Review by Choice Review
Any discussion of Cleopatra faces a triple challenge: a meager historical record of Roman propaganda, a growing heap of secondary literature, and a cloud of celebrity as one of antiquity's most tragic romantics. Tyldesley (Manchester Univ.) seeks to redress Cleopatra's seductress image by viewing her within the larger context of Egypt's dynastic affairs and cultural history. The author begins by reassessing the main actors and events of the first century BCE and relocating Cleopatra within a long line of Egyptian rulers who benefited from the Ptolemies' support of indigenous religious traditions. Cleopatra's cultic identification with Isis-the-mother was one of her most canny political stratagems, a tactic not unfamiliar to the Romans themselves. Passing reference to recent archaeological discoveries reinforces the author's close reading of contemporary sources to re-create the appearance of Alexandria itself. The book's final chapter describes how the Roman propaganda machine stripped the intelligent, educated queen of her political validity and fashioned her posthumous identity as an immoral, unnatural woman and (alternatively) tragic heroine. A useful "Who Was Who in Ptolemaic Times" guides readers through this tumultuous moment in ancient history. Summing Up: Recommended. General, public, and undergraduate collections. S. Langdon University of Missouri--Columbia
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review
Though you might think everything you need to know about Cleopatra has already been written, think again. The life story of Cleopatra has become so distorted and embellished through the multiple lenses of history, legend, film, fiction, and archaeology, it is often difficult to tell the difference between fact and fiction. Egyptologist Tyldesley undertakes the daunting task of separating myth from reality in this slightly revisionist biography of the last of the Ptolemies. By juxtaposing her reign with the decline of the Egyptian Empire rather than the rise of Rome, the author is able to place Cleopatra firmly into historical and cultural context. What emerges is a portrait of a cunning political operator ruthlessly attempting to reestablish Egyptian supremacy in a rapidly shrinking world overwhelmed by the vast power of the mighty Roman Empire.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2008 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
This entertaining biography hits the elusive sweet spot between scholarship and readability. British archeologist Tyldesley (Daughters of Isis) is charmingly transparent about the unreliability of her sources. She tells us that when the Roman poet Lucan describes Cleopatra's "ineffable night of shame" with Julius Caesar, he is "writing the equivalent of modern tabloid journalism." In spite of the lack of eyewitness descriptions of Cleopatra, the question, for instance, of what she looked like becomes a fast-moving amusing discussion of statuary as royal propaganda, the modern perception of Cleopatra's nose as way too big and the difference between beauty and sexiness. Writing with an easy mastery of her subject, Tyldesley always seems to be able to lay her hands on the perfect lively detail, whether an excerpt from an obscure bureaucratic document or a description of a kind of giant robot that paraded through the streets of Alexandria pouring libations of milk from a gold bottle. Though she makes it clear we'll never know what Cleopatra was "really" like, Tyldesley provides a memorable journey through the rich and contradictory sources of our knowledge about her. 8 pages of illus., 3 maps. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
British Egyptologist Tyldesley patiently unscrambles a slew of Ptolemys and Cleopatras who ruled wealthy Egypt from 332 to 30 BCE to tell the story of the dynasty's last and best-remembered queen, Cleopatra VII (c.70-30 BCE). Using archaeological and literary evidence, Tyldesley strips away the legend of Cleopatra's debauchery, much of it propaganda by Cleopatra's archenemy, the Emperor Octavian, who renamed the eighth month after himself (August) in part to mark the date he defeated the Egyptian queen. A well-educated and powerful queen of a Greek dynasty, Cleopatra scandalized the Roman world with the independence allowed women in Egypt (she bore children to both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony) and the dynastic custom of marrying within the family (she wed two of her brothers, both Ptolemys). While cultivating her divinity in the millennia-old Pharaonic tradition, Cleopatra also made strategic political (and sexual) alliances in the Mediterranean world to hold onto her shaky throne for 20 years. Cleopatra and Antony's defeat by Octavian at Actium, and the subsequent fall of Egypt, marked the end of the Hellenistic age and the start of the Roman era. This fascinating and scholarly book belongs in all libraries.--Stewart Desmond, Madison Square Park Conservancy, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A new biography of the Macedonian ruler attempts to debunk many myths surrounding her legacy. Egyptologist Tyldesley (Egypt: How a Lost Civilization Was Rediscovered, 2006, etc.) digs deeply into Cleopatra's life, piecing together a unique portrait of her successes and failures. In chronological fashion, the author covers the major historical issues surrounding Cleopatra, but she wisely avoids lingering too long on well-traveled ground. Tyldesley examines many of the burning questions that continue to puzzle historians--Was she black? Did she marry her brother? Was she beautiful or ugly?--and that have helped create such a beguiling picture of the queen. Many biographers focus too much on Cleopatra's reputation as a temptress, but Tyldesley gamely analyzes her politically astute nature at work against the backdrop of the bloody, brutal times in which she operated. However, the author doesn't shy away from discussing the many apocryphal tales that swirl around the Ptolemaic ruler: the queen smuggling herself in a roll of linen sheets (or, in more common myth, a carpet) in an attempt to reach Caesar; the presentation of Pompey's severed and pickled head to Caesar as a gift, etc. The various stories about Cleopatra's relationship with Antony are thoroughly dissected, and Tyldesley supplements these with a neat examination of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra. The most absorbing passages concern her relationship with Antony and her subsequent demise, which are interspersed with (sometimes conflicting) quotations from fellow historians. Tyldesley also includes a welcome guide to the individual characters that Cleopatra encountered during the Ptolemaic period. A satisfying blend of historical fact and strong, informed opinion about one of history's most captivating figures. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.