REPRESENTING   - JOHN DECUIR, JR.

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UNDER THE ARCH WITH CLEOPATRA

The re-creation of the Roman Forum and Cleopatra’s ceremonial entrance into Rome (for the film CLEOPATRA) had more to do with my fathers creative imagination, and the producers almost limitless budget, than with any historical account of events in 46 BC. According to the film’s publicist, our replica of the Roman Forum was “bigger than the original and (in today’s dollars) cost over $4,000,000.



My job was a simple one; to supervise the fabrication of the arch and the sphinx. The issue of import being that passage of the sphinx through the arch be a “tight fit”, creating the impression of Cleopatra’s power as she entered Rome. 

Unfortunately, day by day things went "just a little wrong". By inches wheels got larger, the arch settled slightly into soft ground, and the size of the sphinx edged up larger than planned. None of these were major errors (only a few inches here and there). All this pointed to the fact that the clearance between the top of the sphinx’s head and the underside of the arch was less than "zero”. 

So with the dancing girls and Nubian warriors in full action, the sphinx approached the arch. I closed my eyes and when I opened them amazingly the sphinx had safely passed under the arch with no untoward incidents. Were the reports and or my calculations wrong?

Later that night at dinner, after several liters of wine, the truth came out. It seemed that my Italian counterparts, after careful measurements confirmed my calculations. They then removed the paving stones under the arch and graded the road bed to a lower depth after which they replaced the paving stones. This, in effect, lowered the roadbed so that the sphinx slipped comfortably under the arch. They did all this late at night (and without my knowledge) to avoid any untoward publicity and to mess, just a little, with my head. 

At first I was a bit miffed that I had been the butt of this "in house" prank. But it was hard to be upset when well meaning Italian friends had made me the "young American hero of the day". A little more wine flowed and I prepared to head back to school and rest up for the following summers challenge, creating Cleopatra’s Barge.

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