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.
©2010 Stacy Schiff (P)2010 Hachette Audio
"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)
Stacey Schiff presents a thoroughly researched, deeply contemplated and highly educational biography of the life of one of the most powerful, and perhaps most misrepresented, women in history. I really enjoyed this one: cleopatras story is equal parts empowering and fascinating!
Avid reader passionate writer
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.
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.
Cleopatra ranks high among my titles although there are other books I've liked better
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.
Her escape from her banishment in a burlap bag.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?"
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...
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.
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.
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.
This book was so well researched and incredibly well written. That said, I feel like I didnt start catching on to what was happening until toward the end. I presume to tell the full and complete story of Cleopatra the author had to set the scene, but there were so many other characters (with very difficult names) and so many places and events going on, I had a difficult time keeping up at first.
I appreciate how the author does not try to sway the reader into a certain opinion about Cleopatra. Instead she gives multiple accounts of the scene (as told from various historians, some of which were eyewittnesses) and allows the reader to form their own opinion about it. The narrarator does a great job with the story, especially with the ancient Egyptian & Greco-Roman titles such as Eratosthenes, Ptolemy Philadelphus, and Mithridates.
I very much enjoyed how the parts of the story that were unknown to me were woven into the parts of history that I am familiar with (Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar, and King Herod). The detail used to describe the ostentation of the day left me marveling. What I wouldnt give to have seen it with my own eyes.
The only thing that could have made this better (for me) is if there was a map to accompany it. It would have helped me sort things out in my head because 75% of the story is about them traveling.
road show junkie
A really outstanding view into an era that has been so skewered by Hollywood, it is no wonder that Stacey Schiff has to warn you 'this is not Liz & Richard'! And as much as I enjoyed the well-written history, I would have admittedly been over-whelmed by the names & locales had I been reading the words alone. Deeply rich in history, Ms Schiff blends in fact & conjecture to bring the historical figures to life. There were several times when I found myself thinking 'wait - that wasn't what I thought...'. Cleopatra was quite the trend setter of her day - a strong, powerful, intelligent & well educated being far ahead of her time - especially as a woman in a very male-oriented world. In discussions with our Book Club, we tried thinking of what modern woman could have come close to Cleopatra... and there was no peer!
The walk through time - the culmination of various historical records to piece together a patchwork of history for which there is no one source of enlightenment
The collapse of Marc Antony - it was like Romeo & Juliet!
The Roman 'Civilization' turned out to be quite barbaric & brutish in comparison to the grace & grandeur of Alexandria & the Greeks.
Well worth a listen - I think you'll get more out of listening than you will trying to wade through all the names & places in print
Stacy Shiff takes what little is known of the life of Cleopatra and paints a picture so rich in detail that the reader can almost feel the breeze as we cruise up the Nile. I was mesmerized. I have a deep appreciation for a writer whose research can uncover enough small details that when put together build such a lush history. Robin Miles narration certainly adds to the hypnotic effect.
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