Thanks to Ellen, I renewed, well, I got a new, library card. Now that I have an actual commute since my un-semi-retirement over to Largo MD where my offices at UMUC are, I download audio books from the Library onto my cell phone and play them over the bluetooth speakers in the car.
This morning I finished listening to a both interesting and entertaining biography of Cleopatra, Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff.
In addition to being really well read by Robin Miles, and for those who have not listened to audio books the reader can have a big impact on one’s enjoyment, the book, at least to me, brought to life not just Cleopatra but her historical surroundings.
Perhaps one of the most brilliant people of her time, Cleopatra was a Queen when generally Queens were secondary players, in a country with little military power at a time of the rise of Rome, and yet played a significant role for the 22 years she ruled. In the center of the transition between the Roman Republican and the resulting Empire, she had political and/or personal relationships with Pompey, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Octavian (the future Augustus), and Herod.
The last relationship was of particular interest to me, both because I really unfamiliar with it and because I read a lot about Herod in the Biblical Archaeology magazines I glance at.
Herod was appointed King by Antony. Cleopatra asked Antony for control of all of Judea when they were involved with each other. While Antony turned Cleopatra down, she was given control of Jericho and received the rights for fees from the bitumen obtained from the Dead Sea. Cleopatra visited Herod to come to an agreement on how the tribute associated with her assets were to be transferred to her. During her visit, Herod evidently wanted to assassinate Cleopatra.
Later Herod volunteered to fight for Antony (and Cleopatra) against Octavian but was sent home to fight the Numedians instead. That probably saved his life by making it easier for Herod to change sides to support the victorious Octavian.
For those interested in learning more about Cleopatra, a truly fascinating figure, who as the author noted could be considered a bridge from the ancient world to the more modern one, this is a very good source.