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Cleopatra: Portrait of a Killer (2009)

Cleopatra. The most famous woman of antiquity. We remember her as a beautiful femme fatale who used her sexuality as a weapon to seduce two of the most powerful men in the ancient world. ... See full summary »


Paul Elston


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Credited cast:
Neil Oliver ... Himself - Presenter
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Karima Gouit Karima Gouit ... Princess Arsinoe
Ian McNeice ... Narrator


Cleopatra. The most famous woman of antiquity. We remember her as a beautiful femme fatale who used her sexuality as a weapon to seduce two of the most powerful men in the ancient world. But there was a darker side to her. One that was forgotten for 2000 years-until now. Written by Tom Daly

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Release Date:

23 March 2009 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Cléopâtre, portrait d'une tueuse See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Lion TV See more »
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Interesting Story Dressed Up as 'Fact'
4 November 2014 | by l_rawjalaurenceSee all my reviews

The story of the death of Cleopatra's sister Arsinoe at the hands of her sister, working on cahoots with Mark Antony, is a fascinating one, and is well told in Paul Elston's production, using a combination of historical information and re-enacted sequences with Ian McNeice as the narrator - opulently garbed in a purple toga - and Karima Gouit as Arsinoe.

Yet this documentary - presented by Neil Oliver - is a good example of a recent trend in television history. in which computer evidence is used as a means of proving "beyond doubt" that a thesis is true. In this case, the production tries to show how a skeleton found in the remains of Ephesus in Turkey is definitely that of Arsinoe, and uses the testimony of a battery of experts, including scientists and a bunch of computer academics from the University of Dundee to prove its case. While not trying to cast doubt over their assertions, we must bear in mind that the evidence of the computer is as reliable as more ancient forms of evidence - pictures, drawings, scrolls, artifacts - in proving an historian's case. The fact that this program concludes with a computerized reconstruction of Arsinoe's face, which presenter Neil Oliver triumphantly claims to be "definitive" is only claim that can be readily disputed. We have no way of knowing for certain whether the remains in the tomb are actually those of Arsinoe (why would the Romans create such a space for her when they had been responsible for her death?), which renders all the documentary's claims invalid.

Nonetheless, if we accept that all historical interpretations are in some way factional - combining fact and fiction - then we can appreciate this documentary as a cunningly constructed piece of drama in itself, in which the archaeologists are shown to make discoveries, which are subsequently verified by other experts, leading to the triumphant conclusion. In sixty minutes a centuries- old conundrum has been resolved.

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