Most of us in the West think of her as a femme fatale, lover of both Caesar and Antony, a beauty like Elizabeth Taylor, and a pawn used by powerful men. Our Egyptian guide had another view of this Queen. He said she was dumpy and overweight, like most family members in the Ptolemaic line, with a hooked nose and protuberant eyes. How on earth did she get the reputation for being such an irresistible temptress? The other misconception he dispelled for us was the one which describes her as a foolish woman, captive of her heart instead of her head, and tool of men. Actually, according to most recent research, she was intelligent, wily, politically skillful, and not anyone's catspaw. We were fortunate enough to visit four major sites connected with this period of Egyptian history: Kom Ombo (a town along the Nile), Edfu (another town along the Nile, Esna Temples and the Philae Temple at Aswan. These four sites testify to the return of a building culture in the ruling family of Egypt. The Ptolemies were also bent on leaving marks of their kingship and their devotion to the traditions and gods of Egypt. They chose the methods used by pharaohs in the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms: they built big temple complexes. We would learn during our visits that later Roman rulers and even Christians and Muslims would leave their marks on some of these Ptolemaic structures.
The first such complex we visited was Philae Temple, on an island in the Nile. It had been saved from inundation by Lake Nasser at around the same time that Abu Simbel and many other riverside monuments had to be moved to avoid flooding. However, it had been partially flooded after the construction of the first Aswan Dam by the British in 1906. When it was realized that the High Aswan Dam would completely cover the island,
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