Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, 384 pages, 2010
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.
Cleopatra: A Life was captivating in all of its opulent glory. The excess of the day was truly ostentatious and I wish we were able to uncover more documented discoveries from Cleopatra's days.
This biography allows Schiff to dig into the world of antiquity and gathers as many facts about Cleopatra as are available. She mixes biography with history and uncovers current information as well as that discovered by historians over the years and strives hard to separate fact from fiction.
The author provides us with historical documentation to help us understand Cleopatra's role as the last great Queen of Egypt and what her allure would have been to Caesar and Marc Antony the two Romans that became both allies and lovers.
I found Cleopatra: A Life to be informative and entertaining with new facts that I had either forgotten or missed in the my past reading. The author also does a good job in debunking a number of myths surrounding Cleopatra over the years.
We do not really know what Cleopatra looks like (aside from her profile on coins and statues). I believe that the lack of information has fuelled our fascination of Cleopatra although, we can tell that she demonstrated great cunning, intelligence, wit and style and captivated both Ceasar and Marc Anthony.
I did expect it to be more of a story and easier read but found that the author got sidetracked by times in her attempt to fully document everything which led to a slower and less enjoyable read. However, the book is overall well written and certainly well sourced.
It was very interesting and enjoyable.
Rating 3 1/2 out of 5