Cleopatra: Beyond the Myth

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Overview

Cleopatra: kohl and vipers, barges and thrones, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. We have long been schooled in the myth of the Egyptian ruler. In his new book Michel Chauveau brings us a picture of her firmly based in reality. Cleopatra VII reigned in Egypt between 51 and 30 B.C.E. Her primary goal as a ruler was to restore over the eastern Mediterranean the supremacy of the Lagides, the dynasty of Macedonian origin of which she herself was a descendant. We know the queen best from Greek and Latin sources, though these must be used with caution because of their bias. Understandably enough, they reflect not only matters of interest to Romans, but also the propaganda that Octavian used against the queen during his struggles with Mark Antony. Chauveau combines his knowledge of Egyptian sources with judicious use of classical materials to produce an authoritative biography of Cleopatra, the woman and queen, seen in the light of the turbulent era in which she lived.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hoping to rescue the Egyptian queen from 'clichés that have been spread by. . . a complaisant literature,' not to mention by Elizabeth Taylor vehicles, Chauveau offers Cleopatra: Beyond the Myth. In this concise biography based on the few surviving Greek, Latin and Egyptian texts that mention her, Chauveau shows how the lack of sources (as well as Cleopatra's own attempts to mythologize her reign) has allowed romantic legends to flourish."—Publishers Weekly, April 1, 2002

"Students who read this brief volume will find little of the movie queen but a great deal of Roman history. Cleopatra's defeat made Octavian emperor of Rome, and he arranged for the spin on history to make his actions look good."—School Library Journal, July 2002

"Michel Chauveau . . . attempts to 'exorcise the myth' and present the 'facts' of Cleopatra's life and death."—Mary Beard, London Review of Books, 20 March 2003

"Cleopatra succeeds in conveying the events of Cleopatra's life as well as the circumstances that surrounded those events. . . . what a different portrait of Cleopatra emerges when we allow ourselves only the certainties of her life (as far as they can be established and permit ourselves to leave blanks where no evidence exists. What remains is enough, however, to tell us that for the Egyptians, as C. puts it, Cleopatra was 'the last and the greatest of their queens.'"—Prudence Jones, Rutgers University, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, May 2002

"Cleopatra: Beyond the Myth might better have been titled Stripped of Myth, for that is what Chauveau attempts in this attractive and useful little book, leading us through the thorny world negotiated by Cleopatra: a distillation of the short life of a very energetic, ambitious, and—staying with fact—seductive woman, who bore children by both Caesar and Antony, and who, in a certain sense, conjured her own empire out of nothing. The empire proved ephemeral, but Cleopatra lives on in myth, and here, in the surviving facts."—John Mosher, History: Reviews of New Books

"This small book is a good read by a good scholar, and the translation reads so well that one frequently forgets the text was originally French. There is plenty here for the nonspecialist in Graeco-Roman Egypt."—Antiquity 76 (2002)

Publishers Weekly
Hoping to rescue the Egyptian queen from "clich s that have been spread by... [a] complaisant literature," not to mention by Elizabeth Taylor vehicles, French Egyptologist Michel Chauveau (Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra) offers Cleopatra: Beyond the Myth. In this concise biography based on the few surviving Greek, Latin and Egyptian texts that mention her, Chauveau, former member of the Institut Fran ais d'Arch ologie Orientale and current director of studies at L' cole Practique des Hautes tudes in Paris, shows how the lack of sources (as well as Cleopatra's own attempts to mythologize her reign) has allowed romantic legends to flourish. He disputes the claims of other biographers on such subjects as the trajectory of her affair with Mark Antony, and points out biases in the accounts of Plutarch and other Roman historians. (Trans. from the French by David Lorton. Cornell Univ., $22.50 128p ISBN 0-8014-3867-5) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Students who read this brief volume will find little of the movie queen but a great deal of Roman history. Cleopatra's defeat made Octavian emperor of Rome, and he arranged for the spin on history to make his actions look good. The book includes scholarly footnotes, with translated quotations from historical sources such as Cicero, Plutarch, Caesar, Dio Cassius, Suetonius, Pliny the Elder, etc. There are two maps: one of Egypt during this period and one of the eastern Mediterranean. Black-and-white photographs of Ptolomaic and Roman coins and of paintings in the Louvre (probably painted during the Renaissance) are included.-Irene F. Moose, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801489532
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

David Lorton, an Egyptologist, is the translator of many books, including Erik Hornung's books The Secret Lore of Egypt and Akhenaten and the Religion of Light, both from Cornell.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : a personage and her myth 1
"A queen issued from so many kings" 4
The new Aphrodite 29
Cleopatra, enemy of Rome 62
Conclusion : the memory of Cleopatra 77
Chronology of the Ptolemies 81
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 22, 2010

    Good for Research Purposes

    I purchases this book several years ago now, but I still pick it up when I am doing my research on the Egyptian queen. It is a fairly straightforward tome, with the author providing passages from ancient writers such as Plutarch amd Flavius Josephus.
    Maybe my only criticism is that it is so scholarly that it is bland. But, then again, when doing research, you want only the facts.

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