The story of Cleopatra, her life and reign as pharaoh of Egypt, her affairs with Roman leaders Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony, her influence on Roman politics, and her flamboyant suicide, with attention paid not so much to the legend as the facts behind the drama, with some material suitable for most levels.
Another book got all the hype in 2010, but it was Goldsworthy's effort to tell the world what we do know and what we don't about Cleopatra and her relationship with Mark Antony that deserved the huzzahs.
"Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth," edited by Susan Walker and Peter Higgs, contains 11 essays on the changing images of Cleopatra and a catalogue of artifacts from an international exhibit on Cleopatra and her world.
Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Sally-Ann Ashton's 2008 contribution to the study of Cleopatra is part of Wiley-Blackwell's Ancient Lives series. As an archaeologist-classicist-Egyptologist Ashton competently reviews all the recent scholarship on Cleopatra and details the art and iconography of the Ptolemies. The final chapter tells what happened to the descendants of Cleopatra; the first chapter explains the problems facing researchers of Cleopatra, and the second describes the various categories of ancient historians of Cleopatra. There are lots of interesting anecdotes, but this is not an introduction to Cleopatra. It is a book for people interested in evidence for the Egyptian queen as Greek and Egyptian, ruler and goddess.
Diana Preston's work on Cleopatra is also about the love affair with Mark Antony and the history of the times, so it's not so focused as some of the other books on this list. A new reconstructed image of an unconventionally beautiful Cleopatra seems to have inspired the author to write this interesting popular history.
In this scholarly work on Cleopatra, Lucy Hughes-Hallett shows how the image of Cleopatra has changed in the popular imagination, from one age to the next.
Classicist and storyteller Michael Grant's "Cleopatra" looks at the sources behind the gossip to uncover a learned woman who paid close attention to affairs of state.
"Signs of Cleopatra. History, politics, representation," by Mary Hamer, looks at Cleopatra from a feminist perspective, to show how each generation, including Cleopatra's own, depicts her in terms of its own prevailing social order.
A picture book for children, beautifully illustrated by Diane Stanley, on the life and death of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, and her liaisons with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
John Whitehorne traces the turbulent lives of the namesakes of the most famous queen of Egypt, especially the earlier Macedonian and Ptolemaic queens Cleopatra of Egypt.
Sarah Pomeroy's "Women in Helenistic Egypt: From Alexander to Cleopatra" examines the roles of women as queens, wives, businesswomen, and slaves in Ptolemaic Egypt.