Cleopatra’s Hair, Is This What It Really Looked Like?

Cleopatra looks
Cleopatra Before Caesar, is an oil on canvas painting by the French Academic artist Jean-Léon Gérôme, completed in 1866.

Thanks to an artist’s rendition using cutting-edge technology, we may get a captivating glimpse of Cleopatra’s hair. But first, let’s take a moment to learn a little about this stunning woman.

Early Life

Cleopatra, who belonged to the Macedonian Greek royalty, was born in 69 BC in Alexandria. Her family had been ruling Egypt for over three hundred years. She was highly educated and could fluently speak seven languages. She lived and died in Alexandria.

When she was 18 years old, she became the queen and married her 10-year-old brother, Ptolemy XIII. It was planned for them to rule together, but Cleopatra didn’t want to share power with him. Eventually, Ptolemy XIII challenged her and he was found dead. Cleopatra’s other siblings also met similar fates. Some believe that she was involved in the deaths of two out of five of her siblings.

Cleopatra looks
Cleopatra Before Caesar an oil on canvas painting by the French Academic artist Jean Léon Gérôme completed in 1866

One of the most powerful people in the world

To safeguard herself from possible murder accusations, Cleopatra sought the favor of the Roman Empire, with whom she had a romantic relationship and a rumored child with Julius Caesar. When Caesar was assassinated, she supported Mark Antony, who assumed power after Caesar’s demise. This created hostility between her and Octavianus (Octavian), Julius Caesar’s nephew.

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Elizabeth Taylor cast as Cleopatra

Historical records indicate that Mark Antony took his own life following his defeat in the Battle of Actium to Octavian’s troops. Cleopatra also committed suicide. As a result, Egypt was incorporated into the Roman Empire as a province, and Octavian became the first emperor, adopting the name Augustus.

What Did She Look Like

There has been a lot of debate surrounding what the last Queen of Egypt looked like, including what Cleopatra’s hair looked like. We know that the Ptolemaic dynasty practiced royal incest, with brothers and sisters often marrying to avoid creating too many rival branches of the family. However, there are a couple of blank spots from her lineage that remain a mystery.

We do know that she lived in Rome for some time with Julius Ceaser and that many statues of her were created. Additionally, Roman art at the time Cleopatra was said to be in Rome was made to show the actual likeness of the person. Some of the art dating back to the time she was alive shows Cleopatra’s hair may have been red.

A Redhead?

Throwing a wrench into the whole debate is three frescos of the Egyptian Queen with red hair. These works of art showing Cleopatra’s hair red are in the tradition of Medditerannian women who, during that time, used henna to dye their hair.

Cleopatra looks red hair

An artist who is known for recreating historical features has recently used the information provided by frescos and previous information to recreate what Cleopatra may have looked like. The artist gave the Queen red hair, and it’s easy to see how Cleopatra could be so captivating.

Her Death

Cleopatra’s fortunes took a tragic turn when she aligned herself with Antony in a doomed struggle against Octavian, the future emperor Augustus.

According to historical accounts, Cleopatra died in Alexandria, Egypt, on August 12, 30 BC. The circumstances of her death have been the subject of much debate and speculation. Some sources claim she committed suicide by allowing a poisonous snake to bite her. At the same time, others suggest that she was murdered on the orders of Octavian. The truth may never be known, but one thing is certain: Cleopatra’s death was a tragic and untimely death at the age of 39.

Where’s The Body

But what happened to Cleopatra’s body after her death? This, too has been a matter of controversy. Some sources claim that she was buried alongside Antony in a lavish tomb, while others suggest that her body was hastily buried in an unmarked grave. In recent years, there have been several attempts to locate Cleopatra’s tomb, with varying degrees of success.

One of the most promising leads came in 2009 when an archaeologist named Kathleen Martinez announced that she had discovered the location of Cleopatra’s tomb in a temple dedicated to the goddess Isis in Taposiris Magna, about 30 miles west of Alexandria. Martinez claimed that she had uncovered a number of artifacts and clues that pointed to Cleopatra’s burial site, including a mask believed to represent the queen.

If her tomb is ever discovered, it should put much of the debate about Cleopatra’s hair and appearance to rest.

Questionable Results

However, other experts have questioned Martinez’s findings, arguing that insufficient evidence supports her claims. They point out that Cleopatra’s tomb has been sought after for centuries. Many of those claims led to false leads, and hoaxes have been perpetuated. They also note that her enemies may have deliberately obscured the location of Cleopatra’s tomb to prevent her followers from venerating her as a martyr.

Time will tell like other ancient sites which were discovered and altered history.

More Facts

In addition to the well-known facts about her life, there are several lesser-known details that I’d like to share with you. Here are ten interesting facts about Cleopatra that you may not have known:

  1. She was the first Ptolemaic ruler to learn the Egyptian language and customs and to embrace them as part of her royal identity. This helped her to connect with her subjects and gain their loyalty.
  2. She had four children, three with Mark Antony and one with Julius Caesar. Her son with Caesar was named Caesarion, and Octavian later executed him after he claimed the throne of Egypt.
  3. Cleopatra was a skilled politician and strategist known for her ability to manipulate and negotiate with powerful men. She was not afraid to use her charm and sexuality as a tool of diplomacy.
  4. She was also a shrewd military leader and played an active role in planning and executing military campaigns. She personally led a fleet of ships in the Battle of Actium.
  5. Cleopatra was a patron of religion and was known for her devotion to the goddess Isis. She built several temples in honor of Isis throughout Egypt and saw herself as the embodiment of the goddess.

Conclusion

There you have it, folks, ten interesting facts about the legendary Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra. While her life may be surrounded by myth and speculation, there is no denying her impact on history. The last queen of Egypt has an enduring legacy as one of the most fascinating figures of the ancient world.

author avatar
William Conroy Editor in Chief
Meet William. He graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in History, concentrating on global and comparative history. He has spent his lifetime researching and studying everything related to ancient history, civilizations, and mythology. He is fascinated with exploring the rich history of every region on Earth, diving headfirst into ancient societies and their beliefs. His curiosity about how ancient civilizations viewed the world and how those views affected their belief systems and behaviors is what drives him.