Cleopatra VII

Write a paper of approximately 8 pages (standard font and margins) in which you deal with one of the
following topics.

Primary sources:

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http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Appian/home.html
http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/home.html

Topics are:
1. Cleopatra, Caesar and Antony
Compare and contrast Cleopatra’s relationships with Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius. Some things
to think about include: How are these relationships shown in the ancient sources? How is Cleopatra
characterized in these relationships? Are these relationships purely political or did some mutual
affection actually exist in them?

2. Was Cleopatra VII Philopator the daughter of Cleopatra VI Tryphaina?
Examine the question of Cleopatra’s legitimacy. We know a lot about Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII
Auletes, but we are not sure who her mother was. Was Cleopatra legitimate or not?
NOTE: If you pursue this topic you will need to assess the concept of “legitimacy” as defined by the
different people and societies involved.

3. Nature vs. nurture: Cleopatra
Cleopatra became a larger-then-life figure in her own life time and she herself was partially
responsible for developing this image. Because of this, much of what she did during her life is often
discussed in terms of her own abilities or charcater flaws. Assess this idea. How much of what
Cleopatra did simply follows in the footsteps of her dynastic ancestors? To what extent do her
activities show her own personality at work?

4. Octavia and Cleopatra
The two women who are discussed most prominently in the history of the battles of the Roman
triumvirs are Cleopatra herself and Octavia, Octavian’s sister. Our sources very much turn Octavia into
a foil for Cleopatra. She becomes a woman who represents everything that Cleopatra is not. Approval
for Octavia is clearly stated. Compare and contrast Cleropatra and Octavia. How doi they express the
power they have? What are the strengths and weaknesse of the way they both deal with the men
around them?

5. The Cleopatra myth
“The figure of Cleopatra in western culture is the one Octavian/Augustus wanted Roman society to
have. After all, our picture is substantially from Shakespeare, who based his interpretation of her on
Plutarch, whose information was heavily influenced by Octavian’s propaganda against her. In
particularly the vision of Cleopatra as a foreign temptress leading Mark Antony astray.”
Do you agree with this assessment? Are modern views simply rehashing Augustan propaganda or is
more going on in the portrayals of Cleopatra over time?

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