Inspired by your excellent review. If Bob Woodward can write a non-fiction novel then so can I!
Cleopatra was born in 69 BC. Her father was named Ptolemy and was reputed to have worked in “Big Oil”. Oil was a great benefit to civilization and literally fueled the Egyptian economy, which of course meant everyone hated it and bitterly resented any increase in its price. Ptolemy ruled the kingdom with an iron hand, rarely giving the press interviews, which resulted in a cottage industry of conspiracy theories. The most credible was that Ptolemy once talked to Bob Woodward off the record, telling him things he wouldn’t tell to other reporters.
Cleopatra became head of state after her father’s death. Egypt was then a prosperous, spoiled nation that was willing to sacrifice babies for the sake of convenience though not soldiers for the cause of freedom. She fell in love with Julius Caesar, who she said told her to liberate Greece from their tyrant. Reckless in her love, she went to war. But it was met with great anger by her allies, who’d set up sweetheart deals with the Grecian tyrant. The Greek people themselves were taken aback since Egypt seemed sort of passive-aggressive. In the first Grecian war they didn’t care about toppling the tyrant and ended up leaving some of their revolutionaries in a lurch.
Like her father, Cleopatra didn’t give many interviews or press conferences and this made the press very, very angry. Helen Thomas, the dean of the White Pyramid press corps, once morphed into a large green man after telling Cleopatra: “Don’t make me angry! You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!” A Hollywood screenplay writer warned Cleopatra’s secretary of state: “I often get asked ‘how do you write journalists so well?’ Well, I think of a businessman, and then take away reason and accountability.”
“Sixty Sundial Minutes”, a respected newsmagazine based in Cairo, devoted a memorable show before the war to describing the horrors of the poison gas and anthrax that awaited Egyptian soldiers as they approached Athens. Later, when no gas or anthrax materialized, they devoted an episode to excoriating Cleopatra for failing to recognize what everyone knew before the war – that no such poisons existed. When asked about the first program, a Sundial producer confessed that “we didn’t want Cleopatra to go to war, so we pretty much were going to say anything to prevent it, even to the point of making stuff up. Of course that’s what we accuse Cleopatra of doing.”
The one problem with this is that no where in the historical record does it appear that anyone at all (except “Athens Bob”) was saying the poisons weren’t there — until the occupation finally revealed the truth. Besides that, this wonderful account of Cleopatra’s times may suggest what Woodward should turn towards now that he seems to have lost interest in journalism.