In September 1919 Gabriele D’Annunzio - celebrated poet, serial seducer, war-hero and master of the art of self-promotion - declared himself dictator of the Croatian city of Fiume. The utopia he would create there, he declared, would blaze up like a beacon, setting the war-exhausted world alight.  Instead it became a blueprint for Mussolini's  fascist state. 

Lucy Hughes-Hallett charts d’Annunzio's enthralling life – the love-affairs, the debts, the literary triumphs, the daring flights in flimsy planes and the increasingly virulent nationalism.  D’Annunzio’s colourful story is also a political parable: a picture is created of the  turbulent Europe of the early 20th century and of the poison of emergent fascism. At the centre stands the flamboyant and charismatic d’Annunzio: a figure as deplorable as he is fascinating.

'Remarkable.. A terrific piece of work - as audacious as it is gripping, as thorough as it is insightful, and as stirring as it is shocking'        John Preston Daily Mail

'Lucy Hughes-Hallett's engrossing and superbly written biography' Christopher Duggan TLS

''Beautiful, strange and original.. An extraordinarily intimate portrait'                     Daniel Swift New Statesman

‘A biographical tour de force; a rich voluptuous treat; a triumph, the biography of the year’     Robert McCrum, The Observer


'[She] knows so much and writes so well... A wonderful book' Michael Frayn

'Vivid and highly readable, here are biographies that thrill, enthral and dazzle'                             Tom Holland Observer

Lucy Hughes-Hallett is a natural historian, with a gift for the long view and the bright telling detail that brings a world alive... Her war-torn pages throb with the testosterone fuelled, blood and guts heroism of old-fashioned narrative, but she is excellent too on modern interpretations that parody the uses of heroism... An intriguing cultural history...  a wary, intelligent book.'                      Jackie Wullschlager Financial Times

'Heroes is a magnificent book... Read it for the style alone, which has the effortlessly seductive quality of those men she writes about'                          Frances Wilson Literary Review

Beginning beneath the walls of Troy and ending in 1930s Europe, when the cult of the hero was turning politically lethal, this is a book about mortality and dictatorship, about money and sorcery, about seduction (sexual and political) and mass-hysteria. Above all, it is a sequence of extraordinary stories, each of them featuring a character so glamorous or intimidating that his contemporaries considered him either a devil or a god.

 Lucy Hughes-Hallett's  subjects – Achilles, Odysseus, Alcibiades, Cato, El Cid, Francis Drake, Wallenstein, Garibaldi – were not necessarily good (some of them were terrifying) but they were all charismatic enough to persuade those around them that they were capable of doing what no one else alive could do. Each of their stories sheds a different and startling light on humanity's  dangerous craving for an invincible champion, an all-powerful redeemer, a superman, a tyrant.


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Winner of the FAWCETT PRIZE                    

Winner of the EMILY TOTH AWARD

'This is a gripping book... A fascinating account of the way in which succeeding generations have seen Cleopatra; as virtuous suicide, inefficient housewife, exuberant lover, professional courtesan, scheming manipulator, femme fatale, incarnation of Isis and bimbo'

''In Lucy Hughes-Hallett's exemplary reappraisal [she] brings a trenchant intelligence to bear on the subject ..  and throws a searching light on two thousand years of male erotic fantasy'                  Joan Smith, New Statesman

''Richly entertaining and thought-provoking.. a fascinating and humorous work.. Every Antony should read it.'            TLS

'Brilliant'  Antonia Fraser Sunday Times

''This shimmering study ... brilliant and wily' Marina Warner Observer

 In the 2000 years since her death Cleopatra has been re-created over and over again by poets, artists and film-makers, each time in a form that fits the prejudices and yearnings of the age that produced it. To Chaucer she was the model of a good wife, while to Cecil B.De Mille she was "the wickedest woman in history".

This book is about the real Cleopatra, the most powerful woman in her world, but also about the legion of imaginary Cleopatras and about the sexual, racial and  political messages they carry.