Book Review: Cleopatra and Rome

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by Diana E. E. Kleiner

Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard Belknap, 2005. Pp. vi, 340. Illus, diagr., notes, biblio., index. $29.95 paper. ISBN:0674032365

Cleopatra and Rome is essentially a "life and times" of the last Ptolemid ruler of Egypt, inter-woven with an exploration of her long-term influence on the art, politics, and culture of her times and the ages that followed, with a look at the Cleopatra of tradition, legend, and literature. 

The author, a professor of Classics at Yale, argues that the Egyptian queen's conqueror, Octavian, and the Romans of his times consciously copied many political, cultural, and social practices that had characterized her reign, putting an "indelible mark" on imperial Rome

While there is some truth to this, a better argument would seem to be that in creating a covert monarchy from the ruins of the republic, Octavian and those who helped him reshape Roman institutions, took freely from the political, social, artistic, architectural, and cultural palette of the Hellenistic kingdoms, of which, of course the greatest, and the last survivor, was Cleopatra's Egypt. 

Nevertheless, Cleopatra and Rome is a rewarding read for anyone interested in the intersection of politics, culture, art, society, and history

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   


Buy it at Amazon.com




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