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Cleopatra: A Life | [Stacy Schiff]

Cleopatra: A Life

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 40 years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
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Publisher's Summary

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 40 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 Antony. 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.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©2010 Stacy Schiff (P)2010 Hachette Audio

What the Critics Say

"An epic subject requires a writer of epic skill and scope, and we have a perfect pairing in Cleopatra and Stacy Schiff. Absorbing and illuminating, this new biography will endure." (Jon Meacham, author of American Lion)

"A Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer presents a swift, sympathetic life of one of history's most maligned and legendary women.... Successfully dissipating all the perfume, Schiff finds a remarkably complex woman - brutal and loving, dependent and independent, immensely strong but finally vulnerable." (Kirkus)

"Captivating...Ms. Schiff strips away the accretions of myth that have built up around the Egyptian queen and plucks off the imaginative embroiderings of Shakespeare, Shaw and Elizabeth Taylor. In doing so, she gives us a cinematic portrait of a historical figure far more complex and compelling than any fictional creation, and a wide, panning, panoramic picture of her world." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (734 )
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3.9 (351 )
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  •  
    Christine Largo, FL, United States 12-31-10
    Christine Largo, FL, United States 12-31-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Save your credits"

    I can't believe I wasted a credit on this book. It reads like a dull history book, yet isn't even based on facts. I would love nothing better than to get my credit back :(

    11 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Sunland, CA, United States 02-06-11
    Mary Sunland, CA, United States 02-06-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fact overload"

    If you're a big fan of biographies, perhaps this is the book for you ---- way too many facts and even those seemed it bit embellished. Good material but so much is unknown about Cleopatra's life that the holes and missing details caused the story to lose some life.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Surly Girly 01-02-11
    Surly Girly 01-02-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    8
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    "Disappointed"

    I wanted to love this book, and I fully expected to. Given all the glowing reviews, and the subject, it seemed like a slam dunk to me, and I downplayed any uncomplimentary reviews.

    Well, an hour and a half into listening, and I reluctantly have to say that it is hugely disappointing. I appreciate the writing and, as a window on the world as it was back then, it has its place. But to center it as the story of Cleopatra is to take a short story and stretch it into a full length biography by padding page after page after page with sidebar comments and allusions.

    It is what it is. No problems with that. But it is not what it claims to be. Too bad!

    5 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua ASBURY, NJ, United States 10-16-13
    Joshua ASBURY, NJ, United States 10-16-13 Member Since 2011

    Choreographer. Director. Actor. Educator. And lover of audio books! They are theatre for the mind!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not "just" a Biography!"

    This book is no mere biography of Cleopatra's life. The author paints a vivid portrait of the end of the Hellenistic Period. For to understand Cleopatra's life you need to understand the places she went, the people she knew, and the times she inhabited; Cleopatra was as much a product of her times as the times were a product of her life. Stacy Shift interweaves fact with narrative flawlessly and engages the reader with such rich language that at moments I forgot I was reading non-fiction. Robin Miles narration is both relaxing yet filled with passion. This was my second time listening to the book and I will most likely be listening a third time in the near future! It is simply that fabulous!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Priscilla Wiseman Texas 09-04-13
    Priscilla Wiseman Texas 09-04-13 Member Since 2012

    avid reader

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    3
    3
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    Story
    "Must love history!"

    Although this is certainly a wonderful account of Cleopatra's life, you probably have to be an avid history lover to get through it. This book goes into great detail and sometimes makes it a little harder to pay attention. The narration was wonderful, though. I am a great history buff, so I enjoyed it to the end, but I can see where if the reader was looking for an electric story, they might be disappointed. If you love accurate historical events as pertains to the character, you will like this book. Stacy Schiff put a lot of research in this story and Robin Miles did a wonderful narration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Philadelphia, PA, United States 08-16-13
    James Philadelphia, PA, United States 08-16-13 Member Since 2007
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    "A fascinating look at a misunderstood legend"
    Would you listen to Cleopatra again? Why?

    I've read a lot of books about Rome and Greece and the ancient world, and yet this book still held so many surprises for me.

    The author has a keen ability to perceive history through fresh eyes -- those of Cleopatra herself rather than those of the Romans who so despised her.

    A brilliant work.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    judy eisen 08-15-13
    judy eisen 08-15-13
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    4
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    "Story of a fascinating woman"
    Where does Cleopatra rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Cleopatra ranks high among my titles although there are other books I've liked better


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Cleopatra?

    The author had slim reliable sources to mine for the character study. I enjoyed her descriptions of Cleopatra's intelligence and ability to maneuver her way around the strongest men of her era.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Her escape from her banishment in a burlap bag.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    no


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katrin Gygax 07-03-13
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    "Great book, lifelessly read"
    Would you try another book from Stacy Schiff and/or Robin Miles?

    Stacy Schiff is a great writer, making the most out of the missing facts surrounding Cleopatra's life. A suspenseful story.
    A shame then that Robin Miles reads her book so lifelessly.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    Ms. Miles' method of speaking is very distracting - over-enunciated and cold similar to computer-generated speech. I will avoid books read by her, I'm afraid.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary H. Crockett Dayton, Ohio 04-06-13
    Mary H. Crockett Dayton, Ohio 04-06-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Not an easy read, but a memorable read."
    What made the experience of listening to Cleopatra the most enjoyable?

    This was one of my first audible experiences (I purchased the e-book version too) for my book club. It sparkled! A life-time reader, I was mesmerized by the audible version. This narrator brought it all to life...the language, the drama. This was a great first book to "read" via ears rather than eyes and I loved it!


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked the research and context -- 3 months later I'm still telling people about this book. The incredible brilliance and mythology of this woman -- the magic and vibrancy of Egypt (Cleopatra) and the harsh, militaristic world of Roman conquest. (The world of Alexander and Mark Antony) We all have those places and cities that are the sensuous, heart-winging, lush playgrounds of our lives -- the lands of milk and honey and bawdy, brash larger than life, over-the-top pleasures. (Alexandria) And then there was Rome -- harsh, realities, all metal and sharp edges. Yet the basis of our modern world. I'd never heard it so clearly explained and contrasted as it was in this meticulously researched book. The concept of Cleopatra as a shrewd, brilliant leader fascinated me -- and the description of her as the 14th richest person of all time was something. One has to wonder what might have happened if Egypt's Alexandria had "won the war" -- what would have been the impact on our religion, our cultures -- our world. Really enjoyed.


    What does Robin Miles bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I loved hearing all the challenging Egyptian names of antiquity spoken so fluidly by Robin Miles. All my life I've read, but often missed the actual pronunciations of the words I've read -- I always thought hearing the words in my internal world was better than actual words. This experience is changing that perception! I love how these stories and words come to life...where was audible 50 years ago when I first read "Dick and Jane?"


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. It was far too "dense" for one sitting. Hard to get into at first so much background, and notes. But what a ride once it began...


    Any additional comments?

    While this book wasn't the easiest book to "read," it is one that has stuck with me. I learned much from the book, well go back to it in my conversations with others much in the future. Great book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Krystyna Hanser USA 03-11-13
    Krystyna Hanser USA 03-11-13 Member Since 2013

    Krys

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    "Schiff Set a Higher Bar For Biographies"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Stacy Schiff is an extraordinary scholar and a gifted writer. She knows how to tell a great tale. Having sat spellbound through her Cleopatra, I am now equally absorbed in her Vera.The readers of both books are excellent at bringing words on paper to life. I would recommend this book to everybody who thinks Cleopatra was Elizabeth Taylor and spent her life ordering servants around.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    This book ranges over a large part of Roman history during Cleopatra's life, so I found some of the other protagonists, such as Ocatavian, very interesting.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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