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A Short Animated History on Why Cleopatra Is More Than a Sexy Femme Fatale

While most people have an idea of who Cleopatra is, that perception is often heavily informed by media portrayals and sexist notions of women in power. Movies, books, and Halloween costumes focus on the queen as a beautiful seductress, ignoring her political leadership and significance as a ruler.

In this TED-Ed lesson by Alex Gendler and animated by Brett Underhill, we see the two sides of Cleopatra’s legacy–the dominant one that’s mostly concerned with the nature of her relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and another which looks at her education and how she served her kingdom. “Why does that matter?” says the lesson, “Why doesn’t anyone seem to care about Caesar or Antony’s countless other affairs? Why do we assume she instigated the relationships? And why are only powerful women defined by their sexuality?”

The lesson also goes a bit into how most of Cleopatra’s history was written by her enemies, or were portrayals that came long after her lifetime. You can check out the full lesson here.

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