cover image Cleopatra the Great: The Woman Behind the Legend

Cleopatra the Great: The Woman Behind the Legend

Joann Fletcher, Harper, $27.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-06-058558-7

Egyptologist Fletcher (The Search for Nefertiti) has undoubtedly established the new standard in biographies of the attractive, and probably redhaired, Cleopatra. Exceedingly well-written, her study of the last Ptolemy to rule Egypt is a comprehensive examination of Hellenistic bloodlines, Mediterranean history, Egyptian religion, and the rise of Rome as the ultimate ancient superpower. "[B]oth traditionalist and innovator," Cleopatra was noted for her natural intelligence, superior education, and innate political instincts. Constantly striving to preserve her own authority and, by extension, Egyptian autonomy, she outwitted her co-regent brother and other Graeco-Egyptian rivals, and famously cemented personal and political alliances with Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius. Ultimately, of course, her abilities failed her, and Octavian, Caesar's nephew, reduced Egypt to a Roman province, an event Cleopatra chose not to witness. Hopefully, Fletcher's excellent work in every respect (it could only have been strengthened with information about the Egyptian people themselves) will not be lost in the wake of Stacy Schiff's bestselling Cleopatra. 8 pages of color illus. (Apr.)