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Cleopatra and Antony: Power, Love, and Politics in the Ancient World Kindle Edition

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Length: 348 pages
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Going beyond the charisma and romance of two of history's greatest lovers, L.A. Times Book Prize–winner Preston (Before the Fallow) vividly puts their lives in the larger political context of their times. Preston explodes the legends, saying Cleopatra was less a seductress than a politically shrewd ruler, and Antony was not a hotheaded megalomaniac. Preston chronicles Cleopatra's life from her royal upbringing to her marriage to the new Roman emperor Julius Caesar, motivated, says Preston, by political ambition. After Caesar's murder, according to Preston, Cleopatra was wise to join political and sexual forces with Antony, who won favor in her eyes for rebelling against Octavian. For his part, Antony remained loyal to Cleopatra, viewing her as a partner with whom he could rule the Roman Empire. Although the tales Preston rehearses are familiar ones, she provides a rich context and speculates that if Antony and Cleopatra had defeated Octavian, then Cleopatra might have ruled in Judea more benignly than Herod. Her reception of Jesus of Nazareth might have been very different than Herod's, and history itself might have been altered. 30 b&w illus., one map. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“If there is a better book about Cleopatra for today's reader, I don't know what it is… It's a very good book.” ―Washington Post

“Defying the traditional mythology that paints them as doomed star-crossed lovers, Preston places this amazing power couple firmly into the historical, political, and military contexts that shaped them and were, in turn, shaped by them.” ―Booklist

“This very readable work is highly recommended to all history collections, as well as those in gender or women's studies and biography.” ―Library Journal

Product Details

  • File Size: 3187 KB
  • Print Length: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1 edition (July 1, 2009)
  • Publication Date: July 1, 2009
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002WU7TGY
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #557,151 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Mark Mellon on May 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Marc Antony and Cleopatra are probably the most famous romantically linked couple in the Western tradition. They have captured the imagainations of millions down to the present day due to the sheer drama of their situations, the tremendously high stakes that they played for with their lives, the power of their mutual passion for one another, and the exoticism of mysterious, ancient Egypt. The Roman general and the Egyptian queen have inspired a tragedy by Shakespeare and overblown, hammy films featuring Claudette Colbert, Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton.

One unfortuante result of this attention, however, is that the mythical Antony and Cleopatra have largely supplanted the actual historical figures. In the modern mind, Cleopatra is usually seen as a sensual, promiscuous creature, given over to debauchery and shameless pagan rites, while Antony is depicted as a degenerate sot entirely in thrall to the seductive, emasculating Cleopatra. The fact that these inaccurate and misleading characterizations still largely prevail is in large part due to the extremely effective propaganda campaign that was carried out against Antony and Cleopatra by their most deadly rival, Julius Caesar's nephew and adopted son, Octavian, later Augustus, first emperor of Rome.

Mr. Preston's book is therefore welcome in that it largely debunks these myths and does a straightforward job of presenting Cleopatra and Antony as they really were (that is, as best as that can be determined in reliance on the existing historical record). Rather than a wanton, heathen slattern, Cleopatra is shown as a highly educated, extremely intelligent and capable woman in an age when women were supposed to have no role at all other than as childbearers and domestic helpmeets.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Joan A. Adamak VINE VOICE on September 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have read several books on this couple, some of them more fanciful than perhaps realistic and I thought Colleen McCullough had covered these people fairly well, but this book truly sets the politics, morals and interests of that era. Ms. Preston did extensive research which she documents very well in the Notes and Sources and probably has done the best arranging of the idiosyncrasies and personalities of the most influential movers and shakers of Rome during the last century A.D. Through her, Antony became a much more capable military man and politician than what he is usually portrayed, but also his appetite as a womanizer and heavy drinker and Cleopatra was more thoroughly shown to be the powerful head of state that she was. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was a page turner for me and read as interestingly as non-fiction adventures. Although the reference to "Antony and Cleopatra" usually immediately reflects a tempestuous and passionate romance, Ms. Preston uses these two people as only a means to an end to set forth history in an honest and colorful narrative.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Enjolras TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Diana Preston's Cleopatra and Antony: Power, Love, and Politics in the Ancient World is a well-told history of this infamous couple. The best parts of the book are the rich descriptions of the luxuries of Cleopatra's court. The days of feasting and debauchery are mind-boggling, even by the standards of today's college students. In one scene, Cleopatra bets that she can throw a meal worth 10 million sesterces, and then achieves this by throwing one of her diamond earrings into the vinegar!

I wouldn't say there's anything particularly new or different about this book. In fact, it is really geared toward "popular" audiences (the first page even has a footnote that all dates are BC). If you're unfamiliar with the ancient world, this is a good book to start with. Preston gives a long and thorough "back history" of the Roman Republic and Ptolemaic Egypt. However, if you're a history buff, it might seem like there's too much general history, not enough detail about Antony and Cleopatra. For the latter audience, I suspect Adrian Goldsworthy's new Antony and Cleopatra would be a better bet.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Toga drama galore in "Cleopatra and Antony" by noted Oxford educated history Diana Preston. In 300 pages the author separates the two famous lovers from myth and gives us a portrait of two powerful personalities.
Cleopatra was quite a dame! She was the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Greeks who had ruled Egypt since the death of Alexander the Great. She spoke seven languages, was well schooled and a good queen of Egypt for almost twenty years. Cleopatra was also a crafty political operative who quashed her younger brother's bid for power and was not adverse to killing opponents.
Cleopatra bore a child by Julius Caesar. The boy named Caesaron would be murdered by Octavian's soldiers. Following Caesar's assassination in 44 BC she fled to Egypt. It was in Tarsus she first met by Mark Antony. Antony was a Caesar supporter who helped in the elimination of his assassins including Brutus and Cassius. Antony was a notorious womanizer, drinker and doughty warrior whose courage was real. He comes across as an earthy man who truly loved Cleopatra despite affairs with other women. He had three children by Cleopatra. His rival for Roman dictatorship was Octavian the grandnephew and adopted son of Julius Caesar. Octavian became the first Emperor of Rome following his defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at the decisive sea battle of Actium in 31 BC.
Antony and Cleopatra chose suicide rather than capture and execution by the victorious Octavian. Antony died with a sword thrust; Cleopatra may have been bitten to death by an asp or cobra but her mode of death is unclear.
Preston's book not only details in clear and understandable prose the political affairs of the volatile first century but also opens the door to Egyptian and Roman customs from sexual practices to religious beliefs.
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