Music Feature

Humanizing a Legend: Cleopatra's New Biography

by Kirsten Stamn

Cleopatra: A Life

By Stacy Schiff

Little, Brown and Company

368 pages


Cleopatra, arguably still one of the most fascinating characters of all time, gains deeper insight and more complexity in Stacy Schiff’s incredible biography of the doomed Egyptian queen.   Schiff, who was determined to break the sexist stereotype that has pervaded our culture in the past, uses historical research to show how Cleopatra, who died before her fortieth birthday, was more than a sexual deviant who lured away Roman commanders.  Instead, Cleopatra proves to be a fiercely independent, ingenious, and cultured woman who somehow managed to expand her kingdom and create peace for her people during her reign in a time that was fraught with treachery and danger from all sides. 

            Meticulously researched, Cleopatra: A Life uses historical accounts to piece together the events that eventually pitted Rome against Egypt.  While not much hard evidence has survived – historians can’t even agree what Cleopatra looked like – Schiff does an amazing job creating a cohesive and realistic portrayal of her reign.  Giving readers ample background not only on the main heroine, but also on her lovers and rivals, Schiff gives an all-encompassing view of the ancient world that can be appreciated by readers who may or may not have previous knowledge of this incredible story.    

            This biography, which gives not only a detailed historical background, also delivers on the opulence and grandeur of ancient Egypt.  Describing in lush detail the city of Alexandria and its people, Schiff’s gorgeous prose makes this book as entertaining as it is educational.  A must-read, this book never gives its audience a dull moment and, like all great books, will stick in your mind long after you have finished the last page.  

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