Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Book Review: Cleopatra. A Sphinx Revisited

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by Robert Steven Bianchi)

Margaret M. Miles (ed.), Cleopatra. A Sphinx Revisited. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.

The review also has a Table of Contents and a short description of each paper.

I think it fair to state that one is still imperfectly informed about the life, career, and death of Cleopatra VII. The contributors to this volume understand just how opaque those issues are. Consequently, they do not pretend to present any definitive historical assessments. Instead, they each in their own way attempt to frame specific issues with the objective of furthering the understanding of a number of prominently held misunderstandings about those issues. After reading, and perhaps re-reading, the contributions to this remarkable set off essays, the reasons contributing to the posthumous super-status of Cleopatra VII become self-evident.

There is, however, one salient feature of this volume which deserves comment. Whereas a conscious decision was apparently made to include many of the literary references in both their original language and an accompanying English translation, the same decision was apparently set aside when it came to illustrating each of the visual works of art discussed by various contributors. Whereas practical issues of fees for rights and reproductions may have been a very real issue, of course, without illustrations, the discussions of these works cannot be fully appreciated.

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