Every time I visit a Museum, it feels like going on a mini adventure, exploring a lost world or way of life that existed in history and this exhibition was a epic discovery.
Feeling my smallness standing next to the immense Colossi or examining the excellent craftsmanship of decorative objects made 2000 years ago. Discovering how brilliant and educated Cleopatra VII was, yet she used the feminine ways of a goddess to rule her mighty empire. I felt truly inspired by her life and all that she accomplished, nearly 2000 years after her death she remains a role model for the postmodern 21 century woman.
Buried in the sands of time deep beneath the sea in the bay of Alexandria lay a sleeping goddess, the magnificent Isis, embodied in human form as Cleopatra, Queen Of Egypt and the last Pharaoh to rule. Her kingdom destroyed nearly 2000 years ago by a series of earthquakes and tsunami’s wiping away her palace and the enchanted city of Alexandria. Only now, after millennium the discoveries of ancient treasures found under the sea, help unlock the myth of the Cleopatra and how she lived her daily life.
Cleopatra VII became the queen of Egypt in 51 B.C. At the tender age of seventeen she was thrust into power over a country on the verge of crumbling under the mighty Roman Empire. She charmed and seduced two of ancient Rome’s most powerful leaders, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and bore children with both of them. Then, barely two decades after coming to power she took her own life.The how the real Cleopatra looked is some what of a mystery after her death Octavian the Ruler of Rome in an attempt to erase her from the history books had her likeness destroyed where ever it existed. In the end this only proved to make her more famous and strengthen her lasting legacy.
Amphora used to carry water or wine found intact from Cleopatra’s palace in Alexandria
The handsome God Sarapis is a blending of Egyptian and Greek Gods.
Pilgrims journeyed to Canopus from across the Mediterranean to sleep outside Sarapis’s temple, the Sarapeum. The cures they sought were revealed in dreams which the priest would interpret the following morning. Sarapis reputation for preforming miracles ensured his popularity in Rome, Greece and throughout the region.
Apart from the priest the only person allowed to enter the Sarapeum was the Pharaoh, himself a God and provided a important sanctuary for him.
Naos of the Decades, Dedicated to Shu the God of air, this inner temple shrine held the temple God, may be the worlds first astrological chart. Believed to be imbued with magical powers, this monument was credited with the ability to defend Egypt against any enemy.
The Colossi before the Temples. For centuries, gigantic statues of kings and queens watched over Egyptian Temples.
While access to the Temple was banned to all but the priests and pharaoh, the rest of the population could worship before the colossi in front of the building.
Inside the temple one might find an limestone censer for burnt offerings like the female winged lion pictured here.
Decorative Arts were created by highly skilled crafts people, The golden staff in the shape of swans head is one such object.
The handled carrier supported by cloven hoofs would have been used in temple rituals to pour liquids.
This granite head is attributed to Caesarion the son of Cleopatra VII and Julius Caesar ans was found in the bay of Alexandria.
Two Sphinx’s carved with human heads for intelligence with lion bodies flanked the entry way to guard the Temple of Isis at Cleopatra’s Palace. The Sphinx signified the intellectual power and the physical capacity of the Pharaohs. Romans obsessed with the exoticism of Egypt imported them to Rome.
This granite sphinx carved with the head of Cleopatra’s father Ptolemy XII was raised from the bay of Alexandria in the underwater expedition by French marine Archeologist Franck Goddio in 1998.
Might these have been Cleopatra’s jewels? Discovered in her sunken Palace in the bay of Alexandria.
Groomed to become the pharaoh from birth, Cleopatra VII trained in science, literature and philosophy and spoke nine languages fluently. A Curious and a avid learner she took a keen interest in classical Egyptian culture poetry, theater, music and studied ancient religion and from her servants learned the fine art of social grace and beauty. Becoming a well studied seductress who’s ambitions were even greater than that of her Roman lovers. She is quoted saying “I will not be triumphed over”
The Pleasure of Worship. The very moment Cleopatra became queen of Egypt she was transformed into the Goddess Isis, one of the most important goddesses in ancient Egypt. Cleopatra took part in libation rights at the Sarapeum, using religious instruments to pour offerings of wine, milk, honey, oil and other liquids. Sarapis was a combination of different gods, including the Greek god Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. The Worship of Dionysus was the worship of pleasure. Devotees of Sarapis threw off there worries and cares in wild celebrations.
She also possessed a most charming voice and a knowledge of how to make herself agreeable to everyone.
An Ancient coin, could this be the likeness of Cleopatra? is this a clue to the Greek beauty she possessed?
The likeness of Cleopatra as imagined by artists, costume designers and actress through out the ages.
Known for committing suicide in order to avoid being captured by Octavian and dragged through the streets of Rome as a war trophy, Queen Cleopatra the human embodiment of the Goddess Isis, dressed in her finest robes and sat upon her throne placing the asp to her breast and took her own life. In this Medieval Italian Painting by Piero di Cosimo of Simonetta Vespucci depicts the story Circa 1480.
Vivian Leigh, Cesare and Cleopatra by George Bernard Shaw 1945.
The advent of movies coincided with the woman’s right to vote. Cleopatra was played by the 20th century’s strongest leading actresses. The last of the pharaohs emerged as an emancipated modern woman, a character closer to the reality of her life: beautiful and intelligent, accomplished and powerful, a successful politician and ruler.
Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra, 1963
I remember the first time I saw the film Cleopatra staring Elizabeth Taylor, I was struck by amazing design of the interiors and the costumes of her charter and Cleopatra’s Epic entrance into Rome, if you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing it yet I would highly recommended it for its design inspiration.
For more virtual details of the Cleopatra the Exhibition go here .
The Los Angeles Exhibition of Cleopatra at the Science Center continues through Janurary 6 2013.
To explore the underwater Museum being planned for the bay of Alexandria and Egypt’s sunken treasures go, here