Cleopatra and Mark Antony did not look beautiful on coins


Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in movie Cleopatra

Coin of CleopatraFrom CBC in Canada:

Cleopatra, Mark Antony no beauties, coin shows

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Mark Antony and Cleopatra — one of history’s most famous romantic couples — were not the beauties immortalized in prose and portrayed in film, according to a 2,000-year-old coin bearing their likenesses.

Academics at Britain’s Newcastle University studying the Roman denarius coin say the Roman politician and Egyptian queen bore little resemblance to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, the actors who portrayed them in the 1963 film Cleopatra.

Mark Antony coin

“The image on the coin is far from being that of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton,” said Lindsay Allason-Jones, director of archeological museums at the university, recalling the film that ignited the tempestuous romance between the two stars.

According to the likenesses on opposite sides of the coin, Mark Antony had bulging eyes, a thick neck and a hooked nose, while Cleopatra had a sharp nose, a chin pointing upwards and thin lips.

It’s not the first time images of Cleopatra have turned up showing a less-than-flattering version of the famous Egyptian queen.

But the public perception of her as a physically attractive woman has in part endured because of her legendary charisma.

As the Roman writer Plutarch wrote, “her actual beauty, it is said, was not in itself so remarkable that none could be compared with her.”

“But the contact of her presence, if you lived with her, was irresistible; the attraction of her person, joining with the charm of her conversation and the character that attended all she said or did, was something bewitching.”

Allason-Jones concurs, saying the image of Cleopatra as a seductress is a more recent image.

“Roman writers tell us that Cleopatra was intelligent and charismatic, and that she had a seductive voice but, tellingly, they do not mention her beauty,” she told the BBC.

The coin from 32 BC would have been issued by the mint of Mark Antony.

It went public on display Wednesday at the university’s Shefton Museum.

See also here.

And here.

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

And ideas on it vary throughout history.

Also, the extent of accuracy of the coins as portraits is a point here.

Roman republic coin found in Britain: here.

How the Battle of Actium Changed the World: here.

About these ads

5 thoughts on “Cleopatra and Mark Antony did not look beautiful on coins

  1. Ancient Coin Dulls Cleopatra’s Beauty

    The Associated Press

    By ROBERT BARR

    February 14, 2007

    Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety; other women cloy the appetites they feed, but she makes hungry where most she satisfies.

    So maybe Mark Antony loved Cleopatra for her mind. That is the conclusion being drawn by academics at Britain’s University of Newcastle from a Roman denarius coin which depicts the celebrated queen of Egypt as a sharp-nosed, thin-lipped woman with a protruding chin.

    In short, a fair match for the hook-nosed, thick-necked Mark Antony on the other side of the coin, which went on public display Wednesday at the university’s Shefton Museum.

    ‘The image on the coin is far from being that of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton,’ said Lindsay Allason-Jones, director of archaeological museums at the university, recalling the 1963 film ‘Cleopatra’, which ignited the tempestuous romance between the two stars.

    The notion that Cleopatra was not in Taylor’s league was hailed as a revelation in British newspapers on Valentine’s Day, though the image is hardly a discovery.

    Replicas of the denarius can be found on eBay, and images on other ancient coins are no more flattering.

    Cleopatra’s legend has grown over the centuries.

    Plutarch, in the ‘Life of Antony’ written a century after the great romance, said of Cleopatra: ‘her actual beauty, it is said, was not in itself so remarkable that none could be compared with her.’

    ‘But the contact of her presence, if you lived with her, was irresistible; the attraction of her person, joining with the charm of her conversation, and the character that attended all she said or did, was something bewitching. It was a pleasure merely to hear the sound of her voice …’

    Chaucer, writing in the 14th century, described her as ‘fair as is the rose in May.’

    Shakespeare outdid them all: ‘Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety; other women cloy the appetites they feed, but she makes hungry where most she satisfies.’

    Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

  2. Pingback: Cleopatra’s tomb discovered? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Big ancient Chinese coins discovery | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Did Cleopatra really die by snakebite? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s