Rome from the Egyptian perspective: The Egyptians view the Romans as boring, oppressive, strict and lacking in passion and creativity, preferring strict rules and regulations. Egypt from the Egyptian perspective: The Egyptian World view reflects what Mary Floyd-Wilson has called geo-humoralism, or the belief that climate and other environmental factors shapes racial character.
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Egypt is not a location for them to rule over, but an inextricable part of them. They view life as more fluid and less structured allowing for creativity and passionate pursuits.
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Egypt from the Roman perspective: The Romans view the Egyptians essentially as improper. Their passion for life is continuously viewed as irresponsible, indulgent, over-sexualised and disorderly. This is demonstrated in the following passage describing Antony. Boys who, being mature in knowledge, Pawn their experience to their present pleasure, And so rebel judgment. Ultimately the dichotomy between Rome and Egypt is used to distinguish two sets of conflicting values between two different locales.
Yet, it goes beyond this division to show the conflicting sets of values not only between two cultures but within cultures, even within individuals. Instead he oscillates between the two. In the beginning of the play Cleopatra calls attention to this saying. He was dispos'd to mirth, but on the sudden A Roman thought hath strook him. This shows Antony's willingness to embrace the pleasures of Egyptian life, yet his tendency to still be drawn back into Roman thoughts and ideas. Orientalism plays a very specific, and yet, nuanced role in the story of Antony and Cleopatra.
A more specific term comes to mind, from Richmond Barbour, that of proto-orientalism, that is orientalism before the age of imperialism. This allowed Shakespeare to use widespread assumptions about the "exotic" east with little academic recourse. It could be said that Antony and Cleopatra and their relationship represent the first meeting of the two cultures in a literary sense, and that this relationship would lay the foundation for the idea of Western superiority vs.
Eastern inferiority. This plays into the idea that Cleopatra has been made out to be an "other", with terms used to describe her like "gypsy". Feminist criticism of Antony and Cleopatra has provided a more in-depth reading of the play, has challenged previous norms for criticism, and has opened a larger discussion of the characterization of Egypt and Rome. However, as Gayle Greene so aptly recognises, it must be addressed that "feminist criticism [of Shakespeare] is nearly as concerned with the biases of Shakespeare's interpretors [ sic ] — critics, directors, editors — as with Shakespeare himself.
Feminist scholars, in respect to Antony and Cleopatra , often examine Shakespeare's use of language when describing Rome and Egypt. Through his language, such scholars argue, he tends to characterise Rome as "masculine" and Egypt as "feminine.
The feminine categorization of Egypt, and subsequently Cleopatra, was negatively portrayed throughout early criticism. The story of Antony and Cleopatra was often summarised as either "the fall of a great general, betrayed in his dotage by a treacherous strumpet, or else it can be viewed as a celebration of transcendental love. Once the Women's Liberation Movement grew between the s and s, however, critics began to take a closer look at both Shakespeare's characterization of Egypt and Cleopatra and the work and opinions of other critics on the same matter.
Jonathan Gil Harris claims that the Egypt vs. Rome dichotomy many critics often adopt does not only represent a "gender polarity" but also a "gender hierarchy". Early critics like Georg Brandes presented Egypt as a lesser nation because of its lack of rigidity and structure and presented Cleopatra, negatively, as "the woman of women, quintessentiated Eve.
In more recent years, critics have taken a closer look at previous readings of Antony and Cleopatra and have found several aspects overlooked. Egypt was previously characterised as the nation of the feminine attributes of lust and desire while Rome was more controlled. However, Harris points out that Caesar and Antony both possess an uncontrollable desire for Egypt and Cleopatra: Caesar's is political while Antony's is personal. Harris further implies that Romans have an uncontrollable lust and desire for "what they do not or cannot have. There's a great spirit gone!
Thus did I desire it: What our contempt doth often hurl from us, We wish it ours again; the present pleasure, By revolution lowering, does become The opposite of itself: she's good, being gone: The hand could pluck her back that shov'd her on. Fitz outwardly claims that early criticism of Antony and Cleopatra is "colored by the sexist assumptions the critics have brought with them to their reading.
This claim is apparent in Brandes argument: "when [Antony] perishes, a prey to the voluptuousness of the East, it seems as though Roman greatness and the Roman Republic expires with him. These criticisms are only a few examples of how the critical views of Egypt's "femininity" and Rome's "masculinity" have changed over time and how the development of feminist theory has helped in widening the discussion. Relativity and ambiguity are prominent ideas in the play, and the audience is challenged to come to conclusions about the ambivalent nature of many of the characters.
The relationship between Antony and Cleopatra can easily be read as one of love or lust; their passion can be construed as being wholly destructive but also showing elements of transcendence. Cleopatra might be said to kill herself out of love for Antony, or because she has lost political power. A major theme running through the play is opposition.
Throughout the play, oppositions between Rome and Egypt, love and lust, and masculinity and femininity are emphasised, subverted, and commented on. One of Shakespeare's most famous speeches, drawn almost verbatim from North 's translation of Plutarch's Lives , Enobarbus' description of Cleopatra on her barge, is full of opposites resolved into a single meaning, corresponding with these wider oppositions that characterise the rest of the play:. The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne, Burn'd on the water Act 2, Scene 2. The play is accurately structured with paradox and ambivalence in order to convey the antitheses that make Shakespeare's work remarkable.
It may be perceived as opposition between word and deed but not to be confused with "duality. All is lost; This foul Egyptian hath betrayed me: My fleet hath yielded to the foe; and yonder They cast their caps up and carouse together Like friends long lost. Triple-turn'd whore! Bid them all fly; For when I am revenged upon my charm, I have done all. Bid them all fly; begone. All come to this? The hearts That spaniel'd me at heels, to whom I gave Their wishes, do discandy, melt their sweets On blossoming Caesar; and this pine is bark'd, That overtopp'd them all. Betray'd I am: O this false soul of Egypt!
What, Eros, Eros! However, he then strangely says to Cleopatra: "All that is won and lost. Give me a kiss. Even this repays me"  3. Antony's speech conveys pain and anger, but he acts in opposition to his emotions and words, all for the love of Cleopatra. Literary critic Joyce Carol Oates explains: "Antony's agony is curiously muted for someone who has achieved and lost so much. Moreover, due to the flow of constant changing emotions throughout the play: "the characters do not know each other, nor can we know them, any more clearly than we know ourselves".
Another example of ambivalence in Antony and Cleopatra is in the opening act of the play when Cleopatra asks Anthony: "Tell me how much you love. Betrayal is a recurring theme throughout the play. At one time or another, almost every character betrays their country, ethics, or a companion. However, certain characters waver between betrayal and loyalty. This struggle is most apparent among the actions of Cleopatra, Enobarbus, and most importantly Antony. Antony mends ties with his Roman roots and alliance with Caesar by entering into a marriage with Octavia, however he returns to Cleopatra.
Historian Diana E. Kleiner points out "Anthony's perceived betrayal of Rome was greeted with public calls for war with Egypt". It is twice Cleopatra abandons Antony during battle and whether out of fear or political motives, she deceived Antony. When Thidias, Caesar's messenger, tells Cleopatra Caesar will show her mercy if she will relinquish Antony, she is quick to respond:. Tell him I am prompt To lay my crown at 's feet, and there to kneel.
Shakespeare critic Sara Deats says Cleopatras betrayal fell "on the successful fencing with Octavius that leaves her to be "noble to [herself]". Enobarbus, Antony's most devoted friend, betrays Antony when he deserts him in favour for Caesar. He exclaims, "I fight against thee! Although he abandoned Antony, critic Kent Cartwright claims Enobarbus' death "uncovers his greater love" for him considering it was caused by the guilt of what he had done to his friend thus adding to the confusion of the characters' loyalty and betrayal that previous critics have also discovered.
The characters' loyalty and validity of promises are constantly called into question. The perpetual swaying between alliances strengthens the ambiguity and uncertainty amid the characters loyalty and disloyalty. As a play concerning the relationship between two empires, the presence of a power dynamic is apparent and becomes a recurring theme. Antony and Cleopatra battle over this dynamic as heads of state, yet the theme of power also resonates in their romantic relationship.
The Roman ideal of power lies in a political nature taking a base in economical control. Those his goodly eyes, That o'er the files and musters of the war Have glowed like plated mars, now bend, now turn The office and devotion of their view Upon a tawny front. His captain's heart, Which in the scuffles of greatness hath burst The buckles on his breast, reneges all tempers, And is becomes the bellows and the fan To cool a gipsy's lust. Cleopatra's character is slightly unpin-able, as her character identity retains a certain aspect of mystery.
She embodies the mystical, exotic, and dangerous nature of Egypt as the "serpent of old Nile". For her own person, It beggared all description.
She did lie In her pavilion—cloth of gold, of tissue— O'er-picturing that Venus where we see The fancy outwork nature. This mysteriousness attached with the supernatural not only captures the audience and Antony, but also, draws all other characters' focus. As a center of conversation when not present in the scene, Cleopatra is continually a central point, therefore demanding the control of the stage. Manipulation and the quest for power are very prominent themes not only in the play but specifically in the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra.
Both utilise language to undermine the power of the other and to heighten their own sense of power. Cleopatra uses language to undermine Antony's assumed authority over her. Cleopatra's "'Roman' language of command works to undermine Antony's authority. In their first exchange in Act I, scene 1, Cleopatra says to Antony, "I'll set a bourn how far to be beloved. Antony's language suggests his struggle for power against Cleopatra's dominion. Antony's "obsessive language concerned with structure, organization, and maintenance for the self and empire in repeated references to 'measure,' 'property,' and 'rule' express unconscious anxieties about boundary integrity and violation.
He also mentions losing himself in dotage — "himself" referring to Antony as Roman ruler and authority over people including Cleopatra. Cleopatra also succeeds in causing Antony to speak in a more theatrical sense and therefore undermine his own true authority. Yachnin's article focuses on Cleopatra's usurping of Antony's authority through her own and his language, while Hooks' article gives weight to Antony's attempts to assert his authority through rhetoric.
Both articles indicate the lovers' awareness of each other's quests for power. Despite awareness and the political power struggle existent in the play, Antony and Cleopatra both fail to achieve their goals by the play's conclusion. Antony and Cleopatra is essentially a male-dominated play in which the character of Cleopatra takes significance as one of few female figures and definitely the only strong female character. As Oriana Palusci says in her article "When Boys or Women Tell Their Dreams: Cleopatra and the Boy Actor", "Cleopatra constantly occupies the centre, if not of the stage, certainly of the discourse, often charged with sexual innuendos and disparaging tirades, of the male Roman world".
What is said about Cleopatra is not always what one would normally say about a ruler; the image that is created makes the audience expect "to see on stage not a noble Sovereign, but a dark, dangerous, evil, sensual and lewd creature who has harnessed the 'captain's heart". Phyllis Rackin points out that one of the most descriptive scenes of Cleopatra is spoken by Enobarbus: "in his famous set speech, Enobarbus evokes Cleopatra's arrival on the Cynus".
It is in this way that "before the boy [playing Cleopatra] can evoke Cleopatra's greatness, he must remind us that he cannot truly represent it". Rackin points out that "it is a commonplace of the older criticism that Shakespeare had to rely upon his poetry and his audience's imagination to evoke Cleopatra's greatness because he knew the boy actor could not depict it convincingly".
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The constant comments of the Romans about Cleopatra often undermine her, representing the Roman thought on the foreign and particularly of Egyptians. From the perspective of the reason-driven Romans, Shakespeare's "Egyptian queen repeatedly violates the rules of decorum".
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And yet she is also shown as having real power in the play. Scholars have speculated that Shakespeare's original intention was to have Antony appear in Cleopatra's clothes and vice versa in the beginning of the play. This possible interpretation seems to perpetuate the connections being made between gender and power. Gordon P. Jones elaborates on the importance of this detail:. Such a saturnalian exchange of costumes in the opening scene would have opened up a number of important perspectives for the play's original audience.
It would immediately have established the sportiveness of the lovers. It would have prepared the ground for Cleopatra's subsequent insistence on appearing "for a man" III. The evidence that such a costume change was intended includes Enobarbus' false identification of Cleopatra as Antony:. Enobarbus could have made this error because he was used to seeing Antony in the queen's garments. It can also be speculated that Philo was referring to Antony cross-dressing in Act 1, scene If Shakespeare had indeed intended for Antony to crossdress, it would have drawn even more similarities between Antony and Hercules, a comparison that many scholars have noted many times before.
The Omphale myth is an exploration of gender roles in Greek society. Shakespeare might have paid homage to this myth as a way of exploring gender roles in his own. However, it has been noted that, while women dressing as men i. Antony and Cleopatra also contains self-references to the crossdressing as it would have been performed historically on the London stage. Many scholars interpret these lines as a metatheatrical reference to Shakespeare's own production, and by doing so comments on his own stage.
Shakespeare critics such as Tracey Sedinger interpret this as Shakespeare's critique of the London stage, which, by the perpetuation of boy actors playing the part of the woman, serves to establish the superiority of the male spectator's sexuality. It is in this manner that the London stage cultivated in its audience a chaste and obedient female subject, while positioning male sexuality as dominant. Shakespeare critics argue that the metatheatrical references in Antony and Cleopatra seem to critique this trend and the presentation of Cleopatra as a sexually empowered individual supports their argument that Shakespeare seems to be questioning the oppression of female sexuality in London society.
The boy actors portraying female sexuality on the London stage contradicted such a simple ontology. Critics such as Rackin interpret Shakespeare's metatheatrical references to the crossdressing on stage with less concern for societal elements and more of a focus on the dramatic ramifications. Rackin argues in her article on "Shakespeare's Boy Cleopatra" that Shakespeare manipulates the crossdressing to highlight a motif of the play—recklessness—which is discussed in the article as the recurring elements of acting without properly considering the consequences.
Shakespeare, utilizing the metatheatrical reference to his own stage, perpetuates his motif of recklessness by purposefully shattering "the audience's acceptance of the dramatic illusion". Other critics argue that the crossdressing as it occurs in the play is less of a mere convention, and more of an embodiment of dominant power structures. Critics such as Charles Forker argue that the boy actors were a result of what "we may call androgyny".
The textual motif of empire within Antony and Cleopatra has strong gendered and erotic undercurrents. Antony, the Roman soldier characterised by a certain effeminacy, is the main article of conquest, falling first to Cleopatra and then to Caesar Octavius. That Cleopatra takes on the role of male aggressor in her relationship with Antony should not be surprising; after all, "a culture attempting to dominate another culture will [often] endow itself with masculine qualities and the culture it seeks to dominate with feminine ones"  —appropriately, the queen's romantic assault is frequently imparted in a political, even militaristic fashion.
Antony's subsequent loss of manhood seemingly "signifies his lost Romanness, and Act 3, Scene 10, is a virtual litany of his lost and feminised self, his "wounder chance". Little Jr. By the time Antony tries to use his sword to kill himself, it amounts to little more than a stage prop". Having failed to perform Roman masculinity and virtue, Antony's only means with which he might "write himself into Rome's imperial narrative and position himself at the birth of empire" is to cast himself in the feminine archetype of the sacrificial virgin; "once [he] understands his failed virtus , his failure to be Aeneas, he then tries to emulate Dido ".
James J Greene writes on the subject: "If one of the seminally powerful myths in the cultural memory of our past is Aeneas' rejection of his African queen in order to go on and found the Roman Empire , than it is surely significant that Shakespeare's [ sic ] For Antony He is incapable of "occupying the Her mastery is unparalleled when it comes to the seduction of certain powerful individuals, but popular criticism supports the notion that "as far as Cleopatra is concerned, the main thrust of the play's action might be described as a machine especially devised to bend her to the Roman will But instead of driving her down to ignominy, the Roman power forces her upward to nobility".
Arthur L. Little, in agitative fashion, suggests that the desire to overcome the queen has a corporeal connotation: "If a black—read foreign—man raping a white woman encapsulates an iconographic truth Antony and Cleopatra deals ambiguously with the politics of imperialism and colonization. Critics have long been invested in untangling the web of political implications that characterise the play. Interpretations of the work often rely on an understanding of Egypt and Rome as they respectively signify Elizabethan ideals of East and West, contributing to a long-standing conversation about the play's representation of the relationship between imperializing western countries and colonised eastern cultures.
Indeed, Cleopatra's suicide has been interpreted as suggesting an indomitable quality in Egypt, and reaffirming Eastern culture as a timeless contender to the West. Octavius Caesar is seen as Shakespeare's portrayal of an ideal governor, though perhaps an unfavourable friend or lover, and Rome is emblematic of reason and political excellence. More contemporary scholarship on the play, however, has typically recognised the allure of Egypt for Antony and Cleopatra ' s audiences. Egypt's magnetism and seeming cultural primacy over Rome have been explained by efforts to contextualise the political implications of the play within its period of production.
The various protagonists' ruling styles have been identified with rulers contemporary to Shakespeare.
Cleopatra’s Use of Strategic Communication
For example, there appears to be continuity between the character of Cleopatra and the historical figure of Queen Elizabeth I ,  and the unfavourable light cast on Caesar has been explained as deriving from the claims of various 16th-century historians. The more recent influence of New Historicism and post-colonial studies have yielded readings of Shakespeare that typify the play as subversive, or challenging the status quo of Western imperialism.
The critic Abigail Scherer's claim that "Shakespeare's Egypt is a holiday world"  recalls the criticisms of Egypt put forth by earlier scholarship and disputes them. Scherer and critics who recognise the wide appeal of Egypt have connected the spectacle and glory of Cleopatra's greatness with the spectacle and glory of the theatre itself. Plays, as breeding grounds of idleness, were subject to attack by all levels of authority in the s;  the play's celebration of pleasure and idleness in a subjugated Egypt makes it plausible to draw parallels between Egypt and the heavily censored theatre culture in England.
In the context of England's political atmosphere, Shakespeare's representation of Egypt, as the greater source of poetry and imagination, resists support for 16th century colonial practices. England during the Renaissance found itself in an analogous position to the early Roman Republic. Shakespeare's audience may have made the connection between England's westward expansion and Antony and Cleopatra ' s convoluted picture of Roman imperialism. In support of the reading of Shakespeare's play as subversive, it has also been argued that 16th century audiences would have interpreted Antony and Cleopatra ' s depiction of different models of government as exposing inherent weaknesses in an absolutist, imperial, and by extension monarchical, political state.
One of the ways to read the imperialist themes of the play is through a historical, political context with an eye for intertextuality. Many scholars suggest that Shakespeare possessed an extensive knowledge of the story of Antony and Cleopatra through the historian Plutarch, and used Plutarch's account as a blueprint for his own play. A closer look at this intertextual link reveals that Shakespeare used, for instance, Plutarch's assertion that Antony claimed a genealogy that led back to Hercules, and constructed a parallel to Cleopatra by often associating her with Dionysus in his play.
For instance, the quick exchange of dialogue might suggest a more dynamic political conflict. Furthermore, certain characteristics of the characters, like Antony whose "legs bestrid the ocean" 5. Furthermore, because of the unlikelihood that Shakespeare would have had direct access to the Greek text of Plutarch's Parallel Lives and probably read it through a French translation from a Latin translation, his play constructs Romans with an anachronistic Christian sensibility that might have been influenced by St.
Augustine 's Confessions among others. As Miles writes, the ancient world would not have been aware of interiority and the contingence of salvation upon conscience until Augustine. So, Shakespeare's characters in Antony and Cleopatra , particularly Cleopatra in her belief that her own suicide is an exercise of agency, exhibit a Christian understanding of salvation. Another example of deviance from the source material is how Shakespeare characterises the rule of Antony and Cleopatra. While Plutarch singles out the "order of exclusive society" that the lovers surrounded themselves with — a society with a specifically defined and clear understanding of the hierarchies of power as determined by birth and status — Shakespeare's play seems more preoccupied with the power dynamics of pleasure as a main theme throughout the play.
Pleasure serves as a differentiating factor between Cleopatra and Antony, between Egypt and Rome, and can be read as the fatal flaw of the heroes if Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy. For Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra , the exclusivity and superiority supplied by pleasure created the disconnect between the ruler and the subjects. Critics suggest that Shakespeare did similar work with these sources in Othello , Julius Caesar , and Coriolanus. Antony and Cleopatra was never intended to be a tragedy; instead, Shakespeare gave the illusion of the tragedy as the two protagonists set out to become the heroes of the play and neither succeeded.
Antony and Cleopatra are seen to have a passionate love for each other up till their demise as both are seen ending their lives for the other. Although the couple was seen as a pair that could not live without the other, it does not take much to be able to point out that the basis of their relationship lies on manipulation and lust. Enobarbus was able to see this as he never believed their love was true but instead a contradiction. Cleopatra always wanted Antony to be in the palm of her hands, to always be in control of his emotions and would thus manipulate him by dancing whenever he was sad or fake a sickness if he were to be happy.
This makes Antony only chase after Cleopatra even more in a never-ending cycle. They both try to be much more than they are and show their enemies and the world that they are invincible. Rather than them sacrificing themselves for the other, the two protagonists set out to become the hero of the play and to show that being the last one standing, no hand will bring them down but their own.
They did not die for love but for the fame that would come behind that sacrifice and in the end are seen as being noble and self-sacrificing. It does not end in a tragedy but in a bittersweet and almost happy ending. Both of the lovers' fates are interwoven yet they deceive the other in a fight for dominance that Cleopatra wins for a while as the audience and other characters throughout the play know completely what is going on in the play filled with dramatic irony.
Enobarbus once again knows of Antony's unrelenting attachment to Cleopatra and Cleopatra's mind games while the audience knows Cleopatra isn't dead as Antony kills himself over her. They both spent their whole lives trying to achieve higher fame than the other and became notorious for their lust. They are their own Gods and live separate from those that they call normal and watch.
The play progresses into the protagonists decline in fame, leaving them to pursue a sure way into that immortality they coveted. They become immortals in death along with even more fame and has as well achieved their goal from the beginning. They die in the name of their love when they really die in the name of fame. A status of nobility higher than us and pity for the tragedy that is their relationship. The tragedy is Antony and Cleopatra's own happy ending as death was a small price to pay to become real gods.
Cleopatra Biography: Queen of Egypt - Biographies by Biographics
They proved that the only death that could touch them were by their own hand, further increasing that godly power they received from the people. Now they are apart from those they watched, now they are above them, and now they will be worshipped as gods. The concept of luck, or Fortune, is frequently referenced throughout Antony and Cleopatra , portrayed as an elaborate "game" that the characters participate in. Shakespeare represents Fortune through elemental and astronomical imagery that recalls the characters' awareness of the "unreliability of the natural world".
Antony eventually realises that he, like other characters, is merely "Fortune's knave," a mere card in the game of Chance rather than a player. The manner in which the characters deal with their luck is of great importance, therefore, as they may destroy their chances of luck by taking advantage of their fortune to excessive lengths without censoring their actions, Antony did. While Fortune does play a large role in the characters' lives, they do have ability to exercise free will, however; as Fortune is not as restrictive as Fate.
Antony's actions suggest this, as he is able to use his free will to take advantage of his luck by choosing his own actions. Like the natural imagery used to describe Fortune, scholar Michael Lloyd characterises it as an element itself, which causes natural occasional upheaval.
This implies that fortune is a force of nature that is greater than mankind, and cannot be manipulated. The 'game of chance' that Fortune puts into play can be related to that of politics, expressing the fact that the characters must play their luck in both fortune and politics to identify a victor. The motif of "card playing" has a political undertone, as it relates to the nature of political dealings. Although Caesar and Antony may play political cards with each other, their successes rely somewhat on Chance, which hints at a certain limit to the control they have over political affairs.
Furthermore, the constant references to astronomical bodies and "sublunar" imagery  connote a Fate-like quality to the character of Fortune, implying a lack of control on behalf of the characters. Although the characters do exercise free will to a certain extent, their success in regard to their actions ultimately depends on the luck that Fortune bestows upon them. The movement of the "moon" and the "tides" is frequently mentioned throughout the play, such as when Cleopatra states that, upon Antony's death, there is nothing of importance left "beneath the moon.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Antony and Cleopatra disambiguation. Mark Antony — Roman general and one of the three joint leaders, or "triumvirs", who rule the Roman Republic after the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B. Further information: Cultural depictions of Cleopatra. Leeds In Smith, Gordon R.
Essays on Shakespeare. In Madelaine, Richard ed. Antony and Cleopatra. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. Trubner and Company, London Page London: Thomas Vaueroullier and John Wright. The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare. According to tradition, the Greek Septuagint the Greek translation of the Bible was composed in Alexandria, completed in CE, in order that it could take its place among the great books of the library in the city.
Religious scholars were said to frequent the library for research and Alexandria had long attracted people of many different faiths who vied for dominance in the city. After the Roman emperor Constantine the Great CE passed the Edict of Milan in CE decreeing religious tolerance , Christians were no longer liable for prosecution under the law and began to not only demand more religious rights, but more vociferously attack the pagans and the Jews.
Alexandria, which had been a city of prosperity and learning, became an arena of religious contention between the new faith of the Christians and the old faith of the pagan majority. The Christians increasingly felt bold enough to strike at the symbols of the old faith in an attempt to topple it. Magasarian writes,. It is not so much religion that makes the character of a people, as it is the people who determine the character of their religion. Religion is only the resume of the national ideas, thoughts, and character. Religion is nothing but an expression. It is not, for instance, the word or the language which creates the idea, but the idea which provokes the word into existence.
In the same way religion is only the expression of a people's mentality. And yet a man's religion or philosophy, while it is but the product of his own mind, exerts a reflex influence upon his character. The child influences the parent, of whom it is the offspring; language affects thought, of which, originally, it was but the tool. So it is with religion. The Christian religion, as soon as it got into power, turned the world about.
Perhaps nowhere more than in Alexandria was this turn-about more apparent. By the year CE Alexandria was in constant religious turmoil and, in CE, this resulted in the murder of the Neo-Platonic philosopher Hypatia and, according to some scholars, the burning of the great library and the complete destruction of the temple of Serapis. Alexandria declined rapidly after this date with scholars, scientists, and thinkers of all disciplines leaving the city for safer locales. The city became steadily impoverished after the rise of Christianity, both financially and culturally, and became increasingly a battlefield for warring faiths.
It was conquered by the Sassanid Persians in CE. What was not destroyed by war was taken down by nature and, by CE, most of Ptolemaic Alexandria was gone. The great lighthouse was steadily destroyed by earthquakes as was much of the port. These have been steadily excavated by Professor Jean-Yves Empereur and his team who continue to bring to light the lost golden age of Alexandria. Editorial Review This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication.
We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers. Become a Member. Mark, J. Alexandria, Egypt. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Mark, Joshua J. Last modified May 02, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 02 May Written by Joshua J. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms.
Mark published on 02 May Remove Ads Advertisement. About the Author Joshua J. Mark has lived in Greece and Germany and traveled through Egypt. He has taught history, writing, literature, and philosophy at the college level. Related Content Filters: All. Articles 5.
My title does not intend to suggest that the Alexandrian Library In , film director Alejandro Amenabar brought the story of Hypatia, the much loved pagan philosopher of Alexandria, Egypt Trade has always been a vital aspect of any civilization whether Once the largest library in the ancient world, and containing works Help us write more We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers. Strong Arm Press 28 May Routledge 17 November Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet. Adamant Media Corporation 07 May Penguin Books 30 October Ancient Egypt. Routledge, Durant, W.
Our Oriental Heritage. Oakes, L. Hermes House, London, Internet History Sourcebooks Project.