LONDON, England (CNN) -- Antony and Cleopatra -- one of history's
most romantic couples -- were not the great beauties that
Hollywood would have us believe, according to British academics.
A study of a 2,000-year-old silver coin found the Egyptian
queen, famously portrayed by a sultry Elizabeth Taylor, had
a shallow forehead, pointed chin, thin lips and sharp nose.
On the other side, her Roman lover, played in the 1963 movie
by Richard Burton, Taylor's husband at the time, had bulging
eyes, a hook nose and a thick neck.
History has depicted Cleopatra as a great beauty, befitting
a woman who as Queen of Egypt seduced Julius Caesar, and then
his rival Mark Antony.
But the coin, which goes on show on Wednesday at Newcastle
University for Valentine's Day, after years lying in a bank,
is much less flattering about both famous faces.
The 32BC artifact was in a collection belonging to the Society
of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, which is being researched
in preparation for the opening of the new Great North Museum.
Clare Pickersgill, the university's assistant director of
archaeological museums, said: "The popular image we have
of Cleopatra is that of a beautiful queen who was adored by
Roman politicians and generals.
"The relationship between Mark Antony and Cleopatra
has long been romanticized by writers, artists and film-makers.
"Shakespeare wrote his tragedy Antony and Cleopatra
in 1608, while the Orientalist artists of the 19th century
and the modern Hollywood depictions, such as that of Elizabeth
Taylor and Richard Burton in the 1963 film, have added to
the idea that Cleopatra was a great beauty.
"Recent research would seem to disagree with this portrayal,
The university's director of archaeological museums, Lindsay
Allason-Jones, said: "The image on the coin is far from
being that of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
"Roman writers tell us that Cleopatra was intelligent
and charismatic, and that she had a seductive voice but, tellingly,
they do not mention her beauty.
"The image of Cleopatra as a beautiful seductress is
a more recent image."
The silver denarius coin would have been issued by the mint
of Mark Antony.
On one side is the head of Mark Antony, bearing the caption
"Antoni Armenia devicta" meaning "For Antony,
Armenia having been vanquished."
Cleopatra appears on the reverse of the coin with the inscription
"Cleopatra Reginae regum filiorumque regum," meaning
"For Cleopatra, queen of kings and of the children of
kings," or possibly "Queen of kings and of her children
who are kings."
Experts say the coin, on display in Newcastle University's
Shefton Museum, is not particularly rare but is very collectable.
The collection has been owned by the Society of Antiquaries
of Newcastle upon Tyne since the 1920s.