As the only daughter of Roman Triumvir Marc Antony and Egyptian Queen Cleopatra VII, Cleopatra Selene was expected to uphold traditional feminine virtues; to marry well and bear sons; and to legitimize and strengthen her parents' rule. Yet with their parents' deaths by suicide, the princess and her brothers found themselves the inheritors of Egypt, a claim that placed them squarely in the warpath of the Roman emperor.
For all her hard work, Draycott, an archaeologist and historian, delivers something slightly different from a biography ... The protagonist of Draycott’s study remains stubbornly unknowable, a black hole in a more knowable universe ... There’s no other choice for a historian wishing to resurrect a woman for whom there is meager proof of existence.
Jane Draycott has wrestled dauntlessly with the little evidence there is about this intriguing figure ... Her reconstructions of the physical conditions in which the royal offspring lived, and of Cleopatra’s emotional responses to her dramatic early life, are plausible and vivid ... Draycott is writing for the general reader and needs to make her narrative exciting. She is sometimes seduced by the sensationalism of her sources... into presenting their claims without sufficient scepticism. Elsewhere she is forced, by the nature of her project, to rely on painting imaginative word-pictures or compiling detailed accounts of the convoluted genealogies and shifting political alliances of her era ... But, with the help of fascinating illustrations, Draycott does an excellent job in recreating the culture and febrile atmosphere of the early years of Augustus’ reign.