- Capa comum: 432 páginas
- Editora: Back Bay Books; Edição: Reprint (6 de setembro de 2011)
- Idioma: Inglês
- ISBN-10: 0316001945
- ISBN-13: 978-0316001946
- Dimensões do produto: 14 x 3,2 x 21 cm
- Peso de envio: 431 g
- Avaliação média: Seja o primeiro a avaliar este item
- Lista de mais vendidos da Amazon: no. 371,033 em Livros (Conheça o Top 100 na categoria Livros)
Cleopatra: A Life (Inglês) Capa Comum – 6 set 2011
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Having said that...............this book is loaded with deeper human insight into why this passage of history unfolded as it did. The reader easily becomes enamored to Cleopatra, and Anthony. Plus, the events of this period are wonderfully presented (the intrigue, the battles, the politics, the loves, the hatreds) as the saga of the Roman civil war period plays out.........for both serious students or the more casually motivated.
It is said that a sculptor sees his final piece hidden within the block of marble he confronts on day one of a project as he then goes about removing the excess.........such is this book. Ms. Schiff's work would be an excellent basis to extract a crisp screen play.........HBO's Rome possibly?
Her real story, as told by Schiff, is every bit as fascinating as that told by Shakespeare. Cleopatra descended “from a line of rancorous, meddlesome, shrewd, occasionally unhinged Macedonian queens,” Schiff writes and would prove to be a true daughter of her ancestors. Her name, which translates to “Glory of her Fatherland,” is fitting. Born in 69 BC, the second of three daughters in a family known for eagerly liquidating siblings, she would prove to be both the strongest and shrewdest of the brood. She may not have been as traditionally beautiful as legend would have it, but she was certainly sagacious, sophisticated, and well-educated, speaking as many as seven languages fluently, including native Egyptian, the only Ptolemaic monarch to learn the local dialect.
From the Roman point of view, Egypt was a tricky subject. The richest, most agriculturally productive region in the ancient world, Egypt was, according to the classicist Ronald Syme, ”a loss if destroyed, a risk to annex, a problem to govern.” Julius Caesar arrived on Egyptian shores in 48 BC in hot pursuit of Pompey, his chief rival in the Roman Civil War, who had just been slain at Pelusium by Ptolemy XIII, a deed for which Dante would place the Egyptian king in the ninth circle of hell next to Cain and Judas. Like others who came before and after him, Caesar was entranced by the grandeur of Alexandria, “the Paris of the ancient world,” in Schiff’s romantic language, the most cultured, the most beautiful, the most refined city ever known to man. Caesar found the young Cleopatra equally intoxicating. He would make her queen – and pregnant.
Caesar brought Cleopatra back from Alexandria to Rome, which Schiff likens to “sailing from the court of Versailles to eighteenth century Philadelphia.” He also brought back with him other marvelous creations of Egypt, such as the 12-month calendar, the 24-hour day, and a large public library. “It was difficult for anyone to come into contact with Ptolemaic Egypt and not contract a case of extravagance.” Indeed, one might argue, as Schiff does, that “Cleopatra properly qualifies as the founder of the Roman Empire,” because, as Lucan wrote a century after Caesar’s death, “she aroused his greed.”
Cleopatra was a 26-year-old mother of Caesar’s only male child, Caesarian, living comfortably at Caesar’s villa outside of Rome when he was assassinated on the Ides of March. She was blindsided by events and would never again set foot in Rome. She would eventually fall for Mark Antony, Caesar’s most trusted lieutenant, a man “given to good living, great parties, bad women,” a brilliant cavalry officer who possessed all of Caesar’s charm but none of his self-control. Cleopatra needed Mark Antony. Octavian, the inheritor of the mantle of Caesar, was “a walking, plotting insult to her son,” Caesarian. Mark Antony’s obsession with conquering Parthia proved to be a blessing for her as only the wealth of Egypt could underwrite such an expensive campaign.
Cleopatra and Mark Antony met at Tarsus in 41 BC. Her effect on the Roman general was “immediate and electrifying,” according to Schiff. The queen engaged in “a take-no-prisoners school of seduction.” The author claims that Tarsus was a rare instance when the life and legend of Cleopatra completely overlap. She brought Mark Antony back to Alexandra where he “swallowed the whole Greek culture in one gulp.” The “barrel-chested, thick-thighed Roman” fell in love with Alexandria, “a city of raspberry dawns and pearly late afternoons, with the hustle of heterodoxy and the aroma of opportunity thick in the air.” Cleopatra bore him twins in 39 BC, Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene; but more importantly for the stability of the Mediterranean world, Mark Antony married Octavian’s sister, a marriage alliance not unlike Pompey’s to Caesar’s daughter, Julia, in 59 BC, a union that offered a half-decade respite to internecine strife in Rome.
Mark Antony’s long-awaited Parthian campaign was a failure; perhaps not on the scale of the disaster that befell Crassus in 53 BC, but bad enough that he lost 24,000 men (a full third of his army) and recorded no noteworthy victories in 18 modest battles. Meanwhile, Octavian had been piling up successes (e.g. he had crushed Sextus Pompey and kicked fellow triumvir Lepidus to the curb). Schiff writes that Antony was despondent, nearly suicidal. It was Cleopatra’s “blue ribbon rendition of the lovesick female” that rallied him. In the so-called “Donations of Alexandria” in 34 BC, Antony distributed the Roman Empire in the east to their children, who were part Roman and part Egyptian gods. The view from Rome, Schiff says, was that the Donations were “an empty gesture, a farcical overreaching by two slightly demented, power-drunk dissolutes.”
In 32 BC Mark Antony divorced Octavia. The pretext for the final showdown had finally arrived. Antony was, in Octavian’s opinion, “irredeemably contaminated by the Oriental languor and the un-Roman luxuries of the East.” He relished the stories of how Antony fawned over Cleopatra like a eunuch, giving her foot rubs in public, among other embarrassing acts of servitude. With the (dubious) claim that Cleopatra was “poised to conquer [Rome] as she had conquered Antony,” the Senate declared war on Egypt in October 32 BC and then voted to deprive Antony of his consulship and relieve him of all Roman authority.
“The experience, the popularity, the numbers, were all on Antony’s side,” Schiff writes, “he was the skilled commander behind whom stood the most powerful dynasties of the East” and the vast riches of Egypt with its determined queen who could not co-exist with Octavian so long as her son, Caesarian, lived. Indeed, “Antony could not win a war without [Cleopatra]. Octavian could not wage one.” The culminating battle of Actium in early September 31 BC was as decisive as it was anticlimactic. Octavian had eroded Antony’s superior land force over the course of the summer by maintaining a close blockade. Cleopatra and Antony shamefully abandoned their army and fled to Egypt.
The two lovers were cornered. Antony’s army disintegrated. Whole legions defected, as did allied kings. The raucous “Inimitable Livers” of Alexandria, as Antony and Cleopatra once playfully called their retinue, changed their club name to “Companion’s to the Death.” Antony was 53-years-old, Cleopatra 38. Their end was so theatrically dramatic that Shakespeare hardly had to change a thing. When Cleopatra had her death falsely reported to Antony, he fell on his sword in inconsolable grief. He lived long enough to learn that the queen was actually still alive and breath his last breathe in her arms. Nine days later Cleopatra took her own life in turn, most likely by poison, Schiff says. “Cleopatra’s asp is the cherry tree of ancient history”: Schiff claims that there is no way a single snake could have killed the queen and her two faithful attendants, Iras and Charmion, so quickly and peacefully. “A fourth casualty of August 10, 30 BC may well have been the truth,” she writes. One thing was for certain: Cleopatra would never be the crown jewel in Octavian’s fabulous triumph parade back in Rome, where the enormity of the Egyptian riches quickly led to massive inflation and a tripling of interest rates.
Schiff wants us to appreciate Cleopatra for who she truly was – and for good reason. For far too long the great queen has been a caricature, completely misrepresented, unfairly maligned, and largely misinterpreted. “It has always been preferable to attribute a woman’s success to her beauty rather than her brains,” Schiff writes, “to reduce her to the sum of her sex life.” Clearly, Cleopatra was much more than a celebrated lover. Nevertheless, Schiff bemoans, “we will remember that Cleopatra slept with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony long after we have forgotten what she accomplished in doing so, that she sustained a vast, rich, densely populated empire in its troubled twilight, in the name of a proud and cultivated dynasty.” That she was “a remarkably capable queen, canny and opportunistic in the extreme, a strategist of the first rank.”
Like every other book by Stacy Schiff that I’ve read, this one comes highly recommended. It is that rare book that both layman and experts will find satisfying.
We know next to nothing about Cleopatra’s early years. She is a young woman when we first encounter her. Much of the first part of the book is more about Julius Caesar; to history, she is important only through him. It is only after his death that Cleopatra, to history, becomes a major player in her own story.
I thought I knew everything there was to know about Cleopatra, but there were some surprises in this book. That said, this is not an introductory work on Cleopatra or her times. Instead, it is a complement to other works. It is very interesting, very insightful, and very worth reading.