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Posts Tagged ‘egypt’

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Alexandria book coverAs anyone knows, who’s stopped by this blog, I’m a sucker for anything set in Alexandria, especially during the Roman period. I’ve studied the city for many years and it’s the setting for my first novel. So I’m continuing my Alexandria series with this book review and giveaway. I’ll post some more history later in the month.

Lindsey Davis is well known for her Marcus Didius Falco historical mysteries and this one is number nineteen in the series. From the back cover:

In A. D. 77 Marcus Didius Falco, private “informer” and stalwart Roman citizen, undertakes one of the most fearsome tasks known to man—he goes on vacation with his somewhat pregnant wife, Helena Justina, and their family. They travel to Alexandria, Egypt, and they aren’t there long before the Librarian of the great library is found dead under suspicious circumstances, in his office with the door locked from the inside.

Falco quickly finds himself on the trail of dodgy doings, malfeasance, deadly professional rivalry, more bodies, and the lowest of the low—book thieves! As the bodies pile up, it’s up to Falco to untangle this horrible mess before the killer begins to strike closer to home. (more…)

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book coverI’m on a bit of a Cleopatra kick. Last week I reviewed the biography Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. This week it’s a novel by Colleen McCullough. From the book jacket:

Caesar is dead, and Rome is, again, divided. Lepidus has retreated to Africa, while Antony rules the opulent East, and Octavian claims the West, the heart of Rome, as his domain. Though this tense truce holds civil war at bay, Rome seems ripe for an emperor—a true Julian heir to lay claim to Caesar’s legacy. With the bearing of a hero, and the riches of the East at his disposal, Antony seems poised to take the prize. Like a true warrior-king, he is a seasoned general whose lust for power burns alongside a passion for women, feasts, and Chian wine. His rival Octavian, seems a less convincing candidate: the slight golden haired boy is as controlled as Antony is indulgent and as cool-headed and clear-eyed as Antony is impulsive. Indeed, the two are well- matched only in ambition.

Anthony and Cleopatra is the last of seven novels, collectively called the Masters of Rome series, covering the end of the Roman Republic in all its twisted glory. The result of this herculean task, is a legacy of some of the best researched historical fiction of this time; meticulously covering politics, battles, people, religious rites, traditions, trade, architecture, etc. The best books of the series draw the reader in with fascinating characters, Machiavellian plots, and scintillating detail. The worst give the reader the sense of reading an entertaining history book. Which is not, necessarily, a bad thing. McCullough had intended to end the saga with The October Horse, but avid fans prevailed and she concluded with this novel, which shows the final end of the Republic and beginning of Empire. (more…)

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Cleopatra: A Life coverI have a soft spot for strong women in history. I’ve written about Hypatia, the Lady Philosopher of Alexandria; Empress Galla Placidia and her niece Pulcheria who both ruled Rome in its waning days. I’ve read about Boudica, Queen of the Iceni; Amanirenas, the one-eyed warrior queen of Kush; and Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra; all of whom defeated Roman armies, only to succumb later to that massive military machine.  Most of my favorites are little known women who ruled countries, commanded armies and navies, dealt astutely with ruling male neighbors and made a difference in their people’s lives. I like to read and write about them because they are little known. I like introducing readers to new characters and broadening the scope of history. Occasionally, I’ll run across a woman I thought I knew, and find out I’m wrong. Cleopatra is one. (more…)

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Ramesses II statue. Photo courtesy of Dr. Hawass' site.

Several weeks ago, I posted about the chaos in Cairo and Alexandria and what was being done to protect the museums. The Egyptian people rose to the occasion and protected their heritage in the cities. But things are looking grim at the more remote archaeological sites. Here’s the latest report from Dr. Hawass: (more…)

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Tutankhamun

Gilded image of Tutankhamun damaged at Cairo Museum

The boards were buzzing. “What’s happening in Egypt? Are there riots? Are the museums being looted? Is the Library at Alexandria burning…again? Are the archaeological teams okay? WHAT’S HAPPENING?”

With the internet down and Twitter blocked, we had to rely on second hand reports from friends of  friends or relatives in Egypt with land lines. Western papers speculated on rumors. Al Jazeera posted a series of scary photos on Flickr showing damaged items from the Cairo Museum. I’m sure visions of the criminal looting of the Baghdad Museum in Iraq, while U.S. troops guarded the Oil Ministry, flashed through more than one person’s mind. (more…)

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Modern Bibliothetic AlexandrinaThe Great Library of Alexandria conjures images of bearded scholars strolling marble halls, studying rolls of papyri at large wooden tables, or arguing with colleagues under covered walkways. The loss of “the world’s knowledge” through wanton destruction is a metaphor for the coming of the Dark Ages in Europe. But what was the Great Library really and how was it destroyed?

After Alexander the Great’s death in 323 BC, his general Ptolemy Soter I took over the province of Egypt and his descendants ruled until the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC. Ptolemy was advised by a former Athenian named Demetrius to “collect together books on kingship and the exercise of power, and to read them” so as to become more like Plato’s ideal philosopher-king.  Ptolemy then sent a letter to his fellow rulers throughout the classical world asking that they send him works of authors of all kinds because he wished to collect “the books of all the peoples of the world.” This was the beginning of the Royal Library which eventually became the Great Library.

Ptolemy and his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus constructed a walled palace district taking up almost a third of Alexandria which not only housed the  royal residences, but also a sprawling temple to the muses—the Museum which included the Royal Library, scholars’ living quarters, classrooms, a zoo and gardens with exotic plants. Strabo the geographer describes it:

“The Museum, too is part of the royal palace. It comprises the covered walk, the exedra or portico, and a great hall in which the learned members of the Museum take their meals in common. Money, too, is held in common in this community; they also have a priest who is head of the Museum, formerly appointed by the sovereigns and now appointed by Augustus.”

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