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"I won't be involved in any project just for the sake of it," I told Atlantic Productions. The call had come in from London on my cell phone, which I tried to juggle as I shifted gears in an attempt to keep my car from sliding backward down an icy hill in the midst of a Midwestern snowstorm. I wasn't sure I was going to make it to any hotel on this trip; the storm was pretty bad and I was driving a BMW that should have been sitting in a garage.
I was skeptical of the project. Yes, Cleopatra had always intrigued me as a child; the visuals of the scantily clad queen, a snake biting at her breast—these were powerful images that stayed in one's mind. As I grew older, I would come across artists' depictions of her death and wonder at the tawdriness of her final moments.
I had questioned why any queen would purposely allow herself to be seen in such a manner, half-naked and sprawled out lasciviously on display. The cobra wrapped around her body always seemed a tad ridiculous. And I felt there were simpler, more effective ways to commit suicide that a rational person would more likely have chosen. Perhaps, I thought, Queen Cleopatra was simply the hysterical type, a queen by default rather than one of intelligence and strength. I had put her out of my mind until that day in Ohio.
The project that Atlantic was calling about was part of the wave of television pitches that would pick a popular topic, find some issue to question or attack, whether or not there was really any valid reason to do so. Atlantic made quite a few Egyptian shows of this nature for Discovery Channel and now was probing the possibility of bringing up some new controversy about Cleopatra's death.
"I won't be involved unless I can determine there is a legitimate reason to doubt that Cleopatra didn't die by snake or didn't commit suicide. I don't make up stuff like a defense expert, just to get a payday." The producers got my point but told me they wanted an answer as soon as possible—like, that day. Television folks have little patience.
Looking at my map for the nearest, most populated location, I changed course and rolled into the nearest town with a large-enough bookstore, heading straight for the section on Egypt.
I wasn't expecting to come up with much, certainly not within the time frame given. I assumed I would read the very limited material by the early historians, skim some opinions of the modern-day historians, and call the network back with a "No, there is simply no evidence to determine anything; just a bunch of stories and conjecture." End of project.
But when I thumbed my way to the end of each Cleopatra book and read the story of her death, I became more and more intrigued. Not by the repetitive narration each historian seemed to parrot, but by the fact one basic story had been passed down through the centuries and had hardly been questioned by anyone, even experts in the field.
The death of Cleopatra, though two thousand years old, is like any other cold case with a suspicious death scene. There is a body, there is a crime scene, and there are witnesses (even if they are only testifying to what they found after the deceased was discovered). Any good crime analyst knows that what one might think to be true on first glimpse may turn out to be completely incorrect when the evidence is analyzed.
Scenes can be staged, family members might remove objects to cover up embarrassing facts or to ensure collecting insurance money, and the first people on the scene may disturb the evidence in their rush to help, or in their panic. Or they might be thieves simply taking advantage of the circumstances.
All of these possibilities must be taken into account when attempting to determine what actually happened to the victim. And even this is not enough. An investigator must look into the behavioral history of the deceased and all the people and events connected with him or her. The culture and the actions of the inhabitants of his time and location must be considered as well.
Finally, each aspect of the physical evidence must be factored in: the wounds, the position of the body, the time of death, the weapon, the location, the weather ... every physical feature of the world encompassing the victim, and an assessment of how each feature might have affected the final moments of the victim's life.
The ancient crime scene of Cleopatra had to be treated in a like manner. One cannot simply accept the words of a few observers or "journalists" or politicians or later writers. What we think we know of a past event is often distorted, and unless we examine all the evidence to uncover the truth, the distortion will remain.
I was shocked at the number of red flags that popped up from the pages of the historical accounts of the Egyptian queen's final day. How was it that Cleopatra managed to smuggle a cobra into the tomb in a basket of figs? Why would the guards allow this food in and why would they be so careless in examining them? Why would Octavian, supposedly so adamant about taking Cleopatra to Rome for his triumph, be so lax about her imprisonment? Why would Cleopatra think it easier to hide a writhing snake in a basket of figs rather than slip poison inside one of the many figs? How did all three women end up dead from the venom? Wasn't it unlikely that the snake cooperated in striking all three, releasing sufficient venom to kill each of them? Why was the snake no longer present at the crime scene? Was a brand-new tomb so poorly built that holes remained in the walls of the building? Why did the guards not look for the snake once they thought it had killed the women? Why were the wounds from the fangs of the snake not obvious? Why did the women not exhibit the symptoms of death by snake venom or even by poison? Why did the guards not see any of the women convulsing, vomiting, or holding their abdomens in agony? Why didn't they see any swelling or paralysis of face or limbs or any foaming at the mouth?
Now filled with questions, I began to work backward in the texts. Did the behaviors of Cleopatra and Octavian support a suicide? As a criminal profiler, one of the important tasks of analyzing crimes is reviewing the behavioral history of the players; no one acts outside of one's own frame of thinking.
With each step back in time from the end of Cleopatra's life to the beginning, I discovered more and more evidence pointing to a radically different explanation of history than the ancients and Octavian wanted us to believe.
I made the call back to England. "I'm in. Cleopatra was murdered."
My interest didn't end with my work on the documentary The Mysterious Death of Cleopatra or my debunking of the death-by-snake theory or my assertion that Cleopatra was murdered. While I was in Egypt, Rome, and England working with Egyptologists, poison experts, archeologists, and historians of the ancient world, I began to piece together another, more credible story behind the death of Cleopatra.
I believed Cleopatra was tortured.
I believed Cleopatra was strangled.
I believed Antony was murdered.
I believed Cleopatra did not hide in her tomb with her treasure.
I believed Cleopatra did not bargain with Octavian.
I believed Cleopatra planned a brilliant military maneuver at Alexandria, her Actium Two, which this time would not have been an escape strategy from a failed naval battle, but a faux naval battle to permit a successful escape from a dire military position that offered little hope of survival.
I believed Cleopatra never loved Antony.
I believed Cleopatra never loved Julius Caesar.
I believed Cleopatra did not have Caesar's son.
I believed Cleopatra may have been one of the most brilliant, cold-blooded, iron-willed rulers in history and the truth about what really happened was hidden behind a veil of propaganda and lies set in motion by her murderer, Octavian, and the agenda of the Roman Empire.
Now I had to prove it.
Excerpted from THE MURDER OF CLEOPATRA by PAT BROWN Copyright © 2013 by Pat Brown. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted September 16, 2013
Posted September 2, 2013
Pat Brown is a force to be reckoned with in the literary world, taking the stories and legends we have all grown up on and putting their accuracy to the test with nothing more than science and a fervent passion to uncover the truth for people like me, who love the old stories but question their validity.
“If Cleopatra was not one to ‘beat her breasts,’ and there is little evidence that there is any truth in this claim that she was, then one wonders why the story of such damage to her breasts exists. The only plausible explanation is that she was tortured for information.”
This time, Brown takes us to an all too familiar tale of one of history’s all time favorite heroines and last of the Egyptian Pharaohs, Cleopatra, raising thought provoking dialogue and questioning if her death was in fact murder and not suicide. Using purely science, logical thinking, and reasoning honed during her years as a prolific criminal profiler, Brown takes us on a magical journey providing readers with a historical account of Cleopatra’s final days filled with despair, desperation, and the will to live.
This book will appeal to all readers who have a fascination with history and mysteries, or who just enjoy a new twist on an old story. You won’t be let down, so pick this book up. It’s a must have!
*This book was provided in exchange for an honest review*
*You can view the original review at Musing with Crayolakym and San Francisco & Sacramento City Book Review