BEING CLEOPATRA: Cincinnati Lecture: "Encountering the Egyptian Queen in Roman Literature and Propaganda"

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cincinnati Lecture: "Encountering the Egyptian Queen in Roman Literature and Propaganda"

Miami professor aims to tell Cleopatra’s full story
Lecture to tackle Roman image of her that endures today.
By Gin A. Ando, Contributing Writer

CINCINNATI — When the name Cleopatra is mentioned, images of a powerful, exotic seductress may come to mind. While that may not necessarily be false, a Miami University professor is looking to flesh out the infamous femme fatale in a presentation working in conjunction with the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal’s exhibit of the Egyptian queen.

Associate professor of classics Denise McCoskey’s presentation, “Cleopatra, a fatale monstrum? Encountering the Egyptian Queen in Roman Literature and Propaganda,” examines Cleopatra’s entire person, both as an able, multicultural ruler of a powerful state as well as how the Augustan propagandists presented her in the midst of Rome’s civil war — an image McCoskey said endures to this day.

“The Romans really elevate the image of Cleopatra,” McCoskey said.

“Her image gets promoted at a particular time. It’s this very carefully constructed image of her — and that’s the only image that survived.

‘‘The point (of the lecture) isn’t to take away the intrigue. I don’t want to make her a boring character.”

Although Cleopatra’s escapades with Julius Caesar and later Marc Antony, the Roman civil war and her snake-induced demise are all well-documented, McCoskey said wartime portrayals of the queen might not have necessarily destroyed her image in the modern day, but they have diluted it to the point the facts are blurred with the propaganda produced to villify her in the eyes of the people during the Roman civil war.

The queen’s personal culture is also something McCoskey said may resonate with U.S. audiences: Born to a Greek family, Cleopatra adapted into Egyptian culture.

“She’s a fascinating figure and available to Americans because of her race,” said McCoskey, regarding her multiethnicity.

The lecture is being delivered in tandem with the tail end of Union Terminal’s exhibit, “Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt,” which is showing through Sept. 5, and features artifacts never shown in the U.S. before.

Despite McCoskey’s presentation being in August, she said seeing the exhibit is worth the money and trip to the West End because it draws a distinction between the popular imagery of Cleopatra — including Elizabeth Taylor’s portrayal in the eponymous 1963 film— and the historical facts about the last pharaoh of Egypt.

The exhibit itself also stresses the mystery behind Cleopatra’s character and has drawn larger crowds than other exhibits, said Casey Kroger, marketing communications coordinator at Union Terminal.

What: “Cleopatra, a fatale monstrum? Encountering the Egyptian Queen in Roman Literature and Propaganda”

Where: Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, 1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati

When: 7:30 p.m. on August 18, 2011

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