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Cleopatra and Antony: Power, Love, and Politics in the Ancient World

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  383 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
The story of the world’s best-remembered celebrity couple, set against the political backdrop of their time.

On a stiflingly hot day in August 30 b.c., the thirty-nine-year-old queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, took her own life rather than be paraded in chains through Rome by her conqueror, Octavian—the future first emperor, Augustus. A few days earlier, her lover of eleven
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Walker Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Despite the title, the book is less about Cleopatra and Antony, and more simply about the Romans, in particular Caeser, Antony, and Octavian.

And that, in short, is my only problem with this book.

Preston writes in her introduction that Cleopatra deserves first place when listing the couple and that much of what we know about Cleopatra comes from Octavian's propganda machine. Considering this and the title itself, one would think that the book delivers Cleopatra and Antony from the propganda machi
Steven Peterson
Jul 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a well written and detailed work outlining the arc of the relationship between Roman leader Mark Antony and Egyptian queen Cleopatra. For those interested in this couple--and the context in which their relationship developed--will find this a good book to read.

The context for the Antony-Cleopatra liaison is well recorded. The civil wars in Rome, featuring leaders such as Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Crassus, Caesar, are well described, outlining the nasty internal turmoil roiling Rome and its
Jun 22, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was very well researched. It isn't riveting, but, definitely, intellectually stimulating. It reads a little dry, but I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Egyptian or Roman history.

There is an error in the book. The author states the Cleopatra did not have black African ancestry. However, new evidence has shown this to be false. The remains of her sister, Princess Arsinöe, have been identified. Studies of her skull, including reconstruction, show that she was of mixed ance
Sherry Leffert
Apr 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book. This book filled a gap in my education. It fleshed out the story of Cleopatra and Caesar and then Cleopatra and Antony, presenting historical background and intimate details in a continually interesting and compelling style. It closes with a projection of how the world might have been, had Antony and Cleopatra, rather condemning themselves to death, ruled the world. A provocative ending to the gripping, dramatic and tragic story of their lives.
May 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
Very readable so far. I like the little details. Unfortunately less of a cultural history and more of just a history history. And not really much about Cleo, either.
Earl Grey Tea
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I have become more and more interested in Ancient Roman and want to learn more about this most pronounced time period in European history. While there is a plethora of information to learn about the Romans, much the more well known lessons center around Julius Caesar. After reading Caesar: Life of a Colossus, I had a respectable foundation of knowledge for a part time history buff about the relationship between Caesar and Cleopatra.

Despite this background, I was still able to learn in much more
Piumie de Silva
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Extremely informative. Preston has made Cleopatra a human being once again.
The title of this book is extremely misleading. I have read a great deal on the topic of Cleopatra and was [foolishly] hoping that the title would be accurate and perhaps I would gain more knowledge of this powerful couple. However, the majority of the book is centered around Roman maneuvers, so much so that Cleopatra and Antony are barely mentioned in the first half of the book. The very beginning does go into the details of Cleopatra's heritage/family tree. Even in this there is a great deal o ...more
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
I'm not sure how you can make a book about Cleopatra and Anthony boring, but Diana Preston gave it the "college try."

This book is pretty much a rehash of every blah book you've ever read or heard about that dealt in passing with Cleopatra, Anthony, Octavian, and Julius Caesar. It's nothing new, nothing revelatory, and nothing that interesting.

Preston reassures us over and over about the great love that Anthony and Cleopatra shared, which they very well may. However, I'm going to need more than "
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting, new insights
May 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: History buffs, Egyptomaniacs
Shelves: egypt-rome
I read this book to determine whether a fave historical-fiction novel, The Memoirs of Cleopatra, is as well-researched as reputed, so to that end, I am very happy because it does corroborate the major events and even many of the colorful anecdotes (Anthony pranking Cleo while "fishing," their debaucherous secret clubs, his bad case of the blues after Actium, etc.).

As a work of nonfiction, I was really impressed with the degree of research Preston undertook. She's read all classical primary sourc
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
That was a tough read to grind through. I wouldn't recommend that to anyone that was just interested in their love story. I thought their was too much material before them to read through. The first half of the book was extremely boring. I thought it was going to be more about Antony and Cleopatra's love story. I should have taken the "politics" part of the title more seriously. The second half was not as bad. The last two chapters were great. If it was more like the last two or three chapters t ...more
Kat Small
Apr 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Nothing new and maybe too speculative for me, but that's how I usually react to pop history so ymmv. That said, I enjoyed Diana Preston's writing. The descriptions are detailed and accurate. She does a decent job of explaining a convoluted system of government, multiple battles, and the backgrounds of Cleopatra, Caesar, Antony, and Octavian without breaking the narrative. She also did a good job explaining how earlier events precipitated the civil wars (e.g., the Catiline conspiracy and the conf ...more
Cassandra Kay Silva
Apr 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This was a spectacular accounting of the time period. She stayed absolutely factual and, was very meticulous about dates and occurrences that could have separate comments made for varying circumstance. Her writing was flawless. One word of caution to the would be reader: this book by no means focuses exclusively on Antony and Cleopatra, nor it is a flowery account of love or any other such thing. It is a beautiful retelling of the time period based on what we know and is available (barring the S ...more
The contrasts of the various cultures of the time was beautifully explained in this novel. Diana Preston cited very many outside sources from the time of Antony and Cleopatra offering first hand accounts of a time period most people speculate on. Utilizing vivid descriptions and footnotes the time period was very easy to understand. For today's reader this novel is a great tool in beginning to understand Roman culture, fun facts included along the side. Nothing was put off when it was mentioned ...more
Kate Lawrence
Jun 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Since I know so little about Roman history, and never saw the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton movie, I was able to approach Cleopatra without preconceptions. The author, a historian skilled at keeping the reader's interest, presents just enough detail to be tantalizing, but not too much. As I result, I never got confused, despite the complexity of Roman politics and constantly shifting alliances between the various leaders and factions. Nor was I ever bored--what a ride these two had! Cleopatra ...more
Hannah Spaar
Dec 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: powerful-women
I really enjoyed this book. Considering the constraints of the sources, Preston did an excellent job of making the story lively and relevant. She also did a marvelous job of bringing a fresh perspective to Cleopatra, and challenging the views of the time (and all the times the story has been retold) without being modern only for the sake of being modern. I feel like I have a much greater of both Cleopatra and the times (and the times lend to some of the most interesting reading, with some giggli ...more
Jason Furman
This joint biography of Cleopatra and Antony is a great man's (and woman's) history of their times. It is a fast and entertaining read. Diana Preston is not a specialist in the period and appears to take some care in interpreting the imperfect and unreliable ancient sources, but does not always help herself from reprinting the striking and romantic versions of the story as true. Learning more about Egyptian history and the amazingly brutal incest and murders in the royal family puts an interesti ...more
Nov 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was a very cogent description of Cleopatra's life and role. I particularly appreciated Preston's interpretation of the motivations of the commanders at the Battle of Actium. She brings the personalities to life without going far beyond the historical facts.

Note that Preston put's Cleopatra's name first in the title. Her thesis is that Cleopatra was a major actor, herself, with as much force of personality as Antony.
Anna Hargett
Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This a great historical book. If you are looking for more of a romance novel between Antony and Cleopatra, this is not it. Preston writes about historical accounts but does it well and keeps it interesting. This is not a quick read. There is a lot of information in this book, but Preston does it right and makes the history come alive.
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students, anyone with a lot of interest in ancient history
Although it took me about a year to finish reading (largely due to the fact that the beginning of the book was a tad dry and I am more than a tad impatient) I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
The beautiful writing Diana Preston used had me wrapped up in luxurious scenes of Antony and Cleopatra enjoying feasts and relaxing in incense filled rooms.
Sep 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
A well written timeline of Cleopatra's life.

It was not solely focused on her relationship with Antony as the title suggests. It did divulge into her relationship with Caesar and the history of the time right through to the end of her life. Not that was a bad thing.

Preston's research was thorough. A great read for history lovers. I would highly recommend it.
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Non-fiction book which encompasses Egyption and Roman history during time period that Cleopatra was on the throne of Egypt and Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus ruled Rome. Well researched. Written in an interesting style. Glad to find another historian whose books are very readable.
Dana *
Jul 05, 2009 rated it liked it
I have read a few recounts of this story, since I am so interested in Egypt. This meshed well with what I have already read. I think I found the Memoirs of Cleopatra to be the most comprehensive, if slightly one sided of them all.

Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Reads like a novel. I only got about 3/4 of the way before putting it down for good. I find it was missing what I was looking for. The Cleopatra and Antony story. It's definitely a read for people interested in Roman history.
Smith Barney
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Provocatively fascinating..portrayal of one of history's most formidable iconic female warriors Cleopatra.

A most favored historical hero..I never tire of reading any and all interpretations of her existence.
Apr 17, 2011 is currently reading it
I've just picked this up for $9 (reduced from $65) and am looking forward to reading it as it promises 'great scholarship'. I am interested in this couple as the battle of Actium is one of my favourite historical 'what ifs', quite apart from the glorious Shakespeare play!
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
The book presents how 'media' can transform the ideas and the opinions regarding a certain subject. The book presents the real story behind probably the most influential couple in the history of humanity: Cleopatra and Antony.
Nov 27, 2012 rated it liked it
While this wasn't one of my favorites, and I sometimes found the side notes irritating, it was more than worth the $.04 I paid for it on Amazon.
Jun 25, 2012 added it
Shelves: gave-up-on
too much like a text book....layed it aside
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From Walker Books:

Born and raised in London, Diana Preston studied Modern History at Oxford University, where she first became involved in journalism. After earning her degree, she became a freelance writer of feature and travel articles for national UK newspapers and magazines and has subsequently reviewed books for a number of publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles T
More about Diana Preston...