Cleopatra: A Biography (Women in Antiquity)
“Few personalities from classical antiquity are more familiar yet more poorly grasped than Cleopatra VII (69–30 B.C.), queen of Egypt. The subject of a vast repertory of post-antique popular culture and also a significant figure in literature, art, and music, Cleopatra herself is surprisingly little known and generally misunderstood. Even in the years immediately after her death her memory was condemned by those who had defeated her, thus tainting the ancient sources.
Cleopatra VII was an accomplished diplomat, naval commander, administrator, linguist, and author, who skillfully managed her kingdom in the face of a deteriorating political situation and increasing Roman involvement. That she ultimately lost does not diminish her abilities.
Yet her persona in popular culture and the arts often overrides her real self, and even scholarly accounts of her career may rely on information from early modern drama and art or the movies, which are interesting and significant in their own right but of no relevance in understanding the queen herself.
Although she is the subject of an extensive bibliography, she can be unfairly represented as a person whose physical needs determined her political decisions. Some of the most unbiased evidence from her own era, the art and coinage produced while she was alive, is too frequently ignored.”
― Cleopatra: A Biography (Women in Antiquity), by Duane W. Roller