What do the texts say about his physical appearance? Nothing, Cleopatra's beauty is a modern invention. “She was pretty, but no more than other young women, and it was her whole person that appealed. According to the writings of Plutarch and Dion Cassius, what made his charm was his voice and his conversation", explains, to our colleagues from Geo, Maurice Sartre, professor emeritus at the University of Tours, specialist in Antiquity and the Eastern Roman world, author at Tallandier of Cleopatra, a dream of power. What about the skin color of this sovereign who reigned over the country of the Pharaohs between 51 and 30 BC? J-C. ?
If for historians, Cleopatra VII Philopator, is part of the Macedonian dynasty of the Lagides, founded by Ptolemy I, former general of Alexander the Great, for Netflix, she was African. Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith's wife inaugurates her series on powerful queens with "the one who was never an Egyptian by blood but just an Egyptian by soil because of her Hellenistic origins" (Maurice Sartre). And therefore represents it by a black actress. The broadcast of the trailer for this documentary scheduled for May 10 on the streaming platform is setting social networks ablaze. Many speak of a militant rewriting of history. A new expression of the cancel culture.
In the trailer, a speaker claims that it is possible that Cleopatra is Egyptian. A theory that is not new. In 2009, a BBC documentary, titled Cleopatra: Portrait of a Murderer, claimed that she had African blood. According to the makers of this film, analyzes have proven that human remains found in a tomb in Turkey were those of a sister of Cleopatra, Princess Arsinoe IV. A study of her skull showed that Arsinoe possessed African characteristics, which would tend to demonstrate that Cleopatra also had African origins. "The fact that Arsinoe had an African mother is truly sensational and sheds new light on Cleopatra's family," said Hilke Thuer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, who led the team of researchers.
Among the community of historians and Egyptologists, however, this theory is not unanimous. The origin of the ancient Egyptians has been at the heart of scientific and political debate for decades.
The last Paris exhibition on Tutankhamun had provoked protests from Afrocentrist activists. They reproached him to the commissioners for not representing the pharaoh with his true skin color. And this even if, again, the majority of Egyptologists do not believe that Tutankhamun was black.
In the second season of her documentary series, Jada Pinkett Smith also intends to reveal the power of the queen and warrior Njinga of Ndongo and Matamba, who fought in the 17th century against the slave trade by Portugal. With the ambition, she says, to restore "the historical realities of the experiences of these women"...