Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff

This biography of one of the most controversial women in history is on a lot of folks’ top 10 lists for 2010, deservedly so. Cleopatra’s life has been chronicled by many — very often writers with political or cultural agendas — so it’s always been tough to get a fair picture of her. Further, her story is almost always told in the context of the history of the end of the Roman Republic — the decades of civil war that resulted in Octavian “restoring the Republic” by becoming Emperor Augustus.

This book is neat because it really focuses on Cleopatra, Egypt, and her Ptolemaic/Hellenistic context, with (principally) Caesar and Marc Antony as the 2 Roman figures who she would have extremely significant relationships with.

I found the beginning of the book to be terrific because it gave me a ton of context of Egyptian & Ptolemaic history that I didn’t really know. The middle was a little bit of a slog, between Caesar’s death and the real hostilities between Antony & Octavian. The end was incredible — a real page turner, even though I knew most of what would ultimately happen.

I’m not sure you’ll love this book if you don’t also really enjoy Roman history, and as I mentioned the middle was a little slow – but overall I really enjoyed it, and it’s significantly changed the way that I view that 20-30 years of world history generally and Roman history specifically.


  1. Sure starts with a bang. Thanks for the rec 🙂

  2. “it’s decidedly nerdy to get excited about a storage solution”. I’m excited too, but it helps not to be alone 🙂 I’ll see if they’re distributed in Europe…

  3. (oops, meant to post this on the Drobo post, sorry!)