Cleopatra and Antony by Diana Preston

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Synopsis

On a stiflingly hot day in August, 30 B.C., the thirty-nine-year-old Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, took her own life, rather than be paraded in chains through Rome by her conqueror, Octavian, the future emperor Augustus. A few days earlier, her lover of eleven years, Mark Antony, had died in her arms following his own botched suicide attempt. Oceans of mythology have grown up around them, all of which Diana Preston puts to rest in her stirring history of the lives and times of a couple whose names-more than two millennia later-still invoke passion, curiosity, and intrigue.This book sets the romance and tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra's personal lives within the context of their political times. There are many contemporary resonances: the relationship between East and West and the nature of empire, the concealment of personal ambition beneath the watchword of liberty, documents forged, edited or disposed of, special relationships established, constitutional forms and legal niceties invoked when it suited. Indeed their lives and deaths had deep political ramifications, and they offer a revealing perspective on a tipping point in Roman politics and on the consolidation of the Roman Empire. Three hundred years would pass before the east would, with the rise of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire, once again take a share of political power in the Mediterranean. In an intriguing postscript, Preston speculates on what might have happened had Antony and Cleopatra defeated Octavian at the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C.
 

About Diana Preston

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Born and raised in London, Diana Preston studied Modern History at Oxford University, where she first became involved in journalism. After earning her degree, she became a freelance writer of feature and travel articles for national UK newspapers and magazines and has subsequently reviewed books for a number of publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times. She has also been a broadcaster for the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and has been featured in various television documentaries. Eight years ago, her decision to write "popular" history led her to The Road to Culloden Moor: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the '45 Rebellion (Constable UK, 1995). It was followed by A First Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott and the Race to the South Pole (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), The Boxer Rebellion (Walker & Company, 2000), and now, Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy (Walker & Company, 2002).  In choosing her topics, Preston looks for stories and events which are both compelling in their own right and also help readers gain a wider understanding of the past. She is fascinated by the human experience-what motivates people to think and act as they doÐand the individual stories that comprise the larger historical picture. Preston spent over two years researching Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy. She did a remarkable amount of original research for the book, and is the first author to make full use of the German archives and newly discovered papers that illuminate both the human tragedy and subsequent plots to cover up what really happened. Preston traveled to all the key locations of the tragedy, experiencing firsthand how cold the water off the Irish coast near Cobh would have been in early May when the Lusitania sank, and how eerie it was to stand inside what remains of the U-20 (now at the Strandingsmuseum in West Jutland, Denmark) where the U-boat captain watched the Lusitania through his periscope and gave the order to fire. Of the many artifacts she reviewed, it was her extensive reading of the diaries and memoirs of survivors that had the biggest impact on her. The experience of looking at photographs and touching the scraps of clothing of both survivors and those who died when the Lusitania sank provided her with chilling pictures: The heartbreaking image of a young girl whose sister's hand slipped away from her was one that kept Preston up at night. When not writing, Preston is an avid traveler with her husband, Michael. Together, they have sojourned throughout India, Asia, Africa, and Antarctica, and have climbed Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and Mount Roraima in Venezuela. Their adventures have also included gorilla-tracking in Zaire and camping their way across the Namibian desert. Diana and Michael Preston are currently working on a biography of the 17th-century British explorer, naturalist, scientist, pirate and buccaneer William Dampier, which is forthcoming from Walker & Company. They live in London, England.
 
Published July 1, 2009 by Walker Books. 348 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel. Non-fiction

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Historian Preston (Before the Fallout: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima, 2005, etc.) casts Cleopatra as the fulcrum of power in the one of the world's first power couples.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Cleopatra and Antony

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