Thursday, December 19, 2013

Your History Preference - Factual or Frisky?

The history we were taught in school and the way it was taught very nearly put me off of it for life.

Dry:  On August 7, 1848 General T. Beauregard DuPont ordered his men to...

Frisky:  The sky hung leader; the clouds nearly touching the rolling fields of Bocaster Farm where the rebel troops waited for orders.  The possibility of rain wasn't even discussed; their situation was bad enough.   The soldiers stood, staring down at their equipment; tightening and re-tightening their musket balls.

Okay, now you see what I'm talking about.   Even a dull subject can (usually) be padded out into a much more interesting shape.

But this book blew me away with its matter-of-fact tone!  "Cleopatra, A Life"   by Stacy Schiff   Little Brown & Company   368 pages   $29.99

We Americans have castigated our leaders throughout the years.  But nothing they have ever done has been as scandalous as the way people in Cleopatra's world behaved.

Consider this - young Cleopatra married twice - both times to her own brothers!  The first husband irritated her to the point where she went to civil war with him and killed him.  She poisoned her second brother and later, an ambitious sister who had gotten in her way. 

Despite marrying brothers (her own) it was believed that she only slept with two men - Caesar and later, Marc Antony.  She and Caesar had a child; he was assassinated; she got interested in Marc Antony and went on to have three kids with  him.  She died age 40.

While we snicker at electing a president that has been divorced, consider this:  Pompey married five times and Caesar four. 

Schiff makes much of the fact that Cleopatra was so far ahead of her time.  Her choices were her own, no one forced her on to Caesar   She controlled Egypt's money, waged wars (and won)  Perhaps she was the first liberated woman?  Or maybe it was Catherine the Great, of Russia.  I'll have to get a history book and look.

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