The curiosities of Egypt draw us the essence of one of the most interesting countries in the history of mankind. Its amazing pyramids and sphinxes are combined with the immense power of the pharaohs. And among them, special mention deserves the name of Cleopatra. Her mysterious death has caused a stir, as there are those who claim that Cleopatra died by suicide, but others deny this theory.
Talking about her means evoking one of the most famous characters in history. And it is that the passage of time has turned Cleopatra in a myth and a muse, a mixture of certainty and legend.
Cleopatra’s death is the consequence of embodying a threat to the unity of Rome: she was a foreigner, she represented the monarchical power and she committed the terrible sin of being sexually independent enough to choose her lovers.
In Supercurioso we tell you this time about Cleopatra’s suicide theory, or her possible accidental death. Join us!
The death of Cleopatra: the theories about it
Cleopatra’s death remains, even today, a mystery for many Egyptologists, researchers and fans of the figure of the powerful queen.
For 2,000 years, it was believed that the last of the Egyptian Pharaohs committed suicide through a bite from the Egyptian cobra, baptized thereafter in his honor as Cleopatra’s Asp.
But some experts have been trying to disprove this theory for decades and, in turn, have looked at completely different fields to find out how Cleopatra really died. And the one that seems to have the most weight and support is, without a doubt, that of the poisoning.
1. Cleopatra’s suicide by snake bite
The most widespread hypothesis about Cleopatra’s suicide is that of a snake bite. It was a day in August of the year 30 BC that the queen locked herself in a mausoleum that she had built in the Palace of Alexandria. There would arrive, camouflaged in a basket of figs, an Egyptian cobra.
The legend tells of the suicide of Cleopatra, that the pharaoh approached the animal with her bare chest, allowing it to sink its teeth into his skin.
According to the vast historical documentation that we have of the time, which ironically presents many gaps regarding the death of Cleopatra, renowned Egyptologists have affirmed that the pharaoh liked snakes so much that she sometimes slept with them.
This is not entirely surprising, since serpents are closely related to other kings and queens of Egypt, and made them their own symbol.
Snakes were considered protective goddesses and are, in fact, very closely linked to the goddess Isis, of which Cleopatra herself believed herself to be a living personification. All this closeness to the animal makes it somewhat difficult to believe that Cleopatra’s death was actually triggered by a snake bite.
2. The poisoning of Cleopatra
For centuries, millennia, even, Cleopatra’s suicide was held to be unmistakably true. But some theories and currents of research insist on defending other hypotheses, even more controversial.
The theory of Christoph Schaefera professor of ancient history at the University of Trier, has the most evidence to challenge common belief. He claims that he died from drinking a mixture of poisons, and not from a snake bite. Schaefer studied the historical writings and consulted a renowned toxicologist to develop the theory.
Among the deductions that exist from his study of Cleopatra’s death, is that it was not possible for the pharaoh to choose to die from a snake bite, because of the queen’s knowledge of these animals. She knew very well that one bite would not kill her quickly.
Also, Cleopatra would not have wanted a horrible death that takes hours, even days, during which the victim suffers paralysis of parts of the body, including the eyes. If the idea of Cleopatra’s suicide is true, this would not be a feasible possibility.
We must not forget that the pharaoh was an extremely intelligent woman and educated in different sciences, such as philosophy, medicine and mathematics. Polyglot, he was the first member of the Ptolemaic dynasty to speak ancient Egyptian. Historians claim that Cleopatra’s death was “calm and painless”, possibly due to some poisonous drink, contemplating that two of her maids died with her. Most likely Cleopatra will use opium, which produces a peaceful mortal sleep and was known to the learned pharaoh.
The consequences of Cleopatra’s death
Knowing if Cleopatra’s suicide was a reality, or if the pharaoh was the victim of a murder, is something difficult to define. If we consider the moment that the queen was going through, it is not unreasonable to think that she would take her own life.
With Antony, her lover, dead by suicide, with his armies defeated, and with the threat that her enemy Octavian would capture her and parade her through Rome, humiliating her, death even seemed like a good option. But doing it with the venom of a cobra is what leads researchers to doubt.
The fact that Cleopatra’s death decisively favored her enemies must also be considered. His passing marked the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, allowing Egypt to become a Roman province..
The glorious Hellenistic period ceases to exist with her, and in January 27 B.C. c. Octavian (also considered the possible murderer, the only man who resisted his “charms”) was named Augustus “the revered” and amassed constitutional powers that made him the first Roman emperor.
The Cleopatra’s tomb It is still a mystery, and the theories that defend the murder also speak of his body being cremated.
If there is a woman whose death continues to fascinate the popular imagination more than two thousand years later, that is Cleopatra. We may never know what happened to her. The snake theory, while unlikely, is fascinating because of the cultural context and how enchanting the pharaoh looked.
And you, How do you think Cleopatra’s death really went? Do you think she was poisoned by her enemies? Or do you bet that Cleopatra’s suicide theory was true, as a result of a cobra bite?
Dare to leave us all your opinions in a comment. We will be happy to read you! And if, like us, you are fascinated by this historical character, don’t miss the articles in which we tell you about Cleopatra’s beauty rituals, and about the pharaoh’s lovers. Until next supercurious topic!