With reference to both ancient and modern sources, assess the impact of Cleopatra VII on the Egyptian and Roman worlds

Essay by ochibi May 2006

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The story of Cleopatra and the events that occurred during her rule has changed over the years due to different interpretations of historians, poets or artists, each affected by their personal, temporal or historiographical context. Most of the ancient writers are Roman, such as Horace, Virgil or Lucan, and there are few sources from her contemporaries. These writers were hostile, although Plutarch was fairer to her memory; while modern interpretations ranged from a continuation of Octavian's propaganda, presenting her as a seductress and undermining the work she has done in keeping Egypt free of complete Roman control, to sympathizing with her and stressing the change she has brought through her influence on Antony, Octavian, and the people of Egypt and Rome. Whether it is constructive or destructive, it cannot be denied that Cleopatra has had a huge impact on the Egyptian and Roman worlds in a variety of ways.

Although the gaps and inaccuracies mean that we might never realize the extent of her achievements, by analyzing and assessing the evidence we have, we can still gain an insight to her true legacy.

There has been many controversies regarding the effect she's had on both Egypt and Rome. Most ancient writers have dismissed her as a power-hungry woman who almost destroyed the Egyptian people and brought down the Roman empire, while modern writers have begun to reexamine this view of Cleopatra, trying to shed light on her achievements in improving Egypt, like repairing buildings, yards, ships, increasing the naval fleet and reorganizing the army, stabilizing frontiers, restoring temples and the Library of Alexandria, and stopping the civil wars that ravaged Egypt.

Plutarch depicts her not only as a queen of infinite fascination, but as an enchantress, devoted to the life of the senses. To Plutarch, "the last...