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Cleopatra: A Biography (Women in Antiquity) Hardcover – April 1, 2010

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Product Details

  • Series: Women in Antiquity
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195365534
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195365535
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #997,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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. --Margaret Flanagan


This is Cleopatra laid bare without any distractions: a good beginning for readers who know little about her and want to learn more. History Today Roller offers a superb panorama of the society and culture of late Ptolemaic Egypt, with vivid sketches of...Cleopatra's Alexandria. Times Literary Supplement

More About the Author

Historian, archaeologist, and classical scholar, Duane W. Roller is Professor Emeritus of Classics at The Ohio State University, and currently lives in Santa Fe, NM. He is the author of ten books, including Through the Pillars of Herakles, The Building Program of Herod the Great, and Eratosthenes' Geography. He has excavated in Greece, Italy, Turkey, and the Levant. He is a three-time Fulbright scholar, most recently the Karl-Franzens Distinguished Chair of Cultural Studies at the University of Graz, Austria.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By lordhoot on April 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I have just finished reading this biography on Cleopatra and I found it to be quite informative and educational. The book itself is pretty short, about 156 pages long with additional 30 pages or so of appendix information. One of the elements I haven't considered before was Cleopatra as a Roman citizen. This is more of a conjecture by the book but an interesting mind twister that reflects on the long relationship her family had with the Roman Republic. The book tries to cut down the romantic notion of Cleopatra and focus mainly on her abilities as a ruler and the trials and tribulations that went with it. From the book she appears to be a very cunning woman who uses her political wits, female wiles and just about every other weapons available to her to maintained her power and independence of her kingdom. She was obviously very intelligent, knowledgable and her ability to speak several languages clearly made a strong impression. But as it turned out, in the end, the tide of history was against her and she placed too much hope in Mark Antony who proves to be more of a lapdog then a lion at the end.

I thought the book was well written and its appears that the author did his research pretty well. It is nice that this book doesn't fall into the trap of political correctness by even bothering to discuss if Cleopatra was a black woman or not. The book clearly stated that she was of a Macedonian birth although her mother may have been of some Egyptian blood. (Egyptians back then, were not black but more Semitic.) This may have caused her to take a greater interest in her people and her masterly of their customs, way of life and language.

I do not understand the previous reviewer comments but for me, I found the book very easy to read. In reflection, actually a fast reading book due to its length.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly V. Davis on May 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You will experience the drama of that fascinating, ancient age in this fresh look at Cleopatra. This book should be picked up not only by courses in classical history, but by Women's Studies classes everywhere. This carefully researched and scholarly history makes clear that the Hollywood version is only partially accurate - Cleopatra chose to see to it she was educated as well as any man, and evidently had the charisma to hold her own with anybody in negotations on behalf of her beloved Egypt.

It's even a great beach house read, for the right kind of people.....!

Hooray for strong women everywhere, in all times!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By joseph itiel on September 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Cleopatra is so well known, some 2,000 years after her death, that it makes for good reading to discover that many tales about her life are untrue. For instance, Cleopatra did not commit suicide by letting an asp bite her. (More likely, through needles to inject poison.) The story that Julius Caesar destroyed the Alexandria manuscript-library, the most important institution of its kind in those days, is probably an exaggeration. That Cleopatra was a Roman citizen and was involved in that City's politics. Probably most important, that fore and foremost, Cleopatra was a shrewd politician, not just a beautiful woman who seduced Caesar and Antonius. Everything she did was to protect Egypt and her throne.

The role of Rome as an emerging sole superpower is reminiscent of today's political affairs: Changing sides, scandals, political corruption, bribery, proxy wars, budget crises, and the list goes on and on. One difference should be noted: Solving problems of prominent leaders who would not tow the line or presented future difficulties, was expeditiously handled by murdering them. In Egypt itself, under the Ptolomies as under the pharaohs before them, there were endless dynastic barbarities. This was mostly due to the customary incestuous marriages between royal brothers and sisters, the pretenders to the throne.

Unfortunately, the author fails to explain how Cleopatra found the time to be the queen of Egypt, raise her children, and be an expert in medicine, master many foreign languages, and even be a competent navy commander. Readers would wish for some explanation how she managed to perform all these tasks. Puzzling are the number of references that, when everything was lost, Cleopatra contemplated escaping to India with her fortune to retire there.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Book Lover on April 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As a youngster, my ideas about Cleopatra were first shaped by the Liz Taylor movie. (She also surfaces as a ghoulish monster in an Anne Rice novel.) As I grew up and read more, I came to realize that her defeat at the hands of the Romans and the fact that she was a woman shaped all the myths we hold about her. Far from a scheming, sex-mad seductress, she had only two known relationships with men, and was a great intellectual scholar and able leader. This book taught me a lot more that I didn't know about a truly fascinating woman.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gderf on October 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This densely packed history of the life and times of Cleopatra VII compares favorably with biographies by Stacy Schiff, Michael Grant and Joyce Tyldesly. This one is very matter of fact, perhaps lacking the verve of the more florid style of Schiff.

Roller emphasizes C's linguistic ability and extent of scholarship and culture in her court. He describes Antony's establishment of client kingdoms including Cleo in Egypt and Herod in Judea. Octavian feared the potential of A&C to turn Rome into a Hellenized kingdom. The book culminates with the Battle of Actium, followed by an aftermath ending with the suicides of Antony and Cleopatra. He thinks that the asp is largely a myth. While a strong feature of he book is the detailed information on all the minor players, there is no mention of Octavian's admiral, Agrippa.

Appendices include a chronology, family tree and photos of Cleopatra's coinage.
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