Friday, September 10, 2010

Exhibition: Where's Cleo?

Archeaology Magazine (Mark Rose)

Cleopatra’s reputation as a seducer of emperors—Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and Octavian (later Caesar Augustus)—and her suicide by snake bite have made her one of the ancient world’s most intriguing characters. Now she is the subject of Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute.

While Cleopatra’s name is on the marquee, she is largely absent from the show. The exhibition’s highlights are artifacts recovered from the harbor of Alexandria and the submerged cities of Canopus and Heracleius by an expedition led by businessman-turned-archaeologist Franck Goddio. These include a pair of 16-foot-tall statues representing a pharaoh and queen, a head of Caesarion (Cleopatra and Julius Caesar’s son), and Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII, portrayed as a sphinx. But these identifications are not very convincing and come with qualifiers such as “possibly” or “may be” attached.

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