Author Archives: Abby Payne

About Abby Payne

Writer. Wannabe opera diva. Mass literary consumer. Dreamer. Ogden, Utah.

Final Blog post- Historically accurate (at least as close as possible) Cleopatra VII costume


Photo Credit to Anagoria on Bust of Cleopatra VII at the Altes Museum in Berlin, Germany.

Cleopatra VII Philopator was the last active pharaoh of Egypt before the kingdom fell to and was absorbed by the Roman Empire. Cleopatra co-ruled Egypt for many years with her father then his different brothers. Eventually she became sole ruler of Egypt.

Over the years, Hollywood and popular culture have sensationalized Cleopatra VII’s actions as Egypt’s pharaoh, particularly her relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Movies, paintings and plays have kept Cleopatra in the public’s eye even though she died nearly two thousand years ago.

For my final project, I chose to create a costume that would be as close to something that Cleopatra would have worn as possible. Of course, being an amateur costume maker at best, my attempt was modest but I believe it hit the mark in many ways, more often than not reflecting what would’ve been a casual, day-to-day outfit rather than a flamboyant and more dramatic ensemble.

To begin with, I began searching for pictures of Cleopatra VII. Since her tomb has yet to be found, there are relatively few images of what she truly looked like, but there are busts done in the Roman style and coinage that bear her visage. From theses, I gathered that Cleopatra had naturally curly hair which she kept bound back with a headband and pulled into a bun.

To translate this into the costume, I curled my hair naturally stick-straight hair in the smallest sponge curlers available to me. This gave me the naturally curly hair look that Cleopatra would’ve enjoyed when she wasn’t wearing a wig or other headdress.


Photo Credit to Olaf Tausch on Etching of Cleopatra VII and her son Caesarion on the temple at Dendera.

Ancient Egypt was known for their elaborate eye makeup. I copied this from papyrus drawings, wearing blue eye shadow and using eyeliner as kohl. I chose to sport an eye of Ra in addition to the thick black eyeliner and blue eye shadow for dramatic effect.

The etching of Cleopatra VII and her son Caesarion on the temple at Dendera show Cleopatra sporting a collar-style necklace and a headdress similar to the one worn by the goddess Isis. The etching has no color, so I used papyrus paintings and jewelry found in ancient Egyptian tombs to determine that semiprecious stones like feldspar, carnelian, jasper, turquoise, jade and lapis lazuli were most likely used in jewelry that Cleopatra would have worn.

Since I’m no master jewelry maker, I created a collar out of crepe-back satin using felt as an interfacing to give the collar some body and attached plastic jewels to it using fabric adhesive. I used red, shades of blue, and yellow colored stones. Respectively, these stones for Cleopatra would have been jasper or carnelian, lapis lazuli and turquoise, and feldspar or topaz.

Photo by Abby Payne. Detail of Eye of Ra eye makeup.

Photo by Abby Payne. Detail of Eye of Ra eye makeup.

Moving caudally, the shift that Cleopatra would have worn would most likely have been made of a fine linen. In ancient Egyptian papyri, statues, and wall etchings, one can see that both men and women wore simple white clothes that required little to no sewing, just a wrapping of fabric around the body held in place by pins, belts, robes or collars.

For my costume, I chose to create the dress of white linen, wrapped around my body several times to ensure modesty. I pinned the fabric to an undershirt at my shoulders to aid in keeping the dress in place. While many ancient Egyptians weren’t terribly worried about keeping their bits and pieces covered, I am.

For my linen shift, I chose to take inspiration from ancient Rome as well, considering that Egypt would have been well acquainted with Roman fashion during Cleopatra’s time as Pharaoh of Egypt. Instead of simply pinning the shift shut, I threw the end the length of fabric over my shoulder and pinned it to my undershirt. This gave an interesting Roman flair to an otherwise distinctly Egyptian costume.

Photo by Kraig Peterson. Finished historically accurate Cleopatra VII costume.

Photo by Kraig Peterson. Finished historically accurate Cleopatra VII costume.

At my waist, I wore a belt made of crepe-back satin and felt. The belt wrapped around my natural waist with a section hanging down in front. The belt is decorated with yellow, blue, and green jewels, respectively those jewels would be feldspar, lapis lazuli, and jade. In reality, Cleopatra’s belt would have been made of gold and contained real jewels.

In ancient Egypt, there wasn’t a real need to wear shoes in order to stay warm, so unless the ground was dangerous, normal people wouldn’t have worn shoes. However, Cleopatra would’ve worn sandals made of leather and reeds decorated with jewels. For this costume, I wore a pair of sandals that have an ankle strap attached to the soul of the shoe with one band going from the ankle strap between my toes.

The finished product was almost exactly as I had in mind. The shape of the collar was a little off, and my hair didn’t exactly what to cooperate, but it all worked out pretty well. In the future, if I do this particular costume again, I think I will invest in some eyeliner in a pot instead of using the felt-tip wand eyeliner I use everyday. Also, I think the collar was a bit tight and I would’ve preferred the shape to be a bit more round and little less rectangular. But, c’est la vie, non? At any rate, I’m pleased with the way that this costume turned out.


Works Cited:

Anagoria, Portrait of Cleopatra VII; Marble; Inv. 1976.10,, 24 April 2014.

“Cleopatra”. Wikipedia. 24 April 2014.

“Clothing in ancient Egypt”. Wikipedia. 24 April 2014.

“Egyptian Jewlery”. 24 April 2014.

Tausch, Olaf. Relief of the Ptolemaic Pharaoh Cleopatra VII and her son Caesarion on the southwest side of the Temple of Dendera, Egypt.

“The Latest Fashions in Ancient Egypt”. 24 April 2014.

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Blog post three: a section of the Bayeux tapestry


Plate 21 from Wilson

In this section of the Bayeux tapestry, the Norman forces, William the Conqueror, Harold Godwinson and Rivallon of Dol-Combourgh attack the Dol de Bretagne.  Duke Conan II of Brittany escaped the Normans using a rope and climbing out a window.  The main focus of this section of the tapestry depicts Duke Conan escaping through a window and the Normans pursuing Duke Conan past the capital of Brittany, Rennes.

The Bayeux tapestry is one of the first appearances of a coat of arms. On several of the shields of the soldiers is featured a cross.  The Bayeux tapestry was created in the 11th century. Coats of arms didn’t come into vogue until the 12th century. Characters typical of coats of arms appear in both the top and the bottom boarders of this section of the Bayeux tapestry. A coat of arms has much symbolism, everything from the colors used to the animals represented. The presence of elements of different coats of arms can symbolize the dominance or inferiority of one side or the other.

In the border of this section of the Bayeux tapestry is the depiction of a the characters in the coat of arms of each side of the battle.  On the top is the depiction of the the lion from the duchy of Norman’s coat of arms and the fleur-de-lis (lily flower in French) from the duchy of Brittany’s coat of arms.  On the bottom border is the duchy of Brittany’s fleur-de-lis and the griffin from the coat of arms of the kingdom of England.

Color is an important element in art, especially a piece of art like the Bayeux tapestry that depicts historically important events.  The fleur-de-lis, griffins and lions all appear in black, red and yellow. Through the ages, colors have often taken on different meanings, however certain themes about color have remained constant. Black often represents power, red stands for strength and yellow for energy.

That there is far color in the fleur-de-lis would insinuate that the artist that created the Bayeux tapestry thought that while Conan had power, strength and energy, he did not have as much as William the Conquer, Harold and Rivallion.

It should be noted that the figures represented in the borders of the Bayeux tapestry are not equal in size. The fleur-de-lis are much smaller than the griffins and the lions. This difference in size would insinuate that the artist saw an incongruence of power between Brittany and the Normans and England.


Works Cited:

Wilson, David M. The Bayeux Tapestry. New York: Thames & Hudson Inc., 2004. Print.

“Brothers in Arms- scene 2”. Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry at the Museum of Reading. 31 March 2014. Web.

“Breton-Norman War” Wikipedia. 31 March 2014. Web.

“Heraldry Symbols and their Meanings”. 31 March 2014. Web.

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Blog post two: The Siege of Tyre

File:A naval action during the siege of Tyre by Andre Castaigne (1898-1899).jpg

(source: Wikimedia common) Andre Castaigne’s depiction of Alexander the Great’s siege of Tyre in 332 BC.

Siege engines have been used since antiquity to break down walls and gain access to walled or fortified cities.

Both Alexander the Great and his father, Philip II, used siege warfare as part of their military strategies.  In particular, Alexander the Great laid siege to the ancient island city of Tyre, Phoenicia, present day Lebanon, in 332 BC.

After Alexander’s success at the battle of Issus, he wanted to sacrifice to Heracles at Tyre.  Seeing this as a ploy to occupy the city, take the last Persian harbor, and increase his navy,  the Tyrians refused Alexander’s request, suggesting that he could still sacrifice to Heracles at old Tyre on the main land, but not at new Tyre.

Still intent on visiting and worshiping at the new temple of Melqart, a Phoenician God that would have been roughly equivalent to Heracles, Alexander sent representatives to try to negotiate with Tyre. However, the representatives were killed and their bodies were thrown over the walls of the city into the Mediterranean Sea. Alexander saw this as an act of defiance and declared war upon Tyre.

Women and children were evacuated from Tyre to Carthage.  As well as providing refuge to the Tyrians, they also promised aid in the form of ships to the Tyrians.

Tyre presented more than one tactical problem to Alexander due to the terrain; new Tyre was built on an island about a half mile out from shore.  Alexander did not have much of a navy at the time, nor did he have much of a way to be able to access the walled, island city. To address this, Alexander began the process of building a causeway out to Tyre so he could transport siege engines and begin breaking down the walls of the city.

Building the causeway was not terribly difficult for a while, the sea was shallow and Alexander’s men were able to fend off artillery attacks from Tyre.  However, the closer Alexander and his men got Tyre, the more intense the artillery fire became. The sea floor also took a dramatic, cliff-like drop about half way between the shore and Tyre. The siege weapons had to be covered in wet rawhide so they would not catch fire from the flaming arrows that Tyre shot at them.  Despite Alexander’s best efforts to keep his men safe, about 400 were killed in the process of building the causeway, breaking down the city walls and entering the city of Tyre.

After seven long months of fighting and blockades, Tyre fell to Alexander’s forces.  Of the original population of Tyre, 30,000 were sold into slavery, 2,000 were crucified on the beach and 6,000 were killed during the attack.  Alexander did worship Heracles at the temple of Melqart before moving on to subdue Gaza and Egypt.

Works Cited:

“A naval action during the siege of Tyre.” by Andre Castaigne. 1898-1899. 

“Alexander’s Siege of Tyre, 332 BC” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Web. 4 March 2014.

“Alexander the Great.” Wikipedia. Web. 4 March 2014

Bose, Partha. “Alexander The Great’s Art of Strategy.” India: Penguin Books, 1 May 2004. Web.

The Landmark Arrian: the campaigns of Alexander. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. Print.

“The Siege of Tyre.” Wikipedia. Web. 4 March 2014.

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Blog Post One: Homosexuality in Ancient Greek Culture

File:Erastes eromenos Staatliche Antikensammlungen 1468.jpg

(Source: Haiduc, Wikipedia) Pederastic scene: erastes (lover) touching chin and genitals of the eromenos (beloved). Side of Attic black-figure neck-amphora, ca. 540 BC.

Some may argue that homosexuality is a product of a deranged world society, that same-gender attraction is unnatural, an abomination, and even a sign of the the end of days as predicted in religious texts.

However, there are others that would argue that same- gender attraction is perfectly normal, healthy even, an expression of affection just as heterosexual relationships.

Ancient Greek society did not consider sexuality to be a preference for one gender or another. It was a completely normal and socially accepted practice for older men to take on a younger male lover, a practice known as pederasty.  The older man would received the physical intimacies of the younger boy while the younger boy would enjoy advancement in education, position, or political standing in return from the older male. Pederasty was accepted and practice by many Greeks of the time, noting that reciprocity in the relationship made it more stable than relationships of heterosexual nature (Nussbaum,17).

In pederasty the two players are known as the lover, the erastes, and the beloved, the eromenos.  The lover is the older man.  His is the role of dominance, of pursuit of the younger boy and enjoying the physical affection of his eromenos.  The beloved is usually a younger male, usually a teenager who cannot grow a full beard, who is to be submissive to his lover. The beloved is not supposed to enjoy the physical intimacy aspects of the relationship, but rather he was to benefit from the political advancements and the opportunities for education(Nussbaum, 14-15).

While this all sounds like the perfect storm for wide-spread pedophilia, that was not supposed to be the case.  The purpose of pederasty was to allow the erastes to enjoy the beauty and talents of the youth and advance the eromenos in secular ways that he could not by himself.

There were many critics of pederastic relationships that included sexually erotic actions.  In his Symposium, Plato encouraged the lover’s affection to be more for the beloved’s talents and abilities and to leave copulation out of the relationship, condemning erotic behavior as immoral.

In the army, some military units used pederastic relationships to their strategic advantage. “My claim is that being found out by [the eromenos] would cause [the erastes] more distress than being found out by his father, his friends, or anyone else… I mean, it goes without saying that the last person a lover wants to be seen by, in the act of deserting or throwing away his weapons, is his boyfriend; however many times he had to choose, he would rather die than that.  And as for abandoning his boyfriend or not helping him when danger threatens- well, possession by Love would infuse even utter cowards with courage and make them indistinguishable from those to whom bravery comes most easily.  The effect that love has on lovers is exactly what Homer described, when he talked about a god “breathing might” into some hero or other,” (Plato, 178d-179b)

Thebes had an elite military unit known as ‘The Sacred Band Of Thebes’ in the fourth century BC supposedly composed of exclusively homosexual couples.   Proving Plato’s theory that lovers would fight most valiantly in defense of their lovers, the Sacred Band, with help from Athens and other major cities, successfully defended Thebes from Spartan invasion at the Battle of Leuctra. So much honor and general respect for The Sacred Band Of Thebes surrounded them at the time of their defeat that there was a monument erected in their honor atop a common tomb after their defeat at Chaeronea (“Sacred Band Of Thebes”).

Sparta, a notably militaristic area of ancient Greece, was also known for their embrace of pederasty and other homosexual relationships.  Due to the militaristic nature of Spartan society, men were often away from their wives for long periods of time.  Homosexual acts were not uncommon in the Spartan army and were seen as a way to satisfy sexual appetites that are natural.

Compared to modern culture, women of ancient Greece had relatively few rights.  However, they did participate in homosexual acts just as the men of ancient Greece did.  Evidence for the existence of female-female relationships can be seen in the poetry of Sappho, a female poet born about 620 BCE.

Even though poets and philosophers often represent counterculture rather than popular culture, Nussbaum said “it’s difficult to believe that [homosexuality] would be put forward to a highbrow audience as something that would be well received if it in no way corresponded to an accepted reality,” (14).

While it is uncertain just how big of a role homosexuality played in ancient Greek life due to the lack of primary sources that clearly represent popular culture of the time, it is clear that homosexual practices were accepted by ancient Greek society. One thing that the reader must consider is that homosexual relationships were looked at with a much different perspective in antiquity than they are in modern society. Pederasty, a homosexual relationship between a man and a younger boy, was one that there is evidence of occurring throughout Greece with varied frequency depending on the region.  The overall role of homosexuality in the Ancient Greek army is unclear, though it is clear that there were military units comprised exclusively of homosexual couples like The Sacred Band Of Thebes.

Works Cited:

Dover, K.J.  Greek Homosexuality. 1st ed.  New York: Random House, 1980. Print.

Haiduc,Erastes and Eromenos,2005-01-21, <;, red-figure pottery,Feb. 8, 2014.

“Homosexuality in ancient Greece.” Wikipedia. Web.  5 Feb 2014.  < >

Nussbaum, Martha C. “Other Times, Other Places: Homosexuality In Ancient Greece.”Annual Of Psychoanalysis 30.(2002): 9. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

“Pederasty.” Wikipedia. Web.  5 Feb 2014. <;

“Pederasty in ancient Greece.” Wikipedia. Web. 5 Feb 2014. <;

“Sacred Band of Thebes.” Wikipedia. Web.  5 Feb 2014.  <;

“Sappho.” Wikipedia. Web. 11 Feb 2014.<>

Waterfield, Robin, trans. Plato’s Symposium. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Print.

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hey guys! I’m AnneOfKiev.  Let’s get to going on this class!

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