Cleopatra : A Life

3.62 (77,136 ratings by Goodreads)
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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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Product details

  • Hardback | 384 pages
  • 144.78 x 236.22 x 40.64mm | 657.71g
  • New York, NY, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0316001929
  • 9780316001922
  • 113,429

Review quote

CLEOPATRA has been featured in the following "Best of 2010" lists: "Seattle Times's" Best Biographies of 2010 "The New York Times" Book Review Top 10 Books of the Year "New York Times "Notable Books of 2010 Michiko Kakutani's Top Ten Books of 2010 "Time "Magazine Top Nonfiction "The New Yorker's" 2010 favorites "Los Angeles Times" Top Nonfiction NPR's Alan Cheuse Best Books of Winter Bloomberg Top Nonfiction "The Week" Magazine Top Books of 2010 "Obit Mag's" Best Biographies of 2010 Apple's Best Books of 2010 "Washington Post's" Best Books of 2010 "Kirkus's" Best Biographies of 2010 "Boston Globe's" Best Books of 2010 "Washington Examiner's" Best Books of 2010 "The Daily Beast's" Top 5 Nonfiction Books of 2010 "San Francisco Chronicle's" Top 10 Books of 2010 "Entertainment Weekly's" Best Nonfiction of 2010 "The Philadelphia Inquirer's" Best Books of 2010
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About Stacy Schiff

Stacy Schiff is the author "of Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), " winner of the Pulitzer Prize; "Saint-Exupery," a Pulitzer Prize finalist; and "A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America," winner of the George Washington Book Prize and the Ambassador Book Award. Schiff has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. The recipient of an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she lives in New York City."
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Rating details

77,136 ratings
3.62 out of 5 stars
5 27% (20,646)
4 31% (24,141)
3 26% (19,797)
2 10% (7,523)
1 7% (5,029)

Our customer reviews

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).show more
by Lydia Presley
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