Cleopatra...temptress of Rome.
Cleopatra...last Pharaoh of Egypt.
Over 2000 years after death by her own hand, Cleopatra continues to fascinate us. She oversaw Egypt's twilight years and sealed its death with her own. But what do we really know about this enigmatic woman?
She was famous for her beauty, but the only images we have of her fail to show this. She was alleged to live in opulent luxury, but her palace has been submerged by the Mediterranean for the last 2,000 years. Shakespeare claimed that a victorious Octavian had her buried in royal splendor with Marc Antony, but no evidence of such a tomb has ever been discovered.
However, thanks to Frank Goddio and the IEASM (the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology) all this is changing. For they have been excavating the sunken and long-thought lost, cities of Cleopatra and discovering that Cleopatra's past is not so lost after all.
"Cleopatra: the Search for the Last Queen of Egypt" contains some of the details of these excavations, as well as hundreds of artifacts retrieved from the sea and reclaimed for humanity. Everything from common pottery bowls to l lavish gold jewelry was unearthed. In the process, these underwater archaeologists have rediscovered the important cities of Canopus (a city of pleasure and festivities) and Heracleion (a commercial entrance and major pilgrimage site) as well as portions of Alexandria driven under the water by rising sea level over the centuries.
Along with these discoveries this book also discusses Zahi Hawass' own excavations at Taposiris, an important religious site to Cleopatra and now considered as a possible site for her tomb (no hint of which has ever been found). Though no definitive proof of this has yet to come to light, excavations have yielded a wealth of artifacts.
"Cleopatra: the Search for the Last Queen of Egypt" was a fascinating look at both the life of an enigmatic woman and the excavations seeking to shed more light on that long-past world. It doesn't present many conclusions or answers, but the excavations are ongoing and so this is to be expected. However, I would have liked to have had more information on the individual items. But the real stars of this book were the artifacts themselves, beautifully preserved and photographed. Also, it is written in a style that is accessible to the casual reader of history and to those not familiar with archaeology or Egyptian history without coming off as "dumbed-down" to other more knowledgeable readers.
In conclusion, I recommend "Cleopatra: the Search for the Last Queen of Egypt" to anyone with an interest in history in general, in Egypt specifically or in Cleopatra personally, though it is a fascinating read such that anyone should be able to enjoy it.