The calendar we use today is called the Gregorian calender, which was adopted by Pope Gregory in the 1500s. The Gregorian calendar was based on what was thought to be the Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C. However, while the credit goes to Caesar, few historians have noticed that his calendar was only adopted after spending time in Egypt with Cleopatra.
Cleopatra VII was not merely a femme fatale. She was an intelligent woman, easily one of the Marie Curies or Sally Rides of her day. In addition to being an expert on cosmetics and other traditional women's knowledge, as well as a polyglot, Cleopatra was incredibly astute in the sciences as well as mathematics. Thus, Cleopatra grew up knowing much about astronomy, and the more accurate solar calendar that had long been used by her adopted people, the Egyptians.
Cleopatra's favorite astronomer was a Greek known as Sosigenes who had created a much more reliable solar calendar than the one used by rhe Romans. The lunar based Roman calendar was often inaccurate and often used for political purposes. Indeed, two of our summer months-- July and August-- were named for Roman emperors-- Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar respectively. In light of my fictional plot of Cleopatra's victory, I have had the name of August be changed to Romanus, for Marc Antony's title as emperor in the sequel.
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My fascination with Cleopatra beganin 2001, parallel to my Evita journey, although I did not know it at the time. Like Evita Peron, I found out about Cleopatra in the children's book 'Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and what the neighbors thought), and as with Evita, felt compelled to learn more about this woman. Who was the queen of the Nile, really? How did she feel? What was her role in history? Why did the Romans hate her and why did we, as the West, accept their version of such an accomplished queen at face value? As with Evita, I discovered that the real Cleopatra was much more interesting than the Liz Taylor had portrayed her or Octavian had written about her, much as Evita was far more than Madonna or what Lloyd Webber stated she was.
I also was shocked-- albeit pleasantly so-- to discover Cleopatra was not merely a B.C. version of Paris Hilton. She had her sex appeal, and her reputation as a lover was well-founded, but she was also incredibly intelligent, a woman who could likely have comfortably talked chemistry with Marie Curie or politics with any modern head of state. Reality is more elusive than film portrayals, but often far more fascinating.
In high school I did my senior report on Cleopatra to discover her role in history. I discovered that the reputation she acquired was mostly unjust and began to learn the meaning of the phrase 'the winners write the history books.'