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Antony and Cleopatra Hardcover – September 28, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Readers who recognize Goldsworthy (How Rome Fell) as Britain's most prolific and perhaps finest popular historian of Roman times will find him once again at his best. Shakespeare and Hollywood portray Antony and Cleopatra as star-crossed lovers, but historians understand that Antony (83–30 B.C.E.) was Julius Caesar's right-hand man, ruthless and ambitious. Cleopatra (69–30 B.C.E.) was not Egyptian but Greek, descended from Ptolemy, whose family had ruled Egypt for three centuries. She became Caesar's mistress in 48 B.C.E. In the Roman civil war that followed Caesar's assassination four years later, Antony shared power with Caesar's adopted son, Octavian (later emperor Augustus), until they quarreled. Antony and Cleopatra first met in 41 B.C.E. and ruled Egypt together for three years until Octavian's invading armies approached, at which point they both committed suicide. Unlike many competing authors, Goldsworthy never disguises the scanty evidence for many historical events. Some of his best passages review surviving documents, discuss their biases, draw parallels from his vast knowledge of Roman history, and recount what probably happened unless, as he often admits in this thoughtful, deeply satisfying work, even speculation is impossible. Maps.
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From Booklist

A classicist on the ascent, Goldsworthy previously wrote Caesar (2006), to which this title is a natural sequel. It can be seen as a corrective to Diana Preston’s Cleopatra and Antony (2009), which strove to give the Egyptian queen top billing in ancient history’s most famous romance. Affection there may have been between Cleopatra and Caesar’s right-hand man, but love was a political instrument in Cleopatra’s relationship to Caesar and, after his assassination, to Marcus Antonius. Goldsworthy stresses Cleopatra’s twin goals of keeping her throne (to which Caesar restored her) and warding off Egypt’s annexation by the Roman Empire. As for Antony, Goldsworthy, reminding readers of contemporary hostility to him, depicts a personality to counter the condemnations left by Cicero and Augustan propaganda. Still, Antony does not come off well in Goldsworthy’s estimation of him as a mediocre general and a self-interested power seeker. Narrating his and Cleopatra’s parts in the tumultuous end of the Roman Republic, Goldsworthy skillfully integrates the partial and partisan source material into an accessible presentation of a classic tale from classical times. --Gilbert Taylor
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1St Edition edition (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030016534X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300165340
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've only so far read The Punic Wars by this author, but it was such a spectacular read that I decided to grab more books by Goldsworthy. One of those books was this one, and I'm not disappointing. The book shows the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra that's not Shakespeareized, or Hollywoodized. I heartily recommend this book for anyone interested in the era!

And, ignore the one-star reviews. They review the price, not the content, which is ridiculous.
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Format: Hardcover
I found Adrian Goldsworthy's book of ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA an excellent account of the history of these two historical characters in which played such a significant role in a most turbulent time in Roman History. The author knows his subject and presents it in an outstanding manner for comprehension of the subject. It is reseached well and I would recommend the book highly. I find the two other reviewers opinions and sentiment entirely irrelevant. Literature, history, philosophy, etc must always be judged by its contents and never be reviewed by its cover or even its cost---but only by the authors knowledge of the material and the way the information is presented to readers. I would suggest that anyone interested in this period of ancient history will not be dissappointed in the reading of Goldsworthy's book of ANTONY and CLEOPATRA. The book is excellent and I recommend it quite highly. JMJ
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Format: Hardcover
The story of Antony and Cleopatra as portrayed here is no less fascinating than if they were the romantic characters their afterlife makes us believe. Mr. Goldsworthy's exhaustive examination of their lives and his easy writing style make them real life personae and fascinating characters. There is enough drama without the propaganda and the later inventions, from companionship, high living and pageantry to the final tragedy.

I like the new (revived?) practice of writing about Ancient history for the general reader. Adrian Goldsworthy is a master of this genre, and "Antony and Cleopatra" does not disappoint.

The author advises his readers that this is not a history of Ancient Rome and Egypt but a biography, and that he will only relate those events that are directly related to the lives of the protagonists. However, he creates enough of an historical and social background to give the general reader a good understanding of where we are - and maybe an increased interest in the Ancient world per se. I have to admit that I tend to scan these kinds of overview such as in Chapters I and II, but in "Antony and Cleopatra" I thoroughly enjoyed reading them.

My complete review:
[...]
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Format: Hardcover
I've been a fan of Adrian Goldsworthy's since his How Rome Fell so impressed me with its amazing scholarship. Now, Goldsworthy tackles another ancient Roman subject that has teased the imagination of the public for generations: Antony and Cleopatra. For most of us, Cleopatra looks like Elizabeth Taylor; that movie is the extent of most common knowledge of the two ancient lovers. I have no idea how historically accurate the movie was (at least compared to the scholarship at the time of its production), but I'd be willing to guess that there is a lot in Goldsworthy's book that people not particularly interested in history don't know.

As with How Rome Fell (the author is best known for Caesar: Life of a Colossus), the depth of Goldsworthy's research is remarkable. He covers not just the lives of these two players but also the Roman world in which they grew up, along with a brief history of their families - the Ptolemaic royal family descended from Alexander the Great and that resulted in Cleopatra's family line, and of Antony's well-known aristocratic family.

Little is known about either childhood, but he gives us what he can, clearly noting where something is supported by historical document or whether it's suggested or inferred from what is known of the time period. Where supposition and speculation are involved, Goldsworthy never presents it as fact but as differing theories. It's interesting to explore these historical gray areas, but I like a historian who will present his view while not averring that his view is obvious fact.
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By Trundle on November 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A most excellent book. Goldsworthy's is a judicious examination of the historical record. His intention is to present what is actually known about Antony and Cleopatra rather than to simply bolster the mythic figures that have come to be associated with the names. Of particular interest are Goldsworthy's thoughtful explorations of Antony's military ventures and Cleopatra's political maneuvering. A plus: that he presents, at various points, alternate possible explanations of episodes based on available (limited) historical evidence, and then gives solid reasons for the explanation that he favors. A highlight of the volume: his outstanding analyses of the battles of Philippi and Actium.
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Format: Hardcover
I feel that I should start with a quick disclaimer - I was thanked by Adrian in the front of the book, and had many chats with him whilst he was writing the book. But that's also why I feel happy to say that this is the best researched book on Antony - and of course Cleopatra - that I have ever read. He's dug deep in the sources and brought together a mass of material about Antony not seen anywhere else. He and Cleopatra are covered as their lives evolve, in parallel, and then he examines the famous relationship so beloved of Shakespeare and artists, that has captured our imagination over the centuries. And how many historians go to the trouble of trying to dissolve pearls, to try to replicate Cleopatra's famous bet?
Stacey Schiff biography may be getting the press coverage, but Goldsworthy's is the one that will stand the test of time. It reads well, but is also based on solid research. I cannot recommend it enough.
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