Sunday, October 17, 2010


"In your new biography of Cleopatra, you take issue with historians who have attributed her achievements to her looks and implied that she slept her way to the top.   For reasons I am sure you can explain to me, it has always been preferable to attribute a woman’s success to her beauty rather than brains. We seem convinced that men strategize while women scheme. Men are authoritative while women are shrill.
But even Florence Nightingale dismissed her as “that disgusting Cleopatra,” as you point out.   By the time Florence Nightingale got her neurotic hands on Cleopatra, she had been mangled beyond recognition by both history and literature. For their own political reasons, the Romans needed her to be a femme fatale who seduced Mark Antony and lusted after Rome. Shakespeare took it from there."