Egyptian Queen Cleopatra Was No Stunner, Coin Shows

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    (Cleopatra's on the right.)

    LONDON (AFP) - When Shakespeare wrote that the face of Cleopatra, the ancient queen of Egypt, "beggar'd all description", he meant that words could not sum up her beauty.
    But a coin dating from 32BC and put on display in Britain Tuesday shows the phrase had an unintended double meaning -- it depicts the queen as no great looker with a pointed chin, thin lips and sharp nose.
    Her lover, Mark Antony, fares little better on the coin's flipside -- the Roman general is shown with a hook nose, bulging eyes and a thick neck.
    The portraits are a long way from the famously sultry depiction of the couple by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 film "Cleopatra".
    The coin has gone on display at Newcastle University, northeast England, on Valentine's Day after years of lying in a bank.
    Cleopatra, who also had an affair with legendary Roman emperor Julius Caesar, also inspired Shakespeare to write one of his most famous lines: "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale/Her infinite variety".
    But Lindsay Allason-Jones, the university's director of archaeological museums, said that the image of her as a great beauty is comparatively modern, dating back to medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer.
    "Roman writers tell us that Cleopatra was intelligent and charismatic and that she had a seductive voice, but, tellingly, they do not mention her beauty," she said.
    "It's one of those perpetual myths that has been perpetuated by having people like Elizabeth Taylor playing her and it's very difficult to get that out of peoples' psyches.
    "She does look as if she's forgotten to put her teeth in."
    The coin itself represents one three hundredth of a Roman soldier's salary and was probably minted to pay the wages of those stationed in Egypt.

    Wow! That just ruins a lot of people's plans for Halloween costumes!
  2. Historians have been saying for years that she had " a hooked nose and crookend teeth". It goes to show that beauty isn't the be all and end all.
  3. very manish looking
  4. You know, today's beauty standards aren't the be all and end all of beauty standards everywhere, and judging Cleopatra by standards that demand that women look extremely young and extremely thin seems more than a bit silly to me. (Not to say that anyone on tPF is doing that, but obviously some people are!)

    Other cultures have had very different beaty standards than modern Western ones, as well. In Heian Japan, women painted their teeth black because they thought that white teeth looked like maggots in the mouth. In a lot of cultures, plump hourglass-shaped women were - and are - considered the epitome of beauty because skinniness denoted poverty.

    If she was intelligent, charismatic, and had a lovely voice, why does she need to be beautiful too? Just because she's female? Poets and playwrights back then understood that beauty isn't the be-all and end-all of everything, so why can't we?
  5. Not that the portraits at that time neccessarily very focused on likeness of the real person... So it's not doing any good to compare with a coin. Sometimes the portraits aimed to show "A king" (for which the artist often used a template for how "kings" looked from tradtional sculptures / paintings and so on) or "A peasant" "dancer" etc.
  6. It's not such a big deal that she wasn't that good looking. It just debunks the 'Cleopatra looks like Elizabeth Taylor's character in the movie' stereotype.

    With sculptures, sometimes the person's actual appearance was very vague, but with coins, it's usually the case that it's pretty accurate.
  7. Cleopatra was said to possess unsurpassed sexual prowess. That along with her intelligence, wit, conversation, and confidence made her beautiful. She could manipulate people and was adored.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  8. Anyone here watching Rome on HBO ???

    I really like the actress they have playing Cleopatra. She's not beautiful (by Western standards) and she DOES have a sexy voice and is intelligent;)

  9. I agree.

    I read that Cleopatra was not beautiful but she was very good at creating a seductive environment around her. She used her exoticness as an advantage. She also knew what a soldier/general living hundreds of miles away from his home would want: he was lonely and vulnerable and wanted relief from battles and wars. She provided that. She was hyper feminine but also super intelligent. Her lovers never forgot her because she used sex and brains, and, therefore was not dispensible.
  10. everything is relative and yet despite her physical appearance all these years later we still laud her and speak of her
  11. beauty changes! A LOT!
  12. Wow, that's really interesting!!
  13. There are plenty of historical descriptions of Cleopatra because of her relationships with Ceasar and Mark Antony. She was described as having a big nose but a nice figure and beautiful green eyes. However, she was very intelligent and spoke many languages. She was also the first pharaoh since Alexander to actually speak Egyptian! After Alexander the great took over Egypt, his line just kept interbreeding with each other or marrying people from the Greek area of the world to keep their blood pure. Her first husband was her brother.
  14. Beauty throughout time is interesting... who perceives what is beauty etc
  15. Not pretty imo, but I guess she was pretty for her time and culture. She was powerful, too. I doubt people were going to go around calling her ugly.