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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Triumph!, 15 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Antony and Cleopatra (Hardcover)
Adrian Goldsworthy after his success with that excellent biography Caesar: Life of a Colossus, once again proves that he is master of the genre with this his latest dual biography, Antony and Cleopatra. As with Caesar Goldsworthy's approach is chronologically through the lives and related events of our main protagonists. His aim is to dispel the romantic myths of this very dubious pair that has plagued us through the ages, and this he manages to do with his characteristic exhaustive examinations.
This is an illuminating account of two of the most overrated personality's in history. Tailor made for the general reader. Highly recommended.
The perfect companion to this excellent work, is the ROMA VICTRIX beaker. In his review Adrian says:
Over each scene is a profile of Vespasian, much like a coin - the centurion and his chums have shields with the Capricorn on them based on the Arch at Arausio, and plausibly interpreted as belonging to Legio II Augusta, which of course Vespasian commanded in AD 43. The designers have done their research well and got things right. All in all a very handsome and well made piece!Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as Caesar, but definitely worth a read, 12 Sep 2010
This review is from: Antony and Cleopatra (Hardcover)
I've read all of Goldsworthy's previous books on Rome and found that this one flowed just as well as those. As with "Decline" the lack of evidence at time makes for difficult interpretation, but it nice to read non-romanticised account of these two historical figures. The debunking of the Cleopatra-was-an-Egyptian myth was interesting and not something that I had even considered before.

All in all a decent book, well written and a page turner for sure. If this man can't get people interested in Classical History, no-one can.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars first rate political biography by the best popular writer on Rome, 28 Nov 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Antony and Cleopatra (Paperback)
Goldsworthy has again proved that he can make the history of Rome come alive like no other current popularizer. Here, building on the phenomenal bio he wrote about Caesar, he covers the love story between one of his followers, Marc Antony, and a client queen, Cleopatra. It is a long enquiry into who they really were, what they actually did, and why.

Cleopatra was completely Greek, from a long line of foreign leaders who fashioned themselves as the sovereigns of Egypt. Known as the Ptolemies, their line was installed there in the wake of the death of Alexander the Great. Their court was notoriously treacherous and bloodthirsty, not only for outside rivals, but with eachother: though siblings routinely married each other to prevent civil war, they almost always ended up murdering brothers, sisters, even parents, in the bids for power over 200 years. Goldsworthy briefly covers their history and style, leading directly to Cleopatra VII of the title, who as a teenager was embroiled in a war with her bother (Ptolemy XIII) when Julius Caesar arrived in pursuit of Pompey.

According to Goldsworthy, she was a traditional despot trying to survive in a changing world. As a client or Rome, she knew the cards she had been dealt and played within those limits, more or less as a queen courtesan. She seduces Caesar and gains the upper hand in her civil war, entrenching herself in power for the next 20 years. Once Caesar is assassinated in Rome, she turns to Antony, the governor of Asia, to expand her power, again by seducing him and bearing children as acts of diplomacy.

For his part, Antony is a typical Roman aristocrat. Born to privilege and opportunity, he made the most of things: he expected his time in power, enjoyed all the luxuries, enriched himself by taking whatever he could with utter ruthlessness, and sought military glory as a way to advance his career. However, while courageous and able to inspire loyalty in his men, he lacked political instinct, was a poor general and probably an alcoholic. He learned little from experience, but may have loved Cleopatra (and she him). Their union was a political disaster from the beginning: in the eyes of his Roman supporters, Antony compounded his mistakes and was vulnerable to Octavian's propaganda campaign to portray him as un-Roman, lacking virtus, and styling himself as an oriental despot under the thumb of a woman. Even worse, in what should have been the prime years of his career, Antony proved himself an incompetent general in one of the great catastrophes of Roman history in Parthia. That effectively may have broken his spirit, making him even more dependent on Cleopatra for emotional support as a source of strength. The couple then lost in a new civil war with Octavian and commited suicide.

This is one of those books that I wish I had found as an undergraduate: it is concise yet compelling narrative, sticks to the point in a rigorous scholarly manner, and gives a clear idea of the wider context both in history and manners. It is a masterpiece that will not dissatisfy academics. Not for a single moment, in a week of delighted reading, did the book lose me with irrelevant detail, obscure arguments, or rigor for the sake of rigor.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars spirits of ancient egypt, echoes of ancient rome, 11 Nov 2012
By 
markr - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Antony and Cleopatra (Hardcover)
I enjoyed this account of the lives of Anthony and Cleopatra which describes as far as possible the worlds they knew, their early lives, and eventual meeting leading to the romance which has held our imagination for over 2000 years. Both were powerful, although it was Anthony who held the real power - Cleopatra, who was really Greek, could rule Egypt only with Roman support. Both were ruthless, self serving survivors in a world where compassion was in short supply. But their love appears to have been real - their individually expressed desire to be buried together being the ultimate testament to that mutual devotion.

I am no expert in Roman history, but I learned a great deal from this book, which has given me the motivation to read more - and i will certainly be happy to continue learning with this author as a guide.

Although occasionally confusing, especially where major events are passed over quite quickly, this is enjoyable and informative reading for those interested in history, and in the world as it was so long ago
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An accessable history of Antony and Cleopatra, 6 Oct 2012
By 
Mr. D. K. Smith (South Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Antony and Cleopatra (Hardcover)
The story of Antony and Cleopatra is one of the most famous of all time, and through countless plays, books and films continues to fascinate. Antony was one of the three men in control of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra was the queen of Egypt, former lover of Julius Caesar.

Over the centuries, their story has been retold many times, with many inventions and embellishments obscuring the true facts. Now, Adrian Goldsworthy, a noted writer on Ancient Rome, has gone back to the original sources and archaeological evidence to try and uncover the real people behind the myths.

Given the patchiness of the ancient sources, there are going to be gaps and speculation, but Goldsworthy always points these out, never allowing supposition to be recorded as fact.

With Antony and Cleopatra, Adrian Goldsworthy has produced a well-written and accessible work, explaining the complex political machinations of the day, as well as allowing the two central characters to emerge as more rounded figures than before.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - faithful rendering of intertwining lives and empires, 13 Jan 2012
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Antony and Cleopatra (Paperback)
I've read a few of Adrian Goldsworthy's books, including In the Name of Rome, and The Fall of Carthage, and have a few more on the bookshelves to work my way through. This is the one I grabbed to read next. It's interesting that in the Acknowledgments he mentions Philip Matyszak, several books of whose I have also read - including Mithrdiates, and Philip II of Macedonia. These two authors (and I am sure Ian Hughes, who is ackowledged, but whom I do not think I have read) make for powerful authorities on the Roman ethos and its surrounds. Mr Goldsworthy is an author who can write ancient history in such a lyrical manner that it reads like an enthralling novel - Tom Holland and Robert Bartlett are another authors who also have this talent. So it is with great anticipation that I curl up with this book on a rainy afternoon.

This is a marvellous tale - and given that it's true, it makes it even more marvellous to read. The author has very skilfully linked two separate biographies (whose lives only intersect in their adulthood) and written in a most clear and concise way about them both. We are treated to the most straightforward and understandable summary of the growth of the Ptolemaic regime in Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great; and to the rot and downfall of the Republic in Rome which led to the upheavals under Marius and Sulla, and the imminent growth of the Empire. From there, we delve more closely into the lives of the main protagonists in the story. And what lives they led! In Rome, Marc Antony led a life of genteel impoverishment after the disgrace and death of his father; in Egypt, Cleopatra led a life in the midst of intrigue and murder - and that was just her own family!

This is a totally brilliant book; the story itself is one worth telling again and again; but the way this book is written puts it above so many others - it zooms along at a rollercoaster pace, the tension building like a well-crafted movie - the peak of action at the Battle of Actium, and the sorry aftermath which resulted. Totally well worth reading, whether you have any preknowledge of the Roman Republic, Octavian, Marc Antony or Cleopatra or not, you will not be able to help but enjoy this wonderful book. If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would.

Marvellous stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, meticulous and reliable, 29 Oct 2011
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Antony and Cleopatra (Paperback)
Goldsworthy's Antony & Cleopatra does a fine job of debunking all the myths that have clustered around this couple: from the 'foreign' harpy of Virgil surrounded by her animal-headed gods, to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the legendary lovers.

Going back to the classical sources, Goldsworthy gives us history stripped of romance and puts it all into excellent context from the establishment of Alexander's Hellenistic empire which gave rise to the Ptolomies, to the final battle of Actium between Antony and Augustus.

Goldsworthy is always an elegant writer, meticulous with his sources, and clear about where he is adding his own interpretation. He is reliable in a way that many popular biographers of Cleopatra, especially, are not always. And yet, I have to reluctantly admit the tiniest sense of dissatisfaction with this book, something I also felt about his Caesar: The Life of a Colossus. Perhaps it's that he's too reliable, that the book is completely predictable to anyone who has worked on this period in an academic way?

So I would certainly recommend this above any of the more 'popular' books out there - but I just have a niggling sense that this book lacks a certain something, perhaps a sense of idiosyncratic excitement?
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another worthy Goldsworthy Roman book, 29 Jan 2011
By 
David Roy (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Antony and Cleopatra (Hardcover)
I've been a fan of Adrian Goldsworthy's since his How Rome Fell so impressed me with its amazing scholarship. Now, Goldsworthy tackles another ancient Roman subject that has teased the imagination of the public for generations: Antony and Cleopatra. For most of us, Cleopatra looks like Elizabeth Taylor; that movie is the extent of most common knowledge of the two ancient lovers. I have no idea how historically accurate the movie was (at least compared to the scholarship at the time of its production), but I'd be willing to guess that there is a lot in Goldsworthy's book that people not particularly interested in history don't know.

As with How Rome Fell (the author is best known for Caesar: Life of a Colossus), the depth of Goldsworthy's research is remarkable. He covers not just the lives of these two players but also the Roman world in which they grew up, along with a brief history of their families - the Ptolemaic royal family descended from Alexander the Great and that resulted in Cleopatra's family line, and of Antony's well-known aristocratic family.

Little is known about either childhood, but he gives us what he can, clearly noting where something is supported by historical document or whether it's suggested or inferred from what is known of the time period. Where supposition and speculation are involved, Goldsworthy never presents it as fact but as differing theories. It's interesting to explore these historical gray areas, but I like a historian who will present his view while not averring that his view is obvious fact.

For example, some people consider Cleopatra as almost a tramp, a purely sexual figure (perhaps because of the image the movie presents), but Goldsworthy makes a strong case for the theory that Caesar and Antony were her only two lovers, and that their relationships involved love as well as political gamesmanship. Caesar and Antony were the most powerful men of their age (Antony rose in prominence after Caesar's assassination), and Cleopatra realized that tiny Egypt could be easily absorbed by the burgeoning Roman Empire if she didn't enlist Roman aid. Yet Goldsworthy feels that their history is more than just that.

Antony and Cleopatra thoroughly details the history of these two lovers as well as the political machinations of at the time. Civil wars were breaking out in Rome throughout Antony's lifetime as ambitious men vied for power, and Antony became part of a trio of leaders with Octavian and Lepidus (a truly minor figure compared to the other two men) that was designed to end the conflicts. Instead, it precipitated Antony's downfall in the eventual face-off against each other for ultimate power. Antony and Cleopatra's decline is almost poignant in Goldsworthy's telling, even as he dispels some myths about her death - as well as pointing out which other legends may or may not be true. For example, snakes or their poison may have been involved, but it's highly unlikely that an asp bit her on the breast.

One thing I missed (and maybe it wasn't included due to the fact that little information is available) is how Cleopatra could spend so much time away from Egypt and still run things. She spent months with Antony in Greece and months with Caesar in Rome, yet there's no indication that the Egyptians even missed her. Perhaps Goldsworthy avoids the subject because there is no way to know what happened, or perhaps it's the same as when any Roman Emperor spent his entire reign on the field of battle. Either way, I would have liked to have known more.

Antony and Cleopatra is well-documented, with numerous notes in the back of the book for each chapter (probably my favorite notation system, considering the fact that nobody seems to use footnotes anymore). Goldsworthy utilizes many sources, both original and secondary, making this an admirably detailed account. Goldsworthy covers all aspects of the lives of these two prominent people, from the personal and political machinations between them to the attempted military exploits of Antony as he tried (and failed) to demonstrate to the Roman people that he was a competent general.

Antony and Cleopatra is an excellent historical overview of their lives that may help put into perspective some of the pop culture images we hold of these two tragic figures. It's also a fascinating read.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book Dave Roy, 2010
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Biography of Cleopatra - and Antony, 23 Jan 2011
This review is from: Antony and Cleopatra (Hardcover)
I feel that I should start with a quick disclaimer - I was thanked by Adrian in the front of the book, and had many chats with him whilst he was writing the book. But that's also why I feel happy to say that this is the best researched book on Antony - and of course Cleopatra - that I have ever read. He's dug deep in the sources and brought together a mass of material about Antony not seen anywhere else. He and Cleopatra are covered as their lives evolve, in parallel, and then he examines the famous relationship so beloved of Shakespeare and artists, that has captured our imagination over the centuries. And how many historians go to the trouble of trying to dissolve pearls, to try to replicate Cleopatra's famous bet?
Stacey Schiff biography may be getting the press coverage, but Goldsworthy's is the one that will stand the test of time. It reads well, but is also based on solid research. I cannot recommend it enough.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Love Story, 28 July 2010
This review is from: Antony and Cleopatra (Hardcover)
I picked this up because I was interested in a new slant on these 'infamous lovers' and was not disappointed altogether. Mr Goldsworthy gives a balanced view of both Cleopatra and Anthony, putting aside the 'romantic' over view this Macedonian Queen of Egypt seems to engender.

My only bugbear was Mr Goldsworthy blindness to the faults of Caesar; Cleopatra may or may not have been in love with the dictator but Mr Goldsworthy most definitely is! Even to saying at one point that no one was immune to Caesar's charm - well I can think of one or two who were: Brutus, Cassius, Cicero, Pompey, etc and on and on.

Otherwise, it is a good read and a relief from the rose-tinted portrayls of these two people who, as the auhtor says, did not really change history at all.
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Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra by Adrian Goldsworthy (Paperback - 21 July 2011)
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