Review: Cleopatra, a Life

Cleopatra, a Life by Stacy Schiff


For me, learning about history is the process of filling in the spotty list inside my head known as “the sequence of human events.” Context, as I’ve said before, is the one thing that I absolutely crave. While my circumstances are unusual, I think that most people lack context for Cleopatra. Contrasted against the surviving documents of Roman history, we have precious few from her own hand or her own land. This means that the record on Cleopatra has been written by that most pernicious kind of historian—crotchety old white dudes. They are not the kindest to powerful, intelligent, rich, or mixed race ladies in general, these generalized gentlemen, so when one woman is all of those things… Well, that’s when we get Liz Taylor.

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