Egyptian Princess, Roman Prisoner, African Queen
by Jane Draycott
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Pub Date 12 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 12 Oct 2023
Head of Zeus, Apollo
Please note that this is an uncorrected proof.
The first biography of one of the most fascinating, and unjustly neglected, female rulers of the ancient world: Cleopatra Selene. Princess, prisoner, African queen – and surviving daughter of Cleopatra VII.
In 1895, archaeologists excavating a villa outside Pompeii unearthed a hoard of Roman silverware. Among the treasures was a bowl featuring a female figure with thick, curly hair, deep-set eyes, a slightly hooked nose and a strong jaw, and sporting an elephant scalp headdress. Modern scholars believe this woman to be a depiction of Cleopatra Selene, daughter of the infamous Cleopatra and Mark Antony.
Using this discovery as her starting point, Jane Draycott recreates the life and times of a remarkable woman. Unlike her siblings, who were either executed as a threat to Rome's new ruler, Augustus, or simply forgotten, Cleopatra Selene survived and prospered. She was a princess who became a prisoner; a prisoner who became a queen; an Egyptian who became a Roman; and a woman who became a powerful ruler in her own right at a time when women were marginalized. Her life shines new and revelatory light on the politics and culture of Rome and Egypt, as well as on the relationship between Rome and Mauretania, one of its most significant allied kingdoms.
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Average rating from 24 members
This book made me cry! But in a good way.
I only found out about the existence of Cleopatra Selene early last year while reading a book about Roman North Africa (because everyone forgets). To not only learn that she existed, but survived her three brothers was a shock. Add to that her eventual success as a Queen and technical continuation of the Ptolemaic dynasty will send a thrill through any ancient history lover.
This book is beautifully written, and accessible to all with an interest in this character and period of history. Draycott manages to provide all the relevant backstory, a who's who of Rome and Egypt at the time in order to show us the significance of Cleopatra Selene's survival.
I have and will continue to recommend this book to everyone and anyone. So insightful and well-constructed even with scant sources available since she was a woman, but her story is captured and told perfectly in this gem of a biography.
Wow found this do interesting….. The first biography of one of the most fascinating, and unjustly neglected, female rulers of the ancient world: Cleopatra Selene. Princess, prisoner, African queen – and surviving daughter of Cleopatra VII.
why aren’t we talking more about Cleopatra Selene?
This is the first biography *ever* on Cleopatra’s daughter, written by the fantastic Jane Draycott (who has also written pioneering articles and books on disability and prosthetics in the #ancientworld - she’s one to keep an eye on). If you’re interested in #ancienthistory , #egyptiannhistory, #cleopatra , #womeninhistory , I mean, the list goes on - as far as I’m concerned, if you’re here, you’ll enjoy this book.
As with Cleopatra, we have a skeletal outline of Cleopatra Selene’s life, but nothing with total clarity. We don’t know what she really looked like, what she thought or felt, but we do know she was intelligent and determined enough to not only survive, but prosper in her tumultuous position as Cleopatra’s daughter in the xenophobic, early Roman Empire.
Draycott offers an in-depth, holistic interpretation of Cleopatra Selene’s life. She doesn’t speculate, and she writes an empathetic history without bias (unlike many other authors of Cleopatra and family). For example: “If there is any truth in this…” - she acknowledges the discrepancies in the history and sources surrounding Selene (there’s a fully appendix of translated source passages, fyi, which is #dreamy ), and provides the reader with all possible outcomes and alternatives without passing judgement.
Where gaps occur in Selene’s story, Draycott bridges these with a wealth of detailed and authentic context: you are given the full story of Cleopatra and her role in Egyptian history, a thorough account of the interactions between Ancient Egypt snd Ancient Rome, Cleopatra’s relationships with Caesar and Antony, Cleopatra Selene’s upbringing, her marriage to Juba II, and her role as queen.
Draycott’s writing really leaves you thinking, and she offers such a balanced and *up-to-date* voice for #ancientrome as a whole that I can’t thank her enough. She reminds us that marriage in Ancient Rome was viewed as a relationship of mutual respect. She discusses the severely underrated (in contemporary trade non-fiction, like this volume) poetess Sulpicia, who was a contemporary of Cleopatra Selene (who, actually, would have been a patroness of a circle of poets, interestingly). And then there’s her charming narrative regarding Selene and Juba, their upbringing and relationship, and their similarly devastating and dynamic lives in the hands of the Roman Empire.
Ultimately, Draycott’s writing is nuanced, subtle, and refreshing. Finally, someone has done Cleopatra, and Cleopatra Selene, justice.
Having researched Cleopatra Selene myself I was thrilled to get a copy of this. It’s is a brilliant book, well researched, well written and full of fascinating detail about a truly amazing woman. I highly recommend.