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Antony and Cleopatra

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Overview

A masterfully told—and deeply human—story of love, politics, and ambition, Adrian Goldsworthy’s Antony and Cleopatra delivers a compelling reassessment of a major episode in ancient history.

In this remarkable dual biography of the two great lovers of the ancient world, Goldsworthy goes beyond myth and romance to create a nuanced and historically acute portrayal of his subjects, set against the political backdrop of their time. A history of lives lived intensely at a time when the world was changing profoundly, the book takes readers on a journey that crosses cultures and boundaries from ancient Greece and ancient Egypt to the Roman Empire.

Drawing on his prodigious knowledge of the ancient world and his keen sense of the period’s military and political history, Goldsworthy creates a singular portrait of the iconic lovers. “Antony and Cleopatra were first and foremost political animals,” explains Goldsworthy, who places politics and ideology at the heart of their storied romance. Undertaking a close analysis of ancient sources and archaeological evidence, Goldsworthy bridges the gaps of current scholarship and dispels misconceptions that have entered the popular consciousness. He explains why Cleopatra was consistently portrayed by Hollywood as an Egyptian, even though she was really Greek, and argues that Antony had far less military experience than anyone would suspect from reading Shakespeare and other literature. Goldsworthy makes an important case for understanding Antony as a powerful Roman senator and political force in his own right.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Readers who recognize Goldsworthy (How Rome Fell) as Britain's most prolific and perhaps finest popular historian of Roman times will find him once again at his best. Shakespeare and Hollywood portray Antony and Cleopatra as star-crossed lovers, but historians understand that Antony (83–30 B.C.E.) was Julius Caesar's right-hand man, ruthless and ambitious. Cleopatra (69–30 B.C.E.) was not Egyptian but Greek, descended from Ptolemy, whose family had ruled Egypt for three centuries. She became Caesar's mistress in 48 B.C.E. In the Roman civil war that followed Caesar's assassination four years later, Antony shared power with Caesar's adopted son, Octavian (later emperor Augustus), until they quarreled. Antony and Cleopatra first met in 41 B.C.E. and ruled Egypt together for three years until Octavian's invading armies approached, at which point they both committed suicide. Unlike many competing authors, Goldsworthy never disguises the scanty evidence for many historical events. Some of his best passages review surviving documents, discuss their biases, draw parallels from his vast knowledge of Roman history, and recount what probably happened unless, as he often admits in this thoughtful, deeply satisfying work, even speculation is impossible. Maps. (Sept.)
Bryn Mawr Classical Review
"Essential reading. . . . Goldsworthy's book is written in engaging prose that flows with charm and flair. . . . Goldsworthy has almost created a new genre of classics/ancient history titles: works that comfortably inhabit a middle ground between the unscholarly and the hyper-scholarly."—Bryn Mawr Classical Review
The National Interest
“The book has considerable advantage over most of the other ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ histories on the shelves, providing a very detailed political and military account of the development of the two most important centers of the ancient world.”—The National Interest
Washington Times
"Goldsworthy is a rising star on the historical scene and has a number of well-regarded books to his credit. This will likely add to his growing reputation . . . [as] a first-class historian."—Washington Times
BBC History Magazine
[Goldsworthy] tells the story of [Cleopatra's] dynasty with huge skill. . . . Carefully interweaved into this extraordinary tale is another: the rise of Rome from tatty city state to Mediterranean domination.—Peter Heather, BBC History Magazine

— Peter Heather

Financial Times
[Goldsworthy] is excellent in puncturing the myth of Antony as a great Roman military tactician. . . . He is also refreshingly frank about the unimportance of Cleopatra herself. This was a world in which the power of Rome ruled.—Mary Beard, Financial Times

— Mary Beard
The Times (London)

"[Goldsworthy] set[s] out simply and lucidly . . . [not just] the story of their affair . . . but also a portrait of the political and military world in which it took place."--Sam Leith, The Times (London)

— Sam Leith

The Express (London)
[Goldsworthy] does a splendid job of putting their lives in context and forcefully reminding us of the most salient aspects of their story while dispersing the romantic fog that has clung to them.—Christopher Silvester, The Express (London)

— Christopher Silvester

The New Yorker
"[The] distinguished biographer of Julius Caesar . . . reproduces the claustrophobia of a brutal culture dependent on slavery and enslaved to ambition."—Judith Thurman, The New Yorker
Times Literary Supplement
"Goldsworthy's strengths as a military historian are on full display."—Times Literary Supplement
Choice
Highly recommended.—H. Chang, Choice

— H. Chang

Sir John Keeagn
"Adrian Goldsworthy is one of our most promising young military historians today."—Sir John Keegan, author of The Iraq War
Guy MacLean Rogers
“Goldsworthy reveals that Antony and Cleopatra were far more complex, interesting, and ultimately human figures, than ancient propagandists or modern theorists have made them out to be. My guess is that they would approve, and so will readers.”—Guy MacLean Rogers, Wellesley College
BBC History Magazine - Peter Heather
"[Goldsworthy] tells the story of [Cleopatra's] dynasty with huge skill. . . . Carefully interweaved into this extraordinary tale is another: the rise of Rome from tatty city state to Mediterranean domination."—Peter Heather, BBC History Magazine
Financial Times - Mary Beard
"[Goldsworthy] is excellent in puncturing the myth of Antony as a great Roman military tactician. . . . He is also refreshingly frank about the unimportance of Cleopatra herself. This was a world in which the power of Rome ruled."—Mary Beard, Financial Times
The Express (London) - Christopher Silvester
"[Goldsworthy] does a splendid job of putting their lives in context and forcefully reminding us of the most salient aspects of their story while dispersing the romantic fog that has clung to them."—Christopher Silvester, The Express (London)
Simon Sebag Montefiore
"Outstanding: filled with fascinating details of personality, power, sex and death. This is the best book I've read on Antony and Cleopatra—gripping and flamboyant yet scholarly and magesterial."—Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Young Stalin and Jerusalem: The Biography
Bryn Mawr Classical Review - Lee Fratantuono
"Goldsworthy admirably succeeds in highlighting the 'lost years' of Antony's life, and in offering an appraisal of the extant sources on Cleopatra that provides much of interest both to students and scholars. . . . Goldsworthy's history should be considered essential reading for anyone interested in the rise of Octavian and the birth of the principate. . . . Goldsworhty's book has most use for the undergraduate and graduate students of Roman history."—Lee Fratantuono, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
Choice - H. Chang
"Highly recommended."—H. Chang, Choice
Financial Times

"[Goldsworthy] is excellent in puncturing the myth of Antony as a great Roman military tactician. . . . He is also refreshingly frank about the unimportance of Cleopatra herself. This was a world in which the power of Rome ruled."--Mary Beard, Financial Times

— Mary Beard

Washington Times

"Goldsworthy is a rising star on the historical scene and has a number of well-regarded books to his credit. This will likely add to his growing reputation . . . [as] a first-class historian."--Washington Times

The Express (London)

"[Goldsworthy] does a splendid job of putting their lives in context and forcefully reminding us of the most salient aspects of their story while dispersing the romantic fog that has clung to them."--Christopher Silvester, The Express (London)

— Christopher Silvester

BBC History Magazine

"[Goldsworthy] tells the story of [Cleopatra''s] dynasty with huge skill. . . . Carefully interweaved into this extraordinary tale is another: the rise of Rome from tatty city state to Mediterranean domination."--Peter Heather, BBC History Magazine

— Peter Heather

The National Interest

“The book has considerable advantage over most of the other ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ histories on the shelves, providing a very detailed political and military account of the development of the two most important centers of the ancient world.”--The National Interest

Library Journal - BookSmack!
In the read-around world more is always a good option and Goldsworthy and Schiff share a similar desire to recast myth. In elegant and fluid prose, Goldsworthy presents a dual history of Cleopatra and Antony that deftly acknowledges the lack of primary sources and reliable secondary sources for research yet still manages to craft a careful and persuasive portrait of the reign of Cleopatra. Goldsworthy's focus is decidedly political as he frames the Antony/Cleopatra relationship as one of dual necessity. Like Schiff's book, Goldworthy's work is also a biography of the times and takes readers through the back history that led to the rise of Antony and Cleopatra and the cultures and ideologies that gave birth to their driving ambitions. Other notable biographies to consider include Joyce Tyldesley's Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt (Basic Books), Duane Roller's Cleopatra: A Biography (Oxford), and Diana Preston's Cleopatra and Antony: Power, Love, and Politics in the Ancient World (Walker & Co.). Neal Wyatt, "RA Crossroads", Booksmack!, 11/4/10
Library Journal
Goldsworthy follows up his admirable life of Julius Caesar (Caesar: Life of a Colossus) with a joint biography of two of Caesar's protégés. The record shows that Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, and Mark Antony, the Roman triumvir, didn't meet till 41 B.C.E., well into their busy lives, when she was 28 and he 43, although some (this reviewer included) may suspect that they encountered each other earlier during Cleopatra's visits to Caesar in Rome. Both from elite, cosmopolitan families of the Mediterranean world, Antony and Cleopatra made an ill-fated alliance, political and romantic, against the forces of Caesar's heir Octavian/Augustus. Goldsworthy credits the eventual victory of the unsoldierly Octavian to his PR savvy and his general, Agrippa, who outclassed Antony as a military leader. VERDICT Because Goldsworthy must retell the history of the civil wars of the first century B.C.E., his book could easily be called Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra. With limited source material, he constructs a plausible portrait of two practical romantics whose storied love followed the path of political advantage. Unlike Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra, Goldsworthy's book is not packaged to attract readers of bodice rippers, but these two titles are probably more alike than different: good serious books, though not necessarily for scholars or specialists.—Stewart Desmond, New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300165340
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2010
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 203,604
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Adrian Goldsworthy is a preeminent historian of the ancient world. The author of many books, including How Rome Fell, Caesar, The Roman Army at War, and In the Name of Rome, he lectures widely and consults on historical documentaries produced by the History Channel, National Geographic, and the BBC. Goldsworthy is also the recipient of numerous prizes. He lives in Wales.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This is the book on Cleopatra you should be reading

    Dr. Goldsworthy is a highly respected historian in this field, and one of my favorites. While his scholarship is superior, he knows how to write for the ancient history neophyte without condescension. One of the things I like best about his work is his honesty. It's refreshing. He understands the limitations of the historical record and explains them to his reader. In the first 13 pages of this book he does an excellent job critiquing the more recent studies of Cleopatra. I couldn't help but think of one of the more egregious examples of the abuses he describes - Stacy Schiff's "Cleopatra" - though he likely was unaware of her book at the time he wrote since his book was published earlier. Goldsworthy has no axe to grind. His narrative is plainspoken and engaging. One senses that he feels he owes his subjects an honest and accurate telling of their story. In this work he offers some interesting conclusions - one of those being that Antony was not quite the general that many historians make him out to be. His greater experience was in administration and most of his military successes were in leading small unit actions. His victory at Phillipi was due more to the incompetence of his opponents than his own warrior prowess or tactical genius. Neither Antony nor his generals had ever led such a large army as they did in the Parthian campaign. Goldsworthy does a good job explaining Antony's logistical and tactical blunders. He believes Antony's failure in this campaign set the tone for the rest of his life. He returned to Cleopatra dispirited and broken. If you browse the book @ the store, read page 306 for a taste of his approach to his subject matter. To be frank - if you want to read history; if you want to know what the historical evidence tells us, read this book. If you want polemic or romance, you best look elsewhere.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2010

    Recommended

    Adrian Goldsworthy's book is a great story in ancient roman history.
    This great book would be an outstanding to private library of anyone interested in ancient roman history.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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