Thursday, February 17, 2011


Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
finished reading on February 16, 2011

My thoughts:
I have been too long away from non-fiction so this book was a slow and difficult read for me.  However, it was definitely worth the read.  We all know the story of Cleopatra, a story we've probably been told from novels and/or movies.  Cleopatra was a beautiful seductress who loved and manipulated two great men, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.  But she was so much more.  She was a Ptolemy...from a family who was well known for murdering each other to gain power...yet she was rare in this family in that she actually loved her father.  Her love for her father led to her passionate love of her country and this was most important to her above anything else.  So yes, she did use some feminine wiles to protect and secure her position, but she did so shrewdly and without compromising her honor, at least in her own eyes and the eyes of her subjects.  The Romans' opinion of her was entirely different and not favorable.  Schiff really brings to the fore just how skillful Cleopatra was, whether we know the whole truth or not.  So much of the accounts of Cleopatra's life were written by Roman (and other) philosophers who often did not have good opinions of her either.

I learned things in this book that I previously did not know.  I did not know that Cleopatra had four children.  I knew of Caesarion, her son with Julius Caesar, but did not know that she had three children with Mark Antony, two boys and a girl.  I also did not know that the daughter, Cleopatra Selene, would go on to be a queen in Africa...pretty much following in her mother's footsteps in her rule there.

This is an excellent book for people who enjoy non-fiction and for people who would like to learn more truth behind the legend.  There are rumors that a movie is being made based on this book and that Angelina Jolie may play Cleopatra.  I am rather disappointed by this news, as it is clear from the book that Cleopatra was not a true 'beauty', her seductive ability aside.  Someone less attractive, but capable of sultry gestures and manipulations would be more appropriate, in my opinion.  Like Hollywood cares what I think, right?!

Book description from goodreads:
Her life spanned fewer than 40 years, but she was the last Egyptian pharaoh and one of the most influential women of the age. She married twice, each time to a brother; she poisoned one and waged a war against the other. To this day, the life of Cleopatra VII (69-30 B.C.) intrigues us. This adept biography by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff tells us why it should. The true story of the woman behind the myth.

This book was read in conjunction with a book tour for Crazy Book Tours--book was provided by the tour and was mailed back to the tour organizer.

This book also applies to the following reading challenges:

Monthly Mix-Up Mania
The Dewey Decimal Challenge
Valley of the Kings Reading Challenge
Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge


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  1. Wow. Sounds so cool and informative. I had no idea she had 4 kids either. Great review. I do love the cover.

  2. I was interested in reading this book to get another perspective Cleopatra's life. I'm curious to find out if they discuss her spiritual background in this book.

  3. I have this one and can not wait to read it!

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