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Cleopatra: A Life - Chapter Summaries

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By Stacy Schiff

Chapter I: That Egyptian Woman

* She was actually the sixth Cleopatra

* Although we know her name and many of her actions, we only see her and her reputation through the eyes of her critics

* She was seen to be charming, powerful, wealthy, but at the same time wanton and evil (also painted as a seductress)

* Definitely one of the most famous women in history

* No one actually knows what she looks like

* No one knows who her mother is

* Her father, Ptolemy XII Auletes, supplied her with a tutor to educate her

* Not Egyptian, she's Greek

* Her ancestors were a murderous, inbred dynasty of Greeks

* Fluent in nine languages, "silver-tongued and charismatic" (7)

* Born a goddess, became a queen at 18, ruled Egypt for 22 years

Chapter II: Dead Men Don't Bite

* Cleopatra's audacity impressed Caesar

* She came to the throne at 18, with her brother (and husband) Ptolemy XIII (8) at the age of 10

* Julius Caesar and Pompey were the most powerful men in Rome at the time

* Cleopatra was kicked out of the palace and forced to raise her own army in the desert to regain her throne because of her brother-husband's advisors

* Ptolemy was following in the footsteps of his ancestors (power-grabbing and murders)

* When Cleopatra was in the desert, Ptolemy had Pompey murdered

* Ptolemy thought that a murder from the hands of Egypt (Cleo. and himself) would lure Caesar away from Cleopatra

* Pompey was supposed to be their guardian (paid by their father to secure the kingdom)

* Murder was a political tool in Ptolematic Egypt

* Caesar felt that Ptolemy had crossed the line by offering safety and then murdering him in front of his own family

* Caesar was also in pursuit of Pompey

* Cleopatra approached Caesar on her own behalf, by being smuggled into the palace (in a bag or wrapped in a carpet)

* Alexandria was the epitome of sophisticated, diverse, internationally oriented Greek culture

* Rome was somewhat afraid of Greek's culture and its rigid precepts

* Rome was also jealous of the wealth of Egypt

Chaper III: Cleopatra Captures the Old Man by Magic

* It was to Caesar's advantage to have a secure, wealthy ally in the east, from where he could conquer his enemies

* Caesar appreciated all that Cleopatra had to offer, including a son (and future pharaoh)

* Julius was a womanizer and an opportunist so he allowed him self to be seduced by her

* At this time Cleopatra was 21 years of age and Caesar was 52

* They were the richest couple in the world

* Alexandria's wealth and prosperity outshone anything Rome had to offer

* Rome was a series of huts while Alexandria was a planned city that demonstrated its culture in every turn

* Politics were a blood-sport

* Rome was clamoring for Caesar's return from after he settled his personal and political affairs in Egypt, but Cleopatra arranged for a trip down the Nile

* Cleopatra was pregnant

* In June Cleopatra gave Caesar a son, Caesarion; however by the time he was born Caesar had already departed for his own country, he had to return to the business at home

Chapter IV: The Golden Age Was Never the Present Age

* Caesar helped Cleopatra establish such a firm control over Alexandria and the rest of Egypt, she was able to take her son and visit Rome

* Her presence in Rome was problematic, but also signifying that the riches od Egypt were at Caesar's disposal so she was wanted there

* Cleopatra always the the good fortune to produce children at the most opportune moments

* Caesar's daughter, Julia (Pompey's wife) had died years before and his current wife was unable to have kids

* Producing a child for Caesar ensured her continued presence on the throne of Egypt

* Caesarion was divine and an excellent omen

* Cicero disliked Cleopatra (reason unknown), and vilified her at ever turn, he had the power to sway others to his way of thinking

* Caesar put Cleo and their son in a "country villa" on the outskirts of Rome

* In February 44 BC Caesar became dictator for life. With these honors came wealth, a throne-like chair and coinage in his image. He began plans to invade Parthia (using Roman and Egyptian wealth)

* Caesar became out of touch with Rome, this later proves his downfall

* On March 15, 44 BC, Julius Caesar was murdered in the Roman Senate by a group of people how completely disagreed with his idea of dictatorship, Cleopatra's strongest ally was gone

* Ptolemy XIII had been murdered and she was now married to her other brother, Ptolemy XIV - this was doomed from the start

* after Caesar's assassination, Cleopatra took her son, her entourage and all their treasure and set forth for Rome, leaving a hornet's nest of intrigue, war and strange alliances in her wake.

Chapter V: Man in by Nature a Political Creature

* Mark Antony was Caesar's protege and expected to be his heir. Instead Caesar adopted a great nephew, Gaius Octavius as his direct heir and made him the equal recipient of his wealth and power.

* Caesar knew that Rome would never accept his

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