American Egyptomania Search


Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra, Death of Cleopatra

Cleopatra, San Francisco: Bancroft, 1889

As often as writers and artists loved to imagine themselves looking upon the body of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra at the moment of her suicide by snakebite in the first century B. C., others loved to imagine that they themselves were Cleopatra at the moment of her death. First-person poems were especially popular forms for rendering these fantasies; with the excuse of providing “first-person” accounts of life and events in the ancient world, writers could present what they imagined could have been Cleopatra’s innermost thoughts , feelings, and emotions at such times, and, with poetry, they were freed of any pressures of realism or historical accuracy. The historical skeleton was always there, if in the background – the decadence of ancient Alexandria and the queen’s sexual liaisons with Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony were, after all, the juiciest parts of the story – but poems like these were imaginative literature, given free reign to free associate to the stimulating legend of Cleopatra.

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by J.C.J.
Copyright 1889 by The Bancroft Company

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