June212013
“Alexander [the Great] played as active a role in the Ptolemaic imagination as in the Roman one. Many Egyptian homes displayed statutes of him. So strong was his romance - and so fungible was first century history - that it would come to include a version in which Alexander descended from an Egyptian wizard. Soon enough he was said to have been related to the royal family; like all self-respecting arrivistes, the Ptolemies had a gift for reconfiguring history. Without renouncing their Macedonian heritage, the dynasty’s founders bought themselves a legitimacy-conferring past, the ancient world equivalent of the mail-order coat of arms. What was true was the Ptolemy [the first] descended from Macedonian aristocracy, a synonym for high drama. As consequence, no one in Egypt considered Cleopatra to be Egyptian. She hailed instead from a line of rancorous, meddlesome, shrewd, occasionally unhinged Macedonian queens, a line that included the fourth century Olympias, whose greatest contribution to the world was her son, Alexander the Great. The rest were atrocities.” Stacy Schiff on Cleopatra’s heritage, Cleopatra: A Life
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