A Life

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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 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.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Co
Copyright Date: ©2010
ISBN: 9780316172875
Characteristics: text file, rda
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc. - Distributor

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Jan 21, 2018

Was an interesting read, although sometimes was bogged down by similar names and the mixed marriages and marriages of convenience. The book was missing a genealogy chart of names, families and historic people of the time, which would have been helpful to keep track of timelines etc.
However, overall I found this book to be of interest and informative of a time that i did not know that much about, except for the early Secondary School teaching of the Roman Empire and reading of Julies Caesar by Shakespeare.
The book does tell in detail of a composite portrayal of Cleopatra, of which details of her life are largely is muddled, as for lack of confirmed portrayals (except on some Roman coins paired with Anthony), and unbiased writings (depending upon the victor and looser of the time).
Cleopatra (79/69 BC - 30 BC), of Macedonoian decent, was considered well educated (as was the wealthy women of Egypt at the time) spoke many languages and had more personality than beauty.
In the 5th Century, there was an earthquake that changed the coastal region of Alexandria, Egypt causing it to slide into the water and the Nile has changed course since that time, changing the geography from that time to the present.

multcolib_susannel Mar 19, 2017

The compelling story of this famous queen of the ancient world whose loves and politics were far from ordinary.

Oct 22, 2015

Completely fascinating. The first 50 pages or so has some lineage background that I thought was interesting, but might make some people conclude the book is dull. But just get past that beginning and you get a detailed portrayal of a woman ruling the mighty nation of Egypt for an unusually long period of time. She had affairs with Julius Ceasar and Mark Anthony. She had political dealings with Herod in the decades before Jesus was born, so you get to see the geopolitical stage set for New Testament biblical events. I loved getting a picture of what the extraordinary city and library of Alexandria were like at that time.

Jun 29, 2015

New perspective on history through the lens of biography.

Feb 03, 2015

I can respect that the Cleopatra has been maligned over the years, but the author seemed so desperate to undo this that it sometimes got in the way of her writing.
For example, she heavily implies that the reason Caesar was fought so hard for Alexandria was because he was so smitten with her, but several pages earlier notes that Alexandria was obscenely wealthy and could feed all of Rome quite easily. Both seem like great reasons to be invested in a nation's war of succession...

Dec 08, 2014

It's as if you are right there. Cleopatra was a shrewd politically savvy leader. Ahead of her time an understatement. Thoroughly researched, well written, un-boring historical.

arsolarik Jul 07, 2014

This is a spew of random facts all shuffled around. I was looking more for a story.

A wonderful read that expertly follows Cleopatra's life and family tree. Schiff outlines the various and multiple intrigues of royal life illustrating just how dangerous it was for any member of the family to succeed to the throne. Cleopatra was more than Mark Anthony and Caesar’s lover, much more - she was an outstanding leader of people, a military strategist, and a true Egyptian- proud and protective of her country and its people.

Jan 05, 2014

I enjoyed this book. The research is amazing, and the author uses fantastic judgment concerning how to portray Cleopatra, given the spotty and biased historical record. Interesting, but not a "stay up 'til 1 a.m." page turner. I'm glad I read it.

Jun 29, 2013

I learned so much about this infamous woman, Egyptian culture and Roman culture.The author has definitely done her homework. There are some places where you just have to slog through the text but overall a great read

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Mar 14, 2011

Really awfull. This is a book in search of an editor. The sentences are very awkwardly constructed, so it is very slow and difficult to read. Overuse of parenthetical phrases and dashes add to the problems. Sad, because there is a lot of interesting information here-just not really a pleasant read. I kept wanting to get out my red pen the whole time I was reading it!


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