Review: Cleopatra: Fact and Fiction by Barbara Watterson #NonfictionNovember

Posted November 11, 2020 by Stephanie in Reviews / 19 Comments

Title: Cleopatra: Fact and Fiction
Author: Barbara Watterson
Publication: May 1st 2020 by Amberley Publishing
Genre: Nonfiction, History, Ancient History
Purchase it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Google Books | Kobo
Rating: 5/5

Cleopatra is one of the greatest romantic figures in history, the queen of Egypt whose beauty and allure is legendary. We think we know her story, but our image of her is largely gleaned from the film starring Elizabeth Taylor or from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Shakespeare himself was inspired by Plutarch, who was only 16 years old when Cleopatra died. So her story was never based purely on fact. In the middle of the first century BC, Cleopatra caught the attention of Rome by captivating the two most powerful Romans of the day, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. She outlived both and attempted to suborn a third, her mortal enemy, Octavius Caesar, the first of the Roman Emperors. Having failed to do so she destroyed herself. We can tell that Cleopatra was highly intelligent and politically astute and that she wielded great power. But Roman histories heaped opprobrium upon her. Cleopatra’s detractors claimed that she used her feminine wiles to entrap Caesar and Antony. She came to symbolize the danger of female influence to the safety of Rome—and indeed to the male-dominated world. Plutarch observed that Cleopatra’s actual beauty was apparently not in itself so remarkable. It was the impact of her presence that was irresistible. Cleopatra: Fact and Fiction sheds fascinating light on the woman behind the image. The fact that Cleopatra’s legend still burns bright today is proof of Shakespeare’s description of her as a lady of infinite variety whom custom cannot stale.

Weirdly enough I haven’t read a lot of nonfiction books about Cleopatra. I’ve seen lots of documentaries but books, not so much. But even so I can say that this one was an excellent read. Not too short, not too long. Pretty much perfect in length. And as far as content goes, it was also really good. I found out so much more about Cleopatra herself, the men who were in her life and just in general about the ancient world as well.

The title already says it but this book is divided in the fact and fiction about Cleopatra. The fact obviously tells us about her life and the fiction is about the people who wrote about her, made plays and movies about her. I’m very glad to say that I really enjoyed both of these parts. It was all very interesting.

I also loved that at the end of the book there was a list of the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman gods. I think this will be extra fascinating to those who don’t know that much about them but even I really enjoyed reading that part as well. There were also beautiful photographs about ancient Egyptian and Roman artifacts and buildings. They were so great to look at and I might go back ever now and then to do just that.

It wasn’t a big surprise to me that I ended up loving Cleopatra: Fact and Fiction but it was a surprise that I learned so much more about this enigmatic last ruler of ancient Egypt. Barbara Watterson has gained a new fan in me.

About the author:
Barbara Watterson received her doctorate from the University of Liverpool. She is currently a freelance lecturer in Egyptology, working, in particular, in Adult Education. Her other books include The Egyptians, Introductory Egyptian Hieroglyphics and Gods of Ancient Egypt. She lives on the Isle of Man.
Amberley Publishing | Amazon | Goodreads


19 responses to “Review: Cleopatra: Fact and Fiction by Barbara Watterson #NonfictionNovember

  1. I know there are a lot of fiction and myths surrounding Cleopatra – we learned about some of them when we studied the Shakespeare play Antony and Cleopatra which I loved! I am glad you could find this one to be so informative and really help with you getting some of the facts down.

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