Cleopatra: A Life, Stacy Schiff


One Response to “Cleopatra: A Life, Stacy Schiff”

  1. Robyn P. Says:

    An important thing to keep in mind throughout this nonfiction book is the fact that majority of it does not consist of first hand accounts, but rather second hand sources retold by the author, so reliability and biases could most certainly take play with bits and pieces of it.
    Cleopatra was the result of incestual relations between her mother and father (or her aunt and uncle, depending on how you view it), as were her four other siblings. Both she and her brothers were named after their parents, their mother being Cleopatra and their father being Ptolemy, and her other sisters were named Berenice and Arsinoe. It wasn’t long before the idea of her taking control of the realm gnawed at Ptolemy XIII’s conscience, so shortly after coming into power, he cast his sister Cleopatra out. Civil war ensued and after teaming up with Caesar, she defeated Ptolemy and ordered him to be drowned. In addition to this, she was responsible for Ptolemy XIV’s death, as she killed himself. She truly had no mercy.
    Cleopatra is often identified by her beauty, yet that was inaccurate. This misconception is the product of Roman propaganda, which made the claim that she used her sex appeal as a political weapon. In reality, she appeared rather masculine with a large hooked nose. This was countered by what reports called an intriguing and mellifluous voice that tempted men. In addition to this, she was incredibly intelligent and doused herself in the best education available, spending her time in the library in Alexandria.
    In her life time, Cleopatra wed two men and produced children with both of them – a son with Caesar, and two more sons along with a daughter with Antony.
    Cleopatra’s life was rich and abundant with politics, crises, the rises and falls of her kingdom, then her empire. Her life, like most at the time, was short, ending when she was 39 due to suicide, though the method is still undetermined. Some historians claim by snake bite, others have different ideas. Either way, Cleopatra was a brilliant (though merciless) leader, wife, mother and historical figure.

    For someone who has been spoiled by fiction, with it’s endless dramas, plot twists and mysteries, this book could likely be found relatively dull as we still know very little information on Cleopatra. She’s an enigmatic woman and much of our knowledge on her consists of theories formulated off of the scant solid facts. However, if Cleopatra is a person of interest to you, and you enjoy Ptolemaic Egyptian and Caesarian Roman history, this is one of the most informational books to be found. It further proves Cleopatra’s capabilities were truly beyond compare when it came to kingdom ruling and that she was and continues to be a powerful icon for women worldwide (despite the incest and homicide, at least).

    Rating: 3 Stars

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