In Egypt, on the other hand, competence regularly trumped gender. Cleopatra followed to the throne a sister who had briefly succeeded in deposing their father. She could look to any number of female forebears who had built temples, raised fleets, waged military campaigns. And she came of age in a country that entertained a singular definition of women’s roles. They inherited equally and held property independently. They enjoyed the right to divorce and to be supported after a divorce. Romans marveled that in Egypt female children were not left to die. A Roman was obligated to raise only his first-born daughter. Egyptian women loaned money and operated barges, initiated lawsuits and hired flute players. They enjoyed rights women would not again enjoy for another 2,000 years.
2,000 years… amazing. This is a fascinating article about a new book by–
Stacy Schiff is the author of “Cleopatra: A Life,” which will be published next month. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for her biography of Vera Nabokov.