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The Wistman

The Death of Cleopatra

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The Wistman

Cleopatra was in Rome in 46 bce with her young son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion.  In the quadruple Triumphal parade that Caesar staged for himself there, the Egyptian queen and her son presented themselves formally to the Romans as client rulers quasi-absorbed into Rome and Caesar's family with her Queenly titulary and semi-sovereign power intact...provoking much consternation.  She would there have witnessed her sister, Arsinoe, marched in chains before the cheering crowds as a humiliated, defeated queen and obstacle to Caesar, and Rome.  Uniquely Arsinoe would be exiled to the east and imprisoned there until being executed in 41 bce by Marc Antony - supposedly at Cleopatra's urging.  Among the other captives paraded in chains that day in Caesar's Triumphal parade was the great Gallic warrior Vercingetorix.  He would soon after be strangled in his prison cell - a mark of honor towards him from Caesar that he was executed in private.  Most conquered rulers were strangled ritually in public.  Such was the fate of those mighty people who fell to Rome's conquering war machine.  Rome celebrated their brutal humiliation and their ugly death in a fabulous display of gruesome theater.  Though, in some cases important prisoners would be chained up inside the Tullianum prison and what was remaining of them paraded out from time to time or else they were just left to rot and starve to death in there, as was the fate of the Numidian warrior Jugurtha.

Thus, when all was lost for Cleopatra and Octavian was closing in on her, she knew well what his plan for her was.  But it did not happen.  Cleopatra died, reportedly by suicide via a deadly snake or poison along with her handmaidens while under custody and awaiting Octavian's arrival, expecting her surrender. 

Did she triumph over Octavian by denying him his trophy for his Triumph, or did he have her executed swiftly and spun the tale of her suicide for political reasons?  (Octavian chose to have Caesarion executed in Alexandria rather than bringing him back to Rome, captive.)  Both options are plausible, but may have some flaws.  If it weren't Cleopatra, it wouldn't matter that much to history lovers.  But it is her, so how do we weigh the options out?

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/46_BC                 https://www.quora.com/What-were-the-execution-methods-used-in-Ancient-Rome 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:People_executed_by_the_Roman_Republic     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Cleopatra

http://www.executedtoday.com/2007/12/06/41-bce-arsinoe-iv/

Edited by The Wistman
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Sir Wearer of Hats

Romans didn’t have the same stigma we have about suicide, so I can’t see the feasibility of Octavian using it to slander her. 

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Harte

How popular was Cleopatra in Rome?

Harte

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Kenemet
23 hours ago, Harte said:

How popular was Cleopatra in Rome?

Harte

Very very unpopular.  To them, she was (as one historian put it) the "scary barbarian queen" who tried to be a goddess and set a bad example for all women (because she wasn't under a man's rule.)

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Harte

All the more reason for him to drag her back to Rome in chains.

I'd say she got the last laugh.

Harte

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rashore

Gotta say, I know nothing of the subject, through I have some media fantasies about the subject. I got nothing to give, but looking forward to some education on this subject :tu:

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Mellon Man

To be fair, Octavian was more interested in Marcus Antonius compared to Cleopatra. But this is a fine exsample, on how well Octavian mastered propaganda. 

Edited by Mellon Man

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third_eye

Cleopatra wasn't just some fancy fairy Queen, she has demonstrated herself to be an astute Diplomat, formidable Politician and capable ruler, her resounding absence was a blight on Octavian's Triumph back in Rome and her missing death scene in the overall plot meant Rome can and would have questions of her remains, I'd say Cleopatra left The Emperor with a lasting headache of a hot potato

~

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Orphalesion

It's a testament to Cleopatra's intelligence and skills as a leader that she, reportedly, was the only member of the Ptolemaic dynasty to learn Egyptian (the language of the majority of her subjects).

I see nothing wrong with the idea that she chose suicide rather than being made a spectacle in Octavian's triumph (as was the custom with defeated foreign leaders as far as I have read). As pointed out above the Ancient Greeks (and Cleopatra was after all Greek/Ancient Macedonian) din't see suicide as a crime against the gods and, as in the case of Cleopatra, it was seen as a last resort to deny your opponent the triumph of killing/capturing you and even today "better to die than be killed" does occasionally crop up in fiction and philosophy.

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third_eye
1 minute ago, Orphalesion said:

It's a testament to Cleopatra's intelligence and skills as a leader that she, reportedly, was the only member of the Ptolemaic dynasty to learn Egyptian (the language of the majority of her subjects).

I see nothing wrong with the idea that she chose suicide rather than being made a spectacle in Octavian's triumph (as was the custom with defeated foreign leaders as far as I have read). As pointed out above the Ancient Greeks (and Cleopatra was after all Greek/Ancient Macedonian) din't see suicide as a crime against the gods and, as in the case of Cleopatra, it was seen as a last resort to deny your opponent the triumph of killing/capturing you and even today "better to die than be killed" does occasionally crop up in fiction and philosophy.

Cleopatra would have been well informed on the state of her circumstances, I believe, if she had any other option, anywhere else for her to flee to, she would have been gone even before the news of Anthony's defeat reaching Rome. That even there were no suspicion that she did not actually die was a testament to how dire her situation was, aside from the fact that pretty much every other Ruler around the Mediterranean was happy to see her gone as a competitor is further proof of her reputation as a principle player at the time.

~

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DieChecker

Yeah. I'm voting snakes too. She was worth too much as a trophy to murder. She either killed herself, or someone from her followers killed her.

I think I've read that snakes was supposedly what she used. Seems a horrible way to go, unless you use very poisonous snakes. Death by rattlesnake, for instance, would be really, really hard to happen by natural bites, and even then would take a long time to cause death.

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Mellon Man
5 minutes ago, DieChecker said:

Yeah. I'm voting snakes too.

Why do you believe she committed suicide by snakes? It could just be propaganda. 

The Greeks has a very different view on how she died. A few Roman historians also had alternative theories, although the majority of Roman historians followed the 'snake bite' claim. We know that Octavian via his 'poem propaganda school' and triumphal procession, claimed she died by snake bites. 

Also Octavian would have been in a dilemma and might in fact have favoured a 'suicide'. As mentioned above by another poster, her half sister was paraded around Rome. This 'aroused great pity', if you follow Dio Cassius accounts. Also Ceasar had a gold statue of Cleopatra made and placed it in the Temple of Venus Genetrix. If Octavian were to parade Cleopatra around, just like her half sister, it would likely have reflected badly on Ceasar. Something which Octavian likely did not wish to happen. It is a possibility that Octavian allowed her to die by her own hands, whether by snake bite or other cause.. 

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Mellon Man
2 hours ago, third_eye said:

Cleopatra would have been well informed on the state of her circumstances, I believe, if she had any other option, anywhere else for her to flee to, she would have been gone even before the news of Anthony's defeat reaching Rome. That even there were no suspicion that she did not actually die was a testament to how dire her situation was, aside from the fact that pretty much every other Ruler around the Mediterranean was happy to see her gone as a competitor is further proof of her reputation as a principle player at the time.

~

If that is the case, why did she not join her son, in his attempt to flee to India? 

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DieChecker
5 minutes ago, Mellon Man said:

Why do you believe she committed suicide by snakes? It could just be propaganda. 

The Greeks has a very different view on how she died. A few Roman historians also had alternative theories, although the majority of Roman historians followed the 'snake bite' claim. We know that Octavian via his 'poem propaganda school' and triumphal procession, claimed she died by snake bites. 

Also Octavian would have been in a dilemma and might in fact have favoured a 'suicide'. As mentioned above by another poster, her half sister was paraded around Rome. This 'aroused great pity', if you follow Dio Cassius accounts. Also Ceasar had a gold statue of Cleopatra made and placed it in the Temple of Venus Genetrix. If Octavian were to parade Cleopatra around, just like her half sister, it would likely have reflected badly on Ceasar. Something which Octavian likely did not wish to happen. It is a possibility that Octavian allowed her to die by her own hands, whether by snake bite or other cause.. 

That is all possibly true. I'm in favor of snakes, because the majority of sources I've read about it favored snakes. Admittedly, I'm not a scholar on the matter, and the extent of my knowledge on it is partial at best....

It could be that Caesar did those things because he "felt" out the public first. What was the public's feeling toward Cleopatra's sister? That she was a stooge, or victim, of her sister? Or, a wily political opponent? Myself, I don't know. Was the statue put up to memorialize a villain, or a hero of the public? Statues of villains are often put up to, as reminders of what can happen to them when the law/authority catches up with them.

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Mellon Man
5 minutes ago, DieChecker said:

That is all possibly true. I'm in favor of snakes, because the majority of sources I've read about it favored snakes. Admittedly, I'm not a scholar on the matter, and the extent of my knowledge on it is partial at best....

It could be that Caesar did those things because he "felt" out the public first. What was the public's feeling toward Cleopatra's sister? That she was a stooge, or victim, of her sister? Or, a wily political opponent? Myself, I don't know. Was the statue put up to memorialize a villain, or a hero of the public? Statues of villains are often put up to, as reminders of what can happen to them when the law/authority catches up with them.

Doubtful, as she was likely portrayed as Isis and it was placed in the Temple of Venus Genetrix. Evidence suggest it was still in place until the 3rd century AD. 

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third_eye
1 hour ago, Mellon Man said:

If that is the case, why did she not join her son, in his attempt to flee to India? 

Anthony was her last throw of the dice if I remember correctly, the resources available to her at that point in time would not be optimistic either by land or sea. The reason for that showdown was exactly that she and Anthony was already hemmed in around Alexandria. Perhaps it was also a desperate attempt to buy her son's escape more time as a diversion, everything didn't turn out right for her

I'm not too convinced about the snake story either, a bit over dramatic as the Egyptians has ample knowledge of potions and poisons to exclude the need for snakes but then it makes for a fine story, I remember something about Octavian deciding it was pointless for more fighting just to carry her corpse out of Egypt back to Rome, Cleopatra was still revered still in her land

I don't know, I don't remember all that much and as far as I know there has been little if any change to the story brought about by any new discovery or recent research

~

Edited by third_eye
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Impedancer

I think she used poison to commit suicide.

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The Wistman

Some of the earlier writers suggested poison (Strabo, Cassius Dio, even Plutarch).  But most imperial historians (Suetonius et al) and poets took the official Augustan line that it was a snake.  The Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley has come down on the side of poison (maybe Kenemet can expand on this notion if Tyldesley brought it up in class.)

A few of the political (and personal) considerations that Octavian may have had on his mind at the time:

  • His sister Octavia was Antony’s wife (before and during Cleopatra’s marriage to Antony).  Cleopatra’s presence in Rome would have been an embarrassment for Octavia.
  • Caesar had formally adopted Octavian as an adult.  This legally meant that Octavian was Caesar’s heir.  But Cleopatra’s son by Caesar, Caesarion, was the biological son and was known to be so.  That circumstance might have proved useful to Octavian’s enemies back in Rome, and embarrassing for Octavian if the mother or son was paraded in an Octavian triumph
  • The same sympathy that the Roman public showed toward Arsinoe (Cleo’s half-sister) when she was paraded in Caesar’s triumph might have happened again toward Cleopatra.  Octavian’s enemies might have enabled such a response by the Roman populace by way of infiltration and provocateurs. (echoing Mellon Man above.)
  •   Octavian was planning to abandon the Republican form of governance in favor of the Imperial.  He would likely have been stalwart in suppressing divisions in Rome for a smooth transition.  Reminders of civil wars and those who led them would be systematically suppressed, or otherwise propagandized about, to diminish them in the public’s eye.  Cleopatra’s presence in Rome, even in defeat but full of pride and grandeur, might very well have hindered this, especially if seized on by Republican minded Senators.

 

Edited by The Wistman
edit: spelling mistake
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Orphalesion
13 hours ago, DieChecker said:

I think I've read that snakes was supposedly what she used. Seems a horrible way to go, unless you use very poisonous snakes. Death by rattlesnake, for instance, would be really, really hard to happen by natural bites, and even then would take a long time to cause death.

Well with Cleopatra it's entirely likely that she simply wanted a theatrical exit and didn't care about the pain and snakes did feature prominently in Ancient Egyptian iconography. I'm not knowledgeable in the topic of snake poisons but a rattle snake's venom might not work in exact the same way as whatever snakes Cleopatra used and rather than natural bites she or her retainers might have known of a way to administer the venom more effectively (again I;m not an expert on that, I can just imagine) like forcing the snake to bite important arteries or forcing it to give up more venom than it usually would.
It's also possible that the snakes didn't exactly bite her or that they did but it wasn't the only reason she died, instead she might have additionally swallowed some venom to administer it more effectively and the snakes were there for show to preserver her glamour and "bravery" for posterity, since just swallowing poison was regarded as a "gentle" way to go, stereotypically reserved for the cowardly.

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The Wistman
2 hours ago, Orphalesion said:

Well with Cleopatra it's entirely likely that she simply wanted a theatrical exit and didn't care about the pain and snakes did feature prominently in Ancient Egyptian iconography. I'm not knowledgeable in the topic of snake poisons but a rattle snake's venom might not work in exact the same way as whatever snakes Cleopatra used and rather than natural bites she or her retainers might have known of a way to administer the venom more effectively (again I;m not an expert on that, I can just imagine) like forcing the snake to bite important arteries or forcing it to give up more venom than it usually would.
It's also possible that the snakes didn't exactly bite her or that they did but it wasn't the only reason she died, instead she might have additionally swallowed some venom to administer it more effectively and the snakes were there for show to preserver her glamour and "bravery" for posterity, since just swallowing poison was regarded as a "gentle" way to go, stereotypically reserved for the cowardly.

She was reported in some sources, and it has remained the common understanding today, that she was killed by an asp...which is a general term that refers to any one of a number of poisonous snakes of Egypt.  The cobra is considered by many to be the most likely candidate, if the snake scenario is even true, because the cobra, of course, is a symbol of Royalty in AE...so there is a fitting sense in her selecting the cobra as her executioner.  Also, cobra venom does kill efficiently, if painfully.  Though, the guards are not said anywhere to have noticed signs of agony, contortion, or other physical indications of snakebite poisoning on any of the women's bodies after they'd been discovered.  One source, I think it was Plutarch, mentions a double pin-prick wound on the Queen that he attributed to a self-administered puncture from one of her combs, which she then smeared poison into.  Subsequent writers have taken this wound reference as evidence that it was a snake that did her in.

Edited by The Wistman
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third_eye

Or the cobra /s could be any one of her exotic pets housed in her royal chambers let free at her final hour ...

What's the official version currently @The Wistman ? Did she finally toss in her lot at the loss of Anthony or later when the news that her future King child was lost ?

~

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The Wistman

@Third Eye      Cleopatra was captured (by a ruse, says Plutarch) in her tomb sanctuary and taken by the Roman soldiers to the Palace, where she remained under house arrest.  Octavian was concerned that she would immolate herself along with the State treasure, which she had amassed around her.  When that was secured (Octavian used it to pay his troops, among other things), her death was not long to follow...on August 12 (she was thirty-nine.)

Caesarion was executed by Octavian's orders on August 23 (he was seventeen.)  He was in fact the last king (Pharaoh) of Egypt, since he co-ruled with his mother.

So when she died, she likely had hope that her son might survive.

Edited by The Wistman
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Alien Origins
On 2/7/2019 at 8:26 AM, DieChecker said:

Yeah. I'm voting snakes too. She was worth too much as a trophy to murder. She either killed herself, or someone from her followers killed her.

I think I've read that snakes was supposedly what she used. Seems a horrible way to go, unless you use very poisonous snakes. Death by rattlesnake, for instance, would be really, really hard to happen by natural bites, and even then would take a long time to cause death.

Reported she used an Asp which is nothing more than a generalized term for the Egyptian Cobra or Desert Horned Viper...The Egyptian Cobra carries a neurotoxin venom, while the Desert Horned Viper would most likely carry a hemotoxin. Death from either one would be slow and painful. And while I have read she used an Asp we don't know which one she used. And from what I have read she was the only non-Egyptian to ever rule over Egypt so I think that speaks a lot of just how well a ruler she was.

Edited by Alien Origins

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Mellon Man
17 minutes ago, Alien Origins said:

Reported she used an Asp which is nothing more than a generalized term for the Egyptian Cobra or Desert Horned Viper...The Egyptian Cobra carries a neurotoxin venom, while the Desert Horned Viper would most likely carry a hemotoxin. Death from either one would be slow and painful. And while I have read she used an Asp we don't know which one she used. And from what I have read she was the only non-Egyptian to ever rule over Egypt so I think that speaks a lot of just how well a ruler she was.

That is simply not true. 

Which ever source claims this, is embarrassingly flawed. 

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Alien Origins
17 minutes ago, Mellon Man said:

That is simply not true. 

Which ever source claims this, is embarrassingly flawed. 

How do you know? Were you there?

http://www.answers.com/Q/Was_Cleopatra_egyptian

Quote

Cleopatra was of Macedonian descent and not a native Egyptian

https://discoveringegypt.com/ancient-egyptian-kings-queens/cleopatra/

http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/cleopatra.htm

There were others (Queens) that ran Egypt but all were of Egytpian descent.....Cleopatra was Greek not Egyptian.

Edited by Alien Origins
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