Cleopatra--Intellectual and Enchantress?

Can anything good be said of a woman who slept with the two most powerful men of her time? Possibly, but not in an age when Rome controlled the narrative. Cleopatra stood at one of the most dangerous intersections in history: that of women and power. Clever women, Euripides had warned 400 years earlier, were dangerous. We do not know whether Cleopatra loved either Antony or Caesar, but we do know that she got them to do her bidding. From the Roman point of view, she "enslaved" them both. Already it was a zero-sum game: a woman's authority spelled a man's deception. . . . It has forever been preferable to attribute a woman's success to her beauty rather than to her brains, to reduce her to the sum of her sex life. Against a powerful enchantress there is no contest. Against a woman who ensnares a man in the coils of her serpentine intelligence--in her ropes of pearls--there should, at least, be some kind of antidote. Cleopatra would unsettle more as sage than as seductress; it is less threatening to believe her fatally attractive than fatally intelligent. As of one of Caesar's murderer's noted, "How much more attention people pay to their fears than to their memories!"

"Rehabilitating Cleopatra," Stacy Schiff (author of "Cleopatra: A Life," (384 pages), Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (November 1, 2010) and won the Pulitzer Prize for her 1999 biography, "Vera" (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov): Portrait of a Marriage), Smithsonian.com, December 2010, at 96, 99-100

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