Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cleopatra: A Life

Given my obsession with Egypt, mentioned here, I have always been mesmerized by Cleopatra. Although the Ptolemaic dynasty has always been my least favorite period of Egyptian history, I prefer times when Egypt was ruled by Egyptians, not Greeks, a fascination with Cleopatra was unavoidable. Western culture has created from her a sex symbol for the ages; although, in childhood, I was simply drawn to her as an Egyptian princess, I was beyond obsessed with The Royal Diaries. So when I heard the rave reviews for Cleopatra: A Life, I started reading right away. The book is both insightful and engaging; Stacey Schiff did an excellent job of presenting the facts, but also reasoning that, given the sources, they could not be trusted completely. After her defeat, Cleopatra's history was left to be written by her captors, who certainly were less concerned with accuracy and more with propaganda. Whether you share in my obsession with Egypt, the book is worth reading. It adds color to some of the most powerful people of the age - Caesar and Mark Antony to name a few - and also reveals some of the myths that have become popular belief, for instance the asp that never was. Most interesting, in my opinion is to think how different the Western World might have been had Cleopatra and Mark Antony prevailed over Octavian. Egypt had long provided far more rights for women than Rome did, such as land ownership, rights to marry and divorce freely, and important outside of the domestic realm and was an epicenter for scholars of the day. Have you read any good books lately?

xx Molly

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  1. I don't know if you have read it, but I great Ancient Egyptian book I found was River God by Wilbur Smith.

  2. Rachelle, I haven't read it but I most certainly will look into it. Thanks for the recommendation!