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Avanti Centrae Asks About Cleopatra’s Secrets

Avanti Centrae is the author of the VanOps thrillers. You can find out more about her at her website,, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

Did you know archeologists still haven’t found Cleopatra’s tomb? While researching my latest thriller, Cleopatra’s Vendetta, I learned much about the ancient queen.

She had sparkling eyes, a commanding presence, and a rich voice. Her beauty has been debated, but it’s clear she had a host of responsibilities as empress of Egypt, including commanding the army and navy, dispensing justice, setting prices, distributing grain, collecting taxes, dealing with foreign powers, building temples, and acting as high priestess. Everyone answered to her. She was the first to introduce coins of different denominations to her populace and was known to be a trickster with a cunning wit.

Besides being a prankster, Cleopatra had a flair for the dramatic. She put off a summons from Mark Antony for months, and when she finally agreed to meet him, she wowed him at a party with rose petals knee-deep.

She was also smart. According to Plutarch, she spoke nine languages, including Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Troglodyte (Ethiopian), and she was the first Ptolemaic ruler to learn the Egyptian language.

Her city, Alexandria, was ahead of its time. Thirty years before Christ was born, the city had automatic doors and hydraulic lifts, hidden treadmills, and even some coin-operated machines, which blew me away. Magnets, wires, pulleys, and other mechanical innovations delighted the citizens.

Egyptian women of Cleopatra’s time were highly educated and legally autonomous. They married and divorced at will. Female workers were often represented in art, or in tombs, selling wares, making offerings, running barges, loaning money, and trapping birds. They owned property and businesses, such as wineries, perfumeries, mills, camels, and slaves. A third of Egyptian property in Cleopatra’s time may have belonged to women.

Their female Roman counterparts, however, were supposed to be inconspicuous. They had no legal rights, and carried their father’s name while they walked about in public with their eyes cast down. Historians believe Romans were allowed to kill female children, except the firstborn. She must have experienced culture shock when visiting Rome with her lovers.

Historians continue to disagree over whether Cleopatra’s death involved an asp. The cobra, a symbol of power in Egypt that adorned the headdresses of her ancestors for thousands of years, can still be seen on figures of Isis. When Octavian found Cleopatra dead, he called upon a group of psylli who were said to be able to remove venom from a snakebite. Historians, however, believe she experimented with deadly poison for some time before her suicide. How she smuggled the snake and/or poison into the mausoleum where she died remains a mystery.

The novel involves the modern-day hunt for a gold-bound journal that holds the location of an ancient cult still active today. In my fictional world, Octavian, also known as Augustus Caesar, was head of the cult. In reality, he was indeed her nemesis. It was fun to research the history of propaganda as well, and surprising to learn that Octavian used provocative and misleading leaflets in his efforts to defeat Cleopatra and Mark Antony. After the dual suicide, Octavian ruled for forty-four years, twice as long as Cleopatra. He died at the age of seventy-six, having had plenty of time to destroy her statues and rewrite history. If you like action-packed thrills laced with history and intrigue, the novel will be out November 15th.

An earthquake in the fifth century caused Cleopatra’s palace to slip into the Mediterranean Sea. Some of the most famous landmarks of her time have vanished, including the lighthouse, the Library of Alexandria, and the museum. Even the Nile has changed course in the two millennia since she ruled. Today, archeologists have numerous excavations at Taposiris Magna, west of Cairo, and are still hoping to find her tomb there.

What do you think archeologists will discover when they eventually locate her final resting place?

Avanti Centrae

You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Avanti — I learned more about Cleopatra in this post than I did in all of my academic history classes. Thank you!

  2. Tim Chapman
    Tim Chapman

    Fascinating info, Avanti. And it whetted my appetite for “Cleopatra’s Vendetta.” Another interesting tidbit I saw recently: it’s about the same length of time between the building of the great pyramid at Giza to Cleopatra’s reign, as it is from her reign to the present. So the pharaonic period might have been as much a mystery to Cleo as she is to us. (Except we don’t know what all was destroyed in the library at Alexandria. Talk about a book banning!)

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      Avanti Centrae

      That is an interesting tidbit, Tim. And yes – wish archeologists would find that library!

  3. Margaret Mizushima
    Margaret Mizushima

    Avanti, thank you for this interesting and informative post with all its fascinating details about this mysterious woman. I’m very excited for your new book to come out and can’t wait to read it!

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      Avanti Centrae

      You bet, Margaret. Cleopatra was quite the ruler!

    1. Avatar
      Avanti Centrae

      Oh yeah, Octavian’s behavior was the very definition of skanky! Thanks for sharing that article, too!

    1. Avatar
      Avanit Centrae

      History is full of fiction fodder!

  4. Avatar

    Intriguing details about Cleopatra’s life and reign, and what a great photo of you! Bring on the vendetta!

    1. Avatar
      Avanit Centrae

      Thanks, Saralyn – that was a fun photo shoot!

  5. joyribar

    Thanks for the great history lesson on Cleopatra – many things new to me! Her intrigue is timeless. Best of luck with your new plot.

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      Avanit Centrae

      Thanks, Joy! Appreciate the best wishes.

  6. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    I have been intrigued by Cleopatra VII since I was a little girl when my mother took me to see the movie starring Elizabeth Taylor. Of course, the real queen probably looked nothing like the movie star! Thank you for sharing such fascinating history. I’m looking forward to Cleopatra’s Vendetta and the results of the excavations at Taposiris Magna.

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      Avanti Centrae

      Nice to know you share the fascination. I’m waiting every day too to see if they find her tomb!

  7. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    What an interesting post! Can’t wait to read your novel. Congratulations!!!

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      Avanit Centrae

      Thanks Christine!

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    Laurie Stevens

    Such a fascinating subject. Thanks for sharing your research

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      Avanit Centrae

      You bet, Laurie!

  9. Tim Chapman
    Tim Chapman

    Anne Louise Bannon: an oenophile who likes Asterix. You’re awesome!

  10. Tracey Phillips
    Tracey Phillips

    Intriguing, Avanti! I think I asked you once before, do you watch Ancient Aliens? If not, you really must catch up! You’re right, we’re all waiting to see if they find her tomb. Now I really can’t wait to read Cleopatra’s Vendetta. Thanks for the cool post!

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