CLEOPATRA, A LIFE, by Stacy Schiff

Stacy Schiff brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world.

One of the New York Times '10 Best Books of 2010'

 

Unabridged Audiobook

Cleopatra: A Life is available for purchase as a digital audiobook, read by Robin Miles. Listen to a preview clip, below.


 

Her palace shimmered with onyx and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator. Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world.

She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; incest and assassination were family specialties. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, two of the most prominent Romans of the day. Both were married to other women. Cleopatra had a son with Caesar and—after his murder—three more with his protégé. Already she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their ends. Cleopatra has lodged herself in our imaginations ever since.

Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Shakespeare and Shaw put words in her mouth. Michelangelo, Tiepolo, and Elizabeth Taylor put a face to her name. Along the way the supple personality has been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff here boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order a generation before the birth of Christ. Rich in detail, epic in scope, Schiff's is a luminous, deeply original reconstruction of a dazzling life.


Reviews and Praise

  • Seattle Times's Best Biographies of 2010
  • The New York Times Book Review's Top 10 Books of the Year
  • New York Times Notable Books of 2010
  • Michiko Kakutani's Top Ten Books of 2010
  • Time Magazine's Top Nonfiction
  • The New Yorker's 2010 favorites
  • Los Angeles Times's Top Nonfiction
  • NPR's Alan Cheuse Best Books of Winter
  • Bloomberg's Top Nonfiction
  • The Week Magazine's Top Books of 2010
  • Obit Mag's Best Biographies of 2010
  • Apple's Best Books of 2010
  • Washington Post's Best Books of 2010
  • Kirkus's Best Biographies of 2010
  • Boston Globe's Best Books of 2010
  • Washington Examiner's Best Books of 2010
  • The Daily Beast's Top 5 Nonfiction Books of 2010
  • Entertainment Weekly's Best Nonfiction of the Year
  • Publisher's Marketplace Best Nonfiction of 2010

"A work of literature." — Judith Thurman, The New Yorker

"Enthralling" — Maureen Dowd, The New York Times

"A masterpiece." — Michael Korda, The Daily Beast

"Stacy Schiff is that rare combination: a first-rate historian and a brilliant storyteller. Using a wide range of sources, she spins straw into gold, conjuring the world of Ptolemaic Egypt in full vibrant color, and returning the voice of one of the most powerful, fascinating, and maligned women in history. Cleopatra is impossible to put down." — Rick Riordan

"The most compelling biography of the year." — Liz Smith, Wowowow.com

"In Cleopatra: A Life....Schiff strips away the accretions of myth that have built up around the Egyptian queen and plucks off the imaginative embroiderings of Shakespeare, Shaw and Elizabeth Taylor....In doing so, she gives us a cinematic portrait of a historical figure far more complex and compelling than any fictional creation, and a panoramic picture of her world....Schiff seems to have inhaled everything there is to know about Cleopatra and her times, and she uses her authoritative knowledge of the era — and her instinctive understanding of her central players—to assess shrewdly probable and possible motives and outcomes." — Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"It is a beautiful pairing—the most alluring and elusive woman in recorded history, and one of the most gifted biographers of our time. Style, like leadership, is difficult to define, but we know it when we see it. We see it here on every page." — Joseph J. Ellis

"Even if forced to at gunpoint, Stacy Schiff would be incapable of writing a dull page or a lame sentence. Here she trains her satirical eye and sterling erudition on Cleopatra, rescuing her from the many shopworn myths that have encrusted her story from Plutarch to Shakespeare to Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Schiff's luminous prose evokes the ancient world with vivid splendor, whether it be the cosmopolitan charms of Alexandria or the murderous feuds of Rome. Her portraits of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony are fresh and provocative. Best of all, Cleopatra emerges as much more than the voluptuous seductress of legend and comes across as a shrewd, cunning, and highly competent monarch who knew how to thrive in a Mediterranean world of savage politics." — Ron Chernow

"What dazzles us in Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra are not the alluring mythologies about the evasive queen, but the astonishing if rare historical facts that Schiff has meticulously and lovingly excavated. Schiff offers not just Cleopatra's story but the story of an amazing era, one that has vanished but still affects us, questioning the way we look at myth, history, and ourselves." — Azar Nafisi

"Great historians can make the discovery of the real story more exciting than the romantic myth. Stacy Schiff, a great historian as well as a wonderful writer, peels away the layers to reveal the true Cleopatra&mdasdh;a much more interesting woman than the Hollywood version and, as it turns out, a formidable queen after all." — Evan Thomas

"An epic subject requires a writer of epic skill and scope, and we have a perfect pairing in Cleopatra and Stacy Schiff. Absorbing and illuminating, this new biography will endure." — Jon Meacham

"This is an astonishing, scrupulously researched, meticulously assembled retelling of one of the world's most famous lives—and it will become a classic." — Simon Winchester

"I am grateful to Stacy Schiff first of all because she can write a sentence—because she offers us her scholarship with wit, clarity, and grace. Once again, she has done what only the best writers can do: she has made the world new, again." — Tracy Kidder

"Stacy Schiff's meticulous research, the depth and deftness of her portrayal, have given us a Cleopatra far richer and more satisfying than the myths and fantasies that we have mistaken for true nourishment. This Cleopatra is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the history and lives of women." — Mary Gordon

"Stacy Schiff is that rare combination: a first-rate historian and a brilliant storyteller. Using a wide range of sources, she spins straw into gold, conjuring the world of Ptolemaic Egypt in full vibrant color, and returning the voice of one of the most powerful, fascinating, and maligned women in history. Cleopatra is impossible to put down." — Rick Riordan