“It is traditionally believed that Cleopatra dazzled Caesar with her great beauty. Instead, it was the power of her intelligence and personality that drew him to her.” In this lively, well-crafted biography, Stanley and Vennema brush the cobwebs from the popularly held portrait of Cleopatra to reveal a vital, warm, and politically adroit ruler.

Lucid writing combines with carefully selected anecdotes, often attributed to the Greek historian Plutarch, to create an engaging narrative. The young queen’s marriage to her brother Ptolemy XIII is placed in the context of practices of the rulers of the day. A “Note on Ancient Sources” and a map precede the text; an epilogue, pronunciation guide, and a brief bibliography are appended.

Stanley’s stunning, full-color artwork is arresting in its large, well-composed images executed in flat Greek style. The palette is as rich and sumptuous as the court at Alexandria. The figures of Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony stride powerfully across scenes of Egypt and the Roman Empire. Cleopatra emerges as a savvy, astute, and complex leader who followed both her heart and mind.