Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Pick a work of reception of the ancient world – that is, something from a later culture that is depicting one of the ancient civilizations we covered in our course – and analyze how it depicts the ancient culture and what that depiction says about the attitudes of the author/director/modern culture. Your assignment is to evaluate the image that the piece of media is conveying about the ancient culture in question and what that image says about the perspective and goals of the author and/or culture doing the receiving. Historical nonfiction here means histories and books about the ancient world aimed at a popular audience to at least some extent. For discussion we read excerpts from a work like this, though one not well suited to the context of this paper, Margalit Fox’s The Riddle of the Labyrinth. Think about how the prominence of Alice Kober in the historical narrative is in part owed to contemporary feminism, a revision of an earlier historical narrative that focused on Michael Ventris as an inspired genius and not on the hundreds of hours of detail-oriented hard work Alice Kober poured into the project. Adrienne Mayor’s The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy chooses to tell the story of Mithradates VI Eupator, King of Pontus, centering the strengths and perspective of one of Rome’s enemies and revealing the arbitrary nature of Rome’s foreign policy and logistical problems in successfully waging wars.

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