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How did Cleopatra's Chambermaids Die

 
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starguard
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2010 10:53 pm    Post subject: How did Cleopatra's Chambermaids Die Reply with quote

From what I am to understand, upon her death she had two of her closest chambermaids with her named Charmian and Iras. Cleopatra was supposedly killed by the bite of an Asp. There were two puncture wounds on her body that was to comfirm her being posioned, but no one has ever mentioned anything about how her chambermaids died.

Were they too bitten by an asp, or did they choose some other method of self execution!

Please explain!
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think it is known exactly how they died.

Chris Bennett says:
Quote:
Her handmaidens Iras and Charmion died with her, apparently also of poison, yet a cobra could only be relied to kill one person. So, either more than one snake was smuggled in or they took poison while she died of snakebite.

http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Egypt/ptolemies/genealogy.htm
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i think they may have had hair pins filled with poison. it is one suggestion classical writer's have come up with for cleopatra's death.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2010 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

anneke wrote:
I don't think it is known exactly how they died.

Chris Bennett says:
Quote:
Her handmaidens Iras and Charmion died with her, apparently also of poison, yet a cobra could only be relied to kill one person. So, either more than one snake was smuggled in or they took poison while she died of snakebite.

http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Egypt/ptolemies/genealogy.htm


I'm afraid I am most fond of Charmion's comment as she died, as noted in Plutarch, when the Roman saw that her mistress was dead:

Quote:
And of her two women, the one called Iras was dying at her feet, while Charmion, already tottering and heavy-handed, was trying to arrange the diadem which encircled the queen's brow.

Then somebody said in anger: "A fine deed, this, Charmion!" "It is indeed most fine," she said, "and befitting the descendant of so many kings." Not a word more did she speak, but fell there by the side of the couch.


Plutarch, The Parallel Lives: The Life of Antony, p. 328-329.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

neseret wrote:
anneke wrote:
I don't think it is known exactly how they died.

Chris Bennett says:
Quote:
Her handmaidens Iras and Charmion died with her, apparently also of poison, yet a cobra could only be relied to kill one person. So, either more than one snake was smuggled in or they took poison while she died of snakebite.

http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Egypt/ptolemies/genealogy.htm


I'm afraid I am most fond of Charmion's comment as she died, as noted in Plutarch, when the Roman saw that her mistress was dead:

Quote:
And of her two women, the one called Iras was dying at her feet, while Charmion, already tottering and heavy-handed, was trying to arrange the diadem which encircled the queen's brow.

Then somebody said in anger: "A fine deed, this, Charmion!" "It is indeed most fine," she said, "and befitting the descendant of so many kings." Not a word more did she speak, but fell there by the side of the couch.


Plutarch, The Parallel Lives: The Life of Antony, p. 328-329.

In many ways, never a truer statement was ever made.




hell of a eulogy
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2010 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From everything i have read on Queen Cleopatra is that Charmin and Iras killed themselves with the asp be with their queen but then again no one really knows for the attention was on Cleopatra. read2
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Read my signature...
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It is of course the hieght of irony that, after this intensive campaign to expunge them from the annals of Egypt, the Amarna pharaohs are today probably the most recognized of all the country's ancient rulers!

Quote 'Amarna Sunset' by Aidan Dodson.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe this is the correct quotation by Charmion. Though I have heard different variations of the famouse quote made by Charmion...

I suspect Plutarchs (Thanks to the help of neseret) version is the most interesting and accurate? Idea
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It is of course the hieght of irony that, after this intensive campaign to expunge them from the annals of Egypt, the Amarna pharaohs are today probably the most recognized of all the country's ancient rulers!

Quote 'Amarna Sunset' by Aidan Dodson.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

neseret wrote:

I'm afraid I am most fond of Charmion's comment as she died, as noted in Plutarch, when the Roman saw that her mistress was dead:

And of her two women, the one called Iras was dying at her feet, while Charmion, already tottering and heavy-handed, was trying to arrange the diadem which encircled the queen's brow.

Then somebody said in anger: "A fine deed, this, Charmion!" "It is indeed most fine," she said, "and befitting the descendant of so many kings." Not a word more did she speak, but fell there by the side of the couch.


Talk about getting the Last Word!
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To get back on topic:

There are problems with the traditional asp story and the number of alternatives floated by Plutarch make me suspect that the Romans themselves weren't sure how Cleopatra and her handmaidens had killed themselves. Poison of some kind is indicated but which and how they got a hold of it may be irrecoverable.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A cobra snake bite wouldnt be enough to kill three women at once effectively . As already noted.

It is aparent that Cleopatra did practice with poisons and contributed in inventing a few herself in her life time.
She is also known to have practised certain poisons on her own slaves. To see which poisons would work more effectively and would allow the person to suffer the least amount of pain. Ironically I believe she practised with poisons roughly at the end of her life and Mark Antony's. So perhaps she knew what was in store for her, though perhaps she still held hope for the best.

I don't think it will ever be known how Cleopatra was presented with the poison with out being detected.

I conjured up an idea just then, I wonder if it is plausible? Idea

Could it have been possible that Cleopatra some how ordered a slave to inject poison into her plums (Or any fruit she was presented with)? After all the poisoness snake was always thought to have been presented wtih the fruit in a basket? Just an Idea.

I did read in a book that perhaps Octavian knew of Cleopatra's plan to commit suicide and eventually allowed her to do so, Considering the fact he didn't want an reenactment of the disapproval of the people of rome that occured when Arsinoe was forced to walk the city streets of Rome to her execution. (Which ofcourse you probably already know was not carried out until years later).

Interesting Idea
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It is of course the hieght of irony that, after this intensive campaign to expunge them from the annals of Egypt, the Amarna pharaohs are today probably the most recognized of all the country's ancient rulers!

Quote 'Amarna Sunset' by Aidan Dodson.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

EgyptianRose wrote:
Could it have been possible that Cleopatra some how ordered a slave to inject poison into her plums (Or any fruit she was presented with)? After all the poisoness snake was always thought to have been presented wtih the fruit in a basket? Just an Idea.

I did read in a book that perhaps Octavian knew of Cleopatra's plan to commit suicide and eventually allowed her to do so, Considering the fact he didn't want an reenactment of the disapproval of the people of rome that occured when Arsinoe was forced to walk the city streets of Rome to her execution. (Which ofcourse you probably already know was not carried out until years later).

Interesting Idea


Octavian is actually the source of the asp story: Octavian favored the notion that Cleopatra died from a snake bite, which is how she was depicted in his triumphal procession, with an asp clinging to her image (Plutarch, LXXXVI.3; cf. Dio, LI.21.8, "an effigy of the dead Cleopatra upon a couch was carried by, so that in a way she, too,...was a part of the spectacle and a trophy in the procession"). It also is the version adhered to by the Augustan poets, who wrote within a decade after Actium. In the Aeneid, Virgil speaks of the queen not turning her head "to see twin snakes of death behind" (VIII.696-697). Horace (Odes, I.37, "Nunc est bibendum") and Propertius (Elegies, III.11.53-54) also speak of two snakes (presumably one for the queen and the other for her servants), not one, although the other primary source, Velleius Paterculus, does mention a single asp (II.87). Martial, too, associates a viper with Cleopatra (Epigrams, IV.59).

Although Cleopatra poisoned herself, no one quite knew how. Plutarch relates that there were two slight pricks on her arm and that poison might have been hidden in a hollow comb (knestis), a word used rarely enough to suggest that he may have adhered to an earlier account (LXXXVI.2-3). Dio comments upon the marks as well, which may have been caused by a poisonous pin used to fasten her hair (LI.14.1). Or they may have been from the bite of an asp, which must have been hidden in a basket of flowers (or figs) or a water jar, although no snake ever was found.

However, the Greeks posited an alternative explanation. Strabo is the earliest source for Cleopatra's suicide and even may have been in Alexandria at the time she died. (Plutarch wrote more than a century after the events he describes, Dio, a century later still, although his source probably was a history by Olympus, Cleopatra's personal physician, whom he mentions, LXXXII.2; also Plutarch, LXXXII.2.). He is of two minds: whether it was "by the bite of an asp or (for two accounts are given) by applying a poisonous ointment" (XVII.10). Galen, writing in the second century, says in De Theriaca ad Pisonem (CCXXXVII) that she broke the skin by deeply biting her own arm and then applied poison to the wound. To be sure, applied or ingested poison does seem to be a more probable cause of Cleopatra's death than the uncertainty of a serpent's venom.

In most cases, the Roman side continued to hold with the Augustan line of an asp bite as the cause of the queen's death. Suetonius, a contemporary of Plutarch, indicates in his Life of Augustus that she died from the bite of an asp, the poison of which Octavian had tried to have sucked from the wound by the Psylli, snake charmers from North Africa famous for that ability (XVII.4). Florus, a younger contemporary, has Cleopatra, dressed in her finest raiment, apply two serpents (II.21.11).

But, as Plutarch noted, in the Life of Antony, "The truth of the matter no one knows."

See as to referenced sources:

Dio Cassius: Roman History (1914-) translated by Earnest Cary and Herbert B. Foster (Loeb Classical Library).

Plutarch: Parallel Lives (1916-) translated by Bernadotte Perrin (Loeb Classical Library).

Appian: Roman History, The Civil Wars (1913) translated by Horace White (Loeb Classical Library).

Strabo: Geography (1917-) translated by H. L. Jones (Loeb Classical Library).

Propertius: Elegies (1990) translated by G. P. Goold (Loeb Classical Library).

Velleius Paterculus: Compendium of Roman History (1924) translated by Frederick W. Shipley (Loeb Classical Library).

Virgil: The Aeneid (1981) translated by Robert Fitzgerald.

Florus: Epitome of Roman History (1929) translated by Edward Seymour Forster (Loeb Classical Library).

For modern historical discussions of Cleopatra's death:

Cleopatra (1972) by Michael Grant.

"Vergil, The Augustans, and the Invention of Cleopatra's Suicide: One Asp or Two?" (1998) by Adrian Tronson. Vergilius 44: 31-50.

Cleopatra (2006) by Susan Walker and Sally-Ann Ashton.

HTH.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Neseret wrote: "that she broke the skin by deeply biting her own arm and then applied poison to the wound."

How strange Shocked if it was true (Which I doubt) it must have been a rather desperate attempt to commit suicide.

I think the hairclips or the snake bite is a more plausible explanation. Don't you Idea

very informational Neseret, great response! Smile

A snake was never found you say? Is it a fact that a snake was never found on the site of Cleopatra's death?

Also what benefits would Octavian recieve if he were to favour and contribute the story of Cleopatra dieng of a poisoness snake bite? Unless it was true and there was actually a snake found at the site?

Then again it could just be Roman propaganda?

I have to ask. What is your personal believe as to how Cleopatra, Charmion and Iras commited suicide undetected? Idea
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It is of course the hieght of irony that, after this intensive campaign to expunge them from the annals of Egypt, the Amarna pharaohs are today probably the most recognized of all the country's ancient rulers!

Quote 'Amarna Sunset' by Aidan Dodson.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

EgyptianRose wrote:
A snake was never found you say? Is it a fact that a snake was never found on the site of Cleopatra's death?


Well, that's from Plutarch: you'll have to decide for yourself if he was bucking the "official" Roman line with that tidbit, or if it was in fact the truth. I thinking that Plutarch, for all his slavish devotion to the Augustan Caesar line, was probably an honest historian, who was saying,"Well, they say she died of an asp bite. Fine, so reported. But then again, no asp was ever found at her side or anywhere nearby in the room where she died. So, take your choice." Plutarch is also the one to bring up the hollow comb (knestis) with poison idea. As the word knestis is not a common one, one has to wonder where he got the idea to mention it.

EgyptianRose wrote:
Also what benefits would Octavian recieve if he were to favour and contribute the story of Cleopatra dieng of a poisoness snake bite? Unless it was true and there was actually a snake found at the site?


Octavian gains a lot, IMO. For one, by her dying of an asp bite, he gets to basically say that even her own culture (Egypt) had turned against her as the uraeus asp is meant to protect the ruler, not kill him or her.

There's a certain amount of black humour in the asp story, and if Suetonious' version is taken into consideration (that Octavian claimed he did everything to save her, even to getting the Psylli to "suck out" the venom), then doesn't Octavian come off as looking a heck of a lot nicer in regards to Cleopatra, than when Caesar had humiliated Arsinoe by making her walk in chains in his triumph?

The Caesar family got a lot of bad press for that action (Arsinoe had been a queen of Egypt, albeit briefly), and Octavian was not looking forward to doing the same with Cleopatra VII and getting even more bad publicity just as he began to assert himself politically.

On one hand, Octavian needed Cleopatra alive so he could exploit Egypt's wealth - gold and grain. He was having problems at the time of Cleopatra's capture in that he could not pay his soldiers, and despite the lauded loyalty of Roman armies, they were as loyal as long as they got paid and/or fed. Had he killed her outright, the Egyptian people would have mounted a revolt, and his army wasn't that big to put them down everywhere.

But, on the other hand, Cleopatra was also a danger to him politically: he couldn't let any ruler cross him as he began to assert Rome's total control over the Mediterranean and Africa. She (and Antony, ever worse) had flagrantly crossed him, and his popularity at home in Rome didn't extend much further than the city gates. So, what he did with Cleopatra, once captured, was being watched around the world, albeit a smaller world than today.

EgyptianRose wrote:
Then again it could just be Roman propaganda?


Most likely the asp story IS Roman propaganda. I know one historian has stated that in fact they killed Cleopatra outright, and only said she took her own life with the asp. I tend to doubt this for a number of reasons, which I will set out below.

EgyptianRose wrote:
I have to ask. What is your personal believe as to how Cleopatra, Charmion and Iras commited suicide undetected? Idea


I think her suicide and those of her servant women were not "undetected." Cleopatra was an astute enough politician to realise that she had few options. She wanted to save her children - those she had borne with Antony (3 children) - and she probably knew that Caesarion was already dead (Octavian had to kill that son because, of course, he was Julius Caesar's son and that was an obstacle to Ocatvian claiming the estate and political mantle of Caesar).

I suspect the two of them, Cleopatra and Octavian, struck a deal that allowed these children to live, provided that Cleopatra gave up her claim to rule Egypt - and the only "honourable" way to give up such a claim, in Roman (and Ptolemaic) eyes, was to commit suicide.

Cleopatra couldn't just "retire" from public life - there would always be factions out there trying to reinstate her on the throne (and she was still ambitious enough to go along with such plans). Antony was dead, and by all accounts, she didn't have much hope to ever form any further political alliances of any power.

In short, Cleopatra had come to the end of the road, politically speaking, and now the fate of her children was all she cared about.

The Roman way of ending a bad situation is to basically leave a knife on a table of the disgraced, give a knowing look, and walk out. In essence, I suspect this is what Octavian offered Cleopatra: find a way out, the Roman way. But usually when such things happen, there's a body with wounds that Octavian could have gleefully shown to the crowds during his triumph, showing that his enemy had done the "honourable" thing: that's the Roman way.

However, death by poison is considered "sneaky," and even "cowardly" in Roman eyes: it implies that the person has been driven to such despair by a berating enemy they ended their lives in a horrible (painful) fashion. It makes the person who caused such a suicide look bad (you really need to read Suetonious and Tacitus on this, BTW). I realise this is difficult to understand today, but apparently driving a knife into your chest was "honourable," but taking poison wasn't!

Who knew? dontknow

So, I think Cleopatra taking poison was her final comeuppance of the Romans. I think they knew she was going to die by her own hand, but then she chose a way that indicated how desperate and put-upon by the Romans she actually was. In short, it would have been BAD PR for Octavian to admit she did so in ingesting/applying poison, and the fact her servant women also took poison when she did so emphasised his harassment of her.

So, she's dead and the effects of poison are clearly indicated on the body. Octavian now cannot take back Cleopatra's body to Rome: these effects would be clearly seen.

So he creates the story of the asp - indicating the Egyptian culture had turned against Cleopatra and killed her - and that he (by trying to "save" her by getting the venom sucked out) was a 'good guy.' 'You know those crazy eastern queen-rulers: just insane they are, and letting a snake bite her, etc.' and all that.

So, it's all speculation here, for as Plutarch noted, "The truth of the matter no one knows."

But politically and culturally speaking, that's what I think may have happened.

HTH.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2012 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your theory is rather interesting as to how Cleopatra, Iras and Charmion commited suicide. I must admit I enjoyed reading your response, Thankyou Smile

Romans, as stated in many novels I have read, were master propagandists. So your theory isn't probably that far off as to what may have actually happened behind the closed doors.

Also may I add I would have thought that drinking poison would have been are more honourable way of death rather than forcing a knife into yourself, considering that being poisoned is a more pleasent way to die! Or is that the point? by inflicting more pain is more honourable? Idea If you understand what I mean?
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It is of course the hieght of irony that, after this intensive campaign to expunge them from the annals of Egypt, the Amarna pharaohs are today probably the most recognized of all the country's ancient rulers!

Quote 'Amarna Sunset' by Aidan Dodson.
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