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Welcome to History Buff, a blog for history lovers everywhere! History Buff brings news stories about archaeology from around the world together on one site. From finds in ancient Egypt to new discoveries in anthropology, History Buff wants to know. And feel free to stop by History Buff's ** Author Interviews** for Q&As with authors of historical fiction. Enjoy!

Michelle Moran
Historical fiction author

As an historical fiction writer I am fascinated by news stories featuring the past as it's unearthed and reimagined and brought to life. I spend a
large quantity of time searching for news in archaeology and history. Once in a great while a new archaeological discovery will act as an inspiration for what I'm currently writing. But most of the time the news stories I read are simply interesting tidbits of history. Unfortunately, I have disallowed comments because I travel so frequently that I can neither monitor nor respond to them. But I would still love to share the history that I find fascinating each day. So welcome! And feel free to visit my website at www.michellemoran.com.

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4.14.2008

Cleopatra's Suicide by Snake a Myth?

Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

"The Death of Cleopatra"

Popular lore holds that in Cleopatra's last moments, the distraught queen -- who had just lost her kingdom and learned of her lover's demise -- smuggled a poisonous snake into her locked chamber and died, along with two ladies-in-waiting, of a self-inflicted snake bite.

Such a scenario is next to impossible, according to Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley, who shatters the "snakebite suicide" myth in her new book, Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt, just published in Europe and slated for an upcoming U.S. release.

"It seems to me that the snake theory is just too difficult to sustain, as it leaves too many loopholes," Tyldesley, a lecturer at the University of Manchester in England and museum fellow, told Discovery News.

She posed the following questions: Do we imagine one snake killed all three women, or were three snakes brought in? How did the snake(s) get into the room? Where did the snakes then go? Since not all snakes are poisonous, how did the women ensure their own deaths?

"Basically, I think there are better and more reliable ways of killing oneself," she said, adding that some elements of the story are probably true.

Based on a number of historical accounts, Cleopatra did die in Alexandria at around 30 B.C., and there is no historical evidence of a prior illness. The moments leading up to her death are also plausible to Tyldesley, particularly Cleopatra's dismissal of her servants, save for two women, Charmian and Eiras.

"The decision to die in front of her female servants made good practical sense, as even the dead (according to ancient Egyptian spiritual beliefs) needed a chaperone," she explained.

"One of the horrors of female suicide was that the body might be glimpsed partially naked, by strangers," she added. The queen therefore safeguarded her virtue in life and in death by retaining the company of her ladies-in-waiting.

In accounts written about by the Greek historian Plutarch and the Roman historian Cassius Dio, Cleopatra had a snake smuggled into her chamber inside a jar of figs or water, but both historians expressed doubts about the scenario.

Read the rest on Discovery.