During her reign as Queen she made alliances and had relationships with two of the most powerful men of the world at the time – the leader of the Roman Empire Julius Caesar and later with his designated Consul and right-hand man Mark Antonym after Caesar was murdered. She was ambitious, politically astute and she used her sexuality and intellect to secure alliances that would benefit Egypt (Walker 2001, Highest 2011). Because of the relationship she had with Mark Antonym, which brought disgrace and dishonor to the Roman Senate, Roman poets and historians have not been kind to
Cleopatra, portraying her as a power hungry, sexual predator – even Octavia, the adopted son and heir of Caesar, referred to her as the ‘harlot of Cannons’ as inspired by the writings of Properties (Properties trans. Lee 2009). The first time Cleopatra story was told on film, she was played by Theta Bar in 1917. Bar portrayed Cleopatra as a sexual predator with a threatening and ominous air. Bar was also depicted as a re-incarnation of Cleopatra, because she favored playing the role of the sexual manipulator (Holland 1997).
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The portrayal of Cleopatra over the following fifty years depicted her as a nonchalant, milling sophisticated queen to a shrewd stateswoman. But it is still the sexual nature of Cleopatra that more often than not is the central trait of the queen that is portrayed by the modern media. Even in the 21st century she is portrayed as a slave to Rome, to evoke an erotic image of a woman, comfortable using her sexuality as a political tool. In 1963 Elizabeth Taylor portrayed Cleopatra as an intelligent, astute stateswoman. She understands that she is exotic, and she uses this to her advantage.
She manages to use her sexuality to manipulate Caesar, and therefore gain a protector for Egypt. She used the Romans opinions of her to her advantage and played up to those opinions. “We must not disappoint the might Caesar. The Romans tell fabulous tales of my baths and hand maidens… And my morals”. (Cleopatra, 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, 1963). In conclusion, the image of Cleopatra in the modern media all stems from the histories of the Romans. To them she was exotic, erotic and outspoken. She was the antithesis of a Roman woman. As writers of today are drawn to murder, intrigue and sex, so were the writers of history.