Natalie Banta's Reviews > Cleopatra: A Life

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
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's review
Sep 19, 2011

really liked it
Read from April 04 to 08, 2012

Truly one of the most fascinating books I've ever read. I came away almost feeling guilty for how much admiration I had for Cleopatra--a woman who murdered, tortured, and poisoned, a slew of people, including family members, a woman whose life was fraught with sexual scandal, and a woman whose final days may have included a betrayal her lover of 10 years. But her strength! Her intelligence! Her strategy! Cleopatra's image as a sultry seducer shows just how sexist the world has been. She was every bit as smart, powerful, and strong as Julius Caesar. But we refer to her sexual history and/or deviance far more often that we refer to Caesar or Antony's sexual perversions. The contrast between Rome and Egypt was remarkable and I didn't realize the extent of Egypt's superiority in wealth and social progression (especially in its treatment of women and education). I thought the book was hard to get into at the beginning as Schiff assumed her readers had a background in Egyptian and Roman history, but once I got into the meat of the story, I was hooked. I thought Schiff's writing was beautiful at times and a bit gimmicky at others. But overall, I enjoyed this book immensely. It painted ancient society so well, I feel like I've visited it myself.

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