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Reading Group Guide for Cleopatra’s Daughter

  1. What, if any, elements of the ancient Roman world seem similar to life today?

  2. In the beginning of the novel, Octavian comes across as a ruthless man willing to do whatever it takes to stay in power. Does anything change as the story progresses? How do you feel about him in the end? Did your feelings change at all? Why do you think he treats Selene the way he does as the novel closes?
  3. Selene has a complex relationship with Julia. Do her feelings about Julia change during the course of the novel? If so, why?
  4. Octavian/Augustus governed Rome for decades; sometimes with guile, often with ruthless force. In the novel we see his use of assassinations (of rivals, real and imagined), as well as collective punishment following the attempt on his life. Can this leadership style be justified by his focus on order and stability? In their quest for these, what boundaries should leaders never cross?
  5. Selene has two romantic interests in the novel. How does her attitude and character change as she matures and passes from one romance to the other?
  6. Octavia shows tremendous compassion for the adopted children placed in her care. How would you have responded to a betrayal like that of Antony?
  7. The slave trials described in the novel were real examples of Roman collective punishment. How does the administration of justice in classical times differ from the modern ones we know today?
  8. Was the Roman system of law, administration, learning and empire a net gain or net loss for those that it conquered?
  9. Egypt has always fascinated outsiders, including in this novel, Julia. Why?
  10. Omen, superstitions, and protection by family spirits play a significant part in the novel and in Roman life. What is the source of these widespread human traditions, and how do such emotions and habits express themselves today?
  11. How does the Roman attitude to marriage, sex, and promiscuity compare to our own?