In actuality, the Egyptian Asp Snake that was made famous by Cleopatra's suicide may actually be another type of snake.
An asp isn't really just one kind, there are several species of snakes that were found in the Nile Valley.
It's venomous, thought to be of the Cobra family. Some believe that what killed Cleopatra was a viper that was snuggled in to her inside a basket of figs while she was a captive of Octavian. It's hard to tell...
Either way, Shakespeare does a beautiful job of describing her last few hours alive in his tragic play "Antony and Cleopatra". It's definitely worth a read if you've got the time!
Something as mysterious as a snake, with deadly venom and great stealth, intrigues human beings endlessly. The ancient Egyptians were no exception.
The fear and awe they had for such strong creatures made for an ambiguous symbol.
Egyptian snakes were deified, of course, for their power.
Sometimes they were protectors of the Pharaoh, and sometimes they were evil demons to be slain.
As symbols of protection, they are shown woven around the sun-disk that some Gods and Goddesses wore, and they were also a big part of the jewelry of royalty. Crowns, armbands and statues of Egyptian snakes were very common - sometimes even made with solid gold.
The ancient Egyptian doctors were well-acquainted with snakes. They were in the business of dealing with their bites. There are medical papyri that detail the treatment of the bites of different species of snakes found in Egypt.
As with most other treatments in ancient Egypt, it was not all scientific. There were incantations specific to snake bites.
In ancient Egyptian mythology, the God Apep was a snake. He was the god of darkness and evil. He battled Ra and Bastet, and was defeated by either one every night - thus the darkness giving way to the light.
This may have come from watching the ancient Egyptian Mau Catsattacking and killing snakes.
Many modern Egyptians, just like the ancient Egyptians, are extremely superstitious of snakes, as though snakes were not only dangerous on the physical plane, but also on the spiritual plane.
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