Cleopatra Murdered? Hmmmm ….

Just saw this post by author Pat Brown, who is promoting her work via the Huffington Post … here’s the incipit:

For 2000 years, historians and Egyptologists have written of Cleopatra VII’s death in 30 BCE, repeating again and again the tale that the last pharaoh of Egypt committed suicide along with her two handmaidens soon after the conquering of her country by Rome.

There has been little dissension in the ranks; Cleopatra is believed to have taken her life to prevent the victorious Roman general Octavian from carrying her back to Rome in chains and humiliating her by displaying her in his triumph. Yet, I have taken a radically different view of this episode of history and that puts me in the rather risky position of upsetting a very beloved apple cart in a field I am not even a part of. But, I cannot back off because I believe that Cleopatra has been misunderstood and misrepresented throughout the last two millennia. I believe the evidence supports my theory that Cleopatra was murdered and that the events leading up to her death are not the ones that have been reported for centuries.

I recently gave a talk on my book at the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) in Washington DC and after I shared my theory of Cleopatra’s life and death with the audience, a woman raised her hand.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but why do you think your theory holds any water if none of the great minds of academia and none of the seasoned historians of the Egyptian and European past have ever come up with your conclusions? ” In other words, who am I to question such authority? Do I consider myself to be smarter than all these other people?

The answer to the latter question is clearly, “No, I am not all that brilliant,” and those who know me well will vouch for my IQ being quite normal; I doubt I have an invitation on the way to join Mensa in the near future. But, I do have something which many in the field of history do not; a way of looking at events from a completely different vantage point – through the eyes of a criminal profiler. I also am not beholden to any mindset or to historical tradition or to any institution. I am free to analyze Cleopatra and her life from a very new perspective, one based on evidence – forensic, behavioral, archeological, cultural, political and historical. I am free to question everything and everyone and to accept and assume nothing. [...]

… I’m going to suspend judgement on this one until I can get a copy of the book (why is there no Kindle edition?). We should remind folks, however, the bit of revisionism from a couple of years ago suggesting drugs rather than asps might be involved (assorted links gathered together here: Death of Cleopatra Revisionism Followup). I must mention, however, that there seems to be a certain arrogance in Brown’s claims of ‘superior knowledge’ and the tenor of her post in general … I do want to see how she handles the ancient accounts, however, as I myself am free to question everything and everyone and to accept and assume nothing — as are the vast majority of the professional scholars who have dealt with this question, believe it or not (he muttered, sarcastically). I do get weary of ‘outsiders’ claiming those who do ancient historical research for a living are necessarily doing flawed research that isn’t based on evidence. Judging from the tenor of the Huffington Post piece, I would be surprised if I wasn’t  labelled a part of some sort of sleeper cell of Plutarchian theology or some such. Still, it will be useful to see that Brown brings to the discussion …

UPDATE (a few minutes later): here’s Pat Brown’s background (via the ARCE DC chapter’s page about her talk … not sure how long it will be there):

Pat Brown is a nationally known criminal profiler, television commentator, author, and founder and CEO of The Sexual Homicide Exchange (SHE) and The Pat Brown Criminal Profiling Agency.

Pat has provided crime commentary, and profiling and forensic analysis in over one thousand television and radio appearances in the United States and across the globe. She can be seen regularly on the Cable Television news programs MSNBC, CNN, and FOX, and is a frequent guest of  Nancy Grace, America’s Most Wanted, and The Montel Williams Show.

Video Lecture: From Actium to an Asp

Here’s the tease:

In the years following the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE, internal Roman power struggles—combined with the increasingly negative response to Cleopatra VII and Marc Antony’s romantic partnership—led to the deterioration of the relationship between Egypt and Rome. The conflict ultimately came to a head with the Battle of Actium in September of 31 BCE, in which the Egyptian forces were decimated at sea by the Romans—with Cleopatra and Marc Antony barely escaping with their lives. The aftermath of this battle set the course for the final desperate year of Cleopatra’s life. Dr. Jennifer Wegner, Associate Curator, Egyptian Section, speaks at this “Great Battles: Moments in Time that Changed History” series lecture program.

… and here’s the video from UPenn Museum:

Latest in the Search for Cleopatra’s Tomb

Time for the annual update from Dominican Today:

The biggest tomb of mummies, one Cleopatra’s masks and the temple of Isis are a few of the finds of Dominican Republic’s most famous architect, while fending off venomous snakes and scorpions, for which she’s “the only woman who dares enter the labyrinths”

Kathleen Martinez made the revelations Thursday, and noted that her excavation crews, all members of the Bedouin tribes, fear one labyrinth in particular, located at the site of the temple Taposiris Magna “They told me that anyone who goes in there vanishes forever, one snake there is particularly deadly.”

But more than snakebites and scorpion stings, Martinez said the seemingly endless tunnels guard an even deadlier secret. “We even found unexploded bombs, that’s why they fear it, people who went in there were killed by the blasts.”

“The men have to be shown that there’s no danger, so I go down any shaft first,” the arquitect said, interviewed by Huchi Lora on Channel 11.

To neutralize the bombs and even remains of soldiers Martinez affirms are the aftermath of the 2nd World War Battle of El Alamein in that zone, she contacted military authorities. “We’ve contacted the Army, we found remains of Italian and new Zealand soldiers. We’ve turned over more than 60 bombs, some soldiers were burned alive within the tunnels. There’s so much story in those tombs, from the pharaohs to the 2nd World War.”

Among the most harrowing experiences, Martinez says, was a bomb that “we tried to lift out with a winch, but it fell off the bucket and nearly detonated with a few of us still in the tunnel.”

New York exhibit

Martinez also announced the exhibit of her findings at the Metropolitan Art Museum, where Dominicans who live in New York can view them

The architect who has spent more than five years excavating to find the tomb of Anthony and Cleopatra, affirms that among the she artifacts has found are “what we believe is the true face of Cleopatra.”

The added that Egypt’s new government informed her last week that her license to continue the excavations has been renewed.”

… sounds like a scary dig, but am I the only one who thinks that if soldiers and the like were in those tunnels, the likelihood of finding anything is pretty slim? FWIW, there is nothing up at the Met right now which seems like it’s connected to this; we should also note that this past January, Martinez was complaining that many artifacts had been stolen (along with excavation equipment). If you’re new to rogueclassicism, the last time we heard from Martinez was back in January: Latest Development (?) in the Search for Cleopatra’s Tomb; we’ve been following this muchly-overhyped dig at Taposiris for years and you can follow links back …

Today’s Egypt and the Search for Cleopatra’s Tomb

Just came across this timely piece from Dominican Today:

Dominican Republic’s own Egyptologist affirmed Friday that the turmoil in Egypt prevented setting up protection for the museum of antiquities for which bands of looters managed to cart off important pieces.

Kathleen Martinez said the groups of looters which had formed amid the chaos even sacked the pyramids and that the upheaval in Egypt will also lead to the suspension of a global effort to return to that country its antiquities pilfered throughout the centuries.

She said groups of volunteer youngsters formed to help Zahi Hawass, director of the Supreme Council of the Antiques, defend the museum against the raiders at the start of the antigovernment protests, and revealed that the Antiquities Director already had plans to transfer it to a safer place. “There are pieces that have been lost probably forever.”

Interviewed by Huchi Lora and Patricia Solano on Telesistema, the researcher regretted the impact that the revolt will have on Egypt’s cultural legacy. “Now those pieces will start touring the world and very few people will know whether they are legal or pillaged.”

Martinez said the chaos has also forced the suspension of the entire excavation season, as her search for Cleopatra’s tomb won’t resume for now. “I will not resume the excavation until the safety of the personnel and of the pieces can be guaranteed.

She lauded Hawaas’ efforts to get the international community’s cooperation on the return of the stolen objects. “After a long judicial process, just as he was about to accomplish the return of the pieces, this happens.”

Asked about Egypt’s ability to protect its legacy, Martinez said that the presence of “radical” groups in that nation may hinder it. “I was excavating a site and a group of men approached me in an aggressive manner, and then the workers ran off and I was left all alone with them”

She said she handled the situation unscathed by managing to convince the group that she was working for the Government of their country.

Major finds

The archaeologist added that despite the uncertainty to resume her quest to find Cleopatra, her work has already yielded important finds, including a pharoah’s tomb

“I know inside that I’m close to finding Cleopatra’s tomb,” the attorney-turned archaelogist said at an excavation site in November, 2009, when her team found a large statue dated 300 BC, which represents the pharaoh Ptolemy IV.

… on Sunday I’ll post excerpts from my Explorator newsletter with more links about the situation in Egypt (from an archaeological perspective); the above item is the only one so far which seems to touch upon the period of our purview …

Cleopatra Claim du Jour

My spiders bring me back piles of things which are claimed about Cleo … I’ve decided I might as well share them in the hopes someone might be able to point to a source. We’ll start the series off with this one (inter alia, of course):

Just talking about lice makes most of us start scratching our heads, but don’t let lice get your child down. Lice doesn’t play favorites; even Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen, had her own golden lice comb.

Source? (Or did Cleo shave her head an wear a wig?)

Statues of Cleopatra

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while … an excerpt from a piece by Zahi Hawass in Asharq Al-Awsat:

However what is strange is that there is not one statue of Queen Cleopatra, and thanks to historians we know that such statues did exist. However there is an image of Queen Cleopatra on the walls of the Temple of Hathor in Dendera, in which she is depicted with her son Caesarion…while there is also a boat rest-stop at the Temple of Kom Ombo whose construction is attributed to Cleopatra, and a maternity house in the Temple of Dendera, and a carving at the Louvre Museum that is allegedly of Cleopatra VII.

Now I’m not sure if I’m reading that correctly, but I was under the impression that that black basalt statue from the Hermitage Museum — which was part of the Cleopatra exhibition at the British Museum — was Cleopatra VII, i.e.:

I know a couple of the busts from that exhibition were ‘identified’ as Cleopatra (but hesitant), so we can probably grant him that; I can also note that some of the press coverage, such as that from the BBC, noted:

Many of the images of Cleopatra during her reign were destroyed by Octavian, Mark Antony’s successor, who took over after the couple killed themselves.

… although I don’t recall that being attested in our ancient sources. Do we really have no statues of Cleopatra VII?

… and of course, we can also argue forever about who the Esquiline Venus is …

Yet Another Cleo Biography

Theda-bara-cleopatra detail
Image via Wikipedia

From an interview in the New York Times:

Gail Collins: Your new biography of Cleopatra is coming out this fall, right? I’m reading it, and I’m pretty sure that from now on, whenever I hear elected officials complain about the treachery of their opponents, I’m just going to say: “Ha! You should try being queen of Egypt in 40 B.C.”

Stacy Schiff: Red and blue states were nothing to a woman who not only played to two radically different constituencies but also knew she could be removed by Rome, deposed by her subjects, undermined by her advisers — or stabbed, poisoned and dismembered by her own family. On the other hand, Cleopatra had one great advantage. She lived at a time when female sovereigns were not anomalies. And when women enjoyed rights they would not again enjoy for another 2,000 years. You could call them early feminists, if I may use a dirty word.

via Of Mama Grizzly Born? – Opinionator Blog – NYTimes.com.

I think it might be time we declared a moratorium on books about Cleopatra … a quick glance through Amazon shows from the past couple of years:

  • Cleopatra the Great: The Woman Behind the Legend by Joann Fletcher
  • Antony and Cleopatra by Adrian Goldsworthy
  • Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff (the above-mentioned one presumable)
  • Cleopatra: A Biography by Duane Roller
  • Cleopatra and Antony: Power, Love, and Politics in the Ancient World by Diana Preston (I’ve got a review of this on one of my laptops … I should post it)
  • Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt by Joyce Tyldesley

… then again, this one coming out in a few weeks makes one go hmmmm when one sees the authors:

  • Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt by Zahi A. Hawass and Franck Goddio

(i.e. not someone from the Dominican Republic)