World History AP Book Review
With the help of everyone from William Shakespeare to Elizabeth Taylor, history has found many ways to depict the ancient world’s most famous woman Cleopatra. Who was Cleopatra? Was she the sensual seductress that history has claimed? Or was she a leader who used her political cleverness to do what was best for her people? Or was she something in between? Separating the truth from myth about Cleopatra is not an easy matter. British historian Joyce Tyldesley makes an audacious attempt in her new biography, “Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt”. This book begins with Cleopatra's early life, it analyzes her role as a companion to her father and brother, and how she came to take the Egyptian throne. She ruled Egypt during a very difficult period, and yes, she was ruthless, but she needed to be. Had she not been ruthless, she would never have become the ruler of Egypt, and would not have ruled it as long as she did.The book also records her interaction with the Roman Empire, and her personal relationships with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. She was an ambitious and ruthless queen is obvious from even the slightest examination of her life, although the extent of her ruthlessness tends to be hidden in the popular histories, which revolve around the murder of her sister and her brother while she was concentrating on her love life. But it appears she had no intimate relations with men other than Caesar and Antony. Cleopatra lived in an age of highly unstable governments, and her choice of forming personal relationships with the most powerful Romans Antony and Caesar should be seen as sensible rather than a weak decision and 'love' may have had very little to do with it.
It turns out that the queen probably wasn’t much of a looker. Depictions on coins show her to lack natural beauty by ancient or current standards. It seems likely that Cleopatra’s physical appearance was not more or less attractive than the next woman, yet through her wit, charm and daring she captivated not only two of the most powerful men of the ancient world, but the collective imagination of the entire world for all centuries after that. Also she was a talented and educated woman who spoke a number of languages and may have even been able to read and write Egyptian, which was very rare at that time. All these things made her irresistible.