The story of the world's best-remembered celebrity couple, set against the political backdrop of their time. On a stiflingly hot day in August, 30 B.C., the 39-year-old queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, took her own life rather than be paraded in chains through Rome by her conqueror, Octavian, the future first emperor, who became known as Augustus. A few days earlier, her lover of 11 years, Mark Antony, had himself committed suicide and died in her arms.
Oceans of mythology have grown up around them, all of which Diana Preston explores in her stirring history of the lives and times of a couple whose names more than two millennia later still invoke passion, curiosity, and intrigue.
Preston views the drama and romance of Cleopatra and Antony's personal lives as an integral part of the great military, political, and ideological struggle that culminated in the full-fledged rise of the Roman Empire and joined East and West.
Perhaps not until Joanna in 14th-century Naples or Elizabeth I of England would another woman show such political shrewdness and staying power as did Cleopatra during her years atop the throne of Egypt. Her lengthy affair with Julius Caesar linked the might of Egypt with that of Rome; in the aftermath of the civil war that erupted following Caesar's murder, her alliance with Antony, and his subsequent split with Octavian, set the stage for the end of the Republic.
With a keen eye for detail, abundant insight, and storytelling skill that have won awards for her previous books, Diana Preston sheds new light on a vitally important period in Western history. Indeed, had Cleopatra and Antony managed to win the battle of Actium, the centuries that followed, which included the life of Jesus, could well have played out differently.
©2009 Diana Preston (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"Going beyond the charisma and romance of two of history's greatest lovers, L.A. Times Book Prize-winner Preston vividly puts their lives in the larger political context of their times." (Publishers Weekly)
Fascinating look at Roman history, from the rise of Julius Caesar through the triumph of Octavius. It's true, as others have said, that the title is somewhat misleading: the book's canvas is huge. On the other hand, Cleopatra - if not Antony - is the glue that holds it together. Despite its epic story, the book never loses sight of the telling detail or the fascinating personal anecdote. You may get more than you bargained for, but it's interesting throughout, definitely a book I will go back to in the future when I want to refresh my memory about this period in history.
Suzanne Toren's narration is straightforward: professional rather than emotional, but clear and easy to listen to.
If you're looking for a biography of Cleopatra herself, Stacy Schiff's book might be a better choice. On the other hand, my impression - although it's been a long time since I read Schiff's book - is that this one covers much of the same information, with less speculation, and with a larger context.
My only real complaint is that the audiobook refers several times to a forensic reconstruction of Cleopatra's face, and it's clearly a highlighted feature in the print version; but the PDF that accompanies the audiobook doesn't include it.
The book is actually about Roman and to a lesser extent Egyptian history from the end of Julius Caeser's reign to the beginning of that of Octavian (later Augustus). The focus is not on the relationship of Anthony and Cleopatra, though it is discussed. Of the major figures of the time, Cleopatra might get the least coverage, Anthony the most. I would have given it 4 stars if it were not so long winded. It did finish strong though. Worth a listen. Had Anthony made one military decision differently, it might have changed history dramatically.
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