Recreating the Past

 

selene

Cleopatra is one of the most famous Queens in history. And though she was a fairly mixed up person and a very complex personality, she did seem to rise above all the criticism. One doesn’t think of her as anything other than QUEEN (Not to mention the  ‘What a nose!’ courtesy Asterix comics). But for most of us the knowledge of ancient Egyptian history ends with her death and the conquest of Egypt by Rome. What surprised us when we read Michelle Moran’s Cleopatra’s Daughter was the fact that she had a daughter. In fact Cleopatra had three children with Mark Anthony, other than Caesarion who was Julius Caesar’s son. We suppose history doesn’t talk much about the conquered. Kleopatra Selene, her twin brother Alexander and the youngest sibling, Ptolomy were all captured and sent to Rome to live with Mark Anthony’s first wife who also happened to be the sister of Octavian (Caesar Augustus), and publicly displayed as spoils of war.

Written in the first person, the book takes the reader through all the emotions felt by Selene, of watching her parents die, being taken prisoner, her younger brother’s death on the way to Rome, the subsequent death of her twin after some years and life in a city which was very alien to her despite the fact that her father was Roman. Though her day to day existence was comfortable it was also very uncertain. Selene was at all times aware that she and her twin were alive only at the sufferance of Octavian and throughout the book her longing to return to Egypt is an underlying theme. What is interesting are the comparisons Selene makes between the cultured sophistication of Egypt with its influence of Greek civilisation and what she sees as the barbarism of Rome.

Selene,  the only surviving member of the Ptolomy dynasty, went on to become Queen of  Numidia and Mauretania, but she is not a towering historical figure like her mother. Michelle Moran however has captured this little known story and recreated it. We found the style of the book effortlessly readable and although Selene is very young at the start, her emotions, reactions and understanding of events are that of a much older person giving the reader an insight into those times. If one is in the mood for historical fiction, this is a book we would recommend as an interesting read.

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