Empire Builders--Alexander and Cleopatra ~ Friday, December 03, 2004
I bought a box set last year called something like _Women in History_. Turns out all the books in the set are reprints of older books, published in the '70's or far earlier.
I read the book on Lucretia Borgia and discovered that at least according to the particular historian who wrote the book, she wasn't really all that interesting. Sadly, I don't think that was the historian's intentional message, but that's how it came over. Lucretia was kind of boring, but she had a sinister family. Because of that, by association, her name has become infamous. Her family, on the other hand, was fascinating--particularly her horrifying, ruthless brothers. More on that later, perhaps.
For now--the subject of another book in the box set: Cleopatra IX. Yes, she was the ninth (I think--something like that, anyway) in a line of Cleopatras, but she's the famous one. She had at least one other sister also named Cleopatra. And two brothers named Ptolemy. This seems a strange idea to us, but historically, everyone seems to have been doing it. There was a whole rash of Mathildas in the history of the British (and European, through marriage) monarchy. Something to do with the association of greatness.
So, Cleopatra--the famous one. A fascinating woman. The author of the book, Michael Grant (I think), does a very nice job of separating his speculation from what historical fact might persist about her (as well as pointing out the reliability of such historical "facts" as remain). The information on her is astonishingly fragmentary, considering how famed she happens to be. But, what does survive points at an utterly brilliant and ruthless woman who strove to rebuild the empire of her ancestor, Ptolemy I, one of the generals in Alexander the Great's army. She did that, and more, gambling everything in the hopes of restoring her family to power. She gambled all, and lost all.
Then, last night, I was reading a somewhat slim volume, rather optimistically entitled something like _Peoples and Empires: Europeans and the Rest of the World, from Antiquity to the Present_.
But, alas, all my profound observations were lost, rather in the tradition of Coleridge and Kubla Khan, except that instead of that door-to-door encyclopedia salesman or whoever it was interrupting him, I had an Internet Explorer crash that lost all my unsaved data and frankly, I'm no longer in the mood to talk about Alexander and other Empire Builders. Been there, done that. Ready to move on, for now at least.
In a nutshell: something about risking much, winning much, losing much. That empire builder in China, who unified all the kingdoms under him--but the unification died with him. Metaphor of star-->supernova--> self-obliteration of black hole. Oh, and hallo Napoleon. Nice of you to join the party. How is Elba at this time of year, anyway?
Progress of my literal rewrite of the fantasy novel: almost 16,000 words since last Thursday. Time to get back to it. Other goal for the day: do a workout.