and the IV centuries AD.

These factories are second in the world after those found in Spain. They have large pools of salting with production capacity up to 138 m3. The Garum was packaged in amphorae whose remains found at the archaeological site of Neapolis, represent edifying testimonials.

The development of fishery activities in the region was facilitated by the proximity of tuna migration routes, the presence of shoals for growth of wildlife marine and numerous lakes forming natural pools.

Tunisia Online News » Nabeul organizes Garum summer festival.

Citanda: How Did the Victims of Vesuvius Die?

PLoS ONE logo
Image via Wikipedia

Since I seem to have a wonky internet connection this a.m., I’ll link to this very interesting blog post based on:

a study just published in PLoS ONE by Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo, Pierpaolo Petrone, Lucia Pappalardo and Fabio Guarino, entitled Lethal Thermal Impact at Periphery of Pyroclastic Surges: Evidences at Pompeii.