CLEOPATRA'S REFERENCES

Letters of Recommendation

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... converse with her had an irresistible charm, and her presence, combined with the persuasiveness of her discourse and the character which was somehow diffused about her behaviour towards others, had something stimulating about it.  There was sweetness also in the tones of her voice; and her tongue, like an instrument of many strings, she could readily turn to whatever language she pleased, so that in her interviews with Barbarians she very seldom had need of an interpreter, but made her replies to most of them herself and unassisted, whether they were Ethiopians, Troglodytes [Nabateans], Hebrews, Arabians, Syrians, Medes or Parthians. Nay, it is said that she knew the speech of many other peoples also, although the kings of Egypt before her had not even made an effort to learn the native language, and some actually gave up their Macedonian dialect. 

--- Plutarch, Life of Antonius, 27

According to what is reported, this queen was endowed with resolution, knowledge and judgment; it was also she who dug the Alexandria canal to bring water from Egypt, and who raised marvelous monuments in this city, such as the temple of Saturn where she erected a black bronze statue.

--- p 442

Cleopatra, the same who dug the canal which she succeeded, by her ingenuity, in bringing to Alexandria. This canal started from the village of Kassa, opposite El Karioun; she dug it until she entered the city and paved the bottom.

--- p 450

It is said that it was Queen Cleopatra who brought the Alexandria Canal into the city. Previously, the water could not reach it, but the queen deepened the canal, brought it into the city and paved the bottom with marble slabs, from beginning to end; we still find it there today

--- p 485

As for the copper vases which changed water into wine, they are attributed to Cleopatra, daughter of Ptolemy, queen of Alexandria; there are many of them.

--- p 96

--- Al-Maqrīzī (Taqī al-Dīn Abū al-'Abbās Aḥmad ibn 'Alī ibn 'Abd al-Qādir ibn Muḥammad al-Maqrīzī), Al-Mawāʻiẓ wa-al-Iʻtibār bi-Dhikr al-Khiṭaṭ wa-al-āthār

And queen Cleopatra went down from Palestine into Egypt in order to make her royal residence there. And when she came to the city Farma she gave battle to the Egyptians and overcame them.  And next she came to Alexandria, and reigned there. And she was great in herself and in her achievements (in) courage and strength. There was none of the kings who preceded her who wrought such achievements as she.  And she built in the confines of Alexandria a great (and) magnificent palace., and all that saw it admired it; for there was not the like in all the world.  And she built it on an island in the quarter of the north to the west of the city of Alexandria, outside the city and at a distance of four stadia.  And she raised a dike against the waters of the sea with stones and earth; and made the place of the waters over which they voyaged formerly in ships into dry land, and she made it passable on foot. And this stupendous and difficult achievement she wrought through the advice of a wise man named Dexiphanes, who made the sea into dry land that there might be a means of passage on foot. And next she constructed a canal to the sea, and she brought water from the river Gihon and conducted it into the city. And by this means she brought it about that ships could approach and enter the city and by this means there was great abundance. Now the city was formerly without access to water, but she brought all the water it required [lit. made it full of water] so that ships could sail thereon, and by this means fish became abundant in the city. And she executed all these works in vigilant care for the well-being of the city. And before she died she executed many noble works and (created) important institutions. And this woman, the most illustrious and wise amongst women ...

--- John, Bishop of Nikiu, The Chronicle, Book 67.1-11

... his daughter Cleopatra ascended the throne, and remained there twenty-two years. She was a princess versed in the sciences, and devoted herself to the study of philosophy, admitting scientists into her inner sanctum. She composed, on medicine, charms, and other parts of the natural sciences, works which bear the name of their author, and are known to men versed in the art of medicine. 

--- Volume 2, Chapter XVII, 285-292

Details of those engaged in the transmutation of metals, gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, etc .; The preparation of elixirs of all kinds, such as ferrar and others, the solidification of mercury and its conversion into silver, deceits and tricks of every kind which they accomplish with the aid of their retorts and stills, distillation, The incineration, the employment of borax, hois, coal, and soudts. In a word, the recollection of the ingenious expedients which they apply to their researches, the deceit and cunning to which they have recourse, are all found in our Historical Annals.  Here we recount some poems relating to this subject, their traditions concerning the ancient Greek and Byzantine alchemists, such as Queen Cleopatra ...

--- Volume 8, Chapter CXXIV, 175-176

Al Mas'udi, Muruj adh-dhahab wa ma'adin al-jawah

... we have evidence of this in the temples, and porticoes, and sacred precincts, and groves, and colonnades which have been erected, so that all the cities put together, ancient and modern, which exhibit magnificent works, are surpassed, by the beauty and magnitude of the buildings erected in honour of Caesar, and especially by those raised in our city of Alexandria.  For there is no sacred precinct of such magnitude as that which is called the Grove of Augustus, and the temple erected in honour of the disembarkation of Caesar [the Caesareum, built by Cleopatra to honor Julius Caesar, added to & renamed by Augustus], which is raised to a great height, of great size, and of the most conspicuous beauty, opposite the best harbour; being such an one as is not to be seen in any other city, and full of offerings, in pictures, and statues; and decorated all around with silver and gold; being a very extensive space, ornamented in the most magnificent and sumptuous manner with porticoes, and libraries, and men's chambers, and groves, and propylaea, and wide, open terraces, and court-yards in the open air, and with everything that could contribute to use or beauty; being a hope and beacon of safety to all who set sail, or who came into harbour.

--- Philo of Alexandria (aka Philo Judaeus),  Embassy from the Jews of Alexandria to Gaius (also in Flavius Josephus)

It is also said that the builder of the Lighthouse of Alexandria was Cleopatra, the queen who dug the canal/gulf into Alexandria and paved its bottom 

--- Abd al-Hakam, Futuh 40-41

<She didn't create the Pharos, but she did repair it after       Caesar severely damaged it.>

There's some incorrectness here:

     Cleopatra did not build the Pharos, but she did repair

          it after the Alexandrian War

     Cleopatra did not build Alexandria's canal system, but

          did repair it after the Alexandrian War

     Cleopatra did re-excavate & refurbish the ~23 mile

          long canal connecting the Suez with the Nile

     Cleopatra also re-opened the overland trade route to

          Suez with way stations and military to discourage

          bandits

     Cleopatra did construct her own palace, and temples

         in Alexandria, as well as exeucting temple 

         construction throughout Egypt.

The historians got some of the canal details wrong, but the big picture was correct.

The scholar/author Okasha el Daly claims that Arabic sources referred to Cleopatra VII as "The Virtuous Scholar."  I personally haven't seen that reference in the limited number Arabic translations available.  If anyone can cite me a primary source, I would really appreciate it.

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Cleopatra Reading List

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© 2020 by Marian Marion Kebab