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Cleopatra Podcast Series: Day 2

Michelle Rafferty, Publicity Assistant

Cleopatra’s sexual liaisons have made her famous for being the femme fatale of classical antiquity and a heroine in the greatest love affair of all time. In Cleopatra: A Biography historian, archaeologist, and classical scholar Duane Roller aims to clear up the infamous queen’s identity—from the propaganda in the Roman Republic all the way to her representations in film today. And what, according to Roller, do the cold hard facts reveal? A pragmatic leader trying to save her kingdom as the reality of a full blown empire loomed ahead.

For more on your favorite queen tune in for Day 3 tomorrow. You can listen to the rest of the series here.

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Michelle Rafferty: So I think one of the most common perceptions of Cleopatra today is that we think of her as this sultry seductress, but you argue that this simply isn’t true. What do we know about Cleopatra’s romantic liaisons?

Duane Roller: Well as far as we know, she only had two relationships in 18 years, and I don’t think that qualifies by any standard to make her a “sultry seductress.” Moreover, these two relationships with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony were very carefully chosen. Both the men were the most powerful men in Rome in their era. And I said a moment ago, she was very much concerned with producing an heir. And if you are going to produce someone who is qualified to take over your kingdom and keep it going, you want to make sure the other person involved in producing the heir is of high quality. There was no one within her family she could rely on, there was no one within the dispossessed royalty of the Eastern Mediterranean. But Rome was in ascendancy, Rome was the great power, so why not have liaisons with Romans and produce a really first class heir. But that’s all we know about.  Obviously we weren’t in her bedroom every night in terms of the sources, but as far as we can tell she chose her relationships very carefully and they were only two in number.

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