Can you imagine spending $15,000,000 on a single meal? Today a cheap dinner can cost only a couple bucks at a fast food joint. But Cleopatra, a pharaoh of ancient Egypt, was once involved in a bet against her lover, Marc Antony, in which she had to spend 10 million sesterces on a single meal, which today is equaled by about 15,000,000 U.S. dollars. Cleopatra accomplished this gigantic feat by an ingenious thought; take a small but valuable object, say, a pearl earring, and consume that, in order to fulfill the enormous budget. As ancient sources so claim, Cleopatra plopped the pearl into a glass of vinegar, most likely white vinegar, and then consumed the drink, and in this way, she beat Marc Antony on their bet. Today, that claim to such an outrageous action is supported by the experiments of Prudence Jones, a classicist of the Montclair State University. Jones placed a large pearl in a glass of white vinegar, similar to what was popular around this period of Greco-Roman culture, and discovered that the pearl would dissolve in about 24 to 36 hours. The process could be sped up by boiling the vinegar or crushing the pearl first. Through Jones’ experimentation and obvious evidence, it appears apparent that Cleopatra really did swallow a pearl and spent 10 million sesterces on one meal. Although this event is considered a falsity or legend by some historians, new support, old records, and the baking by several educated people grants support to the accuracy of such a claim. In the words of a Stanford University research scholar, Adrienne Mayor, ""I think this research has convincingly demonstrated the technique that Cleopatra could have used to dissolve a pearl. We already know that this curious, intelligent queen carried out toxicological experiments." True or false? Would you be able to spend 10 million sesterces in a single sitting without so ingenious a plan? Even with the backing and resources of so influential a pharaoh? It takes a special person to achieve that brilliance.
By Samantha H. Period 3