Book Review: ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA: The Doomed Love Affair That United Ancient Rome and Egypt


by Patricia Southern

Stroud, Eng.: Amberly/Philadelphia: Casemate, 2009. Pp. 189. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 1848683243

In Antony and Cleopatra, Patricia Southern, author The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History, Empress Zenobia: Palmyra's Rebel Queen, and several other works that focus on notable events, institutions, and individuals in the Roman world, undertakes a combined biography of two of history's most notable figures. 

This dual-biography works quite well.  After a brief introduction, Southern opens with separate chapters on the early life of Cleopatra, a complex tale reflecting the highly dangerous condition of being an heir to the Ptolemies, and of Marc Antony, the equally complex and no less dangerous life of a Roman politician and soldier.  But once the two meet, in 47 BC, the book begins to treat them in tandem, with surprising success, underscoring how intertwined their lives became, particularly with the death of Cleopatra's lover, and Antony's commander and patron, Julius Caesar, after which they too became lovers and went into the business of empire together, through to their the deaths in 30.  Along the way we get a look at the intricate circumstances of the fall of the Roman Republic, as Southern sorts out the various streams of "evidence" -- tradition, literature, propaganda -- about the pair, giving us a look at their personalities, capabilities, and motivations.

Although perhaps more successfully in her treatment of Antony than of Cleopatra, nevertheless, Southern's Antony and Cleopatra is a very good, informative read for anyone interested in the end of the Roman Republic and of the Hellenistic era.



Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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