"She took a small boat, and one only of her confidants, Apollodorus, the Sicilian, along with her, and in the dusk of the evening landed near the palace. She was at a loss how to get in undiscovered, till she thought of putting herself into the coverlet of a bed and lying at length, whilst Apollodorus tied up the bedding and carried it on his back through the gates to Caesar's apartment. Caesar was first captivated by this proof of Cleopatra's bold wit, and was afterwards so overcome by the charm of her society that he made a reconciliation between her and her brother, on the condition that she should rule as his colleague in the kingdom." (The Life of Julius Caesar, Plutarch; translation by Dryden)
Whether Cleopatra rolls out of an ornate carpet as authorative and in control or as the more stereotypical image of a sensual temptress, the carpet scene functions as an introduction between Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. More importantly, the scene also provides valuable insight into Cleopatra's character. Plutarch's account of Cleopatra's first encounter with Julius Caesar inspired countless artists to recreate their own interpretations. First prose and narratives, the workings of creative imaginations, emerged. Soon, the stirring mental images are captured on canvas and eventually breathed into cinematography. With the advent of movie making multiple versions of Cleopatra and her legend were produced, each distinct in their own right. Each version retells the carpet scene differently, and offers a different Cleopatra. The first impression of Cleopatra is imprinted by the carpet scene and sheds light on who Cleopatra is in the respective narrative or film. If she tumbles out of the carpet in a revealing dress and jumps on Caesar, she is dramatically different from the Cleopatra in a flowy dress with a full skirt who jumps at the problem at hand concerning Egypt and the threat of civil war due to sibling rivalry for the throne. The Cleopatra from Fielding's The Lives of Cleopatra and Octavia and George's The Memoirs of Cleopatra, and a collection of movies including, DeMille's "Cleopatra", Mankiewicz's "Cleopatra", and ABC's "Cleopatra", vary in the extent by which she utilizes her sexuality and intelligence to manipulate Julius Caesar.
Sarah Fielding's piece, The Lives of Cleopatra and Octavia, published in 1757, describes the vilest and frighteningly manipulative Cleopatra who blatantly utilizes her sexuality to wreak havoc on men to achieve political gains. Fielding's Cleopatra adheres perfectly to the Cleopatra depicted by Roman propaganda. Her Cleopatra is as evil, conniving, and crafty as the Romans accused Cleopatra of.
Bound in a feather bed, Apollodorus carries her on his back into the palace. Fielding's piece lacks a vivid description of the unrolling of the carpet and simply states, "Caesar, pleased with the ingenuity of the contrivance, and charmed with the air in which I...