Review: Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

For each of us the name Cleopatra conjures up many vivid images… sensuality, seduction, beauty, the exotic, wealth, excess, Elizabeth Taylor.

While the legend of Cleopatra is prevalent, what has been buried over time is this incredible woman’s real tale. What we know of her today comes to us through the writings of pissy old dead guys.

In her book Cleopatra: A Life, Stacy Schiff attempts to sift through these accounts, many of which are brimming with Roman propaganda, to reveal a woman even more impressive than her modern day persona. I like to think of her as the O.B., the Original Bitch.

Cleopatra became Queen of Egypt at the age of 18, which meant she oversaw an entire nation’s people, economy, military, and foreign relations… yeah no big. As if that weren’t impressive enough, let’s take a look at some of the things she accomplished in her less than 4o years on Earth:

  • She was extremely intelligent, a gifted charmer and conversationalist. She knew Greek, Latin, and learned Ancient Egyptian…something none of her predecessors seemed to think was important, despite the fact that it was the language of their subjects.
  • She was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean World, and one of the most influential women of her time.
  • She was considered a goddess, for reals.
  • She was romantically involved with two of the most powerful men in Rome, Caesar (older and balding) and Marc Antony (ancient frat boy).
  • While helping to expand her already extremely wealthy country, and having to deal with pesky Roman men, she had four children (two of them twins).

In addition to learning those kinds of fascinating tidbits, what I really liked about this book was Schiff’s take on how Cleopatra’s image was defamed and used against her, both in her time and throughout history.

Schiff argues that as an intelligent and savvy woman Cleopatra was seen as a huge threat, so instead her influence and power were attributed to her sexuality. Schiff clearly did her research thoroughly and draws on many different primary sources for examples.

Her style of writing is a unique blend of being scholarly and yet to the point, and sometimes humorous. It gives an energy to the ancient events she is writing about.

While I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Elizabeth Taylor’s dramatic and bejeweled Cleopatra, I find the real one to be a truly inspiring badass bitch.

Five out of five stars
Check it out at your local library!

This post is courtesy of The Lib Bitch

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

  • Hardcover, 368 pages
  • Published November 1st 2010 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2010)
  • ISBN 0316001929 (ISBN13: 9780316001922)

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 5 out of 5 (a rockin’ non-fiction book about the baddest bitch in the ancient world!)

Genre: Non fiction, biography

Memorable lines/quotes: NA

6 thoughts on “Review: Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

  1. Hi Jenna, it was very enjoyable to read! Sometimes I felt like I was reading a modern day gossip mag. History can be so scandalously entertaining! -The Lib Bitch

    1. I really enjoyed your review and your blogging name! I agree, that was a bit frustrating, though I suppose that is what happens when you try to write a book about ancient history. I think she did say at one point that the Egyptians weren’t big into recording their own history. However as you mentioned Schiff does go into detail about certain things a lot, like everyday Egyptian life.

      Thanks for commenting and what are you reading right now?

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