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Ancient Studies Week Lecture with Duane W. Roller

Cleopatra: The Most Famous Woman of Classical Antiquity


Library and Gallery, Albin O. Kuhn

Date & Time

October 7, 2021, 4:00 pm5:30 pm


The Department of Ancient Studies presents:

Cleopatra: The Most Famous Woman of Classical Antiquity

Duane W. Roller, Professor Emeritus of Classics, Ohio State University

Duane Roller re-examines the life of Cleopatra VII (69-30 BC), the last queen of Egypt. Cleopatra was probably the most famous woman from classical antiquity, if not all history, yet her modern reputation is based largely on her presentation in literature, art, and cinema, rather than the actual historical reality. This lecture introduces Cleopatra through historical analysis—a figure no less interesting and exciting than her literary and artistic construct. Although described as a great seductress, Cleopatra had only two known relationships in 18 years. She was highly educated, knew at least a dozen languages, and was a published scholar whose reputation as a medical author endured for hundreds of years. Cleopatra was also a naval commander who took her own fleet into battle and was skilled in the art of warfare. Perhaps the most famous story about Cleopatra was her death by the bite of an asp, but even this did not happen. Because her career was preserved by those who defeated her, Cleopatra was both romanticized and demonized, yet she remains a major and influential figure in Western history.

This event is part of the Dresher Center for the Humanities' Fall 2021 Humanities Forum.

Limited in-person capacity. If you would like to attend, please email Emily Hubbard ehubbard@umbc.edu. The lecture will also be live-streamed on YouTube.

UMBC is committed to creating an accessible and inclusive environment for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors. Live-captioning will be provided at all online events. To request additional accessibility accommodations, please contact us at dreshercenter@umbc.edu.

[Image description: Alexandre Cabanel's 1887 painting depicts Cleopatra observing as poisons are tested on prisoners.]