Cleopatra: A Life

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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.


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Because of the gaps and contradictory testimony in the historical record, portions of Ms. But Ms.

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Schiff seems to have inhaled everything there is to know about Cleopatra and her times, and she uses her authoritative knowledge of the era — and her instinctive understanding of her central players — to assess shrewdly probable and possible motives and outcomes. Like Caesar, we learn, she would have had a traditional Greek education that included Herodotus and Thucydides, instruction in the art of speech-making and perhaps nine languages too.

View all New York Times newsletters. In fact, Cleopatra and Caesar had not only complementary political agendas, Ms.


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  5. As for Antony, Ms. Antony and Cleopatra were at the height of their power, reveling amid heady perfume to sweet music, under kaleidoscopic lights, on steamy summer nights, before groaning tables of the finest food and wine in Asia.

    Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

    And while he was unlikely to have been a slave to his love for Cleopatra, as various chroniclers assert, the truth was that wherever Mark Antony went, sexual charm inevitably followed. Writing with verve and style and wit, Ms. For that matter, Ms. Tell us what you think. Please upgrade your browser. See next articles. Newsletter Sign Up Continue reading the main story Please verify you're not a robot by clicking the box.

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    She got expanded territory, protected by Roman legions, while her lovers got her money. Cleopatra lived up to her family tradition by having her siblings killed.

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    She also executed her political opponents—and so did Antony and Augustus. Schiff brings alive not only the personalities but the ambience of the gilded Hellenistic Middle East and still-crude Rome.

    As Schiff concludes, Cleopatra did many things right, but got the main thing wrong: She backed the less talented Roman politician. In the end, Augustus used her captured treasure to make Rome more like Alexandria. By Nefertiti Austin.