Monday, September 08, 2008

Book Review: Cleopatra, Last Queen of Egypt

JS Online (Allen Barra)

Cleopatra, Last Queen of Egypt. By Joyce Tyldesley. Basic Books.

Cleopatra has generated more fame - in the form of poems, paintings, books, plays and films - per known fact than any woman in history.

As Joyce Tyldesley phrases it in her fascinating and irresistible biography, “Cleopatra, Last Queen of Egypt,” “It is clearly never going to be possible to write a conventional biography of Cleopatra.”

So Tyldesley has gone ahead and written one.

An archaeologist, author (“Daughters of Isis”) and popular consultant for TV shows on ancient history, Tyldesley has chosen to re-create her subject by putting together the puzzle pieces of history that surround Cleopatra’s life and legend.

Neither an Egyptian by blood nor an actual Greek — Cleopatra could trace her ancestry on her father’s side to the original Ptolemy, a general of Alexander the Great — she was a fabulous hybrid of those cultures and several others that were native to the Egypt of the first century B.C.

What she was not, Tyldesley argues, was the villainous vamp portrayed in the movies. Played by such actresses as Theda Bara, Claudette Colbert and Elizabeth Taylor, the movie Cleopatra derived from the overheated imaginations of such western writers as Plutarch, whose “Life of Mark Antony” influenced most later writers, including Shakespeare.

See the above page for the full story.

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