Δευτέρα, 26 Ιανουαρίου 2015

Queens of the Ancient World

Cleopatra

Cleopatra VII of Eygpt (69-30 BCE) is the most important for our consideration. She was a contemporary of Augustus whose own history with Rome (a dangerous African queen who seduced Roman leaders away from their duties) added resonance to the story of Dido and how that story would have been received by Vergil's audience.
She allied herself first with Julius Caesar to wrest the throne away from her brother and co-ruler. They had a child, Caesarion, who became a rival to Octavian (Augustus) as Caesar's heir.
She later allied herself with Mark Antony and together, using the wealth and power of Egypt and the symbolically important Caesarion, struggled for power with Octavian (Augustus). This struggle was made more personal because Antony had left Octavia, Augustus' sister, for Cleopatra. Antony also adopted the trappings of an Eastern God-King as consort of Cleopatra, moves which set poorly with Roman sensibilities. Octavian was victorious at the naval battle of Actium in 31 BCE, which led within a year to Antony's and Cleopatra's deaths and Octavian's consolidation of power over Rome.

Boudica
Boudica leads the revolt
(a Victorian statue, a time when Britain was ruled by another queen,
and had a empire of their own to rival Rome's)
Boudica (a.k.a. Boadicea, Boudicca, originally Boudig) was a queen in Roman Britain, ruling the tribes of the Iceni and Trinventi. Prasutagus, her husband and King of the Iceni, was a client-king ally of Rome. To protect his estate, he named his daughters and Rome as co-heirs (with Boudica as regent). The Romans weren't too happy with this arrangement, and not annexed his kingdom but whipped Boudica and raped her daughters. She, therefore, led a revolt in 60/61CE. Roman London and two other Roman towns were burnt before she was defeated.

Zenobia
Observe: [ZE]NOBIA AUG[USTA]
Reverse: REGINA
Zenobia of Palmyra (Syria) ruled as regent for her infant son, Vaballathus, in late 3rd century CE. From this position, she seized control of a large (and wealthy) part of the eastern Roman empire, including Egypt, Arabia, and parts of Asia Minor. Her imperial pretensions is apparent from her coinage (see left). The Roman Emperor Aurelian sought to reuinte the empire, as part of this campaign, defeated her in 272 CE.She was taken to Rome in gold chains and lived out her life at a villa near the city.

Cartimandua
Cartimandua was a queen of another British tribe, and contemporary of Boudica (mid-1st century CE). Unlike Boudica, Cartimandua was an ally and client-queen of the Romans. In 51 CE, she betrayed Caratacus,a ruler of another British tribe, to the Romans. Cartimandua, thus, has not been treated kindly by history.
Cartimandua shared rule of the tribe with her consort, Venutius. Their relationship, unfortunately, fell apart and Cartimandua took Venutius' armor bearer, Vellocatus, as her new consort. Venutius gathered allies and attacked (55/56 CE) but Cartimandua, with the help of her Roman allies, defeated him. Patience, however, was rewarded for Venutius: in 69 CE the Romans were distracted with their own problems (this was known as the "Year of the 4 Emperors"). Venutius took advantage of this and attacked again. Cartimandua was defeated and fled, disappearing from the radar of history.

Tomyris


Tomyris was queen in the 6th cent BCE, long before Rome rose to greatness.She came into conflict with a different world empire: Persia, under its founder Cyrus the Great. She ruled the Massagetae, a nomadic, horse-riding tribe who lived in the region of modern Uzbekistan. Cyrus, having conquered many of his neighbors including Babylonia, turned his eye towards this people. First, he tried to gain control through a marriage alliance with the queen. After that failed, he invaded. Tomyris' son was captured in an early ambush and died while Cyrus' prisoner. When Tomyris learned of his death, she led her entire army against Cyrus and defeated him. He died in battle (529 BCE), but Tomyris had his head brought to her. She had sworn, if her son were not returned to her alive, "I swear by the sun, the sovereign lord of the Massagetai, bloodthirsty as you are, I will give you your fill of blood." So she dipped his head into a bag of blood. Tomyris fades from the radar of history victorious and still in control of her people and territories. Cyrus' successors smartly turn their conquering eyes in other directions.

Artemisia
Artemisia I of Halicarnassus was a queen of a small state on the Western coast Asia Minor (modern Turkey). She was a subject ally of the Persian empire (late 6th-early 5th century BCE). She remained loyal to Persians even when many neighboring city-states revolted from the Persian King Darius. Later, she served as a trusted advisor of Darius' successor, Xerxes. Although most of the aristocrats and allied kings surrounding Xerxes were little more than "yes-men" (admittedly with good reason, since the king was known for his bad temper), Artemisia is portrayed in Herodotus' history as one of the few willing to give him honest advice. She advised, for example, against the battle of Salamis (disastrous for the Persians). When he decided to attack anyway, she served in this landmark naval battle. Admittedly, when all was going badly for the Persians and their allies, she ended up sinking a friendly ship in order to save her own. Xerxes, thinking that she had sunk an enemy ship, famously decried that all his men had become women and his women men.
The battle of Salamis was a landmark in western civilization: the Greek victory preserved a brand-new form of government, democracy, and led to the flourishing that Classical Greece.


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