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Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth [Hardcover]

Susan Walker , Peter Higgs


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Book Description

14 May 2001

Fabled for her sexual allure and cunning intelligence, Cleopatra VII of Egypt has fascinated generations of admirers and detractors since her tumultuous life ended in suicide in 30 B.C. The last of the Ptolemaic monarchs who had ruled Egypt for three centuries, Cleopatra created her own mythology. She became an icon in her own lifetime and a legend after her death.

This lavishly illustrated catalogue coincides with a major international exhibition celebrating images of Cleopatra. It explores how she was depicted during her own era, in works ranging from coins to life-size sculpture. Exciting new discoveries are featured--including seven Egyptian-style statues believed to represent Cleopatra, and two portraits probably commissioned while she was living in Rome with Julius Caesar. The book also examines interpretations of Cleopatra from the Renaissance to modern times, as seen in paintings, ceramics, jewelry, plays, operas, and film. In addition, recent archaeological finds from Alexandria (Cleopatra's capital) and from Rome illustrate aspects of life in Cleopatra's day.

EXHIBITION SCHEDULE:

Palazzo Ruspoli, Rome

October 12, 2000-February 25, 2001

The British Museum, London

April 12-August 28, 2001

The Field Museum, Chicago

October 20, 2001-March 2, 2002


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Review

"A hefty work of lively expertise and sumptuous . . . illustrations."--Judith Thurman, The New Yorker

"She was, of course, the greatest seductress the world has ever seen. . . . It is hard to think of any ingredient that her story does not have. She was an intellectual, wrote books, took her lover to her library and read rare manuscripts to him for the pleasure of it. . . . She spoke nine languages fluently; she was a capable and efficient ruler as well as a flamboyant one. . . . Perhaps the most compelling conundrum about the queen, though, is what did Cleopatra look like? . . . We have images in our minds of a slim, dusky enchantress, Egyptian straight hair, the headdress of cobras above darkly kohled eyes. The truth is hard to establish; but it is certainly different from that."--Julian Champkin, Sunday Times Magazine (London)

"There is enough evidence here of Cleopatra's own image creation to demonstrate that, if we find her hard to know, it is not only because the truth about her has been overlaid by 2000 years worth of erotic and racist fantasy, but because she herself was such a protean and ingenious self publicist."--Lucy Hughes-Hallet, Time Literary Supplement

"[A] lavish catalog. . . . The historical and legendary Cleopatra VII is brought to life through 394 objects from 35 museums and private collections in Africa, Europe, and North America."--Library Journal

"Cleopatra of Egypt will be a welcome addition to the library of any Cleopatra enthusiast. The volume is beautifully produced and the images are gorgeous. . . . [It] succeeds in bringing its audience into the world of Cleopatra with thorough analysis of the ancient evidence and plenty of helpful background information."--Prudence J. Jones, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"This sumptuously illustrated catalog [is a] . . . browsable homage to one of the most intriguing figures in all of antiquity. . . "--Booklist

"This hefty, intelligent book attempts to pin down the elusive identity and mysterious story of the fascinating woman who ruled Egypt from 51-30 B.C. . . . It is the book's color plates and illustrations, however, that give it life, an energy as forceful, as vivacious, and as fascinating as Cleopatra herself has been for twenty-one centuries."--Karen McCarthy, ForeWord

"This magnificent publication . . . features 11 scholarly but very readable
essays and sumptuous photographs of the exhibits. It provides almost everything the reader is likely to want to know about this celebrated figure. . . . This beautiful book and its accessible text will appeal to specialists and nonspecialists alike."--Choice

"Detailed and cutting-edge enough for the specialist and accessible enough for the casual exhibition-goer whose interest has been piqued by these antiquities."--Sarah Lawson, The Art Book

"A lavishly illustrated, informative volume. . . . Cleopatra herself appears in all the guises that enabled her to maintain her dominion over her complicated realm."--Ingrid D. Rowland, The New Republic

"Cleopatra of Egypt is an appropriately spectacular catalogue produced in connection with an exhibition that was held in Rome, London, and the Field Museum in Chicago. . . The academic community as well as the general public owe a debt of gratitude to Susan Walker and the curators of the British Museum's Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities for their efforts in publishing this remarkable collection from lending museums in Egypt, Europe, Russia, and North America."--Anatole Mori, The Classical Outlook

About the Author

Susan Walker is Deputy Keeper in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities at The British Museum. She is author of Roman Art and Greek and Roman Portraits and co-author of Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt. Peter Higgs is curator in the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities at The British Museum with a specialized interest in the collections of later Classical and Hellenistic Greek Sculpture. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great resource for Cleopatra 18 Oct 2002
By Scott Chamberlain - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If pressed, I'd almost say that this is the single best book on Cleopatra. Granted, there are critical biographies, historical accounts, and all sorts of other sources, but this massive book is unique in that it shows nearly every sculpture, coin, or papyrus that can be tied directly to Egypt's last independent ruler. Its fascinating to finally see how Cleopatra presented herself to her subjects -- in traditional Egyptian style for the local population, in Greek style to the Greco-Roman world at large. It's also sobering to see how little remains of her reign. The Romans went after her Greek-style statues, but since they didn't understand Egyptian art, many works of art in that style survive. Besides the impressive visuals, the book includes important essays on many different parts of Cleopatra's reign, life in Alexandria, and the legends that have swirled around Cleopatra after her death. A good comprehensive look at this famous queen, scholarly and readable. But boy, those visuals...!
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cleopatra Comes To Life Again, After 2000 Years 11 Oct 2005
By G.Reed - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book, I would say, is the best book I have read, (and that's a lot) on the Ptolemaic Period and Egypt's last and fateful Macedonian Queen, who died for her ambition, and desire to restore her country as major power. She was brave enough to challenge the enslaving and powerful force of Rome, and dreamed of an independant Egyptian Empire. But her attempt to achieve her goal cost her her life, and her country.

After her death, the Romans destroyed most representations of her. They overlooked, however, the many exquisite Egyptian-style statues of the queen, however, and instead destroyed what would have been the many classical depictions of her, which are lost to the Romans wrath. But fortunately, the Egyptian art survived the centuries, and with these gorgeous and mysterious representations of the living goddess herself, Susan Walker, with the help of the British Museum, has pieced together an accurate and enthralling portrait of her eventful life.

The sections, on subjects such as Alexandria, The Ptolemies, and Cleopatra and Rome, this book contains dozens of well-written and powerful essays on the monarch's life and relationship, and also Egypt at the time. Lavishly illustrated with hundreds of full color images of Egyptian style artwork depicting the queen, and also many statues of the people that influenced her life such as her lovers Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and her nemesis, the enigma Octavian, later to be Augustus, the first emperor of Rome.

I recommend very strongly this book to anyone at all interested in Egyptian, Greek, or Roman history, and art. An unearthly account of the last years of Egyptian power.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent primary resource on Cleopatra VII 7 May 2007
By Baobao Bear - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is THE book that try to find the real Cleopatra VII. It has tons of photographs on historical artificts, either they were real portraits of her, image inspired from her, or artificts long mis-identified the image as her, or the artificts from her time, this book carries the invaluable information that is hard to find them anywhere else. And this book carries scholars essays that analyse and discuss all the aspects about this famous pharaoh. Great refernece book for anyone who wants to find historical, non-fictional information about her.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excited 27 May 2014
By Yesenia Rivera - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was so happy to receive this book so quickly! I kinda wanted a book on Cleopatra that was both based on facts and myths about her. Also, I was hoping for the myths to be cleared out which they are in this book!
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