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As we meandered through Roman ruins, my son told us about the Tetrarchy, the ambition of Constantine, the greed of Nero, the eloquence of Cicero. Then he mentioned Cleopatra.

She influenced battles for supreme governance in Rome and helped transform Egypt into a global economic power. My son said this quickly, as he does, rattling off names and battles, shifting political allegiances. Then he began to speak of Augustus.

Wait, I said, tell the part about Cleopatra again.

I just told it, he said.

I wanted to hear it again. I wanted the love story—Cleopatra was adored by Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony. But I also wanted to hear about the power of a woman. I wanted to hear about the woman who was central to an era. The woman who was a bad-ass and a bombshell, a mother and a nation-builder. She sprang from primordial mist. She wore eyeliner and ruled an empire.

Please, I said, tell it again.


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