31BC: Antony, Cleopatra

and the Fall of Egypt

70 colour illustrations

ISBN 978 0 7141 2274 8  PB £9.99

Published in May 2012 to coincide with a new Shakespeare exhibition at the British Museum, 31BC continues the collaboration between David and Sam Moorhead. 

On 2 September 31BC two superpowers - ancient Egypt and Rome - met head-on for the first and last time in history.  The outcome was the Battle of Actium which would lead directly to the foundation of the Roman Empire.

In a compelling new chronicle brought vividly to life by expressive anecdotes and moving eyewitness accounts, this book recounts the chain of events that culminated in the fall of Egypt, and reveals the central charismatic personalities of Octavian, Mark Antony and Cleopatra who were responsible for it.  Usually told from the Roman perspective but retold here from the Egyptian standpoint, the gripping narrative also explores the role of chance, human fallibility, ruthlessness and tragedy that lay at the heart of the power struggle.

Illustrated throughout with iconic objects from the superb collection of the British Museum and evocative locations, 31BC tells the dramatic story of a defining moment which would change the course of history.

Reviews and Comments

This well-produced and superbly illustrated account of a familiar story is a credit to the British Museum and its authors.

Peter Jones, BBC History Magazine

With clarity, wit, and keen attention to historical fact, the authors systematically debunk the old myths... Stuttard and Moorhead pack the text with colourful detail and perceptive insight, presenting the history of this turbulent period with deceptive simplicity.

Caitlin McCall, Current World Archaeology

The strength of the publication is that it not only recounts the story, but that it also gives us a new perspective of the conflict by including classical and contemporary accounts. The research of the authors is impressive and almost everyone will learn something new to them in this very readable and informative account.

Victor Blunden, Ancient Egypt Magazine

...provocative questions keep the story of Cleopatra as stimulating as ever, and this well researched and imaginatively presented book offers a delightful new avenue for approaching them.

Thomas R. Martin, BOMC2 Book Club

Mit solchen Büchern werden historische Ereignisse auf erfrischende und unterhaltsame Weise lebendig.


radio 4 ‘today’Today_Programme.htmlToday_Programme.htmlshapeimage_9_link_0
talks & lecturestalks_%26_lectures.htmltalks_%26_lectures.htmlshapeimage_10_link_0
trojan trilogyTrojan_Trilogy.htmlTrojan_Trilogy.htmlshapeimage_13_link_0

With its law courts and its temples, its gymnasia and palaces, the architects of Alexandria had created a city of infinite complexity and inexhaustible fascination.  To allow it to be viewed in its entirety, they had even built an artificial hill, the so-called Paneium, constructed in the shape of a fir-cone, ascended by a spiral road, from whose summit could be had a panoramic view of the whole of the city. 

From here Alexandria, bounded as it was on one side by the shimmering sea, and on the other by the desert, both inhospitable and stretching through the heat haze to their own horizon, must have seemed like a mirage, a flowering of civilization on the fringes of a wilderness. 

However, on that September day in 31 BC, the chances are that the summit of the Paneium was empty, the city streets, too, preternaturally quiet, the shops of the Canopic Boulevard shut up, their windows shuttered, their owners like the rest of all the multitudes of Alexandria lined up along the harbour wall.  For the news had come that all had been expecting for so long.  The long months of uncertainty were over. 

Watched anxiously by so many countless thousands, the first of the fleet of proud rich-painted warships, its bows hung with garlands of fresh flowers, even now was entering the royal harbour, its oars like great wings beating rhythmically as it approached the quay.  As the ships came closer, it may be that on a given order all the oars in unison rose in salute, held for a long moment high in the air, dripping their wake of molten silver into the shimmering sunlight of the harbour. 

This was the signal that the onlookers were waiting for, the sign of triumph, the token clear to all that Cleopatra, Queen Of Kings, Whose Sons Are Kings, The Younger Goddess, Father-Loving, Lover Of Her Fatherland, latest of the line of Ptolemies had come back to her city, Alexandria, to proclaim that far away at Actium in Greece she and her consort, the Roman general Mark Antony, had fought against Octavian.  And won.