CLEOPATRA READING LIST
All these references are free, most are downloadable, click on cover
Published in 1899, this book has some misdirections simply by following the standards of the time: a Ptolemy is included that shouldn't be, a Cleopatra is left out. Still, it's got nice solid historical analysis (checkout debunking the "Caesar burned the Great Library" theory). There's also some timely pictures, like Cleopatra and Ptolemy Caesar buried up to their necks at the Dendera wall (this was a time when there was so much debris, there was a stairway going DOWN to the ground floor of the Temple of Hathor).
Yeah, but it has the first, and best, image of Cleopatra VII. It's been copied/reprinted many times ... but it turns out to be a fake. It's actually Isis, still visible on a wall at Dendera, and a museum curator hungry for ticket sales added Cleopatra's cartouche in their reproduction.
Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt; Sally-Ann Ashton
This paper contains a brief review of Cleopatra's political environment and status, but what I really liked was the discussion about current triple uraeus theories. There's also some discussion of appearance through the busts. It's part of a university publication that contains a number of Cleopatra related articles.
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I've said before that this guy disagrees with me 100%. He believes a composite image of the coins presents the "real" Cleopatra VII. He also compares them to the busts, which itself is a bit sketchy, since it's not clear at all who they are.
"Here ends the overview of the images of Cleopatra as she appears on coins. All of these portraits, with the noted exceptions, have much the same general characteristic style of portrait. She is shown is [sic] almost every instance as anything but classically beautiful, as more masculine than feminine, and with features as one author states 'children would call her a witch or a hag, with her beak of a nose and deeply wrinkled neck.'"
Decide for yourself. Keep Marc Antony coins in mind.
The Life of Antonius by Plutarch --
The most accurate source of biographic details on Cleopatra VII based on sources living in her court: recollections of Philotas of Amphissa, and the biography written by her personal physician Olympus.
(In French) Al Mas'udi puts the 'story' in 'history'. He seamlessly layers legend & fact like a cake. I dismissed him until his descriptions of Alexandria exactly matched two more modern sources. Checkout his explanation for animal-headed god statues.
Description topographique et historique de l'Égypte, Al-Mawāʻiẓ wa-al-Iʻtibār bi-Dhikr al-Khiṭaṭ wa-al-āthār
(In French) A translation of historian Maqrizi who leaned heavily on Latin, Greek, and Egyptian sources.
John, Bishop of Nikiu, lived in the Nile delta and is believed to have originally written his Chronicle in coptic (modernized Egyptian). He's not too keen on pagan history, but does report the general impression of Egyptians towards Cleopatra VII.
Philo wrote a letter to Caligula, and presumably delivered it with the rest of the "embassy" staff. He's pleading for relief from Jewish persecution by Greeks in Alexandria, and Roman persecution in Jerusalem (Caligula wanted to erect his own statue within the Jewish Temple). Mentions Cleopatra's works.
Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam, Kitāb futuḥ misr wa akbārahā
Arab historian, mainly interested in the Islamic conquest who makes a passing reference to Cleopatra as a builder
It's hard to beat Mahaffy for anything Ptolemaic. He's got very nice coverage of dynastic struggles, but also follows the family lines with discussions about the controversies. His discussion of "legitimacy" is interesting, but spread out over the text.
This article cross-references classic and Egyptian references trying to make the most logical explanations for questionable Ptolemaic mothers. There's also an interesting description of how Egyptian records tried to bend Ptolemies into their ideal brother:sister rulers.