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How tall was cleopatra?

Cleopatra VII, the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, is one of the most famous women in history. Her life and reign have been scrutinized by historians for centuries, but some details remain elusive – including her height. Determining exactly how tall Cleopatra was is difficult, as there are no confirmed measurements from her lifetime. However, through an analysis of historical sources, archaeological evidence, and comparisons to those around her, we can make some educated guesses about Cleopatra’s stature.

Historical Sources on Cleopatra’s Appearance

Contemporary written sources provide a few clues about Cleopatra’s appearance, though they are not always consistent or reliable. Some ancient historians, such as Plutarch, describe Cleopatra as quite alluring and attractive, though make no direct mention of her height. Other writers suggest she may have been somewhat petite. For example, the Roman poet Lucan gives the following description:

“In person she was of a rather dark complexion and full-blooded, with a very slight tinge, however, of her country’s characteristic bronze; her eyes were very large, her nose was long in proportion, and her teeth were dazzling white; her mouth small, and her chin softly rounded and quite charming.”

This passage implies delicate features that may have been associated with a smaller stature. However, literary descriptions often used caricatures or exaggerations for effect, so they cannot be taken entirely at face value.

Evidence from Artwork & Sculptures

Depictions of Cleopatra in ancient art provide another perspective on her appearance, though these were also often idealized. Many surviving sculptures portray Cleopatra with feminine, graceful features. For example, a marble sculpture known as the “Berlin Cleopatra”, dating to around 40-30 BC, shows her with a slender neck and delicate facial features:

Artifact Date Height Description
Berlin Cleopatra sculpture 40-30 BC 5 ft 4 in (163 cm) Marble sculpture showing a petite, graceful figure

However, these sculptures likely represented an idealized image of the queen, rather than an accurate portrait. Overall, ancient art provides little concrete evidence regarding Cleopatra’s stature.

Comparison to Contemporary Individuals

Looking at the height of those around Cleopatra can provide some context on where she may have fallen compared to others in her time period. For example:

Individual Comparison to Cleopatra Estimated Height
Julius Caesar Purported lover 5 ft 7 in (170 cm)
Mark Antony Husband 5 ft 8 in (173 cm)

Based on contemporary accounts, Cleopatra was likely shorter than both Caesar and Antony. If these men were near the average height for the time, it would place Cleopatra below that level. However, extremes like dwarfism or gigantism are never mentioned, indicating she was within a normal range.

Evidence from Cleopatra’s Sister Arsinoe

Perhaps the strongest evidence on Cleopatra’s height comes from remains potentially identified as those of her younger sister Princess Arsinoe IV. Arsinoe’s skeleton was discovered in Ephesus and dated to the correct time period. Analysis indicated the skeleton was a petite female who stood around 5 feet tall. If Arsinoe was around 5 feet, it would be reasonable to assume her sister Cleopatra was similar or slightly taller in height.

Average Height in Ancient Egypt

Looking at skeletal remains of ancient Egyptians can provide insight into typical heights during Cleopatra’s time. According to archaeological data, the average woman in ancient Egypt stood around 5 feet 5 inches, while men averaged around 5 feet 6 inches. Cleopatra likely fell close to or slightly below the average female height.

Group Average Height
Ancient Egyptian women 5 feet 5 inches (165 cm)
Ancient Egyptian men 5 feet 6 inches (168 cm)

Conclusions on Cleopatra’s Height

While we lack definitive proof, the available evidence points to Cleopatra measuring somewhere around 5 feet tall, possibly slightly taller. Key points supporting this estimate include:

  • Contemporary descriptions suggesting she was petite or diminutive.
  • Sculptures portraying her with graceful, feminine features.
  • Being shorter than average height men like Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
  • Similar stature to her sister Arsinoe, believed to stand around 5 feet.
  • Approximating the average height for ancient Egyptian women.

So while Cleopatra may have wielded immense power and influence as Egypt’s queen, her physical stature was likely diminutive by modern standards. Somewhere around 5 feet or slightly taller would place her in the norm for ancient women, allowing her to comfortably interact with subjects and contemporaries. Her short height may have enabled her to exude charm and femininity, contrasting with the militarymight of her Roman suitors. While petite, Cleopatra was enormously mighty and remains one of the most towering figures of the ancient world.