The statue is nicknamed “The Lady of Brussels” because its home museum is in Belgium. It is one of the oldest free-standing statues in the world, dated to around 2695 BC. The “Lady” certainly has her charms. She is wearing one of the extraordinary wigs that were such a noteworthy item of feminine beauty in Ancient Egypt. But her restrained, submissive pose somehow disappoints when contrasted with the energy and mysticism of the mysterious “Bird Woman,” created a thousand years earlier.
It did not take long before most of the Diadochi were gripped by a lust for power nearly as manic as had possessed Alexander. Ptolemy, however, showed a greater restraint. Though he launched several offensive campaigns, Ptolemy largely contented himself with ruling Egypt. Moreover, his policy decisions were marked by an astute blend of urban and economic development, along with encouraging the arts and sciences. Where Demetrius squandered vast sums on siege towers and Dreadnought-sized warships, Ptolemy built Alexandria into a cultural center whose brilliance eventually surpassed Athens.
Pity Duane W. Roller, author of Cleopatra: A Biography. I can just imagine the initial conversation at the Oxford University Press: “We want you to write a biography of Cleopatra, sensuous queen of the Egyptians, famed figure of ancient history.” “Excellent, as Professor Emeritus of Greek and Latin at The Ohio State University, I’d be thrilled to delve into a world of intrigue and shifting political sands.” “Good. But no sex, please, we’re British.”
Reading these medieval entries can be as exciting as perusing annotated bibliographies at times, since the authors must restrict their scope and still cover important points: years of birth and death, full name and an explanation of its genealogy, ethnicity, education, occupation, and moral probity. What lifts them beyond the mundane is the inclusion of a telling anecdote, a quirky personality trait, a defining event, an obituary made literary.