Cleopatra’s last meal was simple and healthy: figs. The Egyptian queen famous for her beauty met military disaster at Actium. After the Roman leader Octavian, later the Emperor Augustus, captured her, he ordered her placed under guard to prevent her suicide. But according to Plutarch, a fellow Egyptian sneaked a venomous snake to her, hidden in a basket of figs:
Having made these lamentations, crowning the tomb with garlands and kissing it, she gave orders to prepare her a bath, and, coming out of the bath, she lay down and made a sumptuous meal. And a country fellow brought her a little basket, which the guards intercepting and asking what it was the fellow put the leaves which lay uppermost aside, and showed them it was full of figs; and on their admiring the largeness and beauty of the figs, he laughed, and invited them to take some, which they refused, and, suspecting nothing, bade him carry them in. After her repast, Cleopatra sent to Caesar a letter which she had written and sealed; and, putting everybody out of the monument but her two women, she shut the doors. Caesar, opening her letter, and finding pathetic prayers and entreaties that she might be buried in the same tomb with Antony, soon guessed what was doing. At first he was going himself in all haste, but, changing his mind, he sent others to see. The thing had been quickly done. The messengers came at full speed, and found the guards apprehensive of nothing; but on opening the doors they saw her stone-dead, lying upon a bed of gold, set out in all her royal ornaments. Iras, one of her women, lay dying at her feet, and Charmion, just ready to fall, scarce able to hold up her head, was adjusting her mistress's diadem. And when one that came in said angrily, "Was this well done of your lady, Charmion?" "Extremely well," she answered, "and as became the descendant of so many kings;" and as she said this, she fell down dead by the bedside.
Some relate that an asp was brought in amongst those figs and covered with the leaves, and that Cleopatra had arranged that it might settle on her before she knew, but, when she took away some of the figs and saw it, she said, "So here it is," and held out her bare arm to be bitten.
Other famous people ate more elaborate and heavy meals right before dying. Edward Smith, captain of the Titanic, ate oysters a la Russe, among many other sumptuous dishes as part of a 12-course meal. Abraham Lincoln had fowl with chestnut stuffing. You can see many others charted by Sarah Lazarovic at the National Post here.
-via Nag on the Lake