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Cleopatra : a biography /

Main Author: Roller, Duane W.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2010
Series: Women in antiquity.
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Review by Choice Review

Two thousand years after she lived, historical fascination with Egypt's last reigning queen is as strong as ever. This contribution to the crowded shelf of Cleopatra studies bypasses the romantic mythologizing of later generations in order to focus on contemporary literary accounts and the historical environment of the first century BCE. Egyptian, Greek, and Latin documents preserve contrasting views of this wealthy east Mediterranean kingdom and of Cleopatra's efforts to negotiate its independence in the face of Rome's steady advance. The author's emphasis on narrative presents few surprises but provides a fresh context for understanding the bureaucratic structure and operation of the late Egyptian state. Useful appendixes include a time line of Cleopatra's life, genealogy, ancient descriptions, iconography, and debates on her Roman citizenship and mother's identity. While readers interested in wider issues of gender roles, cultural competition, and postclassical reception will also want to read books like Joyce Tyldesley's Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt (CH, Aug'09, 46-6966), this new political biography provides an exceptionally thorough, balanced survey of the historical foundations on which later accounts are based. Cleopatra emerges as far more accomplished than the lens of Roman history willingly admits. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. S. Langdon University of Missouri--Columbia

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

Since Cleopatra remains one of the most fascinating females in the annals of history, one more full-length biography couldn't hurt. Roller begins with the premise that Cleopatra has been generally misunderstood by centuries of biographers and historians. This misinterpretation has led to the emergence of Cleopatra as a popular-culture icon rather than a politically savvy and calculating leader. Basing this chronicle exclusively on primary sources culled from classical antiquity, the author painstakingly separates myth from reality, discounting her undeserved reputation as a seductress and concentrating on her impressive but often overlooked or minimized political, military, and administrative achievements. This revisionist portrait of one of the most powerful women in the ancient world adds substance and heft to her exotic legacy.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In the first volume of Oxford's series Women in Antiquity, historian and archeologist Roller (Through the Pillars of Herakles), professor emeritus at Ohio State University, debunks the myth of Cleopatra (69-30 B.C.E.), offering a straightforward, reader-friendly biography of this intriguing and powerful ruler. Drawing on ancient sources, he portrays not a seductress who used her charm to blind men to their better judgment but a powerful naval commander during the Battle of Actium and a savvy royal administrator, "who skillfully managed her kingdom in the face of a deteriorating political situation" and Rome's increasingly intrusive presence. Roller also reveals her for the first time as an author-of Cosmetics, a medical and pharmacological treatise for such conditions as hair loss and dandruff. Tracing her life from her birth and her extensive education as a young girl to her ascension to the throne in 51 B.C.E., her consolidation of the Egyptian empire, and her strategic alliances with Rome, Roller provides a definitive account of a queen of remarkable strength (she compared herself to Alexander) who was a leader of her people. 18 b&w illus. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

The end of the Roman Republic has inspired a lot of good recent biographies, but did we really need another scholarly life of Cleopatra after Joyce Tyldesley's Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt (2008)? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. While Tyldesley probed deeply into Ptolemy family history and iconography, classicist Roller (Greek & Latin, emeritus, Ohio St. Univ.) focuses on Cleopatra (69-30 B.C.E.) as a ruthless and learned queen in a time when female rulers were practically unknown. The first of the Ptolemys to speak Egyptian (the family was Greek in origin), Cleopatra used her many languages to help her achieve her goals of holding on to her throne and restoring to Egypt territory lost by her ancestors. Her shrewd liaisons and childbearing with Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius supported her on her throne for 20 years as Roman dominance of the Mediterranean world grew. But there were limits to what a proud queen would do to survive. "I will not be led in triumph," she told her conqueror Augustus Caesar. Then she killed herself. VERDICT Cleopatra reclaims her stature as a significant monarch of her era in this unsentimental corrective to the romantic legend. Recommended for all who study her era.-Stewart Desmond, 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.