Forget Elizabeth Taylor ,Leonor Varela or Monica Belucci. Many beautiful actresses have portrayed the legendary egyptian queen on the big screen but the real Cleopatra was anything but a classic beauty.
A coin dating back to 32BC shows Cleopatra had a shallow forehead, pointed chin, thin lips and sharp nose.
When Shakespeare wrote that the face of Cleopatra, the ancient queen of Egypt, “beggar’d all description”, he meant that words could not sum up her beauty.
But a coin dating from 32BC and put on display in Britain Tuesday shows the phrase had an unintended double meaning — it depicts the queen as no great looker with a pointed chin, thin lips and sharp nose.
Her lover, Mark Antony, fares little better on the coin’s flipside — the Roman general is shown with a hook nose, bulging eyes and a thick neck.
The portraits are a long way from the famously sultry depiction of the couple by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 film “Cleopatra”.
The coin has gone on display at Newcastle University, northeast England, on
Valentine’s Day after years of lying in a bank.
Cleopatra, who also had an affair with legendary Roman emperor Julius Caesar, also inspired Shakespeare to write one of his most famous lines: “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale/Her infinite variety”.
But Lindsay Allason-Jones, the university’s director of archaeological museums, said that the image of her as a great beauty is comparatively modern, dating back to medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer.
“Roman writers tell us that Cleopatra was intelligent and charismatic and that she had a seductive voice, but, tellingly, they do not mention her beauty,” she said.
“It’s one of those perpetual myths that has been perpetuated by having people like Elizabeth Taylor playing her and it’s very difficult to get that out of peoples’ psyches.
“She does look as if she’s forgotten to put her teeth in.”
The coin itself represents one three hundredth of a Roman soldier’s salary and was probably minted to pay the wages of those stationed in Egypt.