Cleopatra: A Biography

Oxford University Press
13
Free sample

Few personalities from classical antiquity are more famous--yet more poorly understood--than Cleopatra VII, queen of Egypt. In this major biography, Duane Roller reveals that Cleopatra was in fact a learned and visionary leader whose overarching goal was always the preservation of her dynasty and kingdom. Roller's authoritative account is the first to be based solely on primary materials from the Greco-Roman period: literary sources, Egyptian documents (Cleopatra's own writings), and representations in art and coinage produced while she was alive. His compelling portrait of the queen illuminates her prowess as a royal administrator who managed a large and diverse kingdom extending from Asia Minor to the interior of Egypt, as a naval commander who led her own fleet in battle, and as a scholar and supporter of the arts. Even her love affairs with Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius--the source of her reputation as a supreme seductress who drove men to their doom--were carefully crafted state policies: she chose these partners to insure the procreation of successors who would be worthy of her distinguished dynasty. That Cleopatra ultimately lost to her Roman opponents, Roller contends, in no way diminishes her abilities. "Roller tells his tale smoothly and accessibly....The resulting portrait is that of a complex, many-sided figure, a potent Hellenistic ruler who could move the tillers of power as skillfully as any man, and one far and nobly removed from the 'constructed icon' of popular imagination." --The New York Times Book Review "A rich account of late Ptolemaic culture." --The New Yorker "Offers a superb panorama of the society and culture of late Ptolemaic Egypt, with vivid sketches of the (remarkably vigorous) intellectual life of Cleopatra's Alexandria and the structural instabilities of the late Ptolemaic state." --Times Literary Supplement "Besides providing a compelling story and breathing fresh air into a heretofore two-dimensional caricature from history, Roller's 'Cleopatra' provides an interesting commentary on the attitudes still prevalent towards women who rule." --Christian Science Monitor "Compulsively readable." --Bookslut "A definitive account of a queen of remarkable strength." --Publishers Weekly
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About the author

Historian, archaeologist, and classical scholar, Duane W. Roller is Professor Emeritus of Greek and Latin at The Ohio State University. The author of eight books, including Through the Pillars of Herakles and The Building Program of Herod the Great, he has excavated in Greece, Italy, Turkey, and the Levant.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Apr 1, 2010
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780199752584
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Ancient / Egypt
History / Ancient / General
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Roman emperor Augustus gave his name to the age he dominated, from the latter half of the first century BC until the second decade of the following century. Yet he shared the age with several royal women who ruled parts of the Mediterranean world, in a symbiotic relationship with Rome. This book is the first detailed portrait of these remarkable women. Previous accounts of the period have centered on Augustus or Rome's allied kings, with scant attention to the women who ruled as their partners or on their own. The most famous of these is Cleopatra Selene, the daughter of the great Cleopatra VII of Egypt and her partner, the Roman magistrate Marcus Antonius. Her very survival following Roman victory over her mother's forces is itself noteworthy but she went on to rule Mauretania (northwest Africa) with her husband for more than twenty years. She even attempted to reconstitute her mother's legacy in this remote region and, like her mother, was an ardent patron of the arts and scholarship. Other women of note included in this book are Pythodoris of Pontos, who ruled northern Asia Minor for forty years, and Salome of Judaea, the sister of Herod the Great, who, while never queen, exercised significant power for nearly half a century. These and others--Glaphyra of Cappadocia, Dynamis of Bosporos, Abe of Olbe, and Mousa of Parthia-were all part of the interrelated dynasties of the Augustan Age. Their values and attitudes toward rule directly affected the emergent Roman imperial system, and their legacy survived for centuries through their descendants and the goals of the royal women of Rome, such as Livia and Octavia, the wife and sister of Augustus. Assimilating all of the historical and archaeological evidence, Cleopatra's Daughter recovers these extraordinary women from the dim shadows of the ancient past.
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