Cleopatra

A Life
Stacy Schiff
Introduced by Lucy Hughes-Hallett

One of the most fascinating women in history, brilliantly re-examined in a stellar biography.

‘A goddess as a child, a queen at eighteen, a celebrity soon thereafter, she was an object of speculation and veneration, gossip and legend, even in her own time.’ Few historical figures can rival Cleopatra as an object of fantasy and myth. Here, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff returns to the original sources to untangle legend from historical record. The result is a brilliant pairing of biographer and subject, already hailed as a classic in the making.  

‘That summer she rallied a band of mercenaries, at a desert camp, under the glassy heat of the Syrian sun. She was twenty-one, an orphan and an exile. Already she had known both excessive good fortune and its flayboyant consort, calamity. She had spent a dusty summer raising an army. The women in her family were good at this’

The most famous of Egyptians, Cleopatra was in fact Greek: the product of a Macedonian dynasty who had been gifted Egypt by Alexander the Great. At 21, she was embroiled in a civil war against her 13-year-old brother-husband. She saved herself by appealing to Julius Caesar, who later fathered her child. As Schiff argues, this was no unequal alliance. The newly fledged dictator would have had much to learn from a refined and cultivated queen whose people considered her divine.

With luminous prose and outstanding research, Schiff immerses us in Cleopatra’s world. She notes the allure of Alexandria – ‘a scholar’s paradise with a quick business pulse’ – and of her palace: a place of astonishing luxury, where roses were trodden underfoot at banquets that lasted until dawn.

Bound in blocked metallic cloth

Set in Minion

384 pages

Frontispiece and 24 pages of colour plates, 2 maps

Plain slipcase

10˝ x 6¾˝

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