Looking for something? Search here:

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Cleopatra the Great: The Woman Behind the Legend, by Dr. Joann Fletcher

I've just started this biography on the life of Cleopatra, and it seems to me that in some ways the spirit of Cleopatra echoes down through history in different women.

A male-dominated society is especially disgusted (and perhaps a little terrified) at extremely powerful women, and Cleopatra's case is no different.  The Romans hated that she was in power and used their influence to tarnish her name and reputation, and their propaganda has largely been accepted by the western world even to this day.  It has only been in the last 30 years (she lived more than 2000 years ago!) that Egyptologists and other historians have been uncovering a different story.

This story is not new.  Think of the lives of Nefertiti and Eva Perón and you will find so many similarities in the societal response to their power.  

It is one thing for a woman to be beautiful - whether you like it or not, it carries an influence and a measure of power over many males (and females), and this can be accepted to a certain degree.  When a woman is both socially powerful, intelligent, and beautiful, she is dangerous.  What will stop her?  You're right.  Nothing.

Cleopatra was groomed to be pharaoh, and when her brother drove her out of Egypt to Syria, she came back with a vengeance and an army to take the throne back.  She was successful.  She then linked herself romantically to Caesar, gaining yet more political power and status, and gave birth to his son, Caesarion.  After 44 B.C., Cleopatra returned to Egypt upon the assassination of Julius Caesar.  

Marc Antony sent for Cleopatra to answer questions regarding her allegiance to Rome's fallen ruler - and when he did, he became captivated by her beauty and personality, fell in love with her, and their union produced three children (two of which were boy and girl twins, named Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene).  They both benefited from the power of the other to expand their own empires and fought together against enemies.

While fighting, Marc Antony received inaccurate information that his Cleopatra was dead, and as a result, he fell upon his sword, committing suicide.  They carried him to her in her palace and he died in her arms.  At the thought of him being gone and Egypt being lost, she dramatically committed suicide by having a poisonous Egyptian cobra bite her on the chest.

They were buried together, and with her death, the book closed on the era of the pharaohs of Egypt.

At that point, Rome sought out to erase her from record.  She was cut and deleted from Egyptian history, and what was left was a smear campaign that would show present day to be tame.

Does it seem a little strange that they did this with Nefertiti?  They defaced her body and her story, too.  Does it seem even more perverse and ironic that they did this with Eva Perón?  What they can't get at in life, they pursue in death, hoping to grab at anything for a re-balance of their own power and might.

The threads of strong women reverberate through the chorus of history, whether or not you like them, whether or not you are comfortable with them, and whether or not you agree with them.  They are there and they make up where we are today.

Peace, love, and keep on reading,
Ms. Daisy

The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage During the Great War, by James David Robenalt

That Warren G. Harding was quite something else.  Perhaps you don't know?  

Warren Harding
Well, let me just tell you, this much overlooked 29th President of the United States had a very interesting life, and you will be glad to know that they've written a book about it.

His life began in Ohio, one child among a large family.  His mother said he would be President one day because of his drive for things.  He set up a newspaper in Marion, Ohio, as well as other business ventures that succeeded for a time, and failed at others.

He met a very determined lady, Florence, who had her eye on him and who would not let him go.  When she came after him, she was divorced and had a young baby.  Her first husband was a raging drunk and all-around terrible.  Her father was the richest man in town and had influence over everyone and everything, but she despised being under his thumb as the streak of fierce independence that bolted through his soul landed within her own, much to his consternation.  She sought out Warren, who was a few years younger than she was, until he could not ignore her.  Her determination and influence impressed him and was useful to him in business, so, what the hey, they got married.  This further infuriated her father, which made it an even better reason for her to do it (he forbade his family to attend the wedding and his wife snuck out and peeked through the back door of the house to watch her daughter get married).

Florence, Warren's wife
Florence and Warren did not have a passionate marriage, but they had a very practical partnership.  She drove him to go farther than he may have gone on his own and supported his business ventures.  He appreciated her help and looked to her for advice.

It didn't take long for him to notice a very lovely neighbor, however - and one who did spark a great deal of passion in him: Carrie Phillips.  She was a married woman, he a married man.  Neither of them were happily married, and you can guess that these two souls found solace and fireworks in each other.  Carrie and Warren vehemently wrote each other passionate letters and had a fifteen year relationship - Warren's letters to Carrie were saved and are now available to be under the speculation of whosoever wills through the Library of Congress.  The letters that Carrie wrote to him are speculated to have been burnt up in a giant fire by his careful and angry wife a few days after Warren died over at her rich friend's house.  Warren even created a secret code language so that when he would write letters to her, he could appear to be quite nonchalant in his meaning while expressing deep, undying passion for her.

Carrie Phillips, Warren's love
Florence knew of his longstanding relationship with Carrie (and my, oh my, did I forget to mention to you that Florence and Carrie were childhood friends?  Yikes.) and dismissed it as "things men do".  She lived with jealousy and betrayal as though they were her companions.  Initially, the Hardings and the Phillips would go on vacations together - Warren and Carrie meeting up in the middle of the night or at other times to be together.  Once Florence got too tired of the shenanigans, she shut down the vaycaycays entirely, as I'm sure you'll be quite unsurprised to hear.

Warren loved Carrie for the rest of his life, swearing ironically to ever be faithful to her, except that he would not leave Florence for her.  Carrie had his heart, but secretly, and in the shadows.  Florence had his life, was an excellent practical and supportive partner to him, and the eye of the public, but neither his heart nor his passion.

It is well-documented (and many people believe) that Florence secretly and quietly murdered her husband while he was President.  The stories that are told do not match up, and perhaps she got too sick of living with her sad companions of jealousy and betrayal to put up with anything else.

It is an interesting read, full of drama and scandal.  If you've ever thought your life to be lacking in excitement, feel free to vicariously adopt some in reading this book.

Peace, love, and keep on reading,
Ms. Daisy