Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cleopatra: A Life

Cleopatra: A LifeCleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book put me in mind of a quote from the 1995 film adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion:

Captain Harville: Let me just observe that all histories are against you, all stories, prose, and verse. I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which did not have something to say on women's fickleness.

Anne Elliot: But they were all written by men.

The only way for historians to explain Cleopatra's powerful influence was to make her into a beguiling temptress. How else could stalwart Romans get into such trouble? As author Stacy Schiff points out, Caesar and Mark Antony were merely following the money. The lady holding the purse strings happened to be intelligent, politically-adept, and charming. What's not to like? When you are the richest person in the known-world, you don't need to look like Elizabeth Taylor.

My favorite character in the book was the city of Alexandria. What an amazing place! I wish it were still possible to visit its ancient wonders in real life and not just the pages of a book, even one as evocative as Cleopatra: A Life.

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