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Cleopatra and Milk Baths
#1
According to my fiance and the internet, Cleopatra (the VII) often bathed in milk as a means to soften her skin/exfoliate/etc. I've searched high and low for a reference to this assertion but could find nothing -- not surprisingly. But I've missed things in the past and have been wrong many times before.

Does anyone know of any reference to Cleopatra bathing in milk from any ancient source? Aside from Pliny talking about the virtues of milk, etc; I'm looking for a direct connection. Thank you very much in advance!
Scott B.
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#2
(03-31-2017, 07:01 PM)rocktupac Wrote: Does anyone know of any reference to Cleopatra bathing in milk from any ancient source?

Not Cleopatra, no - Nero's wife Poppaea Sabina was the one, it seems:

Quote:The extremes of luxury indulged in by this Sabina I will indicate in the briefest terms. She caused gilded shoes to be put on the mules that drew her and caused five hundred asses that had recently foaled to be milked daily that she might bathe in their milk. For she bestowed the greatest pains on the beauty and brilliancy of her person, and this is why, when she noticed in a mirror one day that her appearance was not comely, she prayed that she might die before she passed her prime.

Cassius Dio, 62.28


The 1932 film Sign of the Cross has a famous scene of Poppaea bathing in milk (pretty risque at the time) - it seems possible that the idea transferred in popular imagination to other Roman ladies, and then on to Cleopatra...
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#3
Thank you, Nathan! I appreciate the response. There's a crazy amount of Google hits when you do a simple search of the subject (all without citations, of course). I'm sure the myth started as a way to exemplify her extravagance and affinity for all things luxurious. All the search results are here: Google results. It's quite something to see false information like this perpetuated.

Thanks again!
Scott B.
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#4
I think that the source of the confusion is that Claudette Colbert played Poppaea in DeMille's Sign of the Cross" (1932) with the famous milk bath scene, then in 1934 she played Cleopatra in DeMille's "Cleopatra." With two ancient costume roles so close together, in similar makeup and costume, the two were easily confused.
Pecunia non olet
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