Cleopatra: the last pharaoh

“The queen of queens”

Cleopatra was born in 69 BC at Alexandria of Egypt. Her father was pharaoh Photolomy XII. She lived in a period of time that saw the creation and expansion of the Roman Empire. Her history was told century after century by historians and in our days by Hollywood. The most known version of the story of her life is the one of Plutarch. He speaks of a beautiful and dangerous (for Rome) queen who put the Roman Empire to her knees by seducing, first one of the most powerful man of history, Julius Caesar, and then one of his strongest lieutenant Marc Antony.

Now we have to remember that the story of Cleopatra has been written by her roman contemporaries, that were also her enemies, while everything written from the Egyptians during her reign has been lost. In fact Cleopatra’s Alexandria is at the moment under the Mediterrenian seas. On the other hand the Arab historians who lived after her death, instead, paint a very different portrait from the Roman one.

They tell of a wise queen who liked to read and foster cultural and artistic progress. In the Arab stories one cannot find any mention to her physical appearance. In absence of any direct Egyptian source ( we don’t even have a certain portrait or a statue of her) is difficult to separate the fiction from the reality that ‘s why Cleopatra is probably become a legend.

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The facts are: she belonged to a Greek lineage of pharaohs who came to rule Egypt after the conquest of the country of Alexander the Great in the IV century BC. These Greek pharaohs adopted Egyptian costumes and in particular the cult of life after death and the cult of the pharaoh representing the divinity on Earth. But not all of the Greek Pharaohs adopted for example the Egyptian language and during their reigns revolts busted the region. Cleopatra tried to stay closer to the population by adopting their language, fighting the corruption, protect the commercial exchanges with the Arabs on the caravan route, that went from the Nile to the Red Sea, and, as said above, by fostering the Arts. For example she rebuilt the Alexandria Library that was the biggest in the world before a fire destroyed it and she was the first to exploit a porphyry quarry to embellish her palace. The same stone was to be used in the following years by the Romans for their statues.

She became queen at the age of 18. At the time Rome was conquering country after country. At the age of 21 she started a relationship with the Roman chief Julius Caesar.

Giulio-CesareWe don’t know if her choice was based on love or ambition. The point is that she had a child from Caesar to whom she gave a roman name Caesarion. Julius Caesar didn’t recognize the child but brought him and Cleopatra to Rome reserving them the highest honors. The reason why Caesar didn’t recognize Caesarion is unknown but we can imagine that Rome was a dangerous place for the baby as many were against the union between Cleopatra and Caesar fearing the end of the Republic and the beginning of a monarchy. Actually Caesar was killed in 44 B.C. and Cleopatra fled to Egypt. She continued to see her son as the heir of Egypt and Rome together as testified by the inscriptions on the Dendera temple that she has it built to show Caesarion as the future governor of the reign.dendara10

In the meanwhile the Roman Empire was split in two parts. The West under Octavian the nephew of Caesar who declared himself the true heir of the dead chief. The East was under Marc Antony lieutenant of Caesar who supported the son of Cleopatra as heir of his former general.

M_AntoniusCleopatra entered in an alliance with Marc Antony, and also in a relationship from which were born 3 children. The couple finally was defeated next to Actium in Greece by Octavian, and they both preferred to commit suicide than to be brought to Rome as slaves.

Marc Antony decided to die in a roman way, with a sword. Cleopatra chose to die by a bite from a cobra, a sacred animal in Egypt, protector of the country and its pharaohs.

Cleopatra was a proud woman and an ambitious mother who lived and died for preserving the traditions and independence of her country through her son.

Medusa: look me in the eyes!

“Amor et psyche”

Medusa is another figure from the Greek mythology. imageOriginally she was a priestess of Athena, very charming, with beautiful locks adorning her face. After having had an intercourse with Neptune in the temple of Athena (wisdom), the goddess herself turned Medusa into a monster with snakes in place of her hairs to punish the desecration of the temple.

Medusa wandered the world spreading despair and death since she had the power to turn men into stones just by meeting their eyes. She found peace when the hero Perseus (wisdom) cut her head.image

Maybe this is a myth that stands for a symbol of the constructive and destructive power of the reason.

Mata Hari: Arcane Exotica?!

“What goes around comes around” Anonymous

Born as Margaretha Geertruida, she turned into Mata Hary (Indonesian for eye of the day) by her 20’s. After the failure of her marriage which she took at the age of 18, Zelle was broke and didn’t know what to do to survive. She moved to Paris and reinvented herself as a dancer; as far as her movements she drew from the women she saw performing in the temples of Indonesia the period of time she was married to her former husband, a Dutch Army Captain. Her exotic style, together with an almost nude look gained her an enormous popularity throughout Europe at the beginning of XX Century. image

Unfortunately once in her 30’s her dancer career was over, and Mata Hary was at the mercy of her numerous lovers for her sustainment. When the First World War broke out she first settle in the Netherlands, which where neutral at the time, but later decided to go back to Paris to once again reinvent herself, in what apparently was for her, the game of life. She was hired by the French Army as a double agent with the aim of grasping information out of the Germans. Mata Hari’s only weapon was seduction, but was quite ineffective as she was only able to pass misinformation to the Allies, because the men who she meet understood her plan. In the meanwhile Paris was taken over by a paranoia about spies of which, ironically, Mata Hari, became a victim. Accused of being a spy for the Germans by the same who had hired her as a double agent ( a certain Ladou), she was brought to trial in July 1917 and soon after put to death, after being described as a woman who left her family to live a life of sexual independence. Eventually, what brought her fame, gave her death. Now she is a legend anyway, probably for her mystery audacity and for being chameleonic.

Athena: the owl

imageimage“When ancient Greeks had a thought, it occurred to them as a god or goddess giving an order. Apollo was telling them to be brave. Athena was telling them to fall in love. Now people hear a commercial for sour cream potato chips and rush out to buy, but now they call this free will”. Chuck Palahniuk.

Athena was a deity born in the Ancient Greek culture. She was the goddess of war, arts, crafts, and wisdom.

The wars in which Athena participated were considered just. Her contribution was strategy as opposed to slaughters and bloodsheds offered by her brother Ares. She was born from the head of her father Zeus (time ) and she represents philosophy therefore one of her attributes is the owl, the bird which sees well at night. Plato in one of his dialogues suggests that the meaning of her name is the mind of god.

She is typically dressed with a sleeveless spartan tunic, and a cloak. On her head there is an helmet, and a shield with Medusa’s face protects her body. She holds a spear and the statue of Nike, victory.

Condoleeza Rice, and the transformative power of politics

My mom was a teacher – I have the greatest respect for the profession – we need great teachers – not poor or mediocre ones

Condoleeza Rice

Condoleeza Rise was the first African American woman to serve as Secretary of State in the United States.

ImageBefore serving as Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice served as National Security Advisor all in the George W. Bush Administration (2000-2008).
During these years she championed the so called Transformational Diplomacy which was about building democratic governments throughout the Middle East as she considered the September 11 attacks as rooted in despair and poverty.
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She was born in segregated Alabama in 1954. She suffered many times discrimination but said more than one time that she didn’t let it limit her horizon.
Rice is convinced that the American nation is held together by the belief that it does not matter where you are coming from it matters where you are going; it does not matter the past but the future.
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She has always insisted on the empowering and transformative strength of education as a mean for men to get on on the social ladder.

Aud, the Deep Minded

Ride of the Valkyrie
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As stated in the Gargas the ancient Norse law, in the Vicking society women were working inside the home or attending the farming. They were under the protection of their fathers or husbands and couldn’t own anything apart in the unfortunate case of their husbands’ death.

Women were prohibited from cutting their hair short, dressing male clothes and participating in the government. Anyway they were also very much protected from domestic and outside violence.

Aud, instead, comes out as a powerful matriarchal figure.  The principal sources that tell us about her are two sagas: the Laxdaela, and the Icelanders, which narrate in a mixture of real facts and myth the stories of six generation of individuals descended from the Norwegian emigrants in Iceland and the passage from paganism to Christianity in the land. Aud is cited as one of the earlier settlers in Iceland.Image

Her father was a vicking commander and so were her husband and son.  After the death of these men she had a vicking ship built and left for Iceland with onboard 20 freemen and a number of bondsmen. Over the years she freed many men and gave them lands. When Aud died she was buried in a ship inside a mould honour reserved only for rich and powerful men.