Cleopatra and Rome

Diana E. E. Kleiner, Author . Harvard Univ. $29.95 (340p) ISBN 978-0-674-01905-8

The few documented episodes of Cleopatra's life are notoriously difficult to interpret: they are shrouded not so much in mystery as in fame. She was an icon of female sexuality and political savvy in her own time, not least because of her personal relationships with Julius Caesar, Marc Antony and Octavian Augustus. Kleiner, an art historian, points out that seeming larger than life was the primary medium for politics even in the ancient world. And as they are today, ideas were communicated through spectacular means: publicly, through architecture, pageantry and sculpture, but more intimately, in dress and decoration. So rather than analyzing the meaning of objects and monuments like a coin depicting Caesar and the Ara Pacis Augustae (or the small marble "The Augustan Altar of Peace"), Kleiner uses the artifacts to reconstruct the lives of the personalities who defined the last years of dynastic Egypt and the consolidation of the Roman Empire. This contemporary chronicle is slightly distorted by the interpolation of modern works, which ought to be relegated to their own chapter, but it serves as a fascinating guide to Alexandria and Rome. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 05/16/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 351 pages - 978-0-674-03966-7
Paperback - 340 pages - 978-0-674-03236-1
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