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Duane W. Roller: Cleopatra: The Most Famous Woman of Classical Antiquity
October 7, 2021 at 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Roller re-examines the life of Cleopatra VII (69–30 B.C.), the last queen of Egypt. Cleopatra was probably the most famous woman from classical antiquity, if not all history, yet her modern reputation is based largely on her presentation in literature, art, and cinema, rather than the actual historical reality. This lecture introduces Cleopatra through historical analysis—a figure no less interesting and exciting than her literary and artistic construct. Although described as a great seductress, Cleopatra had only two known relationships in 18 years. She was highly educated, knew at least a dozen languages, and was a published scholar whose reputation as a medical author endured for hundreds of years. Cleopatra was also a naval commander who took her own fleet into battle and was skilled in the art of warfare. Perhaps the most famous story about Cleopatra was her death by the bite of an asp, but even this did not happen. Because her career was preserved by those who defeated her, Cleopatra was both romanticized and demonized, yet she remains a major and influential figure in Western history.
Duane W. Roller is Professor Emeritus of Classics at Ohio State University. He was previously the Karl Franzens Distinguished Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Graz in Austria. As a field archaeologist, Roller spent 34 years conducting field work in Greece, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and Italy, and most recently, as director of the Southern Messapia Survey in the heel of Italy. He has received numerous grants from funders such as the National Geographical Society and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He also was a Fulbright scholar four times, with postings in India, Poland, Austria, and Malta. He is the author of 14 books and over 200 scholarly articles on field archaeology, ancient history and literature, and musicology as it relates to the ancient world. His most recent book is Empire of the Black Sea: The Rise and Fall of the Mithridatic Dynasty (Oxford, 2020).
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Image: Cleopatra Testing Poisons on Condemned Prisoners (1887) by Alexandre Cabanel (public domain).