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Cleopatra died of drug cocktail not snake bite

Last updated: 30 June, 2010
London, June 30 (IANS)

Legendary Egyptian queen Cleopatra did not die of a snake bite as is believed but died of a drug cocktail instead, a researcher has claimed.

The lethal drug cocktail included opium and hemlock, Christoph Schaefer, a German historian and professor at the University of Trier, has claimed in his latest research.

The "Queen of the Nile" ended her life in 30 B.C. and it has always been held that it was the bite of an asp, now called the Egyptian cobra, which caused her death.

"Queen Cleopatra was famous for her beauty and was unlikely to have subjected herself to a long and disfiguring death," Schaefer was quoted as saying by The Telegraph newspaper here.


The historian journeyed with other experts to Alexandria, Egypt, where they consulted ancient medical texts and snake experts.

"Cleopatra wanted to remain beautiful in her death to maintain her myth," he said.
"She probably took a cocktail of opium, hemlock and aconitum. Back then, this was a well-known mixture that led to a painless death within just a few hours whereas the snake death could have taken days and been agonising."

Cleopatra reigned from 51 B.C. to 30 B.C. and was the last person to rule Egypt as a pharaoh. After she died, Egypt became a Roman province.

She was an ally of Roman emperor Julius Caesar, and established a relationship with Roman General Mark Anthony. They had three children together and there are letters that suggest she married him, although both of them were already married.In 44 B.C., after the assassination of Caesar, she aligned with Antony to oppose Caesar's legal heir, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian.

After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian's forces, Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra followed suit Aug 12, 30 B.C., aged 39.

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