Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

I had been looking forward to reading this book for a long time. Many years ago I had a passionate love affair with ancient history and, every so often, I still feel it’s reverberations.

The book is beautiful, rich and engaging. Anyone interested in Cleopatra or her times needs to read it.

It’s that much more remarkable for it’s completeness given that we know very little about Cleopatra. What we do know, it seems, is based on educated guesses and the author seems to be Very educated on the topic (one would need to be to win a Pulitzer Prize).

As usual, I will not be doing any profound analysis (which, I often feel, doesn’t do any kind of justice to a book such as this); particularly given the book’s scope. But, I will say a few words about one of its many aspects that I found interesting.

For example, while reading Cleopatra, you will learn much about the ancient world and how it worked. Did you know that they had coin-operated machines? Again, not a profound observation, but I had no idea. And, does it not make you think twice about just how advanced our own society is? Perhaps, not very. And to what degree history repeats itself? It turns out that “Cleopatra’s subjects viewed time as a coil of endless repetitions”, which I would tend to agree with.

Even in Cleopatra’s time the Egyptian pyramids were already ancient and scrawled with graffiti, the most common one being: “I saw, and I was amazed”. Aren’t we still amazed by the pyramids? Doesn’t that sound quite like something that we might write about them? I just love when I can get into the skin of someone who has been dead for thousands of years and be able to relate. (Makes me think about God and reincarnation and how it’s-a-small-world-after-all.) The book is full of bits such as this, describing what people looked like, how they lived, how they thought.

Rich in history and filled with real-life intrigue, it’s one of those books that you keep forever.

To get a better idea of what the book is about, click here, to see Stacy Schiff speak about “Cleopatra”. If you’d prefer something quicker, here’s the author speaking about the greatest misconception that we have about Cleopatra.

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2 Comments

Filed under book review

2 responses to “Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

  1. Nancy

    Need to read now too.

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