Monday, May 26, 2008

Cleopatra meets Anthony

The Roman writer Plutarch's gift for detail positively dazzles in his portrayal of the meeting of the Roman statesman Antony and the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra:

From The Lives:
"She was to meet Antony in the time of life when women's beauty is most splendid, and their intellects are in full maturity.

"... She came sailing up the river Cydnus in a barge with gilded stern and outspread sails of purple, while oars of silver beat time to the music of flutes and fifes and harps. She herself lay all along, under a canopy of cloth of gold, dressed as Venus in a picture, and beautiful young boys, like painted Cupids, stood on each side to fan her. Her maids were dressed like sea nymphs and graces, some steering at the rudder, some working at the ropes. The perfumes diffused themselves from one vessel to the shore, which was covered with multitudes, part following the galley up the river on either bank, part running out of the city to see the sight.

"... Her actual beauty, it is said, was not in itself so remarkable that none could be compared with it ... but the contact of her presence, if you lived with her, was irresistible; the attraction of her person, joining with the charm of her conversation, and the character that attended all she said or did, was something bewitching. It was a pleasure merely to hear the sound of her voice, with which, like an instrument of many strings, she could pass from one language to another, so that there were few of the barbarian nations that she answered by an interpreter..."


Janice Thomson said...

Wouldn't it be awesome to go back in time just for a day and meet someone like Cleopatra!

the walking man said...

Which Cleopatra is being described here? Historically Cleopatra is a title not a name eh?


Trisia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca said...

I would have loved to meet Cleopatra. And I do adore how Plutarch describes her. But to my reckoning, Anthony and Cleopatra met when she was around 26 or so. It is interesting to think of that age as the height of feminine beauty and intellect. I believe that has been pushed forward a few years, or maybe that is my own wishful thinking ;)

Eastcoastdweller said...

Janice: It would. To be in the presence of a strong, confident Woman whose beauty is in Her speech and demeanor, not just Her looks, is to be in the presence of the universe and life perfected.

Was it Robert Plant who sung, of such a Woman, that She was "simply irresistable?"

Walking Man: There may have been other Women with this name/title -- but She was the one and only who enraptured both Julius Caesar and Antony.

Trisia: Whoops -- your comment vanished!

Rebecca: I got the feeling from the text that She was a little older than 26 -- and I think Plutarch wrote that She was 39 or so when She committed suicide.

I think the "height" of Feminine beauty and intellect is a slippery, subjective term. Just as with a man, there is appeal in his youthful strength (think of Bob Seger's Like A Rock) but also in his face later made rugged by time and his outlook seasoned by experience, there is beauty in a young Woman's demeanor but also in a Woman who has seen more years and been made wiser thereby.

Rebecca said...

ECD, "Simply Irresistible" was a Robert Palmer tune :) I Wiki-ed Cleopatra, and may have gotten the the math wrong. It seemed when I looked she was 26 upon their meeting, but probably closer to 40 upon her death. I would certainly love to learn more about her than what one learns simply by osmosis.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Wow... that is pure rapture. I was carried immediately and completely to the Nile... ages and ages ago..
and now.

Thank you so much!

Scarlett & Viaggiatore