Ancient times are known for having ruling emperors and barbaric men. There are millions of stories and books about the conquerers and the soldiers who fought bravely in their successes. But, what about women in ancient times? Did they sit around and take care of children while they waited for their men to return home? There is one women in the ancient world who captivated the men of her time and is still admired today for her beauty. In The Search For Cleopatra, Michael Foss tells the story of Cleopatra VII. He tells us about her remarkable legacy from hundreds of years before she was born all the way to her death, as well as, the historical circumstances surrounding her life.
Foss begins the book with a historical explanation of the hard work and uncertainty that naturally comes with finding more about the past. In the following chapters he splits the book into four important and direct categories. The first being the fall of Alexander the Great and how the Ptolemy I takes over that part of the kingdom and starts his own dynasty. Even though the book starts hundreds of years before Cleopatra VII is born, it is important to explain how the Ptolemy line begins and how the family rises to power. Foss dedicates a good portion of the text discussing how the early Ptolemies keep their greek origins as they continue to rule Egypt and this lasts all the way up until Cleopatra.
Foss follows his discussion on the Ptolemy's dynasty by looking at Cleopatra's upbringing and entry to politics. It considers topics, such as, her early years as a child, her characteristic traits and her accession to the throne. A very specific point that Foss emphasizes is Cleopatra connection with Egyptian culture. She combines a greek thirst for knowledge and egyptian ways of behaving (Foss, 49-50). When combining these two, Cleopatra was seen as universally cultured and very desirable. As a child she had access to the best of everything that a women could want, making her the most memorable queen in Egyptian history. Foss paints a picture of Cleopatra as an enlightened ruler that was both in touch with her history and her people.
A major element in Cleopatra's life is the Roman empire and its influences. Foss treats this as a very important theme when trying to understand her life. In Rome there is tension between Gnaeus Pompey and Julius Caesar that directly effects Egypt. It leads to a civil war and the beheading of Pompey by Ptolemy VIII. At the same time a conflict between Cleopatra and Ptolemy VIII was going on within Egypt. The death of Pompey lead to Caesar's interference in the Kingdom. Foss argues that Cleopatra develops a relationship with Caesar out of political necessity. Through this relationship Cleopatra is able to take control of the country from her brother, but, did ceed some sovereignty to the Roman empire.
The last topic that Foss considers is Cleopatra's relationship with Mark Antony and the end to her rule. He proposes with the death of Caesar that...