The Inimitable Livers

After reading the biography about Cleopatra and actually learning a little context around her life, I was excited to take a mini-roadtrip to Milwaukee to check out the Milwaukee Public Museum’s exhibit about her. It was an interesting exhibit that displayed a lot of artifacts that have been dug out from the sea by divers who are working to uncover the truth behind the myth that is “the last queen of Egypt.”

I think a lot of people associate her with Ancient Egypt, but in reality, she ruled up to the year 30 BC, in the days of Ceasar and Marc Antony, when Egypt already had “ancient history.” I also didn’t realize the context of her life until I read the book – I always imagined her ruling waaay back in the day, with the pharaohs.

Other facts I learned about Cleopatra:

  • She wasn’t Egyptian – she was actually Greek. But she did learn to speak Egyptian so that the people would support her (in addition to several other languages)
  • She “conquered” both Ceasar and Marc Antony, having kids by both legendary rulers
  • She was so unbelievably rich. I literally can’t believe it when I read descriptions of her possessions and riches. EVERYTHING was made of gold or precious jewels.
  • Alexandria sounds amazing. I wish I could see how it really looked back then – all the riches, white streets & buildings, expansive port and world-renowned library. Unfortunately, all that was destroyed by a combination of natural disasters, including a tidal wave that submerged most of that coastal area.
  • Cleopatra & Marc Antony’s bodies have never been found. We still don’t know where they were buried, but archaeologists are currently excavating a nearby town in Egypt that might finally solve this mystery!
The other thing I learned at this exhibit that I don’t remember reading about is that Cleopatra and Marc Antony formed a society called “the Inimitable Livers.” They would spend all hours of the night drinking, having fun and going out into the streets of Alexandria in disguise, playing tricks on people. I want to find a partner in crime who could be an Inimitable Liver with me – how romantic!

If you have a few hours to kill on the weekend, I would recommend making the 90-minute drive up to Milwaukee to check out the exhibit. Plus, during January, they have a discount on tickets – $20.12 covers the entrance to see Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt plus parking!


  1. If Mark Antony were the only person in antiquity with a cleft chin, this might be more convincing. But primarily, it shows how herself barely registers as an historical subject except for the mythology of her doomed love affair. The breathless treatment of a ruler as a sex kitten extends to other artifacts, as in the gratuitous comment that ends this passage about statues of Ptolemaic pharaohs

    • I missed the gratuitous comment on Ptolemaic statuary, maybe it just disappeared into gratuity land. However, your comment sounds more critical of this article than the historical—that’s right—very ancient historical treatment of Cleopatra as “sex kitten” to use your phrase, a treatment that began with the propagandists in Octavian’s employee to whose lies the first Emperor entrusted the memory of his most ambitious conquest. Vergil’s portrait of Dido in The Aeneid shares in this “sex kitten” (although I think the ancients would merely say, Seductress) aspect. Remember, Antony abandoned Octavian’s sister, Octavia, for Cleopatra. Octavia was seen as the epitome of Roman wife- and motherhood. The failure of her marriage to Antony provided a role for Cleopatra as intruder, interloper, seductress, sex-kitten (to use your phrase again). Even if she had not caused their marital problems (and there is evidence that she did not; that Antony came to her on the rebound), she had to be cast in the seductive part by the Roman propaganda to stir up support for the invasion of Egypt. The people of Rome may not have understood, or even cared for, the geopolitical issues and ambitions for the Triumvirate ad then of Octavian as imperialist. But they understood the implied attack by their former beloved Antony upon the concepts of marriage and the family—one of the cornerstones of Roma morality.

      Therefore, the breathless (to use your word) treatment of Cleopatra as sex kitten is a tradition two thousand years old. That we still subscribe to it must be very pleasing to Octavian’s ghost.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s