Untangling The Real Details Of Cleopatra's Epic And Mythic Sex Life

Theories about Cleopatra's lovers - and her sexual proclivities - abound. She was married to her brothers, bedded at least two powerful Roman men, and may have fashioned a vibrator using bees. The history of Cleopatra's sex life is both in keeping with the Egyptian sexual mores of her time and potentially taboo by modern standards.

Was she the beautiful temptress she was made out to be? Did she dominate the men in her life? Facts about Cleopatra's sex life remind you how she used sexuality for power and did it pretty well. She got what she wanted, indicating she was as intelligent and charming as she was sexy.

  • Cleopatra May Have Pleasured Herself With Bees
    Photo: Unknown / Max Pixel / Public Domain

    Cleopatra May Have Pleasured Herself With Bees

    According to legend, Cleopatra fashioned a vibrating device for self-pleasure by putting angry bees into a hollowed-out gourd. In other versions of the story, Cleopatra sat on top of a papyrus box of angry bees. 

    If true, she's not the only Egyptian to bring animals into the bedroom. There were accounts of men engaging in intercourse with cattle, women doing the same with dogs, and Egyptians successfully figuring out how to do the deed with crocodiles.

    Crocodiles could also help prevent pregnancy. The animal's dung was a common contraceptive. 

  • Cleopatra Was Supposedly Skilled In A Certain Form Of Lovemaking

    Cleopatra was known as "Meriochane" by the Greeks - a term that literally translates to "she who gapes wide for 10,000 men." According to legend, she "fellated 100 men" in a single night. She supposedly used her affinity for this act to seduce Julius Caesar. 

  • Cleopatra Was Probably The Product Of Inbreeding

    Cleopatra was the daughter of King Ptolemy XII Auletes, a Macedonian who became the king of Egypt in 80 BCE. The identity of Cleopatra's mother is not known for certain, but it was either one of Auletes's concubines or his sister-wife, Cleopatra V Tryphaeana.

    It was common in Egypt for rulers to marry family members - cousins or siblings, most often - in order to keep bloodlines pure. It's very possible that Cleopatra resulted from one of these relationships.

  • Cleopatra Married Her 2 Brothers When They Were Children
    Photo: Oltau / WikiMedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

    Cleopatra Married Her 2 Brothers When They Were Children

    In keeping with Egyptian custom, Cleopatra married her brother, Ptolemy XIII, after her father passed away in 51 BCE. Her father designated Cleopatra and her brother as co-regents before his passing because, by Egyptian law, she had to have a male co-ruler. At the time of their marriage, Ptolemy XIII was between 10 and 12 years old, something Cleopatra used to her advantage. She quickly pushed aside her brother, issuing administrative documents in her name only and putting her likeness on coinage.

    After three years of this, however, Ptolemy XIII forced Cleopatra into exile. She fled to Syria where she seduced the Roman general Julius Caesar and persuaded him to recapture the Egyptian throne on her behalf. Ptolemy XIII fled and later perished.

    When Cleopatra returned to Egypt, she married her other young brother, Ptolemy XIV. Somewhere between 11 and 13 years old at the time, Ptolemy XIV and Cleopatra co-ruled until Ptolemy perished in 44 BCE. After that, Cleopatra co-ruled with her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion.

  • Cleopatra Organized Orgies That Lasted For Days
    Photo: Iridescent / WikiMedia Commons / Public Domain

    Cleopatra Organized Orgies That Lasted For Days

    Cleopatra supposedly arranged weeks-long sexually charged parties with her lover Mark Antony. They founded a group known as the Inimitable Livers, or the Society of Inimitable Livers, who lived the good life and, according to historians, engaged in endless debauchery and folly.

    They feasted, played games, and partied on the outskirts of Alexandria, most likely a cult dedicated to the god Dionysis. They often staged "lewd theatricals," in which people danced nude while drinking to excess.

  • She Tried To Seduce Herod Of Judea, And It Almost Got Her Killed
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    She Tried To Seduce Herod Of Judea, And It Almost Got Her Killed

    Cleopatra and Mark Antony, her Roman lover, parted ways for a time while the latter fought in Armenia. Cleopatra made her way to Judea where Herod the Great, a client king of Rome, already resented her because Antony had given Cleopatra much of his land. This didn't stop her from having a "criminal conversation" with Herod. According to historian Josephus:

    [P]erhaps she had in some measure, a passion of love to him; or rather, what is most probable, she laid a treacherous snare for him, by aiming to obtain such adulterous conversation from him. However, upon the whole, she seemed overcome with love to him.

    Herod was not sure how to respond to Cleopatra's advances and called together a council of friends to decide whether he should end her life for making such treasonous advances. The council talked him out of it, saying Antony would retaliate. Herod thought Antony would be better served if she were out of the picture, but he followed their advice and simply escorted Cleopatra to Egypt.