Tag Archives: Cleopatra


John William Waterhouse's image of Cleopatra

I’m currently reading the new biography of Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. Rather like the Bill Bryson biography of Shakespeare (an excellent quick fun-yes really it is-read) it is at least as much about dispelling myths as it is about giving facts. (Not that I don’t enjoy the outlandish Shakespearean or Pre-Raphaelite renditions…) There is a good bit of ‘well, they say *this*, which is actually unlikely due to *that*, so here’s a best guess…’

I have a hunch that aspect is going to annoy some people, but that’s how history works. We very rarely know *anything* for certain; as the famous adage goes, history is written by the winners. So a fair best-guess probability with explanations of why and who and how and where to look further works for me.

I also enjoy her quiet moments of snark. She won me over in the first few pages by explaining Cleopatra’s heritage (as Larry Gonick pointed out, she’s several generations of Greek inbreeding) and summing it up by saying that Cleopatra was about as Egyptian as Elizabeth Taylor.

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