Cleopatra and her Pearls: exploring Trade in the ancient Mediterranean

Cleopatra is always regarded as one of the most beautiful women of antiquity. Pearls, then, must have been of grave importance as an addition to her beauty and puts Egypt into context. Where did Egypt get these pearls from? What about the most famous pearl ear ring we know of today?

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Cleopatra and Caesar; photo by Goupil
Jean-Léon Gérôme, Cleopatra and Caesar; photo by Goupil


Friday, 26 April 2013
7 p.m.


Alliance for Arts & Culture
#100 – 938 Howe St
Vancouver, BC (Map)


  • FREE – SSEA Members
  • $5 – General Public

Tickest available at the door or on

About the Speaker

Dr. Joel Walker
Dr. Joel Walker

Joel Walker is an associate professor for the History Department at the University of Washington and also an ARCE NW board member. He earned his PhD from Princeton University in 1998. He is currently working on Jewel of the Palace and the Soul: Pearls in the Arts, Imagination, and Economy of Late Antiquity, a monograph integrating literary, art historical, and archaeological evidence to examine the role of pearls as objects of adornment and spirituality in the Roman Empire, early Christianity, Byzantium, the Sasanian Empire, and early Islam. (Photo Courtesy: Department of History, University of Washington)


Pearls, the only gem created by a living animal, were widely prized in the Roman world as markers of status and beauty. Stories about their mysterious origin in India and display at the courts of Alexandria and Rome enhanced their appeal through the Mediterranean world. Cleopatra, in particular, was reputed to be a great lover of pearls.In his talk, Professor Walker will explore Egypt’s role in the ancient pearl trade and the story of the world’s most famous pair of pearl earrings. (Courtesy: Joel Walker)

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