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 protégé. 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
They say history is written by the victors—which is why some figures from the past have never gotten a fair shake. In this fascinating biography, historian Stacy Schiff rights that wrong for the spellbinding Cleopatra, delving into not just her famous beauty and ruthlessness, but also her skills and strengths we rarely hear about. A complex and competent diplomat who mastered nine languages, Cleopatra emerges from this fascinating book as both a brilliant leader and a compelling human being. With her clear, elegant prose, Schiff drops us inside the cultured and surprisingly egalitarian world of ancient Alexandria. Go on an amazing and fascinating journey as you get to know the real Egyptian queen.
"Cleopatra stood at one of the most dangerous intersections of history: that of women and power," writes Schiff in this excellent, myth-busting biography. It is that intersection that interests Schiff rather than romance. Cleopatra was no great beauty, we learn/ But the Egyptian queen (69 30 B.C.E.) who was actually a Greek Ptolemy was charismatic, intelligent, shrewd, and ruthless, concerned less with love than with maintaining her kingdom and Ptolemaic grandeur, threatened by Rome's civil wars. Caesar and Antony were seduced by her most alluring feature her fabulous wealth, which Rome desperately needed. Schiff, author of the acclaimed A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, faces a dearth of documentation on Cleopatra, as well as unreliable portraits by Plutarch, Dio, and others, forcing her often to speculate about Cleopatra's feelings and motives. But Schiff enters so completely into the time and place, especially the beauty and luxury of the "great metropolis" of Alexandria, Cleopatra's capital, describing it in almost cinematic detail. And though we all know the outcome, Schiff's account of Cleopatra's and Antony's desperate efforts to manipulate their triumphant enemy, Octavian, make for tragic, page-turning reading. No one will think of Cleopatra in quite the same way after reading this vivid, provocative book.
Where are the illustrations?
Fascinating read, but can't believe the iPad version doesn't include the illustrations. I'm going to have to go to the bookstore now just to look at all the pictures! Still a great read.
A scholarly work, with language and cadence to match. Beware ( ;-> ), as an iBook, the supporting material, footnotes and photos, are removed from the text in a disjointed way and do not flow well with an electronic book's format.
Well written biography about someone who is still wrapped in mystery and only partially revealed because of the lack of recorded information by consistent and reliable historians.