Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cleopatra: Egypt's last ancient pharaoh

CINCINNATI - After nearly 2,000 years, the life of the famous Queen of Egypt is finally beginning to surface. And Cleopatra is different than the elusive seductress we've come to know through ancient folklore.
Thanks to the archaeological findings of Dr. Zahi Hawass and Frank Goddio, both on land and underwater, two ancient cities have been recovered, and buried amidst the statues, jewelry and coins found are clues to the mysterious life of one of the most powerful women in history.
Over 150 artifacts---that when combined together weigh over 30 tons-- are showcased in "Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt" through Sept. 5 at the Cincinnati Museum Center. Cincinnati is one of only five stops that will feature the exhibit in the United States.
The Egyptian Queen
It may be surprising to most, but there was more than one Cleopatra that came into power in Egypt. Cleopatra VII was more famous than her predecessors due to her extravagant and mysterious lifestyle that made her the legend we know today.
Of Greek descent, Cleopatra was handed the throne at the young age of 17. Ancient texts indicate that she was fluent in seven languages, including Egpytian, which established her as the first pharaoh of the Macedonian line to do so.
When she came into power following the death of her father, Egypt was severely suffering both economically and politically. Rome was preying on the country's every move, waiting to take advantage of its weak state.
However, Cleopatra's famous affair with Julius Caesar resulted in a partnership between Rome and Egypt. She secured her country's power and safety. After spending some time in Rome with Caesar with whom she bore a son, she was forced to flee after his assasination.
Mark Antony was the next great military leader of Rome, who led an army to Egypt to collect taxes. As legend has it, Cleopatra seduced Antony over a feast which spurred a new romantic and political relationship. Together they formed an alliance to avert Caesar's heir from taking power in Rome. Cleopatra and Antony had twins, a boy and girl, and then later another son.
However, the union between Antony and Cleopatra was not strong enough to halt Octavian's quest for power.  After Egypt fell to Roman rule, Cleopatra famously committed suicide in 30 B.C. Antony, likewise, took his own life.
Archaeological Discoveries
In an attempt to wipe her powerful legacy from history, the Romans sought to destroy any evidence of Cleopatra's existence and 20 years as ruler. Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass and French underwater archaeologist Frank Goddio have spent years trying to restore Cleopatra's reign.

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