Wednesday, August 17, 2011

International Giveaway & Guest Post: The Ever Changing Face of Cleopatra by Colin Falconer

Hey everyone! I have a great treat for you on this Wednesday morning! Today I have a wonderful guest post by Colin Folconer where he discusses Cleopatra and her ever changing face throughout history. At the end of this post you will have a chance to win a copy of his book When We Were Gods. So enjoy!

Colin Falconer

Queen Cleopatra the Seventh of Egypt - now just Cleopatra to you or me - has fascinated writers, artists and film directors down the centuries.

She has been variously portrayed as virtuous suicide, inefficient housewife, exuberant lover, professional courtesan, scheming manipulator, and femme fatale. Was she Shakespeare’s cruel and lazy siren, Shaw’s man-eater or Taylor’s alluring beauty?

It is hard to really find the truth when her legend began with a lie. It was formulated in her own lifetime by her enemies' propaganda in order to discredit her lover Mark Antony. Antony’s rival, Augustus, claimed Anthony had become so besotted with the Queen of Egypt that she had turned him into little more than a handbag. By denigrating Antony to his fellow Romans as a hedonist and a traitor he won their support in his war against him and eventually destroyed him.

And so Cleopatra was cast in Roman eyes as the dangerous feminine, the reflection of everything that men both desired and feared. She was, in other words, a reflection of the age,and she continued to mirror social mores forever from then on.

In the fourteenth century, for example, Chaucer painted her as the very paragon of feminine virtue; the proof of her goodness being that she didn't wish to outlive her man! That was an age when love-matches were rare and widowhood the only condition in which a woman could be truly independent, so Cleopatra's great virtue, it seemed, was that she didn’t want to live longer than Anthony did.

So she has not always been the great seductress nor was her affair with Anthony the byword for passion and recklessness. By the eighteenth century, for example, when the American and French revolutions turned established orders on their head, her story had devolved into the clash between rival systems of government. Cleopatra was transformed into an icon of political oppression, not just a bad girl with a nice tan.

It was the artists of the colonial era who painted her as a siren in harem pants, manipulated for propaganda purposes into a dusky Lady Gaga lolling indolently on a divan. She was the terminally decadent Oriental culture waiting for her redemption from a benignly virgin western power.

This image of her persisted to the nineteen thirties and led Cecil B de Mille to offer Claudette Colbert the role of Cleopatra with the words: "How would you like to play the wickedest woman in history?" By the time of the notorious 1963 movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton the tragedy of her reign had devolved into history's best-ever holiday romance.

So did I do her service or disservice in my novel about her life, WHEN WE WERE GODS? My own intention  was to focus on her personal wit and daring; one is imagined, the other well documented. If there is scandal in the book - and it certainly has its share - it is provided  by Caesar and the irrepressible Mark Anthony. Cleopatra herself lived a reasonably chaste life. She only had two husbands - not hers, admittedly - though she did marry them later.

But in certain things I too fell victim to the dictates of the age. I discovered, for instance, that there was a very good chance that Cleopatra was fair-haired and told my editor that I intended to portray her that way. She reacted with horror and vetoed the idea.

"But why?" I cried piteously.
"My dear," she cried back into the phone. "You can't have a blonde Cleopatra. It flies in the face of history. Haven't you seen the movie?"

WHEN WE WERE GODS, is now re-released on Kindle US, Kindle UK and for all other formats on Smashwords for $2.99.

Colin invites you to join him at

 Arrestingly beautiful and fiercely intelligent Cleopatra VII of Egypt was barely more than a girl when she inherited the richest empire in the world - one that stretched from the scorching deserts of lower Egypt to the shining Mediterranean metropolis of Alexandria with its famed library and lighthouse.

Imperiled at every turn by court conspiracies and Roman treachery, the young Queen was forced to flee Alexandrias and live in exile while a foreign army overran her city and her own family plotted her downfall.

With nothing to lose, Cleopatra sought a partnership with the only man who could secure Egypt's safety: Julius Caesar, a wily politician and battle-hardened general with a weakness for women.

The result was a passionate love affair that scandalized Rome and thrust Cleopatra into a world of deadly intrigue played for the very highest stakes - a world she would continue to mesmerize and manipulate even after Caesar was gone.

Colin has so kindly offered up two copies of his book When We Were Gods in either the Kindle or Smashwords version. This is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway, which ends August 28th at 12:00 a.m.

Giveaway Guidelines: 
-You must be a Follower of this blog through the GFC follower in order to be entered into this giveaway.
-Please leave your name and email address in order for me to contact you if you are the winner. If an email is not listed then unfortunately you will not be entered.
+1 extra entry for being a new follower of this blog. 
+1 extra entry each time you post this giveaway on twitter, facebook and/or on your blog somewhere. To count please leave a link in the comment section.


  1. I am an old follower of this blog.

    I thought Cleopatra was of mixed heritage.

    Interesting thought that she might be a blonde.

    ZoeRainDasherBenji (GFC)


  2. I love that the fantastic Cleopatra is finally getting the recognition that she deserves. And not as a painted hussy! She was an astute politician, a head of an empire!
    No need to enter me! I have this book already sitting pretty on my TBR shelf!

  3. I absolutely want this book!!! Thanks for the giveaway! I am a huge Cleopatra fan. I have read mostly non-fiction but am venturing now to fiction. She is from a Greek line but it goes back a few generations. This was due to Alexander the Great so technically the Egyptian blood was lost. Similar to the English throne where the line became German after it switched to a cousin.


  4. This book sounds great! I'm planning to read Stacey Shiff's biography soon, so this one would fit right in.

    Please enter me in the giveaway, I am an old follower.

  5. I follow you on GFC.

    Can't visualize Cleopatra as a blonde!

    Thank you for sharing


  6. I am a new Follower of this blog - GFC and RSS Feed.

    So, that's entry +1 = 2 for me!!

    Thank you for hosting this Giveaway, Taylor!

    My email:

    madley (AT) cogeco (DOT) ca

    Thank you!

  7. I too have a hard time picturing a blonde Cleo.
    +1 I follow you on GFC.


    alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

  8. Being a history enthusiast, I totally love your blog.I think that you are doing an amazing job here and I would like you to continue with what you doing and please don't stop for nothing you quench my knack for history.