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Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt

Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt - Joyce A. Tyldesley 2.5 stars

Overall a decent biography on Cleopatra but not without its faults. I do feel as though it was written in an approachable manner. If I were not such a Cleophile I may have enjoyed this more, but I often found the approach to Cleopatra a bit off-putting for my preference. Also, as with many biographies for this and similar time periods, there were far too many tangents. Tyldesley would often get sidetracked by something she noted and spend up to a numerous pages on it, only to immediately go back to the topic at hand like nothing happened which can be discombobulating. Unfortunately these tangents also often added nothing to the topic of Cleopatra overall.

Ultimately I could not pinpoint Tyldesley's opinion on Cleopatra, possibly because she cannot determine it herself. Tyldesley would seem to waffle as to whether she believed the propaganda in some aspects, only to defend Cleopatra in other aspects (especially in the last chapter "History Becomes Legend").

Tyldesley also likes to write what I call "complinsults" throughout the novel. One such complinsult comes on page 4:

That she was an ambitious and ruthless queen is obvious from even the most superficial examination of her life, although the extent of her ruthlessness tends to be hidden in the more popular histories, which gloss over the murder of her sister and (almost certainly) her brother while concentrating on her 'love life'. That Cleopatra, living in an age of highly unstable governments, chose to form personal alliances with individually powerful Romans should be seen as sensible (intelligent) rather than a weak (emotional) decision; and 'love', as in any dynastic match, may have had very little to do with it.

Tyldesley seemed to enjoy using the word "ruthless", it was a common word used for the individuals highlighted in the book. At one point she states: "Cleopatra III was, even by Ptolemaic standards, a particularly ruthless woman." Unfortunately the information Tyldesley then proceeds to bring forth about Cleopatra's ancestor did not sound terribly ruthless to me. Perhaps I am more ruthless myself and could not see it in this aspect (doubtful, but maybe), but Tyldesley frequently made broad statements such as this and proceeded not to support them.

Antony was also oddly treated by Tyldesley, such as on page 150:

It is important to see through this propaganda and to remember that Antony was not only a bluff, naive, simple fellow; he was also an extremely ambitious and capable man.

Interestingly Tyldesley uses characteristics of Antony that were possibly sourced from propaganda (naive fellow and such) in the same breath as telling people to look past propaganda. This doesn't work for me.

There were a number of passages that irritated me or did not work for me such as the Antony one above. But overall as an introductory NF to Cleopatra it wasn't bad, but it could have been better. Fewer tangents would have been helpful. I also would have liked to see either a more neutral (but interested) stance taken by Tyldesley or, preferably, a stance that proved enthusiastic for this topic. Ultimately I never felt Tyldesley genuinely enjoyed the topic at hand unless it was the tangential data.