Christoph Schäfer, a German historian and professor at the University of Trier, the last ancient Egyptian queen, Cleopatra didn't die from the bite of a poisonous asp, an Egyptian cobra, as we have believed for centuries. Instead, she died from a drug overdose.
Schäfer's book, Cleopatra is the product of his search through historic writings in an attempt to disprove the theory of Cleopatra having died from the bite of an asp. The German channel ZDF is also going to air a program featuring his research on the Egyptian queen.
According to Schäfer, Cassius Dio, a Roman historian, wrote some 200 years after Cleopatra's suicide that she died a quiet and painless death. Schäfer states that the death from the asp's venom would not have been painless. German toxicologist Dietrich Mebs confirms that death by asp venom would have in fact been painful and unpleasant.
Schäfer also cites the ancient texts stating that Cleopatra's two handmaidens died with her. Had she died from an asp bite, that would have been unlikely. According to Schäfer, a snake bite is unpredictable because of the amount of venom a snake may or may not release during the bite. Also, he says that at the time Cleopatra died, in August of 30 B.C., the temperatures in Egypt would have been too high for an asp to stay still long enough to bite.
Schäfer states that ancient Egyptian papyri prove the Egyptians knew about poisons and that one papyrus says Cleopatra actually tested them having observed the deaths of condemned prisoners from a variety of poisons including snake venom.
Both Schäfer and Dietrich Mebs believe she died from a mixture of opium, wolfsbane and hemlock rather than snake venom.
Alain Touwaide, an international authority on ancient medicinal plants at the Smithsonian Institution and the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions in Washington D.C. believes the only way to finally solve the mystery of how Cleopatra died would be for her body to be found and to apply forensic methods of testing to it.
Are Schäfer's findings truly a breakthrough or is he just putting old theories into new packaging?
For more information, please refer to this article: Cleopatra Killed by Drug Cocktail?