Ken Clarke's Reviews > Cleopatra: A Life

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
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's review
May 04, 2012

it was amazing

Is there a more fascinating woman in history than Cleopatra? Elizabeth I of England, ranks as Cleo's equal. Maybe. But the list is short, very short. At 21 or 22, Cleopatra ruled an empire, spoke several languages, was no one's fool, not even Caesar's. Despite her erudition and shrewdness, however, she was doomed the moment Caesar turned his eyes on her and began to lust for her kingdom. Even though she bore him a son, the magnificent ingrate!

Stacy Shiff's writing dazzled me. Every evening I couldn't wait to read more of her incandescent prose. Every paragraph is a gem. As a woman, she brings a new perspective to the life of Cleopatra, the most powerful woman of her time. Shiff read everything she could find about Cleopatra, much of it written by her enemies, the Romans, and sifted through the works to try to find the truth or something like it.

She includes gems such as this: In the 1st century AD, women in Cleopatra's Egypt could own property, divorce a husband and run a business. At the same time, she writes, women in Rome had the same rights as chickens.

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