By André Bastos Gurgel, OAB
This is the second of a series of interviews with celebrities from classical times. This idea first appeared in the novel “Gog” by the Italian writer Giovanni Papini. In that work, the character Gog interviews people like Freud and Picasso. Today I will be interviewing Cleopatra, who was so kind enough to receive me for an interview at Caesar’s home.
Q. Good afternoon, Cleopatra. Thank you very much for receiving us. We realize your schedule is very busy, so I’ll try to keep this short. First, could you tell me how you’re enjoying your stay here in Rome?
A. I’m very fond of Rome and the Roman people. The city is so beautiful that I bet people in the future will call it the eternal city! I love the Roman people, who have given me such a warm welcome. They’re so friendly that I hardly feel like a foreigner here. My single criticism if the Romans is that they should definitely change their minds about the concept of having an emperor.
Q. Well, my queen, this is a very controversial matter. Do you think Caesar would agree with you?
A. Well, I’m afraid Caesar’s mind is not easy to understand. Although I feel like he would make a great emperor, and his close friend Mark Antony agrees with me, I get the feeling he harbours deep republican feelings. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I think having a republic is not a bad idea at all, but an empire would be much better. I’ve talked to Caesar about it, but he never gives me a straight answer.
Q. We all know that you are a language scholar. Your ancestors were Greek rulers who were known for their superlative education. Are you having any trouble with the Latin language?
A. Latin is a beautiful language. And once an Egyptian-Roman alliance gives Rome world hegemony, Latin will become a universal lingua franca. I love Latin, but I sometimes have trouble with a few aspects of its grammar, like the sequence of tenses and uses of the ablative case, as there is no ablative in Greek, my native language. On the other hand, Caesar is a patient teacher and is always willing to help me learn.
Q. Who is your favorite Roman writer?
A. I must say I’m very fond of the love poems of Catullus. I even have some idea of who his muse, the mysterious Lesbia, may be. Actually, I think she should drop her husband and marry Catullus. If I had to pick a favorite poem by Catullus, I would choose “vivamus atque amemus, mea lesbia”, which Caesar quoted in a love letter he wrote me. Ever since that day, I’ve been an admirer of his poetry. I’m very fond of Horace as well, and I often use his famous phrase “carpe diem” as inspiration.
Q. We heard you are fond of pets. What does Caesar think about your love of animals?
A. Both Caesar and I are very fond of exotic animals. I have a collection of snakes and I often pet Caesar’s giraffe. When we met and he told me he had brought a giraffe to Rome, I realized we had something in common.
Q. We hope you won’t mind this question, but in the future a Roman writer named Suetonius will write that Caesar was the man of every woman, and the woman of every man. What do you have to say about this?
A. What? This is clear slander created by Caesar’s political enemies! He is a very loyal man and would never cheat on me. Accusing someone of being effeminate has always been a common way of bad-mouthing celebrities here, you know. I’m sure envious people like that do the same thing in your age. What is the family name of the writer who wrote this nonsense? I will tell Caesar, and he will have his entire gens executed!
Q. Sorry, my queen. We are not allowed to give out information that might change the past. But moving on….Would you say Caesar is the one man of your life and that you will never love another man?
A. Never! I guess I’m a romantic. Perhaps this is old-fashioned, but I believe in true love. I’m very fond of that famous Latin quote by Ovid “amor omnia vincit”. I hope people from the future will remember this–that I am a woman devoted to her one true love and can’t live without him!
Q. What message would you like to leave for the people of the future?
A. That there is no greater joy than learning a new language, and I hope people from the future will love and cherish the language of their ancestors. I also hope that more people will study Egyptian hieroglyphs. I must say I was delighted to learn that you at Carmenta teach students from the future to read in my people’s beautiful language.
At the end of the interview (off the record) Cleopatra asked me, as a traveler from the future, for some informatrion on her future. I told her to be careful with snakes!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
André Bastos Gurgel, OAB (Order of Attorneys of Brazil), Academic Advisor for the Carmenta Online Latin School, is a life-long student of both modern and ancient languages. Mr. Gurgel is fluent in English, Portuguese, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Latin (the last of which he learned with Carmenta) and has a working knowledge of Danish, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. Mr. Gurgel is currently studying Old English through Carmenta as well.
Click here to read Mr. Gurgel’s full profile.