The queen of Egypt was a genius who was also interested in herbal healing. Thanks to her knowledge of languages, she had access to numerous papyri that are lost today. Her influence on the sciences and medicine was well-known in the early centuries of Christianity
Dr Mathew Joys
Not everyone thinks Cleopatra was so beautiful. But that’s how Julius Caesar said.
Cleopatra’s name is still remembered amongst so many other crucial things. Now BJP leader and former Union Minister Maneka Gandhi said that soap made from donkey milk would enhance the beauty of women.
A video of BJP MP and former Union minister Maneka Gandhi in which she can be purportedly heard saying soaps made out of donkey’s milk help keep a woman’s body beautiful, and that Egypt Queen Cleopatra used to bathe in donkey’s milk has gone viral on social media. Addressing a choupal in Uttar Pradesh’s Sultanpur, Maneka Gandhi said, “Cleopatra, a very famous queen from Egypt, used to bathe in donkey’s milk. Soaps made with donkey’s milk cost ₹500 in Delhi. Why don’t we start making soaps with goat’s milk and with donkey’s milk?”
About 46 years ago, I read the masterpiece of English drama, one of Shakespeare’s most tragic and love stories, Antony and Cleopatra. Truly, I could understand only less than fifty percent of its conversations. I understood much of Cleopatra’s wielding immense political power through her sexuality. I understood the rest of the story later watching the movie, Cleopatra. This epic saga of romance, greed and betrayal starred Elizabeth Taylor as the seductive Egyptian Queen who was determined to cling on to the throne, and seduce the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison). When Caesar was murdered, Cleopatra turned her affinity to his general Mark Antony (Richard Burton) immediately.
Cleopatra was throned at the age of 17, and she died after 22 years. She spoke nine languages. She also knew to read Egypt’s hieroglyphics and unique writing in Egypt. She also knew Greek and most of the languages in the Mediterranean region, including Hebrews and Arabs.
With this vast knowledge, the world encyclopaedia was open wide to her.
Apart from languages, she mastered alchemy, medicine, zoology, economics, geography, history, astronomy, international diplomacy, mathematics, and many other disciplines to access all the knowledge of her time up to date.
Not that much alone.
Cleopatra spent much of her time in a special type of ancient laboratory. She wrote some findings related to herbs and beauty products. Unfortunately, all her books were destroyed in the fire of the great Library of Alexandria in 391 AD. The famous physicist Galen really had a chance to study her research work and could transcribe many of the recipes devised by Cleopatra. A special cream that could help bald men re-grow their hair was a notable one. Galen also recommended remedies that included beauty tips, but none came to the open world.
The queen of Egypt was a genius who was also interested in herbal healing. Thanks to her knowledge of languages, she had access to numerous papyri that are lost today. Her influence on the sciences and medicine was well-known in the early centuries of Christianity. It is believed that Cleopatra killed herself by allowing an Egyptian Cobra to bite her. Still, for the Roman-era writers Strabo, Plutarch, and Cassius Dio affirmed that Cleopatra poisoned herself using either a toxic ointment or by introducing the poison with a sharp implement such as a needle.
Cleopatra’s death has evoked themes of eroticism and sexuality in works that include paintings, plays, and films, especially from the Victorian era. Modern works depicting Cleopatra’s death include Orientalist painting, Neoclassical sculpture and cinema. Wax statue of Cleopatra on display at Tussaud’s London Wax Museum is a popular attraction.
And now Maneka Gandhi, at least, remembered the beauty Queen Cleopatra when she remembered donkey’s milk, nothing political!
I still don’t know whether Cleopatra bathed in donkey’s milk, but surely, that name will fetch good market if a soap comes out with that ingredient.
Though so much funny stories roam around, without a doubt, Cleopatra is a unique figure in the history of humanity. Thanks, Maneka Gandhi, for reminding us the legend and beauty of Queen Cleopatra.
Dr. Mathew Joys is a Las Vegas-based columnist. Views expressed in the article are personal and do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Indian Eye