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Cleopatra: A Life

Cleopatra: A Life

Book rating: 04 Hardback

By (author) Stacy Schiff

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  • Publisher: Little Brown and Company
  • Format: Hardback | 384 pages
  • Dimensions: 145mm x 236mm x 41mm | 658g
  • Publication date: 1 November 2010
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0316001929
  • ISBN 13: 9780316001922
  • Edition: 1
  • Sales rank: 74,196

Product description

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt. Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator. Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; incest and assassination were family specialties. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, among the most prominent Romans of the day. Both were married to other women. Cleopatra had a child with Caesar and--after his murder--three more with his protege. Already she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their ends. Cleopatra has lodged herself in our imaginations ever since. Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Shakespeare and Shaw put words in her mouth. Michelangelo, Tiepolo, and Elizabeth Taylor put a face to her name. Along the way, Cleopatra's supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff here boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order. Rich in detail, epic in scope, Schiff 's is a luminous, deeply original reconstruction of a dazzling life.

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Customer reviews

By Lydia Presley 19 Feb 2011 4

I think if I were given the opportunity to go to a place anytime in history, to view it through modern eyes, to study it for a set period of time, ancient Egypt would be a place high on my list.

I've always been fascinated by strong women in history and Cleopatra ranks high. She was a woman who showed incredible strength in the face of a brutal world of politics, intrigue and murder. She survived despite a bloody family history of murders committed by mothers, fathers, uncles and siblings. She loved her country, so much she was willing to do what was necessary to keep it and the luxuries it afforded her. She was flamboyantly generous, but also tough in the face of adversary (as her interactions with Herod shows).

It's been a while since I read a non-fiction book as dense as Cleopatra is. I had hoped, in a way, to open this book and be immersed in a world told in a storytelling manner, but had to quickly adapt - because that's not what this is. This book is a heavily sourced book filled with information - not just about Cleopatra but events surrounding her, information on the lifestyle of the time period so that the gaps around Cleopatra could be filled in. This was a look at Cleopatra through the eyes of a woman who believed her to be more than "the wickedest woman" in the world. Stacy Schiff paints Cleopatra as a sensual, intelligent woman who knew numerous languages and was shrewd enough to know when to pursue a man and when to back off.

I took my time reading this one. The information overload was too much to hurry through it all and I have to say, now that it's said and done, I really appreciated the time given and the depth of the book. It's a worthwhile read and one I intend to read again (although in smaller doses over a longer period of time, I think).