When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatraby Colin Falconer
Arrestingly beautiful and fiercely intelligent, Cleopatra VII of Egypt was barely more than a teenager when she inherited the richest empire in the world—one that stretched from the scorching deserts of lower Egypt to the shining Mediterranean metropolis of Alexandria. Imperiled at every turn by court conspiracies and Roman treachery, Cleopatra brazenly sought a partnership with the only man who could secure Egypt’s safety: Julius Caesar, a wily politician and battle-hardened general with a weakness for women. The result was a passionate love affair that scandalized Rome and thrust Cleopatra into the glittering but deadly world of imperial intrigue and warfare—a world that she would mesmerize and manipulate even after Caesar was gone.
Colin Falconer takes the reader inside the walls of Alexandria’s great palaces and into Cleopatra’s very heart, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman who thrived and triumphed in a world ruled by men. This is the glorious story of a legendary woman, a story that blazes through thousands of years of history to capture the imagination of readers today
- Crown Publishing Group
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- 5.22(w) x 8.02(h) x 1.13(d)
Read an Excerpt
Darkness, cold stone under her fingertips, shadows dancing on the walls, torches flickering in the downdraught of the tunnels. So cold, and damp as death down here, and it was long moments before her eyes became accustomed to the darkness.
She heard them before she saw them, their sinuous coilings and cold slithering, as they retreated before the light of the torches. She felt her muscles freeze. She was unable to look away, her limbs paralyzed by the horror in the pit below. There were hundreds of them, countless deaths sliding upon and under, eyes glinting like chips of garnet. The executioner's storehouse.
There an asp, its tongue flicking in and out of its slit mouth in agitation, sensing their presence. Its bite caused agonizing pain that spread to the whole body, and the affected limb was soon covered with ugly purple blotches and swellings. Its victim soon began to retch, and then lost control of bladder and bowels. An ugly death, reserved for criminals who were to be doubly punished.
And there, its slender body banded with yellow and brown, the hooded cobra, the divine symbol of Upper Egypt, the royal emblem of pharaoh and Ptolemy alike. The Greeks called it basilisk, or little king. In the Book of the Dead the hooded cobra was the symbol for everlasting life.
Its bite was deadly but relatively painless. After a short time its victim's eyes began to droop, and then they fell quickly into a deep sleep from which they did not return. The fangs left two small marks from their bite, but there was no other disfigurement to the body, granting dignity in death. It was the way chosen for her older sister, Berenice, after she had rebelled against her father and tried to usurp his throne.
Now her father put his mouth close to his ear, she felt the wiry hairs of his beard tickle her face. "This is the world you have inherited," he whispered to her. "Every palace is filled with snakes, twice as deadly as these. You will live in such a nest all your life and you must learn to be as sinuous as these serpents, use your venom as wisely, and to strike without hesitation if you are to survive. Do you understand?"
"I understand," Cleopatra answered.
She was ten years old.
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
COLIN FALCONER was born in North London. He is a former journalist and the author of three previous historical novels, which have been published in many languages throughout the world. He travels widely to research his novels but now lives in a small coastal town in western Australia.
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