Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety; other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies; for vilest things
Become themselves in her, that the holy priests
Bless her when she is riggish.
— Antony and Cleopatra Act II. Scene II.
On this day, in 30 BC, Cleopatra committed suicide: First, she bathed in milk. Then she bathed in wine. Then she enticed an asp to bite her wrist.
“Bless her when she is riggish,” wrote Shakespeare — and by “riggish” he meant lustful and licentious, both of which things Cleopatra most certainly had a reputation for.
But did you know that she was also a world-class drinker — truly one of the original independent thinkers and drinkers?
A steady intake of high-end imported wine defined Cleopatra’s daily routine. And earthenware decanter greeted her each morning. Another accompanied her to dreamland at night. She drank wine with her food, on her throne, in her private time, between the sheets. When she wanted to relax, she bathed in a vat of wine. Under her rule, vintners wielded more power than many priests — and why not? The vintners’ efforts helped douse her hot temper, while priests were just annoying.
Cleopatra was also very adept at using wine as a weapon. As the states woman and politician, few rules few rulers of either sex have been as effective or as ruthless.
Cleopatra, a true original, RIP.