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30+ quotes from Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Quotes from Cleopatra: A Life

Stacy Schiff ·  302 pages

Rating: (78K votes)


“As always, an educated woman was a dangerous woman.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“[Cleopatra's] power has been made to derive from her sexuality, for obvious reason; as one of Caesar's murderers had noted, 'How much more attention people pay to their fears than to their memories!' It has always been preferable to attribute a woman's success to her beauty rather than to her brains, to reduce her to the sum of her sex life.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“And in the absence of facts, myth rushes in, the kudzu of history.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“When a woman teams up with a snake a moral storm threatens somewhere.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“Cleopatra stood at one of the most dangerous intersections in history; that of women and power. Clever women, Euripides had warned hundreds of years earlier, were dangerous.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“The vanity extended most of all to his library, arguably the real love of Cicero's life. It is difficult to name anything in which he took more pleasure, aside possibly evasion of the sumptuary laws. Cicero liked to believe himself wealthy. He prided himself on his books. He needed no further reason to dislike Cleopatra: intelligent women who had better libraries than he did offended him on three counts.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“It has always been preferable to attribute a woman's success to her beauty rather to her brains, to reduce her to the sum of her sex life.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“The personal inevitably trumps the political, and the erotic trumps all: We will remember that Cleopatra slept with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony long after we have forgotten what she accomplished in doing so, that she sustained a vast, rich, densely populated empire in its troubled twilight in the name of a proud and cultivated dynasty. She remains on the map for having seduced two of the greatest men of her time, while her crime was to have entered into those same "wily and suspicious" marital partnerships that every man in power enjoyed. She did so in reverse and in her own name; this made her a deviant, socially disruptive, an unnatural woman. To these she added a few other offenses. She made Rome feel uncouth, insecure, and poor, sufficient cause for anxiety without adding sexuality into the mix.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“Cleopatra moreover came of age in a country that entertained a singular definition of women’s roles. Well before her and centuries before the arrival of the Ptolemies, Egyptian women enjoyed the right to make their own marriages. Over time their liberties had increased, to levels unprecedented in the ancient world. They inherited equally and held property independently. Married women did not submit to their husbands’ control. They enjoyed the right to divorce and to be supported after a divorce. Until the time an ex-wife’s dowry was returned, she was entitled to be lodged in the house of her choice. Her property remained hers; it was not to be squandered by a wastrel husband. The law sided with the wife and children if a husband acted against their interests. Romans marveled that in Egypt female children were not left to die; a Roman was obligated to raise only his first-born daughter. Egyptian women married later than did their neighbors as well, only about half of them by Cleopatra’s age. They loaned money and operated barges. They served as priests in the native temples. They initiated lawsuits and hired flute players. As wives, widows, or divorcées, they owned vineyards, wineries, papyrus marshes, ships, perfume businesses, milling equipment, slaves, homes, camels. As much as one third of Ptolemaic Egypt may have been in female hands.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“As Dio observed later, democracy sounded very well and good, “but its results are seen not to agree at all with its title. Monarchy, on the contrary, has an unpleasant sound, but is a most practical form of government to live under. For it is easier to find a single excellent man than many of them.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“No one dances while he is sober. Unless he happens to be a lunatic. -Cicero”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“Ancient history is oddly short on incorrect omens.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“The Ptolemies were in fact Macedonian Greek, which makes Cleopatra approximately as Egyptian as Elizabeth Taylor.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“Her palace shimered with onyx, garnet, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“As incandescent as was her personality, Cleopatra was every bit Caesar's equal as a coolheaded, clear-eyed pragmatist, though what passed on his part as strategy would be remembered on hers as manipulation.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“To the punishing study of Egyptian, however, Cleopatra applied herself. She was allegedly the first and only Ptolemy to bother to learn the language of the 7 million people over whom she ruled.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“Apollodorus came, Caesar saw, Cleopatra conquered,”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“One loyal friend,” Euripides reminds us, “is worth ten thousand relatives.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“How much more attention people pay to their fears than to their memories!”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“there were days you felt like waging war, and days when you just needed to go home.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“The Ptolemies were in fact Macedonian Greek, which makes Cleopatra approximately as Egyptian as Elizabeth Taylor. The word ‘honey skinned’ recurs in descriptions of her relatives and would presumably applied to hers as well, despite the inexactitudes surrounding her mother and paternal grandmother. There was certainly Persian blood in the family, but even an Egyptian mistress is a rarity among the Ptolemies. She was not dark skinned.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“It is notable that when she is not condemned for being too bold and masculine, Cleopatra is taken to task for being unduly frail and feminine.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“Cleopatra descended from a long line of murderers and faithfully upheld the family tradition but was, for her time and place, remarkably well behaved.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“It was rare to find a member of the family who did not liquidate a relative or two, Cleopatra VII included.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“For ten generations her family had styled themselves pharaohs. The Ptolemies were in fact Macedonian Greek, which makes Cleopatra approximately as Egyptian as Elizabeth Taylor.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“Dioscorides, an expert on medicinal plants, had ample material on which to base a pioneering treatise on bubonic plague.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“Romans marveled that in Egypt female children were not left to die; a Roman was obligated to raise only his first-born daughter.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“A commanding woman versed in politics, diplomacy, and governance; fluent in nine languages; silver-tongued and charismatic, Cleopatra nonetheless seems the joint creation of Roman propagandists and Hollywood directors.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“It was in Alexandria that the circumference of the earth was first measured, the sun fixed at the center of the solar system, the workings of the brain and the pulse illuminated, the foundations of anatomy and physiology established, the definitive editions of Homer produced. It was in Alexandria that Euclid had codified geometry.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


“Plutarch gave her nine languages, including Hebrew and Troglodyte, an Ethiopian tongue that—if Herodotus can be believed—was “unlike that of any other people; it sounds like the screeching of bats.”
― Stacy Schiff, quote from Cleopatra: A Life


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About the author

Stacy Schiff
Born place: in Adams, Massachusetts, The United States
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