Cleopatra: Not Just A Piece Of Asp Cleopatra taught me there was sex in history. Before the sixth grade, I pretty much thought it was invented in 1987 (sorry Philip Larkin ), to produce my brother (I was immaculately conceived). Then came Egyptian history, and I found out that a first-century queen could have lovers, and her lovers could have lovers (Caesar was reportedly bisexual ! Meaning he had sex! With not just one, but two genders of people!) But according to a new book by Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley, covered in Newsweek , Cleopatra's sexpot image may be somewhat undeserved. Octavian called her a whore, but she was actually "a competent ruler in difficult times" — and her sluttiness was highly exaggerated.Tyldesley says that Cleopatra "probably had no more than two, consecutive relationships," and that she used sex in a "sensible" way, as "one of the few tools available to women." Romans like Octavian had an incentive to think of Cleopatra as a slut, making her a scapegoat for the broken alliance between Antony and Caesar. She has now "become a kind of "Rorschach test," with scholars and filmmakers projecting their interests and desires onto her. Historical debate on Cleopatra seems to focus on two questions: was she hot? And was she white? Popular depictions — including the famous 1963 film and an upcoming musical starring Catherine Zeta Jones tend to answer yes to both questions. But Tyldesley's more interested in Cleopatra as a ruler in her own right, which is awesome, even if it means less sex for sixth grade girls to giggle over. The Queen of Denial [Newsweek] Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt