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December 10, 2010

Book Review - Antony & Cleopatra by Adrian Goldsworthy

I've been a big fan of Goldsworthy's since his How Rome Fell book, and I willingly devour anything he writes (though for some reason, I've never gone back and read his Caesar biography).

Antony and CleopatraThis time, he covers the legendary lovers, Antony & Cleopatra, and my review of the book has now posted to Curled Up With a Good Book.

It's an excellent book that clears up a lot of the popular misconceptions about Cleopatra, though obviously some things will never be proven or disproven. The number of times that Goldsworthy has to say that there's just no way to know something is annoying, though I would rather he did that than make a bunch of suppositions and then build on top of them (yes, Alison Weir, I'm talking to you).

Goldsworthy does make suppositions, of course, but he tells you what they are, and he doesn't use these suppositions as evidence. If there are multiple theories, he will tell you them all and then tell you which one he believes is true.

From the review:

"As with How Rome Fell (the author is best known for Caesar: Life of a Colossus), the depth of Goldsworthy’s research is remarkable. He covers not just the lives of these two players but also the Roman world in which they grew up, along with a brief history of their families - the Ptolemaic royal family descended from Alexander the Great and that resulted in Cleopatra’s family line, and of Antony’s well-known aristocratic family.

Little is known about either childhood, but he gives us what he can, clearly noting where something is supported by historical document or whether it’s suggested or inferred from what is known of the time period. Where supposition and speculation are involved, Goldsworthy never presents it as fact but as differing theories. It’s interesting to explore these historical gray areas, but I like a historian who will present his view while not averring that his view is obvious fact."

How Rome Fell: Death of a SuperpowerIf you're a fan of Roman history, this is a great book. But I recommend even more highly his book How Rome Fell (The link is to my review of that book).

I love reading about ancient history, and Goldsworthy is definitely a great read.


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