Comparison between female rulers
Comparison between Female Rules
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In this essay, we shall compare two different female rulers, and provide a thorough assessment on both. However, to avoid anachronisms we shall pick rulers who are in the same historical time. That way, we can lay a common ground to develop each character, and compare them in the fairest light possible, to avoid misconceptions related to the historical differences the two rulers might have. Besides, to give a complete picture possible, we shall expand, and provide a historical background on both rulers in order to achieve a greater understanding on their lives. After careful deliberation, we decided to choose Cleopatra and Boudicca. Both rulers share cultural traits that we consider important. For instance, both lived during the Roman Republic and Empire; both rebelled against the Roman power, and both died for what they believe. There are several differences, as well as many likenesses, and we shall expand on them in this essay.
Cleopatra’s Historical Background
About Cleopatra’s historical background, we have a myriad of sources to recreate her life, and how her reign was. Cleopatra VII was one of the most important rulers in ancient history. She was not only the last pharaoh of Egypt, but the last Ptolemaic ruler of the country. The Ptolemaic Dynasty, created by Ptolemy, one of Alexander the Great’s most trusted general, who after the death of the latter, claimed Egypt as his kingdom, in long conflict known as the “Diadoch Wars”.
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Cleopatra was crowned in the highest point of the Roman Republic’s power, and despite the efforts to destroy her kingdom, she could preserve its independence for almost twenty years. She even intended to restore her kingdom to its former glory, but the Roman ferula, and the weakened state of the power she thought she had made her illusions unreachable. Cleopatra’s life was intertwined with those of the most powerful Romans in her time, Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony. And her death marked the end of Egypt as an independent kingdom, and a power of its own. (Burstein, 2004). Cleopatra managed to secure the power after her father’s death by supporting the priests and building temples in the Upper Egypt. However, her days of glory were ending, as the Romans were actively seizing their power in Egypt. Caesar himself went to Egypt and entered Alexandria as a Roman consul visiting a subject power, not a free city. According to historians such as Diodorus, Caesar and Cleopatra had an affair, and a resulting child, Ptolemy Cesarion. The child’s birth enraged Romans and Egyptians alike, and after Julius Caesar’s death, Cleopatra was in a rough position. However, she managed to hang in the power by bargaining with Octavian and seducing Antony. Antony supported her in the battles against Rome, but after their loss in the battle of Actium, they decided to commit suicide. The way Cleopatra chose to die has been disputed by historians for centuries. The tradition says that she was bitten by a snake. Nevertheless, since there was no trace of a snake at the time of her death, that theory is unlikely. The most likely scenario is the Queen decided to poison herself to share her lover’s destiny. When she died, she was thirty-nine years old. (Burstein, 2004)
Boudicca’s Historical Background
The first mention of Boudicca, or Boudica is found in Tacitus’ “Annals” on which me refers to her as the wife of Prasutagus, king of the Iceni “First, his wife Boudicea was scourged, and his daughters outraged. All the chief men of the Iceni, as if Romehad received the whole country as a gift, were stripped of their ancestral possessions, and the king’s relatives were made slaves” (Tacitus 14.31). According to historical sources and Tacitus own recollections, her date of birth is uncertain. Nevertheless, the date of her death is around 60 or 61 A.D. Boudicca, having married the king of the Iceni tribe, and after his husband’s death, was regarded as the queen of the tribe. Like the rest of the Celtic tribes, to Britons there were no difference between men and women. That way, Boudicca was able to stay as the queen of the IceniWhen the Romans came to Britain, they forced the Iceni to pay taxes and give their lands to the Romans. Although many tribes agreed, Boudicca, after receiving the rule of the tribe from his late husband, refused and saw her village sacked, and her daughters raped (Jordan, 2012). After the incident, Boudicca rose against the Roman power and managed to secure the support of the Trinovantes, one of the neighboring tribes. Both tribes secured many successes in the beginning, but after the sack of Londinium, the modern London, the Romans took the matter seriously and sent a legate to stop the uprising. The Britons were defeated in a road called Watling Street, and according to historical sources, as many as 80,000 Britons died that day. However, historians of that time exaggerated the numbers of the fallen enemies. According to Tacitus, the most reliable source on Boudicca’s life, she committed suicide after the defeat. “Boudicea put an end to her life by poison.” (Tacitus, 14,37)
Comparison between Rulers
In order to a thorough comparison, we shall divide it in two different areas: Politics and Ruling Styles. That way, we shall keep the discussion flowing in a comprehensive way.
1. Politics: While both women were queens, they did not share the same definition of the kingdom. To Cleopatra, her kingdom was all the land she inherited from her father, who had descended from a long line of Greek-Egyptian rulers. To Cleopatra, exerting the power was some divine commandment the gods had put over her. On the other hand, to Boudicca, her kingdom was a tribe, the Icenes, a band of Briton warriors who swore fealty to her, because of her convictions. Boudicca might have accessed power through her husband’s death, but the idea of getting rid of the Roman yoke was what ignited the flame that made her step up in her position as queen. However, concerning their political situation, it is possible to find parallels between bothwomen. For instance, both Cleopatra, and Boudicca fought the Roman domination. Both made alliances with the Romans to keep the right to rule their territories, and both were betrayed. Also, both women fought hard to be recognized as full-fledged rulers and gained her power through continuous struggle, as they considered that be Roman subjects was not in their agenda. In the same way, both women died by their own hand, instead of falling in the hands of the Romans, who were expecting to execute them if they could.
2. Ruling Styles: Both women were strong rulers, who asserted their authority through strong actions and reason. Cleopatra is pictured by history as a beautiful woman who seduced men to achieve her goals. However, according Diodorus recount, men fell for her because of her wits, and intelligence, rather than her looks. In the same way, the art of that time shows Cleopatra as a fair looking woman, whose looks were not particularly stunning. A thing in common that we observed in our research is that both rulers used religion to keep their kingdoms together. For instance, to Cleopatra, securing the support of the clergy was key to preserve her kingdom. In the same way, to Boudicca religion played a key role in the uprising. Prior to the war the druidic cults were disbanded by the Romans, and to worship the old gods was a sign of rebellion and pride. In the same way, both never surrendered, and fought until the last day to keep what they perceived as rightfully theirs.
Burstein, S. (2004). The reign of Cleopatra. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.
Cornelius Tacitus, The Annals Alfred John Church, William Jackson Brodribb, Ed. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.02.0078:book=14:chapter=37Jordan, M. (2012). Leadership Qualities of a Warrior Queen. Forum on Public Policy. Retrieved from http://forumonpublicpolicy.com/vol2012.no2/archive/jordan.pdf
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