History

Did Cleopatra’s Nose Change History?


Did the size of Cleopatra’s nose change history?

Could something as seemingly insignificant as the size of a person’s nose change the course of human events? According to Blaise Pascal, the answer is yes.

Pascal (1623-1662) was one of the most articulate thinkers of the past 500 years. His writings cover extensive concepts of Christianity, mathematics, physics, and philosophy. Because his mind contemplated so many different subjects, his published works occasionally stray from the primary theme under consideration and make what appears to be a random conclusion that just begs for greater explanation.

Published after his death, Pensees is a work of Christian apologetics. It also includes a few of Pascal’s observations about the human condition. One of those observations was, “Cleopatra’s nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.”

Ancient coin bearing the image of Cleopatra

Cleopatra IV (69 BC – 30 BC), as depicted on the coins of the time, had a fairly prominent proboscis. This was considered a physical advantage for a woman of the day, demonstrating dominance and strength of character. Pascal apparently believed that if the Egyptian queen had sported a slightly smaller beak, Julius Caesar and Marc Antony would not have fallen under her spell. This would have spared history the great civil wars that erupted as a consequence.

Was he correct? Only history nose knows.


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