Tryphé

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Antony and Cleopatra, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Noted by Plutarch, and dramatized by Shakespeare, Cleopatra's encounter with Marc Antony at the Nile epitomized tryphe: it upstaged Antony's procession in a greater display of wealth and finery, it provided an exciting spectacle for subjects gathering for the event, and it showcased the kind of gauzy femininity that led many Romans to consider tryphe a sign of effeminacy and weakness when, if anything, it camouflaged unbridled power. Alma-tadema-antony-cleopatra.jpeg
Antony and Cleopatra, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Noted by Plutarch, and dramatized by Shakespeare, Cleopatra's encounter with Marc Antony at the Nile epitomized tryphé: it upstaged Antony's procession in a greater display of wealth and finery, it provided an exciting spectacle for subjects gathering for the event, and it showcased the kind of gauzy femininity that led many Romans to consider tryphé a sign of effeminacy and weakness when, if anything, it camouflaged unbridled power.

Tryphé (Greek: τρυφἠ ) – variously glossed as "softness", [2] "voluptuousness", [3] "magnificence" [4] and "extravagance", [5] none fully adequate – is a concept that drew attention (and severe criticism) in Roman antiquity when it became a significant factor in the reign of the Ptolemaic dynasty. [1] Classical authors such as Aeschines and Plutarch condemned the tryphé of Romans such as Crassus and Lucullus, which included lavish dinner parties and ostentatious buildings. [5] But there was more to Ptolemaic tryphé than dissipative excess, which after all can be pursued in residential or geographical seclusion, and for purely private purposes. It was a component of a calculated political strategy, in that it deployed not just conspicuous consumption but also conspicuous magnificence, beneficence and feminine delicacy, as a self-reinforcing cluster of signal propaganda concepts in the Ptolemaic dynasty. [1] [4]

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The race of Cleopatra VII, the last active Hellenistic ruler of the Macedonian-led Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, has caused some debate in scholarly and non-scholarly circles. For example, the article "Was Cleopatra Black?" was published in Ebony magazine in 2002. Mary Lefkowitz, Professor Emerita of Classical Studies at Wellesley College, traces the origins of the Black Cleopatra claim to the 1946 book by J.A. Rogers called "World's Great Men of Color." Lefkowitz refutes Rogers' hypothesis, on various scholarly grounds. The black Cleopatra claim was further revived in an essay by afrocentrist John Henrik Clarke, chair of African history at Hunter College, entitled "African Warrior Queens." Lefkowitz notes the essay includes the claim that Cleopatra described herself as black in the New Testament's Book of Acts – when in fact Cleopatra had died more than sixty years before the death of Jesus Christ.

References

  1. 1 2 3 Ager, Sheila (2006). "The Power of Excess: Royal Incest and the Ptolemaic Dynasty". Anthropologica. 48 (2): 165–186. doi:10.2307/25605309. JSTOR   25605309.
  2. Robins, Robert Henry (1993). The Byzantine grammarians: their place in history. Walter de Gruyter. p.  63. ISBN   978-3-11-013574-9.
  3. Becker, Reinhard P. (1982). German humanism and reformation. Continuum International Publishing Group. p.  58. ISBN   978-0-8264-0251-6.
  4. 1 2 Chauveau, Michel (2000). Egypt in the age of Cleopatra: history and society under the Ptolemies. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. p.  44. ISBN   978-0-8014-8576-3.
  5. 1 2 Knust, Jennifer Wright (2006), "Extravagant excess", Abandoned to lust: sexual slander and ancient Christianity, Columbia University Press, p.  32, ISBN   978-0-231-13662-4