Opening Her Tomb Won't Tell Us Who Cleopatra Was

Even Shakespeare had a hard time improving on her true story
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2009 10:05 AM CDT
Opening Her Tomb Won't Tell Us Who Cleopatra Was
A convoy leaves the temple of Taposiris Magna, which was built during the reign of King Ptolemy II (282-246 BC), in Burg Al Arab, west of Alexandria, Egypt, April 19, 2009.   (AP Photo)

If the tomb that archaeologists are about to start excavating in Egypt really is Cleopatra’s, what will that really tell us about the legendary queen? Aside from possibly clearing up questions about her heritage and cause of death, probably not much, writes Cleopatra expert Stacy Schiff in the New York Times.

Schiff believes that Cleopatra got her bad-girl reputation mostly by turning “up at one of the most dangerous intersections in history, that of women and power.” And the whole suicide-by-asp story seems likely tacked-on: “It’s not difficult to figure out what someone is trying to say when he pairs a lady with a snake.” (More Cleopatra stories.)

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