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 forty 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 protégé. 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.
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.