HERE’S the latest news about Cleopatra and Mark Antony. The National Theatre in London is hosting a revival of William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and Sophie Okonedo and Ralph Fiennes as the title characters are getting rave reviews. Rumors of a Cleopatra movie are swirling in Hollywood and the Internet is buzzing about the possibilities of the title role going to either Angelina Jolie or Lady Gaga. Oh, and the lot tombs of the real Cleopatra and Mark Antony may have been discovered near Alexandria. Which story would you like to hear about?
That’s what I thought. We’ll cover the tombs instead.
“The burial site has been finally estimated to be in the region of Taposiris Magna, 30km (18 miles) away from Alexandria. I hope to find the tomb of Antony and Cleopatra soon. I do believe that they are buried in the same tomb.”
During a conference last week at the University of Palermo, Egyptian archaeologist and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs Dr. Zahi Hawass announced he knows “exactly we have to dig” to uncover the holy grail of ancient celebrity leader tombs. For those of you not up on your Cleopatra history or haven’t seen one of her movies or plays lately, the location of her tomb is as uncertain as the exact scenario of her demise in 30 BCE at the age of 39. While her suicide in Egypt while holding the lifeless body of boyfriend Mark Antony is accepted, the whole ‘bitten by a poisonous asp’ is not. No venomous snake was reportedly found with her body, and the venom could just as easily have been applied to a self-inflicted scratch or injected with a needle. And, while records confirm that the Roman leader Octavian (Augustus), after defeating them, allowed them to be buried together (although some researchers believe Antony was cremated), the tomb has never been found.
Has it now? Hawass is leading archeologist and a controversial figure. He has been talking about the tomb being located near Alexandria for a decade but has not yet found it. El Pais points out that Dominican archaeologist Kathleen Martínez has claimed since 2002 that the pair are buried in Taposiris Magna, possibly in the same complex as the famous Tomb of Osiris. (Is this a Cleopatra movie or a Lara Croft game?)
Historians say a Cleopatra/Antony tomb in Taposiris Magna rather than Alexandria is not out of the realm of possibilities. Octavian may have wanted them out of the big city to avoid the tomb being turned into a memorial for martyrs. It could also have been to separate her from the rest of the Ptolemaic dynasty which she was the last member of. Or it was a concession to allow her to be buried with Mark Antony. Whatever the case, they want solid evidence – more than just the ground radar images of partially flooded tunnels.
Cleopatra fans are waiting for the tomb – and a mummy – to be found as well. It could settle once and for all what she looked like and what her ethnic background really was. While historians believed for years that, although she was born in Egypt, she was of Greek descent from a family linked to Ptolemy I. However, the remains discovered in 2009 in Turkey of a woman believed to be Cleopatra’s sister, Princess Arsinoe, showed evidence of an African heritage, and coin from 32 BCE shows her with African features. If that’s the case, who should play her in the new movie? Angelina? Gaga? Beyonce?
Hurry up, Hawass … Hollywood is waiting!
By PAUL SEABURN