Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why Cleo is both hit and myth

Manchester Evening News (Helen Tither)

Joyce Tyldesley talking about Cleopatra:

THE thick kohl eyeliner, the raven black hair, those sultry, seductive eyes - for most of us Elizabeth Taylor is the embodiment of Cleopatra. Oozing sex appeal in her legendary on-screen performance opposite real-life love Richard Burton, she caught the imagination of millions as she brought the tragic Egyptian queen to life.

So, in some ways, what a disappointment to discover the real-life Cleopatra may not have been such a gorgeous creature after all. In fact, the woman who seduced Julius Caesar and Mark Antony could have been more fearsome than fair.

"Everyone has this Elizabeth Taylor image in mind but the truth is we don't really know what she looked like," explains author Joyce Tyldesley, whose new book - Cleopatra: The Last Queen of Egypt - looks at the myths behind the real-life ruler.

"If you look at the statues of her that survive, for instance, the classical ones portray her as a Greek queen, while the Egyptians portray her as typically Egyptian. On the other hand, on surviving coins she looks stern and fierce with a big nose and a big chin."

What of those stories about bathing in ass's milk then? A ruse which has tempted countless women to order a few extra pints from the milkman. "I'm a bit unconvinced by that too, I'm afraid," she sighs.

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