Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
Mainly ok but a bit light-weight
on 19 December 2010
First of all, I would say that overall I enjoyed the book. This is the first biography of Cleopatra I have read and my knowledge of her is limited to her relationships with Caesar, Mark Antony and her legendary acts such as suicide by an asp bite, dissolving pearls in wine or wrapping herself up in carpet to seduce Caesar.
Joyce Tyldesley does much in this book to verify, or debunk, many of the above. Tydesley does show that Cleopatra was much more than the legendary beautiful queen, using her feminine charms to seduce Caesar and Mark Antony in turn. She emerges as an astute politician, sometimes ruthless and ambitious too. She is also seen as a caring mother, a competent queen who acts both as a traditional Egyptian and Hellenistic ruler (she had to given the multi-ethnic make-up of Ptolemaic Egypt). As such she used both Egyptian culture, iconography, coinage and art to portray herself as Egypt's lawful 'Pharaoh', as well as demonstrating herself in Hellenistic dress and poses to appeal to her Greek subjects. Above all, I think Tyldesley has shown Cleopatra to be a survivor, until overtaken my the more resourceful Octavian.
However, as I said in my title, I think the book is a bit light-weight. This concerns the personal side of Cleopatra. I do not feel as though I have learnt much about Cleopatra the woman, her likes, dislikes, her traits etc. A lot of the book is taken up with discussions on matters that do not have any direct link to Cleopatra. Some sections have an indirect, or tenuous, link to her, but i think about 35-40% of the book is not really relevant to a Cleopatra biography, and gives an impression of padding out the book.
Overall, this was ok.