“Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have Immortal longings in me.”

Thanks to William Shakespeare for the title of today’s post.

Last week I was in Philadelphia, and had a chance to see the Cleopatra exhibit at the Franklin Institute.  There has been a lot of publicity about it, and, being the big history nerd that I am, I of course went.

I was underwhelmed, I must say.

The exhibit is actually subtitled “The Search for the last Queen of Egypt”, and that is part of the exhibit – an archaeologist thinks that he may have located where Cleopatra’s burial spot may be.  The first part of the exhibit contains some new artifacts that were recently found during an excavation of Alexandria harbor.  Some of the pieces were quite amazing, especially if you consider that they’ve been underwater for nigh on 1500 years.  O, that we all should look so good after 1500 years.

However, I found that there was not much in the way of new information in the exhibit, which was disappointing.  I did learn something new, which can actually make the whole experience a win (if you can take something new away, it’s all good, right?).  I learned that it was traditional for pharaohs to marry their siblings.  So in point of fact, Cleopatra’s husband was her younger brother Ptolemy XIII (go here or here for additional information).   This would solidify a family’s claim to the throne.  Yes, I’m wondering the same thing you are: what kind of relationship were these?  Was it a “full” marriage (so to speak)?  Based on what I tell, the answer to that is uncertain.  In some cases, maybe yes, but in others, maybe no.  Keep in mind that the pharaohs tended to have multiple spouses – Ramses II apparently had over a dozen wives (who’s got that kind of time?  Plus he’s got to run a country?!).  At any rate, it is certainly an interesting topic (ok, everyone get their minds out of the gutter!!).

These colossi were my particular favorites:They are 16 feet tall, and are of a pharaoh and his queen from the Temple of Amon in Heracleion, where all pharaohs, including Cleopatra were crowned.  When a pharaoh is crowned, they became immortal, one of the gods.  (The audio portion of the exhibit was from the point of view of Cleopatra, and the narrative mentioned this a couple of times.)

So, what is so fascinating about Cleopatra?  She is certainly not the first Egyptian Queen to rule as Pharaoh, although she was the first of the Ptolemy family (who were Macedonian, and descended from Alexander) to speak Egyptian.  What is it about this woman that inspires not just museum exhibits, but books, plays, movies and television shows?


9 comments on ““Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have Immortal longings in me.”

  1. Greg Fazio says:

    This seems really interesting! However this is kind of wierd acttually. I mean who would marry their brother or even sister today? I was not alive back then but it still seems wierd. Also i would think they had to have more than one spouce because in this article it says, “Cleopatra’s husband was her younger brother Ptolemy XIII”. When in history last year we learned that she was married to Mark Antony.

  2. Luc Tran says:

    The Cleopatra exhibit sounds very interesting and very fun. I would like to learn more about Cleopatra in addition to what I learned last year. The one thing that I have learned from this article that I did not learn last year was that Cleopatra was married to her younger brother Ptolemy XIII. This reminded me of when we learned about the gods where gods like Zeus would marry his daughters or other people’s wives. The one thing that I learned from this article is that Cleopatra is married to Ptolemy XIII instead of Mark Anthony because last year I learned that Cleopatra fell in love with Mark Anthony and they had a son. So, I hope that this year I would learn more about Cleopatra than last year.

  3. Stephanie Hendricks says:

    Woah! I, myself, am a fan of the Egyptian past. (I was Cleopatra one year for Halloween:) ) I knew that when the Pharaohs died their slaves and spouses were buried with them but I never knew that they married their own brothers and sisters to retain the throne! Talk about keeping it in the family! What I also found fascinating is women in leadership positions thousands of years ago. It took our country over a hundred years to grant women the right to vote. We’ve come a long a way from having to marry your brother to become a leader. Next stop, first female president!

  4. Alex Wai says:

    Such an interesting concept! I think what draws people to Cleopatra, what makes her so fascinating, was her ability to control everything she did. We briefly went over Cleopatra’s life last year and she was exactly the kind of woman you would want ruling. She was a strong, female influence. It seems she knew what she wanted and got it. Not that long ago, a woman would never have had a chance to be on top, to be able to call the shots. Just seeing Cleopatra, millions of years before that, ruling as a pharaoh is nothing short of amazing. Marrying within your family is most definitely news to me. Seeing that that is so strange now-a-days, just shows that we’ve come a long way from Cleopatra’s rule. Very impressive!

  5. Mira Patel says:

    I actually went to this exhibit with my cousins back in June. We all liked how they had an audio tour. It made it more interesting by having “Cleopatra” tell you about herself and her life. I agree that while there were lots of nice artifacts, I didn’t learn many new things. Most of the information was things I already learned in school. Also, in response to some people’s comments about Cleopatra being married to Mark Antony, she was “married” to her brother, but she was really in love with Mark Antony. Even though there wasn’t much new information in the exhibit, it was successful in showing what a powerful woman Cleopatra was, especially for her time. She was queen of Egypt, and had children with both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Her great beauty, intelligence, and enormous influence is what makes her so famous even today.

  6. Holly ashton says:

    This douse seem intriguing!! I never knew Cleopatra marred her younger brother. I know that marrying family members was a big thing in the Mid evil ages but I always thought that Egypt might have exceptions in their “you must marry royalty” traditions. But aren’t all Egyptian Pharaohs and queens pure royalty and if so did they have offspring with there siblings? (oh geez, this brings me back to a book I read. Awkward.)

  7. Victoria Howell says:

    Cleopatra was an incredible woman! History says that she was not the most attractive of women, but she was so well educated and charming that she managed to have a husband and several lovers (including Julius Ceasar and Marc Antony who she eventually married). Not only did the people love her, but she was an exceptional ruler. Egyptian royalty is famous for marrying siblings. Since being royal is equal to being a god, they had to set the example of marrying within the family because in nearly all ancient cultures, the gods married their brothers or sisters. We may think of it as disgusting today, but back then it was normal and even expected.

  8. Chris Navarrete says:

    From reading this information i didn’t learn much from this. I had already known that Pharaohs had to marry within the family to keep the throne to the family. As I read this i also did some further reading and found out that Cleopatra’s older brother and husband tried to kill her because she was getting all the publicity on coins and increased status throughout the Egyptian land. Her brother’s attempt failed and she soon became Caesar’s love interest. Her brother fled Egypt because Caesar and Cleopatra had a battle to gain Cleopatra her offical spot on the throne. Well, her brother died in attempt to flee and her younger brother Ptolemy (both Cleopatra’s brother’s names were Ptolemy) became Pharaoh. She still did most of the work and eventually married him aswell. I admire her beacause she was very famous amongst the people in the Egyptian era and her brother along with many of his followers tried to dethrone her. Talk about serious multitasking.

  9. I hope I get to see the exhibit one day! Cleopatra actually married both her younger brothers (not at once, of course!). Both were pre-pubescent so most scholars agree that they were probably not “consumated.” However, she was constrained by law–she could not rule unless she was married! He did have a marriage ceremony with Mark Antony, by the way, though it was part of a negotiated agreement–in return for naval support, he had to legitimately marry her and claim his children by her. Sorry to go on, but she is my favorite subject! V. (author of CLEOPATRA RULES!)

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