Sunday, April 28, 2013


My mother gave me this book and the audio book to go along with it.  I have always been intrigued by Cleopatra as a female queen in antiquity, but I had no idea how riveted I would be by this book.

Each page is so well written, so beautiful so illuminating about a whole culture, a whole world I had no idea existed.  Stacy Schiff, the author is a brilliant, funny feminist so much of the focus of the book is taking back Cleopatra'a history from the men around her and throughout history who chose to define her through whatever their cultural lens.  Stacy allows Cleopatra and her world to speak for itself.  I have fallen in love with her descriptions of Alexandria.

"From east to west the city measured nearly four miles, a wonderland of baths, theaters, gymnasiums, courts, temples, shrines and synagogues.  A limestone wall surrounded its perimeter, punctuated by towers...During the day Alexandria echoed with the sound of porridge sellers or chickpeas vendors, street performers, soothsayers, moneylenders.  Its spice stands released exotic aromas, carried through the streets by a thick, salty breeze.  Long legged white and black ibises assembled at every intersection, foraging for crumbs.  Until well into the evening, when the vermilion sun plunged precipitously into the harbor, Alexandrian remained a swirl of reds and yellows, a swelling kaleidoscope of music, chaos, and color...At banquets those intricacies (in the floor mosaics) vanished under lush carpets of lilies and roses with which Egyptians were abundantly supplied.  "The general rule, " gushed one chronicler, "is that no flower, including roses, snowdrops, or anything else, ever completely stops blooming."  Strewn in heaps over the floors, they lent the impression of a country meadow...There was nothing rare about a banquet order for three hundred crowns of roses." P.72-73

Where was I?
I had no idea Alexandria was such a diverse and interesting place.
I want to visit.
Alas, it is under the sea.
So, I am savoring the descriptions and listening to each CD a few times.

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