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Title: Cleopatra - a Study
Author: Houssaye, Henry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Cleopatra - a Study" ***

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  A. F. D.







  CALMANN LÉVY, Editeur,
          3, rue Auber, 3.

  PARIS, le 21 Août, 1890.

_Messieurs et Chers Confrères_:

Nous venons de recevoir votre chèque, et nous vous envoyons en échange,
par la présente lettre, tant en notre nom qu’au nom de l’auteur,
l’autorisation exclusive de publier aux Etats-Unis, une traduction de
l’étude de Mr. Henry Houssaye sur Cléopâtre.

Nous saisissons avec empressement cette occasion de rendre hommage à
la parfaite correction de vos procédés. Vous donnez un exemple qui
vous honore fort, et dont nous vous savons d’autant plus gré, que nous
aimons à croire qu’il sera suivi.

Agréez, Messieurs et chers confrères, mes salutations empressées.




     I           9

    II          16

   III          28

    IV          37

     V          53

    VI          68

   VII          77

  VIII          85




After an existence of forty or fifty centuries, the empire of Egypt
was expiring under the “evil eye” of the Romans. The Greek dynasty,
which had given to the country a new strength and reviving brilliancy,
had exhausted itself in debauchery, crimes, and civil wars. It was now
sustained only by the good-will of Rome, whose fatal protection was
bought at a high price, and who still designed to tolerate, for a time,
at least, the independence of Egypt. Freed from nearly all military
service by the introduction of Hellenic and Gallic mercenaries the
Egyptians had lost their warlike habits. They had suffered so many
invasions and submitted to so many foreign dominations that all that
remained for patriotism was the religion of their ancestors. Little
mattered it to them, born servile and used to despotism, whether they
were governed by a Greek king or a Roman pro-consul—they would give not
an ear of corn less, nor receive a blow the more.

Her glory eclipsed and her power decayed, Egypt still possessed her
marvelous wealth. Agriculture, manufactures, and commerce poured into
Alexandria a triple wave of gold. Egypt had erewhile supplied Greece
and Asia Minor with corn; it remained the inexhaustible granery of the
Mediterranean basin. But the fertile valley of the Nile—“so fertile,”
says Herodotus, “that there was no need of the plough,” produced not
corn only. Barley, maize, flax, cotton, indigo, the papyrus, henna,
with which the women tinted their finger nails, clover sufficient for
countless herds of cattle and sheep, onions and radishes, supplied
to the laborers employed in building the great pyramid of Cheops to
the amount of eight millions of drachms, grapes, dates, figs, and
that delicious fruit of the lotus, which, according to Homer, “made
one forget his native land,” were other sources of wealth. Native
industry produced paper, furniture of wood, ivory, and metal; weapons,
carpets, mats, fabrics of linen, wool, and silk; cloths, embroidered
and painted; glazed pottery, glass-ware, vases of bronze and alabaster,
enamels, jewels of gold and settings of gems. Finally commerce, which
had its factories beyond the Aromatic Cape, which sent its caravans
across Arabia and the Lybian Desert, and whose countless ships ploughed
the seas from the Pillars of Hercules to the mouth of the Indus, had
made Alexandria the emporium of the three continents. Under Ptolemy
XI., the father of Cleopatra, the taxes, tithes, import and export
duties cast annually into the royal treasury twelve thousand five
hundred talents—sixty-eight millions of francs.

The capital of the Ptolemies, Alexandria, made Achilles Tatius exclaim,
“We are conquered,” and the probability is that he saw this city only
after the ruin of many of its fine edifices. But what at all times was
most striking to the stranger was less the number and magnificence
of the buildings than the noble order and symmetrical arrangement
of the city. Two great avenues, bordered with colonnades of marble
and crossing at right angles, traverse Alexandria—the longitudinal
avenue, more than thirty stadia (four thousand eight hundred meters)
in length, and thirty-five meters in width, ran from east to west,
beginning at the gate of the Necropolis and terminating at the Canopic
gate. The transverse avenue extended for a length of seventeen stadia,
from the southern enclosure to the great port. All the other streets
and avenues, alike paved with heavy blocks of stone and provided
with sidewalks, all crossing at right angles, met the two chief
thoroughfares. This regularity, this noble appearance, and endless
perspectives gave to Alexandria a character peculiar to itself. One
felt that, unlike other cities which grow by degrees, by successive
additions, Alexandria had been created at one stroke, on a fixed plan;
and in truth this city had, so to speak, risen from the sand at the
will of Alexander. It was Alexander who determined the position of the
city; it was Alexander who had given it the form of the Macedonian
chlamys; it was Alexander who, with his architect Dinarchus, had
traced this network of streets and avenues, marked out the dykes to
be raised for the new port, and appointed the sites for the principal
edifices. Afterwards the Ptolemies adorned the city; they built
innumerable monuments, created wonderful gardens; populous suburbs
arose, both east and west; but as a whole Alexandria remained as it was
conceived by Alexander.

It was from the Paneum, an artificial elevation in the heart of
the city thirty-five meters in height, that a complete panorama of
Alexandria could be seen. On the south, thousands of houses and private
palaces stretched away to the circumference which, owing to the
perspective, seemed to bathe in the shining waters of Lake Maratis.
Humble cottages, rough-coated with lime, pierced irregularly with
little windows, having wooden gratings, and terraced roofs surrounded
by ventilators, serving as sleeping-places in the hot summer nights,
alternated with vast residences rising amidst courts and gardens,
concealing from the view of the outside world by lofty walls, turreted
like ramparts, their white façades and sculptured porticos with rows
of painted columns and cornices decorated with many colored bands. The
grand Serapium overlooked this whole portion. This colossal edifice was
reached by a winding staircase of a hundred steps; columns of syenite
of the Corinthian order, thirty-two meters in height, supported the

Looking towards the sea the view embraced the northern portions, the
old port and the new separated from each other by a gigantic mole seven
stadia in extent which united the island of Pharos with the city. At
the eastern extremity of this island rose the lighthouse, an immense
octagon tower of two stories, one hundred and eleven meters in height,
and built wholly of white marble. Around the vast port, from Cape
Lochias to the Heptastadium, extended a noble line of piers along which
arose palaces and temples. Edifices of pure Greek style stood side
by side with Egyptian buildings and other magnificent ones in which
both styles of architecture had combined their elements, relieving the
utter plainness of Semitic art by ornaments of the Hellenic order,
alternating Corinthian columns with campaniform, and uniting the
acanthus leaf with the papyrus flower. Perspectives of cloisters ended
in apses of marble exedræ; at the extremity of long avenues of sphinxes
gigantic pylons raised their pyramidal masses, where painted on white
screens filed on processions of figures, and the entablature of which
bore the emblematic disk with the great wings unfolded. Here a Greek
temple presented a pediment sculptured in Parian marble; there an
Egyptian temple, vast, squat, mysterious, showed its granite mass whose
quadrangular pillars bore on the four faces of their cubic capitals
the head of the god Hathor. On terraces covered with beds of roses,
and shaded by sycamores, mimosas, and palms, rose palaces surrounded
by porticos supported by columns of lotus form, alleys of pylons,
pavilions in the form of conic towers, open kiosks, tribunes supported
by caryatides. In the squares, at the junction of the streets, before
the great edifices arose sculptured heads of Mercury, Osirian colossi,
statues of the Greek gods, altars, heroums, dominated at intervals by
lofty obelisks and tall masts fixed in the ground whose many colored
flags fluttered in the breeze.

Among these endless monuments would first be noticed, at the extremity
of the cape, the temple of Isis Lochias, and a noble royal villa; then
before the Closed Port of the Kings the shipyards and the arsenal
buildings. There began the Bruchium. Enclosed by lofty walls and
hanging gardens the Bruchium was a city within the city—the City of the
Ptolemies. Each of the Lagidæ had built a palace, erected a temple,
opened gushing fountains, planted groves of acacias and sycamores,
created ponds where bloomed water-lilies, and the blue lotus flower.
Strabo applied to the monuments of the Bruchium the line of the
Odyssey: “One produces the other.” Near the various palaces of the
kings and their vast appurtenances arose the temple of Chronos, the
temple of Isis Pelusia, the lesser Serapium, the temple of Poseidon
[Neptune], the gymnasium with its porticos of a stadium in extent, the
theater, the covered gallery, the library containing seven hundred
thousand volumes.

Finally the Soma, the immense mausoleum in which Alexander’s body
rested in a coffin of solid gold, afterwards replaced by one of glass.
One other edifice of the Bruchium attracted the eye by its vast
proportions and its epistyle crowned by a dome. It was the celebrated
museum of Alexandria, at once a school, a monastery, and an academy.

Grammarians, poets, philosophers, and astronomers lived there together
at the expense of the Ptolemies, and it was maliciously called the
Cage of the Muses,—a splendid cage, however, in which sang Theocritus,
Callimachus, Apollonius, and whence arose the noble voice of the
Alexandrian philosophy.

Beyond the temple of Poseidon the quays inflected in a broken line
towards the southwest. There also edifice succeeded to edifice—the
exchange, the temple of Bendis, the temple of Arsinoë, and the immense
Apostasia in which was gathered the merchandise of the whole world.
Beyond the Heptastadium was the old port with its great shipbuilding
yards, and farther to the west, outside the walls, the suburb of the
Necropolis, the funeral quarter of the embalmers.




Alexandria was a cosmopolitan city. Whilst the cities of Upper Egypt
and Heptanomis had preserved the national character, in the Delta the
Hellenic civilization had been grafted on the Egyptian, or rather they
went side by side. The laws and decrees were written in both languages;
the priesthood, the government, the police, the tribunals, the whole
administration belonged equally to both; the army was composed of Greek
and Gallic mercenaries, of Cilician robbers, of fugitive Roman slaves.
In Alexandria, where for more than two centuries unnumbered colonies
had settled, the native race dwelt together in the ancient Egyptian
city of Rhakotis, but they composed at the most only one-third of the
population. The Jews, who inhabited a distinct quarter where they had
their ethnarch and their Sanhedrim, were in the proportion of one to
three. From the Pharos to the Serapium, from the gate of the Necropolis
to the Canopic gate were seen as many foreigners as Egyptians. They
composed a noisy and variegated crowd of Greeks, Jews, Syrians,
Italians, Arabs, Illyrians, Persians, and Phenicians. In the streets
and on the wharves every language was spoken, in the temples every god
was worshiped. Into this Babel each race brought its own passions. The
population of Alexandria, which amounted to three hundred and twenty
thousand exclusive of the slaves, was as turbulent as that of the other
Egyptian cities was tranquil and resigned, and during the reigns of the
latter Lagidæ the Alexandrian populace always seconded the revolutions
of the palace, hoping under new sovereigns to find more liberty and
less taxes.

Ptolemy XI. (Auletes) died in July, 51 B. C. He left four children.
By his will he appointed to succeed him on the throne his eldest
daughter Cleopatra and his eldest son Ptolemy, and according to the
custom of Egypt the brother was to marry the sister. At her father’s
death Cleopatra was sixteen and Ptolemy thirteen years old. The
tutor of young Ptolemy, the eunuch Pothinus, was an ambitious man,
and, being complete master of the mind of his pupil, he calculated
to rule Egypt under the new reign; but he soon found that Cleopatra
would permit neither him nor Ptolemy to govern the kingdom. Proud and
headstrong, Cleopatra was likewise skillful, intelligent, and very
learned; she spoke eight or ten languages, among them Egyptian, Greek,
Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac. How is it possible to think that
this woman, so haughty and so gifted, would abandon her share of the
sovereignty in favor of a child governed by a eunuch? Either she would
get rid of her brother, or if she consented to live with the young
king she would soon acquire an absolute supremacy over him. Pothinus
realized this, and he devoted all his energies to accomplish the ruin
of the queen. He began by provoking jealousies among the ministers
and the high officers of the crown; then, when the dissension between
the partisans of the king and those of Cleopatra was at its height he
aroused the people of Alexandria against the young queen. He accused
her of desiring to reign alone, even should she have to call in the
armed intervention of the Romans. He declared that she had made this
plan in conjunction with the eldest son of the great Pompey, Cn.
Pompey, who, on his way through Alexandria in 49, had then become
her lover. The riot reached even to the gates of the palace, and
the connivance of Pothinus and the young king could not escape the
perspicacity of Cleopatra. She quitted Alexandria, accompanied by a
few faithful attendants. The fugitive, however, did not regard herself
as vanquished; she would not so easily renounce that crown which she
had already worn for three years. It was soon known that Cleopatra had
raised an army on the confines of Egypt and Arabia, and that she was
marching on Pelusium. The young king collected his forces and advanced
to meet her.

The brother and sister, the husband and wife, were face to face with
their armies in the neighborhood of Pelusium when the illustrious
victim of Pharsalia came to seek an asylum in Egypt. Pompey supposed
he might reckon on the gratitude of the children of Ptolemy Auletes,
for it was at his instigation that seven years previously Gabienus,
pro-consul of Syria, had replaced that king on his throne. It is true
that after the battle of Pharsalia Pompey was helpless and Cæsar
all-powerful, and in assisting a fugitive from whom nothing more could
be hoped for, the anger of Cæsar might be provoked. Pothinus and the
other ministers of the young king did not hesitate; they welcomed
Pompey; but it was to murder him as soon as he set foot on Egyptian
territory. His head, embalmed with the learned art of the Egyptians,
was presented to Cæsar when the latter, who was pursuing Pompey, landed
at Alexandria. Cæsar turned his eyes from the ghastly trophy, and
warmly reproached Pothinus and Achillas with their crime. Doubtless the
two wretches cared but little for his reproaches; they considered that
they had done Cæsar a great service in ridding him of his most powerful
adversary, and they knew enough of mankind to understand that, Pompey
being dead, it was easy for Cæsar to be magnanimous.

Cæsar soon learned the contentions of Ptolemy and Cleopatra, the
flight of the latter in consequence of the threats of the populace,
and the battle about to take place between the two armies assembled
at Pelusium. It had always been the Roman policy to intermeddle in
the private dissensions of nations. This policy of intervention was
still more in order for Cæsar with regard to Egypt, because during
his first consulate Ptolemy Auletes had been declared the ally of
Rome, and in his will had conjured the Roman people to have his last
wishes executed. Another motive, which he does not mention in his
“Commentaries,” induced Cæsar to intermeddle in the affairs of Egypt.
With little expense he had made himself the creditor of the late king,
and he had to call upon the heirs for a large amount. This was no less
than seven millions fifty thousand sesterces which remained due of the
thirty-three thousand talents which Ptolemy had promised to pay Cæsar
and Pompey if by the assistance of the Romans he should recover his

Pothinus, however, thought he had done enough for Cæsar in offering
him the head of Pompey. He urged him, therefore, to reëmbark and to go
whither he was called by much more important matters than the disputes
of Ptolemy and Cleopatra: to Pontus, whence Pharnaces was driving his
lieutenant Domitius, to Rome where Cœlius was exciting the plebeians.
To the claims of Cæsar, he replied that the treasury was empty; to his
offers of arbitration between the heirs of Ptolemy, he objected that
it was not proper for a foreigner to interfere in this quarrel, that
such an interference would rouse all Egypt. In support of his words,
he reminded him that the people of Alexandria, regarding the fasces
borne before Cæsar as an outrage on the royal dignity, were enraged
at it; that daily new riots arose, that every night Roman soldiers
were assassinated, that the Alexandrian population was very numerous,
and that the army of Cæsar (numbering only three thousand two hundred
legionaries and eight hundred cavalry) was very small.

But his refusals, his counsels, his implied menaces availed nought
against the will of Cæsar. His prayers exhausted, he commands. Pothinus
is ordered formally to invite in his name Ptolemy and Cleopatra to
disband their armies and to present themselves before his consular
tribunal to settle their differences. The eunuch was forced to yield,
but, as cunning as Cæsar was persistent, he hoped to turn this
intervention, which he at first dreaded, to secure the success of
his designs. With this purpose he sent to Cleopatra Cæsar’s command
to disband her troops, but without telling her she was expected at
Alexandria, and he wrote to Ptolemy to repair at once to Cæsar but
still to keep his soldiers under arms. Pothinus calculated by these
means to free himself from Cleopatra’s army and to secure to the young
king the favor of Cæsar, since Ptolemy alone of the two heirs of
Auletes summoned by the consul paid due attention to his invitation.
A few days after, Ptolemy actually arrived in Alexandria. He offered
to Cæsar the warmest protestations of friendship, in which he was
joined by Pothinus, Achillas, and the other ministers; he explained
the disputes between himself and Cleopatra, laying all the blame on
her. Cæsar, however, was not so easily duped. Pothinus had supposed
that the absence of Cleopatra would irritate Cæsar against her, but
Cæsar could not believe that the young queen had, through contempt,
declined his invitation to repair to Alexandria. He thought it more
probable that some machination of Pothinus had prevented her coming. In
order to satisfy himself of this he secretly despatched a messenger to
Cleopatra, whom he knew to be still at Pelusium.

The queen was waiting impatiently for news from Cæsar. On the receipt
of his first message, but partially transmitted by Pothinus, she had
hastened to disband her army. She already felt full confidence in the
favor of the great leader who was called “the husband of all women,”
but she knew that she must see Cæsar, or rather that Cæsar must see
her. But the days passed and the invitation to Alexandria did not
arrive. Finally the second message reached her, and she learned that
Cæsar had already sent for her to go to him, but that Pothinus had
taken measures to prevent her knowing it. The thing was plain enough;
her enemies were not willing that she should have an interview with
Cæsar, and now that their trick was discovered they would employ force;
no doubt they were on their guard and laid their plans accordingly.
If Cleopatra sought to reach Alexandria by land she would be taken by
the outposts of the Egyptian army encamped before Pelusium; by sea,
her royal trireme could not escape the vessels of Ptolemy cruising
about the entrance to the port. Even should she succeed in reaching
Alexandria she would run the risk of being torn to pieces by the
populace, incited by Pothinus. Even in the king’s palace, where Cæsar
resided as the guest of Ptolemy, that is to say with an Egyptian guard
of honor, she might be seized and slain by the sentinels.

Cleopatra, abandoning the idea of entering Alexandria with the
trappings of a queen, bethought herself of a plan to do so not merely
under a disguise, but as a bale of goods. Accompanied by a single
devoted attendant, Apollodorus, the Sicilian, she embarked from near
Pelusium in a decked bark which, in the middle of the night, entered
the port of Alexandria. They landed at a pier before one of the lesser
gates of the palace. Cleopatra enveloped herself in a great sack of
coarse cloth of many colors, such as were used by travelers to pack up
mats and mattresses, and Apollodorus bound it round with a strap, then
taking the sack upon his shoulders, entered the gate of the palace,
went straight to the apartments of Cæsar, and laid his precious burden
at his feet.

Aphrodite rose radiant from the sea: Cleopatra less pretendingly from
a sack; but Cæsar was none the less moved at the surprise and ravished
with the apparition. Cleopatra, who was then nineteen, was in the
flower of her marvelous and seductive beauty. Dion Cassius calls the
queen of Egypt the most beautiful of women, but Plutarch finds one
epithet insufficient to depict her, and expresses himself thus: “There
was nothing so incomparable in her beauty as to compel admiration;
but by the charm of her physiognomy, the grace of her whole person,
the fascination of her presence, Cleopatra left a sting in the soul.”
This is her veritable portrait. Cleopatra did not possess supreme
beauty, she possessed supreme seductiveness. As Victor Hugo said of a
celebrated theatrical character, “She is not pretty, she is worse,”
which suggestive expression may well apply to Cleopatra. Plutarch
adds, and his testimony is confirmed by Dion, that Cleopatra spoke
in a melodious voice and with infinite sweetness. This information
is valuable in a psychological point of view. Certes, this charm of
voice, divine gift so rarely bestowed, this pure and winning caress,
this ever new delight was not one of the least attractions of the Siren
of the Nile.

This first interview between Cæsar and Cleopatra probably extended
far into the night. It is certain that, with the earliest dawn, Cæsar
sent for Ptolemy, and told him he must be reconciled to his sister and
associate her in the government. “In one night,” says Dion Cassius,
“Cæsar had become the advocate of her of whom he had erewhile thought
himself the judge.” Ptolemy was resisting the thinly disguised commands
of the consul, when Cleopatra appearing, the young king, mad with rage,
cast his crown at the feet of Cæsar and rushed from the palace uttering
the cry: “Treason! treason! to arms!” The mob, excited by his cries,
rose and marched on the palace. Cæsar feeling himself too weak to
resist (he had but a handful of legionaries about him) ascended one of
the terraces and harangued the multitude from a distance. He succeeded
in restoring a calm by his promises of satisfying the Egyptians in
their demands. Just at this time his legionaries arrived from the camp,
surrounded the young prince, separated him from his partisans, and
with every mark of respect reinstated him willy-nilly in the palace
where he might serve as a hostage for Cæsar. The next day the people
were assembled in the public square, and Cæsar, accompanied by Ptolemy
and Cleopatra, went thither in great state with his escort of lictors.
Every Roman was under arms, ready to suppress the first symptom of
sedition. Cæsar read aloud the testament of Ptolemy Auletes, and
declared solemnly in the name of the Roman people that he would insist
on carrying out the last will of the late king. By this the two elder
of his children were to reign conjointly over Egypt. As for the other
two children of the king, he, Cæsar, made them a gift of the island of
Cyprus, and handed over to them the sovereignty of it.

This scene overawed the Egyptians; nevertheless, Cæsar, fearing an
insurrection, hastened to summon to Alexandria the new legions which
he had formed in Asia Minor of the wrecks of Pompey’s army. But long
before these reënforcements could reach him, the Egyptian army from
Pelusium, on secret orders from Pothinus, entered the city to drive out
the Romans. At the same time, Arsinoë, the young sister of Cleopatra,
assisted by the eunuch Ganymede, made her escape from the palace,
and in default of Ptolemy, still Cæsar’s prisoner, was received with
acclamations both by the army and people as the daughter of the Lagidæ.
This army, commanded by Achillas, amounted to eighteen thousand foot
and two thousand horse, and the people of Alexandria made with it
common cause against the foreigner.

Cæsar had but four thousand soldiers and the crews of his triremes. He
was in extreme peril; occupying with this handful of men the palaces of
the Bruchium, he was attacked from the city by the troops of Achillas
and the armed populace, and his fleet, which was at anchor in the
greater harbor, was virtually captive, since the enemy held the passes
of Taurus and Heptastadium. He even feared that this inactive fleet
might fall into the hands of the Alexandrians, who would have made use
of it to intercept his supplies of men and munitions. Cæsar averted
this danger by setting fire to his vessels. The immense conflagration
reached the quays and destroyed many houses and edifices, among others
the arsenal, the library, and the grain emporium. The Egyptians,
exasperated, rushed to the attack, but the legionaries, as good diggers
as brave soldiers, had transformed the Bruchium into an impregnable
entrenched camp. On all sides were embankments, barricades, lines of
earthworks; the theater had become a citadel. The Romans sustained
twenty assaults without losing an inch of ground. Cæsar even succeeded
in seizing the island of Pharos, which gave him the command of the
great harbor.

The Egyptians imagined that victory would be theirs if, instead
of a woman, they could have Ptolemy to lead them. They therefore
sent word to Cæsar that they made war on him only because he kept
their king a prisoner, and that as soon as he should be restored
to liberty hostilities would cease. Cæsar, who knew the fickleness
of the Alexandrians, yielded—he gave them back Ptolemy. As for his
accustomed counsellor Pothinus, Cæsar had intercepted letters from him
to Achillas, and had delivered him over to the lictors. No sooner had
Ptolemy rejoined the Egyptian army than the war, far from ceasing,
was renewed with increased vigor. Just then the first reënforcement,
the thirty-seventh legion, reached Cæsar by sea. The war was carried
on without any decided advantage till the beginning of the spring
of 47 B. C. Then it was learned that Pelusium had been taken by
assault by an army that was coming to the relief of Cæsar; it was a
body of auxiliaries from Syria, led by Mithridates of Pergamos. The
Egyptians, fearing to be shut in between two enemies if they remained
in Alexandria to await the coming of Mithridates, marched to meet him.
The first battle, which was indecisive, took place near Memphis; but,
a few days later, Cæsar, who had also quitted Alexandria, succeeded
in joining the troops of Mithridates and a second battle was fought.
The Egyptians were broken and cut to pieces, and King Ptolemy drowned
himself in the Nile. Cæsar returned with his victorious army to
Alexandria, now humbled; the turbulent populace of the great city,
henceforth, knowing the power of the Roman steel, received the consul
with loud acclaims. Thus ended the War of Alexandria, which should
rather be styled the _War of Cleopatra_, since this war, adding nothing
to Cæsar’s fame, injurious to his interests, useless to his country,
and to which he nearly sacrificed both his life and his glory, had been
maintained by him for the love of Cleopatra.




Eighteen years previous to these events, Cæsar, being ædile, had
endeavored to have voted by a plebiscit the execution of the will of
Alexander II., who had bequeathed Egypt to the Roman people. Now, Egypt
was subjugated and Cæsar had but to say the word for this vast and
rich country to become a Roman province. But in the year 63 Cleopatra
was only just born; in the year 65 Cæsar had not felt the bite of the
“Serpent of the Nile,” as Shakspeare calls her—the consul took good
care not to remember the propositions of the ædile. The first act of
Cæsar on reëntering Alexandria was solemnly to recognize Cleopatra as
Queen of Egypt. In order, however, to humor the ideas of the Egyptians
he determined that she should espouse her second brother, Ptolemy
Neoteras, and share the sovereignty with him. As, however, Dion
remarks, this union and this sharing were equally visionary; the young
prince, who was only fifteen, could be neither king nor even husband to
the queen; apparently Cleopatra was the wife of her brother, and his
partner on the throne; in reality she reigned solely, and continued the
mistress of Cæsar.

During the eight months of the Alexandrian struggle Cæsar, shut up in
the palace, had scarcely quitted Cleopatra, except for the fight, and
this long honeymoon had seemed short to him. He loved the beautiful
queen as fondly, and perhaps more so, than in the early days, and he
could not resolve to leave her. In vain the gravest interests called
him to Rome, where disorder reigned and blood was flowing, and where,
since the December of the preceding year, not a letter had been
received from him;[1] in vain, in Asia, Pharnaces, the conquerer of
the royal allies of Rome and of the legions of Domitius, has seized
on Pontus, Cappadocia, and Armenia; in vain, in Africa, Cato and
the last adherents of Pompey have concentrated at Utica an immense
army—fourteen legions, ten thousand Numidian horsemen, and one hundred
and twenty elephants of war; in vain, in Spain, all minds are excited
and revolt is brewing. Duty, interest, ambition, danger—Cæsar forgets
everything in the arms of Cleopatra. Truly he is preparing to leave
Alexandria, but it is to accompany the beautiful queen on a pleasure
excursion up the Nile. By the orders of Cleopatra, one of those immense
flat-bottomed pleasure vessels has been prepared, such as were used by
the Lagidæ for sailing on the river, and called thalamegos (pleasure
pinnace). It was a veritable floating palace, half a stadium long and
forty cubits high above the water-line. The stories rose one above
the other, surrounded by porticos and open galleries, and surmounted
by belvederes sheltered from the sun by purple awnings. Within were
numerous apartments, furnished with every convenience and every
luxurious refinement of Greco-Egyptian civilization, vast saloons
surrounded by colonnades, a banqueting-hall provided with thirteen
couches, with a ceiling arched like a grotto, and sparkling with a
rock-work of jasper, lapis lazuli, cornelian, alabaster, amethyst,
aquamarine, and topaz. The vessel was built of cedar and cypress, the
sails were of byssus, the ropes were dyed purple. Throughout, carved
by skillful hands, were the opening chalices of the lotus, wound the
volutes of the acanthus, twined garlands of bean-leaves and flowers of
the date palm. On all sides shone facings of marble, of thyia, ivory,
onyx, capitals and architraves of bronze. Mimes, acrobats, troops of
dancing-girls, and flutists were on board to cheer the austere solitude
of the Thebaīd with the diversions and luxuries of Alexandria.

Cæsar and Cleopatra anticipate with rapture this voyage of
enchantments; they will carry their young loves amid the old cities of
Egypt, along the “Golden Nile,” which they will ascend as far as the
mysterious land of Ethiopia. But on the very eve of their departure the
legionaries become indignant, they murmur, they rebel; their officers
cry aloud to the consul, and Cæsar returns to reason. For an instant
he contemplates carrying Cleopatra away with him to Rome, but that
project must be deferred. It is in Armenia that the danger is most
pressing; it is to Armenia that he will first repair. He leaves two
legions with Cleopatra—a faithful and formidable guard, which will
secure the tranquility of Alexandria, and sets sail for Antioch.

During the campaigns of Cæsar in Armenia and Africa (from July, 47, to
June, 46, B. C.) Cleopatra remained in Alexandria, where a few months
after the departure of the dictator she gave birth to a son. She named
him Ptolemy-Cæsarion, thus proclaiming her intimate relations with
Cæsar, which, however, were no secret to the Alexandrians.

When Cæsar, the army of Cato under Thapsus being crushed, was about
to return to Rome, he wrote to Cleopatra to meet him there. Probably
she arrived there about midsummer of the year 46, at the period of
the celebration of Cæsar’s four triumphs. In the second, the triumph
of Egypt, Cleopatra must have beheld, at the head of the train of
captives, her sister Arsinoë, who at the breaking out of the war of
Alexandria had joined her enemies. The queen had brought with her her
son Cæsarion, her pseudo-husband the young Ptolemy, and a numerous
train of courtiers and officers. Cæsar gave up his superb villa on the
right bank of the Tiber as a residence for Cleopatra and her court.

Officially, if we may thus use this very new word to express a very
old thing, Cleopatra was well received in Rome. She was the queen of
a great country, the ally of the Republic, and she was the guest of
Cæsar, then all-powerful; but, beneath the homage offered, lurked
contempt and hatred. Not that Roman society took offence at her
intrigue with Cæsar; for more than half a century, republican Rome
had strangely changed its chaste morals and severe principles. Public
morality, private morality,—were utterly transformed. Electors sold
their votes, and the elected made use of their offices to re-imburse
themselves for their election expenses and to provide means for
their reëlection; they sold alliances, prevaricated, plundered, took
ransoms, having an understanding with the publicans (tax-gatherers) to
grind down the provinces. In the latter times of the Republic in Rome
politics became the school of crime; the theater, where, contrary to
the custom of the Greeks, women might take part in the comedies and in
the obscene games of the mimes and mountebanks, became the school of
debauchery. The favorite poet is the licentious Catullus; the mold of
fashion, and at the same time the pupil, client, and friend of Cicero
is Cœlius, a man of unscrupulous ambition and unbridled libertinism.
Assassination became a means of government, poison a way to an
inheritance. From the time of the proscriptions of Sylla, the hold on
life seemed very precarious; one must make the most of it. “Let us
live and love,” says Catullus. “Suns may set and rise again, but we,
when our brief day is ended, must sleep a night that has no morrow.”
The time was past when the Roman matron lived quietly at home and spun
with her maidens. She sought adventures, plotted, gave or sold herself.
Greek libertinism and Oriental voluptuousness had reached Rome and been
transformed into a gross sensuality. The multiplicity of divorces
“annihilated the sacredness of the family”; the love of luxury,
ambition, and extravagant passions ruined its honor, and the noblest
of the patrician ladies were the foremost in this race of debauchery.
Among them were Valeria, the sister of Hortensius; Sempronia, wife of
Junius Brutus; Claudia, wife of Lucullus, and the other Claudia, wife
of Quintus Metellus Celer. Again there was Junia, the wife of Lepidus;
Posthumia, the wife of Sulpicius; Lollia, the wife of Gabinius;
Tertullia, the wife of Crassus; Mucia, the wife of the great Pompey;
Servilia, the mother of Brutus, and many others.

In so dissolute and adulterous a city, it could shock no one that Cæsar
should be false to his wife with one mistress or even with several;
but in the midst of her debaucheries, and even though Rome had lost
many of her ancient virtues, she still preserved the pride of the
Roman name. These conquerors of the world looked upon other nations as
of servile race and inferior humanity. Little did they care for the
transient loves of Cæsar and Ennoah, queen of Mauritania, nor would
they have cared any more had Cleopatra served merely to beguile his
leisure during the war of Alexandria; but in bringing this woman to
the seven-hilled city, in publicly acknowledging her as his mistress,
in forcing on all the spectacle of a Roman citizen, five times consul
and thrice dictator, as the lover of an Egyptian woman, Cæsar seemed,
according to the ideas of the time, to insult all Rome. As Merivale
justly observes: “If one can imagine the effect that would have been
produced in the fifteenth century by the marriage of a peer of England
or of a grandee of Spain with a Jewess some idea may be formed of
the impression made on the Roman people by the intrigue of Cæsar and

Cæsar had received supreme power and had been deified. He was
created dictator for ten years, and in the city his statue bore this
inscription: “Cæsari semideo”—To Cæsar the demigod. He might believe
himself sufficiently powerful to despise Roman prejudices; for the
rest, during the last two years of his life, Cæsar, till then so
prudent, so cautious in humoring the sentiments of the plebeians, so
skillful in using them for his own designs, pretended in his public
life to despise and brave public opinion. It was the same in his
private life; far from dismissing Cleopatra, he visited her more
frequently than ever at the villa on the Tiber, talked incessantly of
the queen, and allowed her publicly to call her son Cæsarion.

He went further still; he erected in the temple of Venus the golden
statue of Cleopatra, thus adding to the insult to the Roman people the
outrage to the Roman gods. It was not enough that Cæsar for love of
Cleopatra had not reduced Egypt to a Roman province; not enough that
he had installed this foreigner in Rome, in his villa on the banks of
the Tiber, and that he lavished on her every mark of honor and every
testimony of love;—now he dedicated, in the temple of a national
divinity, the statue of this prostitute of Alexandria, this barbarous
queen of the land of magicians, of thaumaturgy [wonder-working], of
eunuchs, of servile dwellers by the Nile, these worshipers of stuffed
birds and gods with the heads of beasts. Men asked each other where
the infatuation of Cæsar would end. It was reported that the dictator
was preparing to propose, by the tribune Helvius Cinna, a law which
would permit him to espouse as many wives as he desired in order to
beget children by them. It was said that he was about to recognize
the son of Cleopatra as his heir, and still further, that after
having exhausted Italy in levies of men and money he would leave the
government of Rome in the hands of his creatures and transfer the seat
of empire to Alexandria. These rumors aroused all minds against Cæsar,
and, if we may credit Dion, tended _to arm his assassins against him_
(to furnish the dagger to slay him).[2] Notwithstanding this hostility,
Cleopatra was not deserted in the villa on the Tiber. To please
the divine Julius, to approach him more intimately, the Cæsarians
controlled their antipathy and frequently visited the beautiful
queen. To this court of Egypt transported to the banks of the Tiber
came Mark Antony, Dolabella, Lepidus, then general-of-horse; Oppius
Curio, Cornelius Balbus, Helvius Cinna, Matius, the prætor Vendidius,
Trebonius, and others. Side by side with the partisans of Cæsar were
also some of his secret enemies, such as Atticus, a celebrated silver
merchant with great interests in Egypt, and others whom he had won
over, like Cicero. The latter while making his peace with Cæsar did
not forget his master-passion, love of books and of curiosities. An
insatiable collector, he thought to enrich his library at Tusculum
without loosing his purse-strings, and requested Cleopatra to send
for him to Alexandria, where such treasures abounded, for a few Greek
manuscripts and Egyptian antiquities. The queen promised willingly, and
one of her officers, Aumonius, who, formerly an ambassador of Ptolemy
Auletes to Rome, had there known Cicero, undertook the commission; but
whether through forgetfulness or negligence the promised gifts came
not, and Cicero preserved so deep an enmity to the queen in consequence
that he afterwards wrote to Atticus, “I hate the queen (odi reginam),”
giving as his only reason for this aversion the failure of the royal
promise. The former consul had also received an affront from Sarapion,
one of Cleopatra’s officers. This man had gone to his house, and
when Cicero asked him what he wished he had replied rudely: “I seek
Atticus,” and at once departed. How often does the ill-conduct of upper
servants create a prejudice against the great.

The assassination of Cæsar, which struck Cleopatra like a thunderbolt,
would have been the destruction of all her hopes if one could lose hope
at twenty-five. Cæsar dead, there was nothing to detain her in Rome,
and she did not feel safe in this hostile city amid the bloody scenes
of the parricidal days. She prepared to depart, but Antony having
entertained for a moment the weak desire of opposing to Octavius as
Cæsar’s heir the little Cæsarion, Cleopatra remained in Rome until
the middle of April. When the queen perceived that this project was
finally abandoned, she hastened to depart from the city where she had
experienced so much contempt and which she quitted with rage in her



Cleopatra reëntered Alexandria without opposition, but the civil war
which threatened between the adherents of Cæsar and the republicans
made her situation difficult and her crown precarious. The ally of the
Roman people, she could not remain neutral in the struggle; but at
the risk of the victors’, whoever they might be, making her pay the
penalty of her desertion by annexing Egypt to the empire, she inclined
to the Triumvirs; for the partisans of Cæsar had been less inimical
to her while in Rome, and Antony, through policy indeed, rather than
friendship, had spoken in favor of her son’s succession. On the other
hand, if the Triumvirs possessed the West, their adversaries were
almost the masters of the East, and directly threatened Egypt. At
the very commencement of hostilities Cassius, who with eight legions
occupied Syria, called upon Cleopatra to send him reënforcements, and
almost at the same time one of the lieutenants of Antony, Dolabella,
besieged in Laodicea, addressed the same demand to her.

Cassius was seemingly victorious, Dolabella the reverse; prudence
would have advised to side with the former, nevertheless Cleopatra
remained faithful to her tacit alliance with the Cæsarians. Four
Roman legions, two left by Cæsar and two composed of the veterans of
Gabinius, were stationed at Alexandria. The queen commanded them to
set out for Laodicea, but the envoy of Dolabella, Allienus, who had
taken the command of these troops, came upon the army of Cassius in
Syria. Whether from pusillanimity or premeditated treachery, Allienus
united his legions with those of the enemy against whom he was leading
them, and only a single Egyptian squadron, which Cleopatra had also
despatched to Laodicea, reached Antony.

Soon after the departure of the legions, 43 B. C., the young king
Ptolemy died suddenly. Cleopatra was accused of having him poisoned.
This crime, which is far from being authenticated, is by no means
improbable. It may be that when Cleopatra by the departure of the Roman
soldiers found herself without any reliable troops, she dreaded either
a conspiracy in the palace or an insurrection which would drive her
from the throne to place on it her brother. Six years previously the
same circumstance had resulted to the advantage of her other brother,
and Cleopatra had nearly fallen a victim. Immediately on the death of
Ptolemy XIII., the queen took as the sharer of the throne her young son
Ptolemy-Cæsarion, then four years of age.

Stationed at Cyprus was an Egytian fleet. Cassius sent orders direct to
the navarch Sarapion, who commanded it, to unite with the republican
fleet, and the latter obeyed without even referring to his sovereign.
Not satisfied with the four legions and the squadron which he had
already received from Cleopatra, much against her will, indeed, Cassius
again sent her word to furnish him new supplies of troops, ships,
provisions, and money. The queen, who feared an invasion, which she was
without forces to repel, sought to temporize. She expressed her regrets
to Cassius that she could not at once send him aid, Egypt being ruined
by famine and pestilence. Famine indeed reigned there by reason of an
insufficient inundation of the Nile, but Egypt was not ruined for all
that, and whilst Cleopatra was evading the demands of Cassius she was
preparing a new fleet to assist the Triumvirs. Cassius was not deceived
by the diplomacy of Cleopatra’s envoy. He determined to invade Egypt.
He had already set out on his march when Brutus, on the approach of the
army of Antony, summoned him into Macedonia. Then Cleopatra sent her
fleet to join the party of the Cæsarians, but on the way this fleet was
dispersed and almost utterly destroyed by a tempest. Throughout this
war ill-fortune seemed to pursue Cleopatra—with the best will to second
the Triumvirs she had been able to give them almost no assistance; on
the contrary, she had furnished reënforcements to the republicans,
who, well knowing that these reënforcements had been most unwillingly
supplied, desired to take vengeance for her reluctance.

The battle of Philippi freed Cleopatra from her anxiety on the score of
the republicans; but she had still to fear the penalty of her apparent
desertion of the Triumvirs. After his victory over Brutus, Antony
overran Greece and Asia Minor for the purpose of levying tribute, and
was everywhere received as a conqueror. Cities and kings vied with
each other in adulation, heaped up honors and lavished gifts on him
to secure immunity for the succor they had afforded, willingly or by
force, to the vanquished party. At Athens, Megara, Ephesus, Magnesia,
and Tarsus embassies and royal visits followed each other. To preserve
to their kingdoms a quasi-autonomy, every petty sovereign of Asia
hastened to obtain from the powerful triumvir a new investiture of his
crown. Cleopatra alone, whether from queenly pride or womanly art,
remained in Egypt and sent no ambassador; she seemed to pretend to
ignore that the victory at Philippi had rendered Antony the master of
the East.

The silence of Cleopatra surprised and irritated Antony. Perhaps
wounded pride was not the only sentiment in the soul of the triumvir.
When he was commanding the cavalry of Gabinius he had seen Cleopatra,
then fifteen years old; he had seen her again at Rome, the year of
Cæsar’s death. Without agreeing wholly with Appian, that Antony was
already in love with the queen of Egypt, it may be credited that her
beauty and her attractions had made on him a deep impression. He
remembered the “Siren of the Nile,” and amid the visits of so many
kings and powers it was, above all, hers that he awaited, but awaited
in vain. In the position of Antony, however, to speak was to be obeyed.
He commanded Cleopatra to repair to Tarsus, to vindicate before his
tribunal her ambiguous conduct during the civil war. Antony enjoyed in
advance this deliciously cruel pleasure: the beautiful Cleopatra, the
haughty queen of Egypt, the woman at whose feet he had seen the divine
Julius, coming to him as a suppliant.

Quintus Dellius, a creature of Antony’s, was appointed to bear the
message to Cleopatra. This Dellius, an unscrupulous intriguer and
agreeable man of pleasure, had by turns betrayed all men and all
parties. He was called “The Hunter of the Civil Wars”—_Desultor
bellorum civilium_. He was destined to die the friend of Horace, who
dedicated an ode to him, and the friend of Augustus who enriched him.
In the meanwhile he was going to make use of Cleopatra to enable him to
attain still higher favor with Antony. At the first audience granted
him by the beautiful queen, he understood the passion of Cæsar and
foresaw that of Antony. Feeling that Cleopatra would captivate the
triumvir at the first glance, he saw at once the advantage to be gained
in the near future from the patronage of the Egyptian queen; and from
the envoy of Antony he suddenly became the courtier of Cleopatra,
and from an ambassador an intermeddler. He exhorted the queen to
hasten into Cilicia, assuring her that, despite his appearance and
manners suitable to the amphitheater, the rough soldier of Pharsalia
and Philippi was not so ferocious as he seemed. “Never,” said he,
“will Antony call tears to eyes so beautiful, and far from causing
you the least pain he will fulfil your every wish.” Dellius found no
difficulty in persuading Cleopatra: she saw, shining through his words,
the dawn of a new fortune equal to that which she had dreamed of as
the mistress of Cæsar. According to a somewhat doubtful tradition,
Dellius might have succeeded in more than securing the attention of
Cleopatra: he might have made himself beloved by her. Be this as it
may, the queen, yielding to his counsels, determined to set out for
Tarsus, but in order to enhance the value of the proceeding and to make
it more effective she was careful not to precipitate it, and under
various pretexts she often delayed her departure, notwithstanding
the entreaties of Dellius and the messages constantly increasing in
earnestness despatched by Antony.

On a day when the triumvir on his judgment-seat was giving public
audience in the midst of the agora of Tarsus, a great uproar arose on
the banks of the Cydnus. Antony inquired what it meant. Flatterers as
all Greeks are, the Cilicians replied that it was Aphrodite herself
who, for the happiness of Asia, was coming to visit Bacchus. Antony
liked to assume the name of Bacchus. The crowd which thronged the
public square rushed in a body to the shore. Antony was left alone
with his lictors in the deserted agora—his dignity kept him there, but
he fidgets in his curule chair, till finally curiosity gains the day.
Unaccustomed to self-control, he, also, descends to the strand. The
sight is worth the trouble—a vision divine which carries one back to
the dawn of mythologic times. Cleopatra is entering Tarsus, ascending
the Cydnus on a vessel plated with gold over which float sails of
Tyrian purple. The silver oars rise and fall in measured cadence to
the music of Greek lyres and Egyptian harps. The queen, the goddess
Cleopatra, lying beneath an awning of cloth of gold which shades the
deck, appears as the painters usually represent Aphrodite, surrounded
by rosy children like the Loves, beautiful young girls scarcely clad
with lightest drapery as Graces and sea-nymphs, bearing garlands of
roses and the lotus-flower and waving great fans of the feathers of
the ibis. On the prow of the vessel other Nereides form groups worthy
the brush of Apelles; Loves suspended to the yards and rigging seem
descending from the skies. Incense and spikenard kept burning by slaves
surround the vessel with a light and odorous vapor which sends its
perfume to both banks of the stream.

Antony at once despatched one of his favorites to Cleopatra to request
her to sup with him that same night. Cleopatra, availing herself
doubtless of her title of goddess rather than of that of queen—a queen
of Egypt was nobody in comparison with a triumvir—made response that it
was she who invited Antony to supper, and the Roman did not decline the
invitation. He went at the hour appointed to the palace, which several
days previously Cleopatra had had secretly prepared with gorgeous
magnificence. The banquet-hall, sumptuously adorned, shone with the
brilliancy of chandeliers, candelabra, and a multitude of golden
sconces arranged symmetrically in circles, lozenges, etc. The feast,
worthy of its decorations, abounded in nectarean wines served in vases
of solid gold, and in rare and artistic viands prepared by a master
hand. Antony was a great gastronomist, and three months before this had
given his cook a house for a dish that pleased him. He would have given
a whole town to the cook of Cleopatra. As for the beautiful Egyptian,
the triumvir was already willing to give her the whole world. The next
day Antony gave a supper to the queen. He hoped to surpass, by means
of money, the magnificence of his reception, but he was the first to
recognize his inability to rival her as an Amphitryon, and, clever man
that he was,[3] he jested gaily in Cleopatra’s presence at his meanness
and coarse taste. Probably in these two entertainments there was no
mention of the grievances, real or pretended, with which Rome charged
Cleopatra. Antony had no longer any thought of summoning her before his
tribunal as a suppliant—the suppliant would have been Antony himself
if Cleopatra had rejected his advances. Henceforth it was the queen
that commanded; the all-powerful triumvir had become the “slave of the
Egyptian woman,” as Dion Cassius indignantly exclaims.

The first advantage Cleopatra took of her power was to have her son, by
Cæsar, Ptolemy-Cæsarion, recognized as legitimate heir to the crown of
Egypt. At Antony’s request the decree was immediately ratified by his
colleagues, Octavius and Lepidus. Antony alleged as a pretext for this
favor to Cleopatra, the services she rendered to the Romans during the
civil war. After having satisfied her ambition, Antony became without
difficulty the executor of her revenge. Like most women the beautiful
queen was vindictive, and like Dionysius the Tyrant, she carried her
prudence to the extent of crime. Her sister Arsinoë had escaped from
Rome, where she had contributed to Cæsar’s triumph; she had found
an asylum at Miletus. Whether Cleopatra feared that, ambitious and
intriguing as she had already shown herself in the War of Alexandria,
she might again create trouble in Egypt, or simply to avenge herself
for Arsinoë’s former conduct, the queen besought Antony to have her put
to death. One crime more or less weighed but little on the conscience
of the proscriber of the year 711 A. U. C. The unfortunate Arsinoë was
murdered in the temple of Artemis Leucophryne, where she had sought
refuge from the hired assassins of Antony. An Egyptian, also a refugee
in Asia Minor where he passed himself off as Ptolemy XII., drowned as
was well-known in the Nile, was also put to death. Cleopatra bore an
ill-will, the cause of which is not known, also to Megabyses, of the
great temple of Ephesus. He was arrested by Antony’s order, and his
life was saved only by the interference of the magistrates of the city,
speaking in the name of the people, who rose in insurrection to rescue
him. At the same time, Sarapion, the former commander of the Egyptian
squadron at Cyprus, was beheaded by the order of Antony, thus avenging
Cleopatra for the defection of her officer and Antony for the aid given
to Cassius. When Cleopatra arrived at Tarsus in the summer of 41 B. C.,
Antony was preparing to march against the Parthians. At the end of a
month the concentration of his troops was accomplished, the fleets
ready, and no obstacle remained to the departure of the army. But this
month had been passed with Cleopatra, and Antony had found it very
short. Listening only to his passion, he put off the expedition till
the spring and followed the queen into Egypt.

Then began that mad life of pleasure and debauchery, that long and
sumptuous orgy, which even in the third century of our era, and after
the excesses of Nero and Heliogabalus, was still quoted in the Roman
world, though then slaves to every corruption and exhausted in efforts
of magnificence, as an inimitable model.

Οι Αχιμητοδιοι: “Those whose life is inimitable.” This, moreover, was
the name assumed by Antony and Cleopatra and the intimate companions of
their pleasures.[4] Plutarch and Dion relate that festival succeeded
to festival, entertainment to entertainment, and hunting parties to
excursions on the Nile. Cleopatra quitted Antony neither day nor night.
She drank with him, she gambled with him, hunted with him, she was
even present at his military exercises when by chance this man of war,
remembering that he was a soldier, took a fancy to review his legions.
It is further related that Cleopatra was incessantly inventing some
new diversion, some unexpected pleasure. But this list is very brief,
this sketch a very modest and faint description to give an idea of
the superb orgies, the unrestrained voluptuousness, and the nameless
prodigalities of the “Inimitables.” Pliny alone of the ancient writers
has summed them up, perhaps unknown to himself, in the legend, more or
less symbolic, of the Pearl. One day, says this writer, when Antony was
extolling the luxuriousness and profusion of a certain entertainment,
he exclaimed that no other could surpass it. Cleopatra, who always
affected to put no limit to the possible, replied that the present
feast was a wretched affair, and she laid a wager that the next day
she would give one on which she would expend ten millions of sesterces
(two millions one hundred thousand francs). Antony took the bet. The
next day the feast, magnificent as it was, had nothing to distinguish
it from the preceding, and Antony did not fail to rally Cleopatra. “Per
Bacchus,” cried he, “this would never cost ten millions of sesterces!”
“I know that,” replied the queen, “but you see only the accessories. I
myself will drink alone the ten millions,” and at once detaching from
her ear a single pearl—the largest and most perfect ever seen—she threw
it into a golden cup, in which it was dissolved in the vinegar there
prepared, and swallowed at one draught the acid beverage. She was about
to sacrifice the second pearl when L. Plancus, the umpire of the wager,
arrested her hand by declaring that she had won.[5]

Picture to yourself the most costly materials, marbles, breccia,
granites, ebony and cedar woods, porphyry, basalt, agate, onyx,
lapis-lazuli, bronze, silver, ivory, and gold; conceive the most
imposing Egyptian, the most beautiful Grecian architecture, imagine
the Parthenon and the temple of Jupiter Olympus, the Pavilion of
Rameses, and the ruins of Apollinopolis Magna; recreate the royal
palaces of Alexandria, which, with their dependencies, their gardens,
their terraces, rising one above another, made up a third of the
city: reconstruct the massive enclosures—those double pylons into
which opened avenues bordered with sphinxes; those obelisks, those
magnificent propylæa, those saloons three hundred feet long and a
hundred and fifty wide, supported by vast columns, in which rise
double rows of pillars ten meters in circumference and twenty meters
in height, bursting into lotus blossoms at their summits; those
sanctuaries with their screens enameled in gold and tortoiseshell,
and studded with gems; those long picture galleries adorned with
the paintings of Zeuxis, Apelles, and Protogenes; those magnificent
thermæ with their calidaria, their basins of hot and cold water, their
retiring-rooms with walls of red porphyry, their porticos adorned
with statues; those gymnasia, theaters, hippodromes, those stages
covered with saffron powder, those triclinia where the couches of
embossed silver rested on Babylonian carpets; those atria with their
uncovered roofs, sustained by Corinthian columns with capitals of
golden bronze, by day shaded by purple awnings, the silk of which
was worth its weight in gold, and at night open to the starry sky.
See, at all seasons, blooming in the gardens roses and violets, and
scatter the pavements of onyx and mosaics four times a day with fresh
flowers; people this scenery with crowds of slaves, pipers, players
of the harp and psaltery, dancers, actors, Atellans [of the drama,
as at Atellan, of lascivious character, Atellanæ], acrobats, mimes,
gymnasts, ballet-dancers, and serpent-charmers. Load these tables with
oysters from Tarentum, lampreys dressed with garum, bonitos cooked
in fig-leaves, pink ousels, quails, pheasants, swans, geese livers,
stews made of the brains of birds, hares cooked rare and dusted with
coriander seeds, truffles as large as the fist which were assumed to
fall from the sky like aërolites, cakes of honey and wheat flour, and
the most delicious fruits of the Mediterranean basin. In the kitchens,
roasting before the fires on immense hearths, for the entertainment of
fifteen guests, twelve wild boars, spitted successively at intervals
of three minutes, so that, according to the duration of the feast,
one of these animals might be exactly cooked at the very moment it
was required to be served. Cool in snow the old Cæcuban wine, the
Falernian ripened for twenty years, the wines of Phlemtes, Chios,
Issa, the imperial wine of Lesbos, the ripe wine of Rhodes, the sweet
wine of Mitylene, the Saprian, smelling of violets, and the Thasos,
said to “rekindle failing love.” Light up the lamps, the torches, and
the chandeliers, wind the pillars with streamers of fire; open the
mouths of the bronze colossi that the icy water may flow and cool the
atmosphere, and the breasts of Isis that the sweet waters may perfume
it; call in the choirs of singing women with their harps and cythera,
and the females who dance nude with castanets of gold in their hands;
add to them representations of comedies, the farces of mimes, the
tricks of jugglers, and the phantasmagorias of the magicians; offer
mock engagements in the harbor, and in the hippodrome chariot races
and combats between lions; summon the masqueraders and witness the
processions where cluster, around the golden car of Bacchus and the
Cyprian, fifteen hundred satyrs, a thousand cupids, and eight hundred
beautiful slaves as nymphs and mimes. Finally, imagine all that Asiatic
pomp, Egyptian state, and Grecian refinement and depravity, and Roman
power and licentiousness blended in a single form—a sensual and
splendid woman, delighting in pleasure and sumptuousness—can achieve
with such elements and you will have some idea, though very vague and
feeble, of the “Life Inimitable.”

Sometimes Antony and Cleopatra indulged in more vulgar pleasures.
Disguised, she as a barmaid, and he as a porter or a sailor, they
ran, by night, about the streets of Alexandria, knocking at the doors
of houses, abusing belated pedestrians, entering low lodging-houses,
and quarreling with drunken men. To the great delight of Antony these
frolics usually ended in fights. Despite his strength and skill, the
Roman did not always win, and Cleopatra was sometimes well splashed
with mud; but victors or vanquished, the lovers returned happy to the
palace, quite willing to renew their adventures. The secret, however,
escaped, and thenceforth the royal pair were handled more cautiously,
without being entirely spared.[6]

These follies did not turn the Alexandrians against the triumvir as
much as might have been supposed. If they had little esteem for him,
they liked him for his good humor, and the ease with which he was
approached. They delighted to say: “Antony wears for the Romans a
tragic mask, but here he lays it aside, and assumes for us the mask of
comedy.” His intimate companions and his officers, who shared without
scruple his voluptuous and unbridled excesses, were still less inclined
to resent them, for, like himself, they yielded to the bewitching charm
of Cleopatra. They loved, they admired her, they bore cheerfully her
snubs and sarcasms, and were not shocked, even if in the midst of a
feast, at a sign from Antony, she quitted the banquet hall with him,
and returning after a short absence resumed her position on the couch
of the triclinium. They studied to please and divert her, each strove
to be the vilest toady to the queen—“humillimus assentator reginæ”—for
a smile of Cleopatra they sacrificed all dignity. Once, L. Plancus, a
man of consular dignity, crowned with rushes, a fish’s tail attached to
his loins, and his naked body painted blue, actually performed in her
presence the dance of Glaukos.

With Cæsar, Cleopatra had instinctively played the part of a crowned
Aspasia, ever bewitching, but uniting dignity with grace, concealing
the courtesan beneath the robe of a queen, ever equable in mood,
expressing herself in the choicest language, talking politics, art,
literature, her marvelous faculties rising without effort to the level
of the lofty intelligence of the dictator: with Antony, Cleopatra, at
first through policy, afterwards through love, played the part of a
Laïs born by chance to a throne. Seeing at once that the inclinations
of Antony were coarse and low, that his wit was commonplace and his
language very loose, she immediately set herself to the same tone. She
kept pace with this great drinker, remaining even till dawn with the
foaming flagons and goblets continually replenished; she accompanied
him by night into the suspicious streets of Rhakotis, the old portion
of Alexandria; she jested cynically, sang amatory songs, recited
licentious poems; she quarreled with him, provoking and returning
both abuse and blows. Nothing delighted Antony like the sight of that
ravishing little hand threatening and beating him, or to hear from
those divine lips, fit for the choruses of Sophocles or the odes of
Sappho, the same words that he had heard bandied among the guard of the
Esquiline gate and in the unmentionable dens of the Suburra.



In the winter of 39 B. C. the war of Persia recalled Antony into
Italy. Through ambition or resentment against Octavius, and also, says
Plutarch, through jealousy, Fulvia his wife had fomented this war. She
hoped that these disturbances would compel Antony to leave Cleopatra,
in order to defend his power threatened in Rome. Fulvia had succeeded
but too well. Antony, it is true, was sailing towards Brundusium with
two hundred sail, but the victorious Octavius was all-powerful in
Italy, his adversaries dispersed or proscribed; she herself had fled
and was dying, without a hope of again seeing her husband. Antony heard
of her death while touching at a port in Sicily. This, in the end, made
a peace easy. Antony had taken no part in the war of Persia; Fulvia
alone, aided by her father-in-law, had excited it; her death rendered
an accommodation possible between Antony and Octavius. Cocceius Nerva,
Pollio, and Mecænas contrived an interview at Brundusium. They were
reconciled and made a new division of the empire: Octavius took the
West, as far as the Adriatic; Antony, the East; and Lepidus had to be
content with the Roman possessions in Africa.

The treaty of Brundusium gave great satisfaction at Rome, where,
after so much dissension and bloodshed, peace was ardently desired.
To secure the fulfilment of it, the friends of the Triumvirs sought
to unite them by family ties, and they proposed a marriage between
Antony, who had just lost his wife, and Octavia, sister of Octavius,
the widow of Marcellus. This noble woman, who to the rarest qualities
added great beauty of person, could not fail, they thought, to secure
and fix the love of Antony; she would thus maintain harmony between
the brothers-in-law, to the great advantage of both and the good of
the state. Octavius gladly accepted the project, and notwithstanding
the passion he still entertained for Cleopatra, Antony, in view of the
political advantages of this union, took good care not to refuse. The
marriage was forthwith celebrated. The law forbade widows to marry
before the tenth month, but the senate granted a dispensation to the
sister of Octavius.

Antony remained at Rome during nearly the whole year 39 B. C. He lived
in perfect accord with Octavius and shared with him the government of
the empire; but although he had an equal part in authority and honors
he felt that he was only second in Rome. In his justifiable pride as
an old soldier, an accomplished warrior, the lieutenant of Cæsar at
Pharsalia, and commander-in-chief at Philippi, he was indignant when
he thought of the supremacy, acknowledged by all, of this almost
beardless youth. A famous Egyptian soothsayer, whom probably Cleopatra
herself had despatched to Rome, encouraged Antony in these ideas by
his predictions and horoscopes. “Your tutelar genius dreads that of
Octavius,” said he constantly. “Proud and lofty when alone, he loses
power when you are with Octavius. Here your star is eclipsed; it is
only away from Rome—it is in the East that it shines in full luster.”
A new revolt of the Parthians gave Antony a pretext for leaving Rome.
He set out with Octavia, and touched first at Athens. There he remained
during the winter of 39–38 B. C., forgetting not only the Parthians
(leaving his lieutenant Ventidius to conduct the war against them), but
Alexandria, the “Life Inimitable,” and Cleopatra herself.[7] Doubtless
he did not love his new wife, the beautiful Octavia, as ardently as he
had loved Cleopatra, or in the same way, but assuredly he did love her.
As feeble in will as powerful in body, Antony, the slave of woman, was
easily dominated. Erewhile Fulvia had enslaved him, then Cleopatra had
bewitched him, now he yielded to the quiet charm of Octavia.

At the close of the winter he undertook a brief campaign into Syria
against Antiochus of Commagene, and soon after returned to Athens,
where he remained two years. In 36, a new difficulty occurring between
him and Octavius on the subject of the naval expedition against the
pirates, in which he had refused to second the latter, civil war
again became imminent. Antony planned a descent upon Italy, with three
hundred vessels; Octavius, on his side, collected his legions; if
blood did not yet flow, swords were half unsheathed. In the hope of
preventing this unnatural war, Octavia entreated Antony to take her
with him into Italy. The port of Brundusium having refused entrance to
Antony’s fleet, his vessels moored before Tarentum. Informed of this,
Octavius was leading his troops by forced marches against that city.
Octavia desired to land alone. She went to meet Octavius on the way to
Venosa; passing through the outposts and sentinels, she approached her
brother, who was attended by Agrippa and Mecænas. She warmly pleaded
the cause of Antony, and especially conjured Octavius not to reduce her
from the happiest of women to the most miserable. “At this moment,”
said she, “the eyes of the world are upon me, the wife of one of the
rulers of Rome, and the sister of the other. Should the counsel of
wrath prevail, should war be declared, it may be doubtful to which of
you two Fate may give the victory, but it is certain to whichever it
inclines I shall be in grief and desolation.” The ambitious Octavius
was already coveting universal dominion, but he was a temporizer. He
yielded to the prayers of Octavia, and for the second time this woman,
who was the good genius of Antony, maintained the peace of the Roman
world. The two triumvirs met on the shores of the Gulf of Tarentum, and
after having lavished on each other various marks of affection they
agreed to renew the triumvirate for five years. Octavius gave Antony
two legions to reënforce his army of the East, and in return Antony
gave up one hundred triremes with brazen rostra and twenty Liburnian
galleys for his Mediterranean fleet. These were the vessels that were
to conquer at Actium! From Tarentum, Octavia returned alone to Rome
with the two children she had borne to Antony; he himself embarked for
Asia Minor, whither he was summoned by the war with the Parthians. The
pair agreed to meet again, the expedition over, either at Athens or at
Rome, when Antony hoped to receive the honors of a triumph.

From the winter of 39 to the summer of 36 B. C., for three long years,
Cleopatra remained thus parted from Antony. She was queen of Egypt and
Cyprus, she had borne one son to Cæsar and two to Antony, she possessed
immense revenues and treasures inexhaustible, but she suffered in her
pride and in her love from the desertion of the triumvir. Cleopatra
at twenty years of age had in all probability not loved Cæsar, who
was over fifty. She loved Antony. In fact, though she had at first
given herself to the triumvir through policy, yet she soon felt for
this rough soldier, handsome with the beauty of Hercules, master of
the East, surrounded by glory and power, the same passion that she
had inspired in him. If, indeed, the ancient authors do not state in
words that Cleopatra loved Antony, the scenes which they depict can
scarcely permit a doubt of it. There is a logic of circumstances. With
his martial air, his lofty stature and broad chest, his mane of black
hair and eyes of gloom, his aquiline nose and harshly cut features,
Antony certainly possessed manly attractions. His first wife, Fulvia,
loved him passionately; his second wife, Octavia, loved him supremely;
the haughty Cleopatra gave him love for love. Besides, Shakspeare tells
us this, and the word of this great painter of the human heart, of this
marvelously comprehensive genius, may well make up for the silence on
this point of a Dion Cassius or a Paul Orose.

Great as might have been the suffering of this other Dido, one can
scarcely imagine her enveloped in habiliments of woe and sighing in
the retirement of her palace. In all probability Cleopatra continued
her gay life of pompous show, giving to pleasure all the time that was
left from official ceremonies, public audiences and other duties of the
government, and her conferences with architects and engineers.[8] The
Typhonium, at Denderah, dates from the reign of Cleopatra. As is shown
by its cartouches, she also labored at the great temple of Denderah, at
those of Edfou, Heminthis, and Coptos, as well as at the monuments of
Thebes situated on the left bank of the Nile. At Alexandria, besides
the Cæsarium, which it appears was begun by Cleopatra, she had many
fine buildings erected; but as with many other more ancient palaces and
temples, there remains of them not a vestige on that surface which the
ruins of centuries have in so many places raised to a height of fully
ten meters.

Did the queen seek to play the indifferent by leaving Antony without
tidings, or, as Plutarch insinuates and Shakspeare declares, did
she, during these three years, overwhelm him with dolorous appeals
and burning messages of love? According to Josephus, her voluptuous
temperament was ever leading her into transient amours. Besides Cneius
Pompey, Cæsar, Dellius, Antony, and Herod, king of the Jews, the five
lovers who are accredited or attributed to her, the queen of Egypt had
many flirtations and anonymous entanglements. Is this calumny? It is
rather a slander. Be this as it may, the accusation is no proof that
Cleopatra no longer loved Antony. These riddles of the heart and the
senses are, after all, no enigma.

As for Antony, it seems that he had indeed forgotten Cleopatra.
Not only during the three years that he had passed with Octavia at
Athens and Rome; not only on his return from the expedition against
Antiochus of Commagene had he not visited Egypt, but even on his way
from Tarentum to Laodicea he had not touched at Alexandria, which
was almost directly in his course. He sailed straight for Syria. By
a singular fatality, scarcely had he set foot in Asia when he felt
his passion rekindle with the utmost violence. He established himself
at Laodicea, and at once despatched his friend Fonteius Capito into
Egypt to conduct Cleopatra to Syria. The queen, enchanted, had no
thought of delaying her departure in order to make herself the more
desired, as she had done five years before. She embarked at once, and
was received at Laodicea by her lover with transports of joy. To prove
otherwise than by caresses his unspeakable happiness at seeing her
again, he gave her, not jewels, but kingdoms: Chalcedon, Phœnicia,
Cœolo-Syria, a great part of Cilicia, Genesereth in Judea, noted for
its balm, and Nabathae in Arabia. Antony had no right to dispose of
these territories, which belonged to the _Roman people_; but mad with
pride as much as with love he declared that “The glory of Rome was
displayed much less in her conquests and possessions than in the gifts
she bestowed.”[9]

A few days after they were again compelled to part, with the promise,
however, of meeting again in the spring at Alexandria. Antony passed
with his army into Armenia; Cleopatra returned to Egypt, passing
through Apamea, Damascus, and Petrea. She desired to settle with the
kings of Judea and Arabia the amount of the tribute which these rulers
were to pay yearly for the portions of territory which Antony had
bestowed. The king of Arabia promised three hundred talents (sixteen
hundred and sixty thousand francs); the tribute of the king of the Jews
was greater. This king was Herod, whom the protection of Antony had
a few years before placed on the throne. He went to Damascus to meet
Cleopatra. According to Josephus, Herod, who was remarkably handsome,
repulsed the shameless advances of the queen, even proposing to put
her to death whilst she was in his power in order to deliver Antony
from her fatal influence; but his counselors dissuaded him from this
crime, telling him that from that moment he would incur the terrible
vengeance of Antony.

Cleopatra had not been long in Alexandria when she received a message
from Antony, dated at Leucocoma, a city on the seaboard of Syria. He
entreated her to join him at once with money, stores, and clothing
for his soldiers, who were destitute of everything. The war had been
unsuccessful. By his too eager desire to rejoin Cleopatra in the
spring, Antony had compromised the success of the campaign. When he
reached Armenia, after a forced march of eight thousand stadia, he
should have gone into winter quarters and not opened the campaign
till the spring, with troops rested and refreshed, and at a favorable
season. Too impatient to submit to this long delay, he entered Upper
Media, and that his march might be more rapid he left behind all his
siege machinery under the guard of one detachment. Chariots, towers,
catapults, battering-rams eighty feet long—all were destroyed by the
Parthian cavalry. Through the want of these batteries Antony failed
in the attack on the city of Phraata. Threatened by an overwhelming
force, he was compelled to retreat. It was midwinter, the legionaries
had to march through the snow amid freezing squalls. Every morning many
were found frozen to death. Provisions failed, they lost their way,
and the formidable Parthian cavalry harassed the exhausted columns.
In this terrible retreat, the remembrance of which may have occurred
to Napoleon before crossing the Niemen, Antony recovered his energy
and his qualities as a general; insensible to fatigue and hunger he
was everywhere present; he was both imperator and centurion. Ever
at the point where danger threatened most, in twenty-seven days he
fought eighteen battles. Victor at night, the next day the struggle
was renewed against fresh and ever-increasing forces. When Antony
reached the coast of Syria his army was reduced from seventy thousand
to thirty-eight thousand men. More fortunate than Crassus, however, the
Romans brought back their eagles.

Cleopatra in vain used all despatch; she did not reach Antony as soon
as he had hoped, and his impatience became agony. He imagined that the
queen would not comply with the appeal of a conquered man. Overcome
by despair he fell into a sort of stupor. Then he sought distraction
in drinking, but the pleasures of the table, of which he had been so
utterly deprived during the campaign of Media, had no power to relieve
his anxiety. At the very height of an orgy he would suddenly rise from
the table, leave his companions, and hasten to the seashore, where he
would remain whole hours with his eyes fixed on the horizon in the
direction whence he expected Cleopatra to appear.

At length the long-desired queen arrived with provisions and clothing,
and about two hundred and forty talents of silver. The paying of the
legionaries,[10] the reorganization of the army, and the collection
of contributions compelled Antony to remain some time longer at
Leucocoma, and Cleopatra remained with him. Meanwhile, the news of the
disastrous expedition having reached Rome, Octavia, still devoted to
her husband despite the efforts of Octavius, who had had the cruelty to
inform her of the reunion of Antony and Cleopatra, determined to embark
for Asia. She entreated Octavius to furnish her with ships, soldiers,
and money. Report had informed Octavius of the renewed passion of
Antony. He yielded to the request of Octavia in the hope that the
insulting reception she was likely to receive from her husband might
detach her from him forever and rouse the indignation of the Romans.
Not to risk a meeting with Cleopatra, Octavia landed at Athens, whence
she sent word to Antony of her arrival. But the triumvir would not
dismiss his mistress; he wrote to Octavia to remain at Athens, offering
her as a pretext his intention of undertaking a new expedition against
the Parthians. In fact, the king of Media, incessantly a prey to these
wild hordes, had proposed to Antony an alliance against them. Without
resenting Antony’s refusal to receive her, of which refusal she did
not deceive herself as to the cause, Octavia wrote again to Antony.
This letter contained no reproaches; the young wife asked the triumvir
simply whither she should send the reënforcements and the munitions
she had brought for him. These included, besides military clothing
and arms, machines of war and a large amount of money, three thousand
chosen men as splendidly armed as the prætorian cohorts. Octavia had
sacrificed a portion of her private fortune to add this quota to the
supplies. Niger was charged with the delivery of this letter. Often
interviewed by Antony, who held him in great esteem, he mildly pointed
out the wrongs of Octavia, reminded him of the rare virtues of this
admirable woman, and exhorted him in the name of his own interests so
seriously involved, and of his renown so sadly compromised, to abandon

Much shaken, Antony hesitated. He thought he would go to Media. By
this means he could send Cleopatra back to Egypt, leave Octavia in
Greece, and delay, until his return from the campaign, the decision
which he could not resolve now to make; but Cleopatra, with the
penetration of a woman who loves, read the heart of Antony. She saw
herself a second time in danger of losing her lover; moreover, she had
the advantage over Octavia of being near Antony. She redoubled her
smiles and caresses, purposely exaggerating the passion already very
warm and unfeigned which possessed her. Then, at the first broaching
of his departure for Media, she pretended a mortal sorrow. She would
neither eat nor sleep, she passed her days and nights in tears; her
pale face, her haggard features and sunken eyes, her stony look and
pallid lips struck all who approached her. Her women, her friends, the
intimates of the triumvir whom she had won over by her flatteries and
promises, reproached Antony with his want of feeling. They accused him
of allowing to die of grief the most adorable of women, who breathed
only for him. “Octavia,” said they, “is bound to you merely by her
brother’s interest; she enjoys all the advantages of a wife’s title,
while Cleopatra, the queen of so many peoples, is called only the
mistress of Antony, ἐρω.μένην Ἀντωνíου. She refuses not this name,
she does not feel humiliated by it—she glories in it: her sole bliss,
her only ambition, is to live with thee!” Antony yielded, overcome by
such speeches and by the fear that Cleopatra, who possessed his whole
heart, and whom only his reason urged him to resist, would die of grief
or take poison. He therefore postponed his expedition into Media, and
returned with Cleopatra to Alexandria, where they resumed the “Life

At the commencement of the year 34, Antony joined his legions in Asia.
In a few days he defeated the Armenians, made prisoner the king and all
his family, and reduced the country to subjection. After this glorious
campaign Antony was to enjoy a triumph at Rome, but through love and
devotion to Cleopatra, whom he wished to share his honors, the ceremony
was given at Alexandria. For the first time a Roman received the reward
of a triumph outside of Rome. It was an insult to the city, which thus
seemed discrowned; it was an offense to the senate and the people, from
whom alone the honor of a triumph could be received.

This scandalous triumph was of the utmost magnificence. Through
Alexandria, decorated with the richest ornaments and massed with
flowers, filed to the sound of horns and trumpets, the legionaries, the
auxiliary cavalry, the priests, the censer-bearers, and the deputies
from different cities, wearing crowns of gold, chariots filled with
trophies, and thousands of captives. Before the triumphal chariot,
drawn by four white horses, walked the king Artavasdes, his wife, and
two sons, bound in chains of gold. When the chariot arrived before
Cleopatra, who, seated on a throne of gold and ivory, presided at the
triumph, Antony stayed his quadriga, and presented to the queen his
royal captives. After the procession and the sacrifices, he gave a
mammoth banquet to the citizens of Alexandria. Enormous tables were
spread in the gardens of the palace and in the public squares. The
feast over, Antony seated Cleopatra on her throne of gold and ivory
[chryselephantine], and placed himself on a similar one; the trumpets
sounded, the soldiers presented arms, and the whole people collected
in crowds around the two lovers. Then Antony proclaimed that from
that time Cleopatra should be called the Queen of Kings, and her son,
Cæsarion, the heir of Julius, the divine, the King of Kings; and he
renewed to them the sovereignty of Egypt and Cyprus. Next he publicly
settled the state of the three children borne him by Cleopatra. He gave
to the eldest, Alexander, called by him Helios, Armenia, Media, and the
country of the Parthians; to his twin-sister Cleopatra, whom he called
Selene, the kingdom of Lybia; to Ptolemy, Phœnicia, Syria, and Cilicia.
At each proclamation of the triumvir, heralds repeated his words and
the trumpets sounded. The same day the youthful (infant) sovereigns
were presented by Antony to the army and the people. Alexander appeared
in the robes of the Mede with the cidaris (sash) of the kings of
Persia, and a platoon of Armenians as a guard of honor. Ptolemy had an
escort of Macedonian mercenaries armed with lances eighteen feet long;
he wore the long purple mantle, the sandals embroidered with gold, and
the crown of precious stones of the successors of Alexander.

Cleopatra had already set the example of such masquerades. Two years
before, on her return from Laodicea, when Antony had added to her
dominions Phœnicia, Chalcedon, Cœlo-Syria and many other countries she
had opened a new era and had assumed the name of the New Isis, or New
Goddess. It was in the narrow garment of Isis, and on her head the
covering of Isis (the golden horns, between which rested the vulture
head), with the lotoform scepter in her hand, that she presided at
public ceremonies or gave state audiences.

Submissive to these caprices Antony allowed himself to be represented
in paintings and groups of statuary under the figures of Osiris and
Bacchus, seated beside Cleopatra Isis and Cleopatra Selene. It seemed
that bewitched by his mistress he renounced his country for her. He
accepted the office of grand-gymnasiarch of Alexandria. He commanded
that the effigy of the Egyptian queen should be engraved on the back of
his imperial coins; he even dared to inscribe the name of Cleopatra on
the shields of his legionaries. He permitted, by a shameless inversion
of parts, that the queen should go about Alexandria seated in a curule
chair, whilst he, carrying a scimeter and wearing a purple robe with
jeweled clasps, accompanied her on foot surrounded by Egyptian officers
and the base troop of eunuchs.



By deposing Lepidus, Octavius had changed the triumvirate into a
duumvirate, and the empire became divided between himself and Antony.
But the domination of the East satisfied the pride of Antony no
better than the domination of the West sufficed for the ambition of
Octavius. Though twice deferred, the civil war remained inevitable.
In his extreme caution, Octavius would still have delayed it; in his
folly, Antony precipitated it. He despised Octavius as a general; his
flatterers and his soldiers, who adored him, predicted victory to his
arms; Cleopatra, who retained the angry recollection of the insolent
reception by the Romans, burned to avenge it, and confiding in the
sword of Antony, she already swore “By the justice which she would soon
dispense at the Capitol.”[11]

Antony began by overwhelming Octavius with reproaches and dark threats.
His clients, who were numerous in Rome, his friends, his emissaries
sent from Egypt, made themselves busy in enhancing with the people his
grievances, real and supposed. Octavius, said they, has robbed Sextus
Pompey of Sicily without dividing the spoils with his colleague: he
has not even restored the hundred and twenty triremes borrowed for
that war; he has deposed Lepidus and retained for himself alone the
provinces, the legions, and the ships of war that had been assigned
to that triumvir; he has distributed to his own soldiers nearly all
the public lands of Italy, without keeping any for the veterans of
Antony. Every act of the government of Octavius was criticized and
incriminated. The people were reminded that he was crushing Italy under
the weight of taxes; he was accused of aiming at sovereign power.
They even went the length of saying that the true heir of Cæsar was
not Octavius, his nephew, but Cæsar’s own son Cæsarion, and that a
second will of the Dictator would some day be forthcoming. According
to Dion Cassius, Antony, by his formal recognition of Cæsarion as the
legitimate son of Cæsar, had raised to a climax the uneasiness and
anger of Octavius.

Meanwhile Octavius bided his time; his preparations for war were not
complete, and Antony was still popular in Rome, where he maintained
very many clients, protected by Octavia his wife. She, in spite of
the insult inflicted by Antony, was still wholly devoted to him; in
vain, on her return from Greece, had Octavius besought her to forget
her husband and to quit his dwelling; she had utterly refused to do
so. She continued to reside in that famous mansion, once the property
of the great Pompey, there educating with equal care and tenderness
her own children by Antony and those of his first wife. The clients of
Antony and the friends he sent from Alexandria were sure of finding
support and assistance from Octavia; she even obtained favors for them
from Octavius, irritated though he might be; finally she incessantly
assumed in his presence the defense of Antony, excusing both faults
and follies, and declaring that it was a hateful thing for two great
emperors to incite Romans to slay each other, the one to avenge
personal wrongs, the other for the love of a foreign woman.

Octavius, who took for his motto: “That which is well done is done
quickly enough,” _sat celeriter feri quidquid fiat satis bene_,
appeared to give way to the prayers of Octavia; but if he made no
haste to declare war he was preparing it slowly, and preparing also
public opinion. He made the most of Antony’s disgraceful life in
Egypt—his enslavement by Cleopatra. It was said in the senate, in the
army, among the people, “Antony is no longer a Roman; he is the slave
of the queen of Egypt, the incestuous daughter of the Lagidæ: his
country is Alexandria and thither he would transfer the capital of the
empire; his gods are Knouph with the ram’s head, Ra of the vulture
beak, the dog-headed Anubis—latrans Anubis; his counselors are the
eunuch Mardion, Charmion, and Iras, the tire-woman of that Cleopatra
on whom he has promised to bestow Rome.” These idle tales inspired the
Romans with a sentiment of horror which still survives in the verses
of the poets of that period: “Among our eagles,” says Horace, “the sun
beholds, O infamy, the base standard of an Egyptian woman.... Romans
sold to a woman blush not to bear arms for her.... In the intoxication
of her success and the madness of her hopes, this monster—_monstrum
illud_—dreams the fall of the Capitol, and is preparing with her
troops of despicable slaves and eunuchs the funeral rites of the
empire.” “Thus,” writes Propertius, “this royal prostitute—_meretrix
regina_—eternal disgrace of the blood of Philip, would force the Tiber
to endure the menaces of the Nile, and thrust aside the Roman trumpets
to make way for the shrieking sistra (Egyptian timbrels).”[12]

Domitius Ænobarbus and C. Sossius were elected consuls 32 B. C. Both
were partisans of Antony, and made vain attempts to save him by
unmasking Octavius to the senate, but the majority declared against
them. Dreading the anger of the implacable Perusian lover of justice
they went into exile with several of the senators. They could not at
once join Antony, who was in Armenia, negotiating the marriage of his
very youthful son, Alexander, with Jotapa, daughter of the king of
Media. They announced to him by letter that Octavius was hastening
his preparations, and that immediate hostilities might be expected.
Antony, like a good general, determined, in order to get the start of
his enemy, to carry the war into Italy. He immediately sent Canidius
with sixteen legions to the sea-coast of Asia Minor, and himself
proceeded to Ephesus, where all his allies were directed to unite
their contingents. Cleopatra was the first to arrive, with two hundred
vessels of from three to ten banks of oars, and a war subsidy of twenty
thousand talents (one hundred thousand francs).

It would have been better for Antony had this fleet remained in
Egyptian waters, this money in the treasury of the Lagidæ, and
Cleopatra herself in Alexandria. This bewitching but fatal being
brought to the Roman camp her gorgeous licentiousness and her unbridled
desire of pleasure. At Ephesus where she landed, at Samos whither they
afterwards proceeded, the mad follies of Alexandria were renewed. The
constant arrivals of kings, governors, deputations from cities bringing
to Antony troops and vessels served as a pretext for magnificent feasts
and innumerable dramatic representations. A thousand comedians and
rope-dancers were collected, and whilst the whole world, says Plutarch,
echoed with the noise of arms and the groans of men, at Samos nothing
was heard but laughter and the music of flutes and citharæ. Time passed
quickly in these pleasures, and there was not an hour to lose if the
offensive were to be taken. Until then the friends and captains of
Antony, Dellius, Marcus Silanus, Titius, Plancus, all equally yielding
to the seductions of Cleopatra, had made no effort to separate their
leader from this fatal woman. Now the great game was to be played, and
in this game they staked, as it were, their lives against the dominion
of the world. They appealed to Antony. Ænobarbus, the only one of the
Antonites who had never hailed Cleopatra as queen, was spokesman, and
declared plainly that the Egyptian must be sent back to Alexandria till
the close of the war. Antony promised to send her. Unfortunately for
him, Cleopatra heard of this proceeding. Now less than ever would she
leave Antony alone, exposed to the final appeals of Octavia her former
successful rival; she knew too well the vacillating mind and weak soul
of Antony. Would he have strength to refuse a reconciliation so much
desired in the camp as well as at Rome, which would consolidate its
threatened power and secure peace to the empire? Cleopatra won over
Canidius, after Ænobarbus the most noted captain of the army of the
East; and by dint of prayers, coquetry, and money, it is said, she
persuaded him to espouse her cause. He represented to Antony that it
was neither just nor wise to send away an ally who furnished to the war
supplies so considerable; that he would thus alienate the Egyptians,
whose ships formed the main strength of the fleet. He added that
Cleopatra was, in the council, inferior to none of the kings who were
to fight under the orders of Antony; she, who had so long governed
alone so great an empire, and who, since they had been associated
together, had acquired still greater experience in affairs. He talked
against reason, but he spoke in accordance with the heart of Antony,
and Cleopatra remained with the army.

Meanwhile the friends that still remained to Antony in Rome despatched
one of their number, Geminius, to make a last attempt to free him from
his mistress. Geminius for days tried in vain to see Antony alone.
Cleopatra, who suspected the Roman of working in the interests of
Octavia, never left her lover for an instant. At length, at the close
of a supper, Antony, half-drunk, called upon Geminius to declare
instantly the object of his coming. “The matters of which I have to
speak,” replied Geminius angrily, “cannot be discussed after drinking;
but what I can tell you as well drunk as sober is that all would be
well if Cleopatra returned to Egypt.” In a rage, the queen exclaimed:
“You do well to speak before the torture compels it.” Antony was no
less enraged. The next day Geminius, feeling by no means in safety,
reëmbarked for Italy.

The vindictive Egyptian also bore malice against the friends of Antony
who had joined with Ænobarbus to procure her departure. Sarcasms,
offenses, insults, and ill offices were all employed by her so
effectually that Silanus, Dellius (her former lover, it is said), and
Plancus and Titius, both persons of consular dignity, abandoned the
party of Antony.

As much to revenge themselves on their former leader as to conciliate
their new master, Plancus and Titius on their return to Rome revealed
to Octavius certain clauses in the will of Antony, the divulging of
which would complete his ruin in the minds of the people. Antony,
recognizing Cæsarion as the son of Cæsar, was dividing the Roman East
among his other children and the queen of Egypt, and willed that even
should he die in Rome, his body should be transported to Alexandria and
delivered to Cleopatra. The two officers added that they were positive
as to these dispositions, as, at the desire of Antony, they themselves
had read the will, had affixed their seal, and had deposited it in
the college of the Vestals. Octavius demanded the will. The Vestals
declared that they would not give it up, but that if he would come and
take it himself they could not prevent him. Octavius felt no scruple in
doing so; he took the will and read it before the Senate. The Conscript
Fathers, it must be confessed, were no less indignant at the violation
of the will of Antony than at the contents of the document itself.
Octavius, however, had the excuse of acting for the good of the people.
The skillful and patient politician was about to attain his end. He
procured also a _senatus-consultum_ (a judgment of the Senate), by
which Antony was deposed from the consular dignity, and the same day,
January 1, 31 B. C., he declared war, not on Antony, but on the queen
of Egypt. This was a last tribute to public opinion—Cæsar would not
risk the odium of arming Roman against Roman.

He knew well that Antony would not desert Cleopatra, and therefore by
conducting his legions against the detested Egyptian, he would throw on
Antony the responsibility of the civil war.

Antony and Cleopatra passed at Athens the autumn of 32 and part of
the winter of 31 B. C. Whilst their soldiers were exhausting all
the cities of Greece by enormous requisitions, and completing their
crews by means of the press-gang, dragging sons from their mothers,
and husbands from their wives, the lovers continued to lead their gay
life. Spectacles, public games, interminable feasts, and mad orgies
incessantly succeeded each other. Jealous of the memory which Octavia
had left in Athens, where her beauty was still talked of, Cleopatra
would fain have effaced it by her pomp, her flatteries, and her
largesses to the people. The Athenians, setting little value on honors,
even now somewhat obsolete, which it was in their power to bestow,
determined to offer Cleopatra the “Freedom of the City,” and decreed
that a statue should be erected to her. The decree was presented to
her by deputies, among whom figured Antony as an Athenian citizen. The
document was read to the queen, after which her virtues and merits
were eulogized in an eloquent address. The vanity of Cleopatra was
gratified, but her hatred unappeased. She exacted from Antony his
repudiation of Octavia, and that from Athens itself, that city where
the couple had spent three happy years, he should send to Rome his
command for her to depart from his house. Octavia quitted it, clad in
mourning and weeping, and leading with her the two children of Antony.
The unhappy woman loved him still.[13]



Antony had not abandoned his original design of preventing the
combining of the forces of Octavius by carrying the war into Italy; but
he had lost much time. In the spring of 31 B. C., his army and fleet
being concentrated at Actium, at the mouth of the Gulf of Ambracia, he
was preparing to join them when he learned that some Roman vessels were
coasting the shores of Epirus. It was but the vanguard of Agrippa’s
fleet, but the presence of this vanguard showed that the preparations
of Octavius were in a very advanced state, if not complete. The time
for surprising him was past. Antony decided, before forming new plans,
to wait till the Romans should have defined their plan of the campaign.
The fleet and the army, therefore, remained at Actium, but as the place
was unwholesome and a stay there wearisome, Antony went to Patras with
Cleopatra. Early in August he received the important news that the
Roman fleet had just anchored off the coast of Epirus, that the troops
were landing, and that Octavius was already at Toryne. Antony at once
set out for Actium, much excited and very ill pleased that the enemy so
quickly and so easily had taken up its position. Cleopatra jested with
his uneasiness: “What a misfortune,” said she, “that Octavius should be
sitting upon a dipper!”—in Greek Toryne means a dipper.

The army of Antony, consisting of nineteen legions and twelve
thousand cavalry, and numerous auxiliaries, Cilicians, Paphlagonians,
Cappadocians, Jews, Medes, Arabs, amounted to one hundred and ten
thousand men. His fleet numbered nearly five hundred vessels of three,
five, eight, and ten banks of oars. These last, built in Egypt, were
veritable floating fortresses, surmounted with towers and furnished
with powerful war-engines. Octavius had eighty thousand foot soldiers
recruited in Italy, Sicily, Spain, and Gaul, ten thousand horse, and
but two hundred and fifty vessels, triremes with rostra and light
Liburnian galleys in about equal numbers. If the land forces were about
of equal effective strength the disproportion between the naval forces
was immense; but the ships of Octavius made up for their inferiority of
numbers by their superiority of manœuvring, and the excellence of their
crews, who had all been with Agrippa during the long Sicilian war. On
the contrary, Antony’s sailors were comparatively few, and most of them
were going into battle for the first time; his heavy ships were clumsy
in their evolutions,—as the hyperbolical Florus expressed it: “The sea
groaned under their weight, and the wind exhausted itself in moving

The army of Antony occupied the northern point of Acarnania, with a
strong detachment on the coast of Epirus, which was directly opposite.
Firmly entrenched within defenses raised during the winter, he
commanded the narrow passage into the Gulf of Ambracia in which his
fleet was moored. Octavius had pitched his camp in Epirus, at a short
distance from the advanced posts of Antony. Antony held an excellent
position for defense, which enabled him to resist successfully the
attacks of the Romans: for the Pass of Actium could not be forced; but
he was blockaded on the side of the sea whence almost all his stores
and munitions must reach him.

For several days the two armies were face to face. Octavius, desirous
to engage, endeavored by every feint to draw his adversary into action
either on land or sea. Antony, uneasy, anxious, hesitating, could
not decide what step to take. He embarked the greater portion of his
troops and transferred them to the coast of Epirus, as if to attack the
Roman camp; then he changed his mind and recrossed into Acarnania. The
officers of Antony, auguring ill of the manœuvring qualities of his
huge vessels, and, at the same time, full of confidence in the valor
of the legionaries, counseled him to fight the battle on land. This
was also the desire of the army. At a review he was accosted by an old
centurion all seamed with scars: “Oh, Emperor, dost thou distrust these
wounds and this sword, that thou puttest thy hope in rotten wood? Let
the men of Egypt and Phœnicia fight on the sea, but to us, give us
the land where we are used to hold our own, and where we know how to
conquer or to die.” But Antony was disturbed by sinister omens. In many
places his statues and those of Cleopatra had been struck by lightning;
at Alba a marble statue, erected in honor of the triumvir, had been
found covered with sweat. “A sign still more alarming,” says Plutarch,
“some swallows, having built their nests under the stern of the
_Antoniad_, Cleopatra’s flagship, other swallows came, drove the first
away, and killed their young ones.” Frequent defeats in the skirmishes
around Actium, the desertion of Domitius Ænobarbus, who suddenly passed
over to the enemy, the defection of two of the allied kings, who, with
their forces, abandoned the army, confirmed these evil omens in the
superstitious soul of Antony. He suspected everything and everybody—his
fortune, his soldiers, his friends, Cleopatra herself. Seeing her sad,
discouraged, a prey to gloomy thoughts—for she, too, dwelt on the omens
of the swallows of the _Antoniad_ and the shattered statues—he fancied
that she wished to poison him, that by this crime she might secure the
favor of Octavius. For days he would take neither food nor drink that
she had not first tasted. Out of pity for her lover, Cleopatra lent
herself willingly to this caprice. One night, however, at the close of
the supper, she took a rose from her crown and lightly dipped it into
a cup of wine which she handed smilingly to Antony. He put it to his
lips, when she arrested his hand and gave the poisoned wine to a slave
to drink, who immediately fell to the floor writhing in mortal agony.
“O Antony!” exclaimed Cleopatra, “what a woman you suspect. See now
that neither means nor opportunities to slay you would fail me if I
could live without you!”

The anxiety and depression reached the army, encamped in an unwholesome
situation, and with reduced supplies. One day, Canidius himself,
hitherto so eager for battle, counseled the abandonment of the
fleet, and to carry the war into Thrace, where Dikome, king of the
Getæ, promised to send reënforcements. But what need was there of
reënforcements, since they were already superior in numbers to the
enemy? Cleopatra offered another opinion, if no less shameful, at any
rate more sensible. Flight against flight, it would be better to go to
Egypt than to Thrace. She proposed to leave part of the army in Greece,
to garrison the fortified towns; to embark the rest, and set sail for
Egypt, passing through the fleet of Octavius. After fresh hesitation,
Antony adopted this plan, though assuredly it was bitter to flee from
an army whose leader he despised. All tends to the belief, besides,
that Antony hoped to destroy the Roman fleet in the naval engagement
that must ensue on issuing from the narrow passage of Actium. If he
gained the victory he would be able to regain his position and attack
the demoralized army of Octavius; if the victory remained doubtful—for
with so powerful a fleet he could not admit the supposition of a
defeat—he would sail for Egypt. The retreat would be but a last

Desertion and disease had greatly reduced the crews of the galleys.
Antony decided to burn one hundred and forty of them in order to fill
up with their crews the remainder of the fleet. Twenty-two thousand
legionaries, auxiliaries, and slingers were put on board the ships.
Not to discourage the soldiers and sailors, it was concealed from
them that these preparations for battle were indeed preparations for
retreat. The secret was so well kept, that it was a surprise to the
pilots when they received orders to carry the sails with them. They
recollected that in battle the vessels were worked with oars only.
Antony had it reported that the sails were carried the better to pursue
the enemy after the victory.

On the morning of September 2d the vessels of Antony formed in four
grand divisions, crossed the channel of Actium, and, issuing thence,
were disposed in battle array opposite the fleet of Octavius, who was
awaiting them at eight or ten stadia from the land. On the side of
Antony, he himself, with Publicola, commanded the right wing; Marcus
Justus and Marcus Octavius the center, and Cœlius the left wing.
Cleopatra commanded the reserve with sixty Egyptian vessels. On the
side of the Romans, Octavius commanded the right wing, Agrippa the
left, and Arruntius the center. About noon the battle began. The troops
on land, who were under arms and motionless near the shore, saw not,
as is usual in sea-fights, the galleys rush at each other seeking to
strike with their rostra or beaks of steel. On account of their slow
rate of speed, the heavy vessels of Antony could not strike with that
impetuosity which gives force to the shock, and the light galleys of
the Romans feared to break their rostra against those enormous ships,
constructed of strong beams joined with iron. The battle was like a
succession of sieges, a combat of moving citadels with moving towers.
Three or four Roman galleys would unite to attack one of Antony’s
vessels, so huge, says Virgil, that they looked like the Cyclades
sailing on the waters. The soldiers cast grappling-irons, fired burning
arrows on the decks, attached fire-ships to the keels, and rushed to
board them, while the powerful batteries placed at the summit of the
towers of the beleaguered ship showered down on the assailants a hail
of stones and arrows. At the very first the Roman right wing, commanded
by Octavius, gave way before the attack of the division under Cœlius.
At the other extremity Agrippa, having designed a movement to surround
Antony and Publicola, these turned on their right and thus uncovered
the center of the line of battle. The swift Liburnian galleys improved
the opportunity to attack the vessels of the two Marcuses, in the rear
of which was the reserve under Cleopatra. Success and reverse went
hand in hand; the two sides fought with equal fury, and the victory
was doubtful, but the nervousness of Cleopatra was to be the ruin of
Antony’s cause. For hours she had suffered a fever of agony. From the
deck of the _Antoniad_ she anxiously watched the movements of the
fleets. In the beginning she had hoped for victory; now, terrified by
the clamor and tumult, her only desire was to escape. She awaited with
ever-increasing impatience the signal for retreat. Suddenly she noticed
the right wing moving towards the coast of Epirus, the left putting to
sea, and the center, which protected her, attacked, separated, broken,
penetrated by the Roman Liburnians. Then, “pale with her approaching
death”—_pallens morte futura_—listening only to her terror, she ordered
the sails to be hoisted, and with her sixty vessels she passed through
the midst of the combatants and fled towards the open sea. In the midst
of the battle Antony perceived the motion of the Egyptian squadron, and
recognized the _Antoniad_ by its purple sails; Cleopatra was fleeing,
robbing him at the decisive moment of his powerful reserve; but the
queen could not order the retreat, he alone could give the signal
for that. There is some mistake—a feint, perhaps a panic. Antony in
his turn hoists the sails of his galley, and rushes in the wake of
Cleopatra. He will bring back the Egyptian vessels and restore the
chances of the battle. But before overtaking the _Antoniad_ the unhappy
man has time to think. Cleopatra has deserted him either through
cowardice or treason; he can bring back to Actium neither her nor her
fleet. Next he thinks he will return to the combat, which is now only a
rout, to die with his soldiers—to _die_ without seeing Cleopatra once
more! he cannot do it. A fatal power drags him after this woman. He
reaches the _Antoniad_, but then he is overcome with his disgrace. He
refuses to see the queen. He seats himself on the prow of the vessel,
his head on his hands, and remains thus for three days and three nights.




The Egyptian fleet and some other vessels which had followed the
fugitives put into the port of Cænopolis, near Cape Tenarum. Often
repulsed by the obstinate silence of Antony, Cleopatra’s women finally
succeeded in bringing about an interview between the lovers. They
supped and passed the night together. O, wretched human weakness!

Some of his friends who had escaped from Actium brought them news. The
fleet had made an obstinate resistance, but all the vessels which were
not sunk or burned were now in possession of Octavius. The army still
maintained its position, and appeared to be faithful. Antony at once
sent messengers and despatched Canidius with orders to recall those
troops, and himself embarked for Cyrenaica, where he still had several
legions. One of his vessels bore his jewels, his valuables, and all the
services of gold and silver which he had used at his entertainments of
the kings, his allies. Before departing from Cænopolis, Antony divided
all this wealth among a few of his friends, whom he constrained to
seek an asylum in Greece, refusing to allow them any longer to follow
his fatal fortunes. When parting from them he talked in the kindest
manner, seeking to console them and regarding their tears with a sad
but kindly smile.

Cleopatra had sailed from Greece some days before Antony. She was in
haste to return to Egypt, fearing that the news of the disaster of
Actium might provoke a revolution. To mislead the people for a few
days, and thus gain time to take her measures, she entered the port of
Alexandria with all the parade of a triumph. Her ships, their prows
adorned with crowns, resounded with the songs of victory and the music
of flutes and sistra. No sooner was she reinstalled in the palace than
she put to death many whose intrigues she feared. These executions,
which benefited the royal treasury, for death involved the confiscation
of the wealth of the real or pretended guilty, delivered Cleopatra
from all fear of an immediate revolution, but she none the less felt
a mortal terror about the future. She still suffered from the horror
of Actium;—at times haunted by the idea of suicide, she contemplated a
death as pompous as had been her life, and she erected at the extremity
of Cape Lochias an immense tomb, in which to consume herself and her
treasures. At other times she thought of flight, and by her orders a
number of her largest ships were transported with great reënforcements
of men, engines, and beasts of burden across the isthmus to the Red
Sea. She had a vision of embarking with all her wealth for some unknown
country of Asia or Africa, there to renew her existence of lust and

Antony soon returned to Alexandria. He was in a state of gloomy
discouragement; his army in Acarnania, deserted by Canidius, who had
taken flight, had surrendered to Octavius after a week of hesitation;
in Cyrenaica he could not even obtain a meeting with his lieutenant
Scarpus, who, having taken sides with the Cæsarians, had threatened
his life; Herod, his creature, whom he had made king of the Jews, had
offered his allegiance to the conqueror of Actium; defection on all
sides with his allies as with his legions. Antony reached the point
of doubting even Cleopatra; he would scarcely see her. Exasperated
at the cruelty of the gods, and still more so at the perfidy of men,
he resolved to pass in solitude the wretched days that his enemies
might yet permit him to live. The story of Timon, the misanthrope of
Athens, which he had heard in happier days, recurred to his memory,
and, determined to live like Timon, he settled in the barren mole
of Poseidon, and busied himself there in erecting a tower which he
intended to call the Timonion.

Cleopatra yielded less submissively to fate. Attacked in the crisis of
danger by a fainting courage to which Antony was an utter stranger, the
immediate danger past she recovered all her powers. With her exalted
imagination she could not despair either wholly or even for very long.
She learned that the vessels she had had transported to the Red Sea had
been burned by the Arabs, and thus her flight prevented. She at once
prepared for determined resistance. Whilst Antony was losing his time
playing the misanthrope, the queen raised fresh forces, furnished new
vessels, formed new alliances, repaired the fortifications of Pelusium
and Alexandria, distributed arms to the people, and to encourage the
Alexandrians to the determined defense of their city, she inscribed the
name of her son, Cæsarion, in the rolls of the militia. Antony could
not but admire the courage and energy of Cleopatra, and, entreated
by his friends besides being weary of his solitude, he resumed his
residence at the palace. The queen received him as in the happy days of
his return from Cilicia or Armenia. They again enjoyed with the friends
of the last hour banquets, festivals, orgies—only “The Inimitables”
changed their appellation, and called themselves “The Inseparables in
Death”: οἱ συναποθανουμéνοι.

The choice of this funereal name, assumed as much from resignation as
bravado, sufficiently reveals the state of mind of the lovers. Antony,
it seems, had lost all hope; Cleopatra still hoped, but with intervals
of gloomy discouragement. At such times she would descend to the crypts
of the palace, near the prisons of the condemned; slaves would drag
them, a few at a time, from their cells to test on them the effects of
different poisons. Cleopatra watched with a curiosity, more painful
even than cruel, the dying agonies of the victims. The experiments were
frequently repeated, for the queen could not discover the poison of her
dreams—a poison that slays instantly without pain and without shock.
She noticed that violent poisons killed swiftly but with frightful
torture, and that less active ones inflicted lingering agonies;
then she studied the bites of serpents, and after new experiments
she discovered that the venom of an Egyptian viper, called in Greek
“Aspis,” caused neither convulsion nor any painful sensation, and led
by a constantly increasing drowsiness to a gentle death, like a sleep.
As for Antony, like Cato and Brutus, he had his sword.

In the midst of these preparations for defense and for death the
vanquished of Actium sought to negotiate with their conqueror.
Octavius, recalled to Rome by a threatened sedition of the veterans,
had in the course of the winter gone to Syria, where he was
concentrating his forces. Antony wrote to him; he reminded him of
his former friendship, recalled his services, made excuses for the
wrongs he had done, and ended by promising to lay down his arms on
condition of being allowed to live as a private citizen at Alexandria.
Octavius deigned no reply, nor did he reply to a second letter in which
he offered to kill himself, provided that Cleopatra might continue
to reign over Egypt. The queen on her side, and unknown to Antony,
despatched an envoy to Octavius with rich gifts. Less generous than her
lover, who had offered his life to secure her crown, she separated his
cause from her own. The Egyptian envoy represented to Octavius that his
hatred of Antony ought not to include the queen, who had had no part
in the late events. It was Rome, said he, that declared war on Egypt,
to bring matters to a close with Antony. Was not Cleopatra compelled
to arm in her own defense? But now that Antony is overcome, compelled
to exile or suicide, the Romans may safely show mercy to Cleopatra and
leave her on the throne. That is far more to their interest than to
force this powerful queen to a desperate struggle.

Octavius already considered himself the master of Egypt—and of
the world. He feared but little the broken sword in the hand of
Antony, still less the shattered remains of the army of Cleopatra
and the wrecks of her navy. But there were two things still beyond
his power—all-powerful emperor as he was—the immense treasures of
Cleopatra, on which he had reckoned to pay his legionaries, and
Cleopatra herself, whom he wished to grace his triumph; she might
escape the Roman by death and her treasure by fire. Traitors and spies
were not lacking in Alexandria; and Octavius knew, through their
reports, of the queen’s experiments in poisons as well as that she
had collected all her treasures in her future tomb. He was compelled
to employ cunning with the Egyptian, and, believing himself justified
by the words of her ambassador to propose such a step, he declared
that if the queen would compass Antony’s death she should preserve
her sovereignty. Some days after, fearful that this somewhat savage
diplomacy might not prevail with Cleopatra, he despatched to her
Thyreus, his freedman. In Egypt, Thyreus talked openly before the court
and Antony of the resentment of Octavius and of his severe decrees,
but having obtained without difficulty a secret audience of Cleopatra
he told her that he had been charged by his master to repeat his
assurances that she had nothing to fear. To satisfy her of this, he
pretended to confide to her that she was beloved by Octavius as of old
by Cæsar and Antony. Cleopatra had many interviews with Thyreus and
publicly showed him much friendliness. Antony took the alarm, and,
suspicious of Cleopatra whether as woman or queen, he made use of what
power was left him to avenge himself on Thyreus, and in spite of his
character as ambassador he had him beaten with rods and sent him back
bleeding to his master. The anger of Antony proves that Cleopatra had
not listened with inattentive ears to the communications of Thyreus. A
woman readily believes this sort of declaration, especially when she
has been much beloved. It is true that Cleopatra was then thirty-seven
years old, but had she any less confidence in her ever-victorious
charms? It is also true that Octavius had never seen her, unless,
perhaps, thirteen years before, at Rome, after the death of Cæsar;
but did not the universal fame of her attractions suffice to inspire,
if not exactly love, at least a vague desire and an ardent and eager
curiosity? Cleopatra had loved Antony passionately, but this love
had been aroused, strengthened, and exalted as much by the glory and
power of the triumvir as by his manly beauty and strength. Now Antony
was conquered, a fugitive, betrayed by his friends, deserted by his
legions; himself hopeless and dispirited he seemed to bow to his fate.
His absurd retreat to the Timonion after the battle of Actium, while
she, seized with a feverish activity, was preparing everything for a
final effort, had inspired more scorn than pity in the heart of the
queen. Women neither understand nor can they forgive those perilous
moments of depression which at certain times overcome the bravest.
Little as was the love she still bore Antony, and anxious as she might
be about the revelations made by Thyreus, Cleopatra never thought for
a moment of having Antony slain, or of giving him up to Octavius; but
what, perhaps, she could not help hoping was, that Antony, his life
threatened in Alexandria, forsaken by his last legionaries, and having
no other than Egyptian troops of doubtful fidelity, would flee into
Numidia or Spain and thus deliver her from her embarrassments.

About the middle of the spring of 30 B. C. news reached Alexandria
that a Roman army had crossed the western frontier of Egypt. Antony
collected a few troops and marched to meet the enemy. A battle was
fought beneath the walls of the strong city of Prætonium, which was
already in the hands of the Romans. Antony, with his handful of men,
was repulsed. When he returned to Alexandria Octavius was within two
days’ march of the city. Whilst his lieutenant, Cornelius Gallus, was
penetrating into Egypt by Cyrenaica he himself had entered through
Syria and had taken Pelusium, after a real or feigned resistance,
in either case a very brief one. After the surrender of Pelusium,
the last of the Romans who had remained faithful to Antony cried out
treason, declaring that Seleucus had surrendered the city by the
orders of Cleopatra herself. Is it true that the queen had given such
instructions? It may be doubted; nevertheless, Cleopatra’s trouble
of mind and her secret hopes give a color to these suspicions. To
vindicate herself she gave up to Antony the wife and children of
Seleucus, and proposed that he should put them to death. This was but
a very doubtful proof of her innocence, but Antony had to be satisfied
with it. His anger subsided before her protestations and tears, true or
false; now was not the time for recriminations: he must fight. Octavius
had pitched his camp on the heights about twenty stadia east of
Alexandria. Antony, having led in person a strong reconnoitering body
of cavalry in that direction, fell in, not far from the Hippodrome,
with the whole body of the Roman cavalry. A furious battle was fought
in which, notwithstanding their great superiority of numbers, the
Romans were broken and utterly routed. Antony pursued them to their
entrenchments; then he returned to the city, strengthened by this
victory, of little importance indeed, but brilliant and of good augury.
He sprang from his horse before the palace, and, without taking time
to lay aside his armor, rushed, still wearing helmet and cuirass, and
covered with the blood and sweat of the fight, to embrace Cleopatra.
She, deceiving herself as to the importance of this skirmish, felt her
love and her hopes at the same time revive. She had again found her
Antony, her emperor, her god of war. She threw herself passionately on
his neck, wounding her breasts against his cuirass. At this moment of
sincere feeling she must have reproached herself grievously (if she
had committed it) with the treason of Pelusium; and the confidences
which she had accepted from the envoy of Octavius must have recurred to
her as a bitter remorse. Cleopatra desired to review the troops. She
made them a speech, and, having had the bravest of them pointed out to
her, she gave him a complete armor of solid gold.

Antony, restored to hope, no longer contemplated negotiating, and
the same day sent a herald to Octavius to invite him to decide their
quarrel by single combat in sight of the two armies. Octavius replied
disdainfully that there was more than one other way for Antony to seek
death. This speech, that marked so great assurance in his enemy, struck
Antony as a fatal omen. Suddenly, dashed from his chimerical hopes, he
felt his situation in all its gloomy reality. Resolved, nevertheless,
the next day to fight one last battle, he ordered a sumptuous feast.
“To-morrow,” said he, “it will, perhaps, be too late!” The supper was
sad as a funeral banquet; the few friends that were faithful to him
maintained a gloomy silence, some even wept. Antony, simulating a
confidence which he did not feel, said to them to revive their sinking
spirits: “Think not that to-morrow I shall only seek a glorious death;
I shall fight for life and victory.” At daybreak, while the troops
were taking up their position before the Roman camp, and the Egyptian
fleet, which was to support the action by attacking that of Octavius,
was doubling Cape Lochias, Antony posted himself on an eminence whence
he commanded both the plain and the sea. The Egyptian vessels advanced
in battle array against the Roman Liburnians, but, when within two
arrow-flights, the rowers raised high in air their long oars in salute.
The salute was returned by the Romans, and immediately the two fleets,
mingling and making now but one, sailed into the port together. Almost
at the same moment Antony sees his cavalry,—that cavalry which the day
previous had fought with such intrepidity,—move without orders and pass
over to Octavius. In the Roman lines the trumpets sounded the onset;
the legions dashed forward with their accustomed war-cry: “_Comminus!
Comminus!_” (Hand-to-hand!) The infantry of Antony did not wait the
shock—it broke and rushed towards the city, dragging their leader
in the midst of the rout. Antony, mad with rage, uttering threats
and curses, striking the fugitives indifferently with the blade and
the flat of his sword, re-entered Alexandria exclaiming that he was
betrayed by Cleopatra, given up by this woman to those with whom he had
fought solely for love of her.

Cleopatra had no longer the power either to betray or to save Antony;
for she, the “New Goddess,” the “Queen of Kings,” she, too, was
abandoned by her people, as he, the great captain, was deserted by his
army. Their cause was lost, who would be faithful to it? During the
preceding day and night, Octavius’s emissaries had worked upon the
legionaries and the Egyptians, promising to the former amnesty, to the
latter safety. The valiant soldier on whom Cleopatra the day before had
bestowed the golden suit of armor had not even waited for the morning
to pass into the Roman camp; that very night he had deserted! At the
sight of the fugitives rushing like a torrent into the city, Cleopatra
is overcome with terror. She is aware of the suspicions of Antony,
she knows his terrible fits of rage. Already she is familiar with the
idea of death, but she desires a more easy death, a death the sister
of sleep. She shudders and revolts at the thought of Antony’s sword;
she has a vision of hideous wounds in her person, her breast, perhaps
her face. As for attempting to calm his fury, she has neither strength
nor courage for that. Desperate, she quits the palace with Iras and
Charmion, and withdraws to her tomb, of which she has the door closed;
and, to prevent Antony’s attempting to force this refuge, she gives
orders to tell him she is no more.[14]

Antony, rushing like a madman about the deserted apartments of the
palace, learns the news. His anger dissolves in tears: “What more have
you to expect, Antony?” exclaimed he, “Fortune robs you of the only
blessing which made life dear.” He commands his freedman Eros to slay
him; then, unfastening his cuirass, he addresses this last adieu to
Cleopatra: “O, Cleopatra! I do not complain that thou art taken from
me, since in a moment I shall rejoin thee.” Eros, meanwhile, has drawn
his sword, but instead of striking Antony, he stabs himself. “Brave
Eros,” said Antony, seeing him fall dead at his feet, “you set me the
example!” and, thrusting the sword into his breast, he sinks fainting
upon a couch.

In a few minutes he recovers consciousness. He calls and entreats the
slaves, the soldiers, to put an end to him, but none dare to comply,
and he is left alone, howling and struggling on the couch. Meanwhile
the queen has been informed of the fact. Her grief is bitter and
profound—the more bitter that it is mingled with remorse. She must see
Antony again; she commands that he be brought, dead or alive. Diomedes,
her secretary, hastens to the palace. Antony is at the last gasp, but
the joy at hearing that the queen is not dead revives him, and “he
rises,” says Dion Cassius, “as if he might still live!” Slaves bear him
in their arms, and, to hasten their movements, he utters entreaties,
invectives, threats, which mingle with the death-rattle. They reach
the tomb; the queen leans from a window of the upper story; fearing
a surprise, she will not have the portcullis raised, but she throws
down some ropes, and commands them to be fastened round Antony. Then,
aided by Iras and Charmion, the only ones she has allowed to enter
the mausoleum, she begins to drag him up. “It was not easy,” says
Plutarch, “for women thus to lift a man of Antony’s size.” Never, say
those who witnessed it, was a sadder or more pitiful sight. Cleopatra,
with arms stiff and brow contracted, dragged painfully at the ropes,
whilst Antony, bleeding and dying, raised himself as much as possible,
extending towards her his dying hands.

At last he reached her, and they laid him on a bed, where she long
held him in a close embrace. Her grief spent itself in tears, in sobs,
in despairing kisses. She called him her husband, her master, her
emperor; she struck her breast, tore it with her nails, then again
casting herself upon him, she kissed his wound, wiping off on her face
the blood that flowed from it. Antony endeavored to calm and console
her, and entreated her to care for her own safety. Burning with fever,
he begged for a drink, and swallowed a cup of wine. Death was rapidly
approaching. Cleopatra renewed her lamentations. “Do not grieve,”
said he, “for this last misfortune; rather congratulate me for the
blessings I have enjoyed in my life, and the happiness that has been
mine in being the most powerful and illustrious of men; congratulate me
on this, that, being a Roman, none but a Roman has conquered me.” He
expired in the arms of Cleopatra, dying, as Shakspeare says, where he
had wished to live.

When Octavius heard of Antony’s death, he despatched Proculeius and
Gallus with orders to seize Cleopatra before she could have time to
kill herself. Their calls attracted the attention of the queen; she
descended and began to parley with them from behind the portcullis.
Deaf to the promises and protestations of the two Romans, Cleopatra
declared that she would only surrender if Octavius would agree by oath
to maintain her or her son on the throne of Egypt; otherwise Cæsar
should have but her dead body. Proculeius, espying the window which had
admitted Antony, left his companion to converse alone with the queen,
and, finding a ladder, placed it against the thick wall, and thus
entering the tomb, he descended the staircase within and sprang upon
Cleopatra. Charmion, turning at the noise, exclaimed: “Unhappy queen,
thou art taken alive!” Cleopatra snatched from her girdle a dagger
which for some time she had carried in order to kill herself, but
Proculeius seized her wrist and only allowed her to free herself after
being assured that she had no other weapon and no suspicious phial
about her. He then resumed the respectful attitude demanded by the rank
and misfortunes of the royal captive. He assured her she had nothing to
fear from Octavius. “O, Queen,” said he, “you are unjust towards Cæsar,
whom you would rob of the noblest opportunity of exercising clemency.”

Her treasures and her person in the power of the Romans, Cleopatra felt
herself without the means of defense. What availed it that Cæsar left
her her life, since henceforth she desired only to die? The only favor
she asked was to be allowed to pay funeral honors to Antony. Although
the same request had already been made by the captains of his army who
had served under Antony, Octavius, touched with compassion, granted the
prayer of the Egyptian. Cleopatra bathed the body of her lover, adorned
and armed it as for a last battle, then she laid it in the tomb which
she had built for herself and in which she had vainly sought death.
After the obsequies the queen was conducted, by order of Octavius, to
the palace of the Lagidæ. There she was treated with every attention,
but she was, so to speak, never lost sight of (a prisoner forever

The terrible emotions through which Cleopatra had passed, the intense
grief which overwhelmed her, above all the wounds she had inflicted on
herself during the death-struggle of Antony, brought on an inflammation
of the chest, attended by a burning fever. In this illness she saw the
hoped-for death, and to hasten her deliverance she refused for many
days all medical treatment and all food. Octavius was informed of this,
and he sent her word that she must have forgotten that he held her four
children as hostages, and that their lives should answer for hers. This
horrid threat overcame the resolution of Cleopatra, who then consented
to be properly cared for.

Octavius meanwhile felt he had cause for disquiet. What if the pride
of the queen overpowered her motherly instincts? what if the horror
of gracing as a captive his approaching triumph should decide her
to a self-inflicted death? Doubtless she was well guarded, but what
negligence or what treason might he not fear? Besides, though without
arms or poison, might she not induce the faithful Charmion to strangle
her? “Now Octavius,” so says Dion Cassius, “conceived that the death of
Cleopatra would have robbed him of his glory.” He resolved, therefore,
to see her. He knew he possessed sufficient self-control not to become
entangled, and believed himself sufficiently skillful to keep the queen
uncertain of the fate to which he destined her.

Cleopatra was no longer deceived as to the pretended sentiments of love
with which, according to Thyreus, she had inspired Octavius; of this
we are assured by Plutarch. Since the emperor’s arrival in Alexandria
he had not even expressed the intention of seeing her, and the harsh
treatment, the rigorous seclusion, and the savage threats which she
had to endure from him did not certainly indicate a man in love. Can
it be said, however, that the prospect of the unexpected visit of
Octavius aroused in Cleopatra, desperate as she was, no glimpse of
hope, no fugitive vision of a throne, no last enthusiasm? that from her
beautiful eyes shot no ray of half-seen triumph?

The queen, scarcely convalescent, was in bed when Octavius entered.
She sprang from the couch, though wearing only a tunic, and knelt
before him. At the sight of this woman, worn out by fever, emaciated,
dreadfully pale, with drawn features, eyes sunken and red with tears,
bearing on her face and breast the marks made by her own hands,
Octavius found it hard to believe that this was the enchantress that
had captivated Cæsar and enslaved Mark Antony; but had Cleopatra
been more beautiful than Venus he would not have been her lover.
Continence was not among his virtues, but he was too prudent and too
clever ever to sacrifice his interests to his passions. He urged the
queen to return to her couch, and seated himself near her. Cleopatra
began to vindicate herself, referring all that had passed to the force
of circumstances and the fear she felt of Antony. She often ceased
speaking, interrupted by her choking sobs; then, in the hope of moving
Octavius to pity (of seducing him, some say), she drew from her bosom
some of Cæsar’s letters, kissed them, and exclaimed: “Wouldst thou know
how thy father loved me, read these letters.... Oh! Cæsar! why did I
not die before thee!... but for me you live again in this man!” and
through her tears she essayed to smile at Octavius. Lamentable scene of
coquetry, which the wretched woman no longer could or knew how to play.

To her sighs, her moans, the emperor made no reply, even avoiding
looking at her and keeping his eyes fixed on the floor. He spoke only
to reply, one by one, to all the arguments by which the queen sought
to justify herself. Chilled by the impassibility of this man, who,
without being at all moved by her misfortunes and her sufferings, was
arguing with her like a schoolmaster, Cleopatra felt that she had
nothing to hope. Again death appeared as the only liberator. Then she
ceased her pleas, dried her tears, and, in order completely to deceive
Octavius, she pretended to be resigned to everything, provided her life
was spared. She handed him the list of her treasures, and entreated
him to permit her to retain certain jewels that she might present them
herself to Livia and Octavia in order to secure their protection. “Take
courage, O woman!” said the emperor as he left her. “Be hopeful; no
harm shall happen to you!”

Deceived by the pretended resignation of Cleopatra, Octavius no longer
doubted that he would be able to exhibit to the Roman rabble the
haughty queen of Egypt walking in chains before his triumphal car.
He had not heard, as he left her, the last word uttered by Cleopatra,
that word which, since the taking of Alexandria, she had incessantly
repeated: Οἰ θριαμβεúσομαι! “I will not contribute to his triumph.”[15]

A few days after this interview, an intimate companion of Octavius,
taking pity on such dire reverses, secretly revealed to Cleopatra that
the next day she would be embarked for Rome. She asked to be allowed
to go with her women to offer libations at the tomb of Antony. She was
borne thither in a litter, being still too weak to walk. After pouring
the wine and adjusting the crowns she kissed for the last time the
sepulchral stone, saying: “O, beloved Antony, if thy gods have any
power—for mine have betrayed me—do not abandon thy living wife. Do not
let thyself be triumphed over, by making her at Rome take part in a
disgraceful show. Hide me with thee under this earth of Egypt.”

On her return, Cleopatra went to the bath; her women arrayed her in her
most magnificent robes, dressed her hair with care, and adjusted her
royal crown. Cleopatra had ordered a splendid repast; her toilet ended,
she was placed at the table. A countryman entered, carrying a basket.
A soldier of the guard desiring to see the contents, the man opened it
and showed some figs; and, the guard exclaiming at the beauty of them,
he offered them some to taste. His good nature lulled all suspicion;
he was allowed to pass. Cleopatra received the basket, sent to Octavius
a letter she had written in the morning, and was then left alone with
Iras and Charmion. She opened the basket and separated the figs, hoping
to be stung unawares but the reptile was asleep. Cleopatra discovered
it beneath the figs. “There it is, then!” cried she, and began to rouse
it with a golden pin. The asp bit her on the arm.

Warned by the letter of Cleopatra, Octavius sent in haste to the
apartments. His officers found the guards at their post, ignorant of
what had occurred. They forced the door and beheld Cleopatra, clad in
her royal robes, lying lifeless on her golden couch, and at her feet
the corpse of Iras. Charmion was still alive; leaning over Cleopatra,
she was arranging with her dying hands the diadem around the head of
the queen. A soldier exclaimed in a voice of wrath: “Is this well done,
Charmion?” “Yes,” said the dying Charmion, “it is well done, and worthy
of a queen, the descendants of so many kings!”

Octavius put to death Cæsarion, the son of Cæsar and Cleopatra, but
he was merciful to the dead body of the queen. Granting the mournful
prayer she had made to him in her last letter, he permitted her to be
buried beside Antony. He also granted honorable burial to the faithful
slaves, Charmion and Iras, who had accompanied their mistress to the
world of shadows.

By her suicide, Cleopatra escaped contributing to the triumph of
Octavius,[16] but failing her person he had her effigy, and the
statue of Cleopatra with a serpent wound about her arm was borne in
the triumphal procession. Does it not seem that the statue of this
illustrious queen, who had subdued the greatest of the Romans, who had
made Rome tremble, and who preferred death to assisting at her own
humiliation, had by her death triumphed over her conqueror, and still
defied the senate and the people on the way to the Capitol?

We can easily conceive of Cleopatra as a great queen, the rival of the
mythic Semiramis, and the elder sister of the Zenobias, the Isabellas,
the Maria-Theresas, and the Catharines; but, in truth, only those
queens are great who possess manly virtues, who rule nations and compel
events as a great king might do. Cleopatra was too essentially a woman
to be reckoned among these glorious androgynuses. If for twenty years
she preserved her throne and maintained the independence of Egypt, it
was done by mere womanly means—intrigue, gallantry, grace, and weakness
which is also a grace. Her sole method of governing was, in reality,
by becoming the mistress of Cæsar and the mistress of Mark Antony.
It was the Roman sword that sustained the throne of the Lagidæ. When
by the fault of Cleopatra the weapon was broken, the throne tottered
and fell. Ambition, her only royal virtue, would have been limited to
the exercise of her hereditary government if circumstances had not
developed and exalted it.

Knowing herself weak, without genius and without mental force, she
reckoned wholly on her lovers for the accomplishment of her designs,
and it too often happened to this woman, fatal to others as to herself,
to retard the execution of these, dominated, as she ever was, by the
imperious desire of some entertainment or some pleasure. This queen
had the recklessness of the courtesan; women of gallantry might have
considered her their august and tragic ancestress. She only lived for
love, pomp, and magnificence; wherefore, when her lover was slain, her
beauty marred, her wealth lost, and her crown shattered, she found, to
face death, the masculine courage which had failed her in life.

No, Cleopatra was not a great queen. But for her connection with
Antony, she would be forgotten with Arsinoë or Berenice. If her renown
is immortal, it is because she is the heroine of the most dramatic
love-story of antiquity.



[1] Cicero to Atticus.—In this letter, dated from Brundusium, June 14,
706 A. U. C., Cicero speaks of the long sojourn of Cæsar at Alexandria.
There is thought to be much trouble there, “valde esse impedimentum.”
This “impedimentum,” of which Cæsar makes no complaint, was Cleopatra.

[2] If this were true, Cleopatra would have been as fatal to Cæsar as
she afterwards became to Antony.

[3] We must not judge Antony wholly by the passionate attacks of
Cicero. Plutarch quotes a number of clever retorts of this brave and
excellent soldier; and, in another order of ideas, his letter to
Octavius and Hirtius, from which we find long extracts in the “Third
Philippic,” is the work of a skillful politician as well as a model of

[4] A curious inscription, discovered in Alexandria by M. C. Vescher,
is as follows: “Antony the Great, the Inimitable.”

[5] Pliny, IX. 35. The legend is not so much of a myth as it appears.
Pliny relates that Octavius, having found the second pearl in the
treasury of Cleopatra, had it cut in two, and with it adorned the ears
of the Pantheon Venus.

[6] Another incident, also related by Plutarch, says that Antony
sometimes sought relaxation from the excesses of the “Life Inimitable”
in more tranquil pleasures, such as angling. Vain even in trifles, and
mortified if he caught nothing, he had fishes attached to his hook by
a diver. The trick did not escape Cleopatra. The next day she had a
salted fish fastened to his hook, which the triumvir drew gravely from
the water amid shouts of laughter. From this time Antony renounced

[7] Appian says positively that Antony was in love with Octavia.

[8] Like all the Ptolemies, the last of the Lagidæ was a great builder.

[9] Antony also made a gift to Cleopatra of the 300,000 manuscripts of
the library of Pergamos, to replace a part of the volumes burned at

[10] Thirty-five drachmæ were given to each legionary, and a less sum
to every soldier.

[11] The Egyptian, says Florus forcibly, demanded as the price of her
favors, the Roman Empire from a drunken emperor: “Mulier ægyptia ab
ebrio imperatore pretium libidinum Romanum Imperium petit.”

[12] These verses were written after the battle of Actium, 31 B. C.,
but they no less indicate the sentiments of the Romans at the
commencement of the war. If this indignation and hatred obtained with
such violence after the victory, what must they have been in the very
hour of danger? Lucan says: “This woman, the reproach of Egypt, the
fatal Erinys of Latium, incestuous daughter of the Ptolemies; who made
the Capitol tremble with her sistra.”

[13] It therefore seems probable that it was in the autumn of 32 B. C.
that Antony must have married Cleopatra.

[14] Dion says that Cleopatra betrayed Antony at Alexandria, as at
Pelusium, and that she sent him word of her death that he might be
urged to commit suicide, and his body given up to Octavius. Once for
all, we take for authority Plutarch, who seems much more worthy of
credit. The taking of Alexandria was on August 1, 30 B. C.

[15] The peculiar force of this verb in the passive form cannot be
fitly rendered in a translation. It is, word for word, “I will not be

[16] Cleopatra died the 15th of August, 30 B. C.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Table of Contents added by Transcriber and placed into the Public

The illustrations are decorative; the ones at the beginning of each
chapter are headpieces.

Page 53: “the war of Persia” was printed that way.

Page 65: “ἐρω.μένην” was printed with the period.

Page 103: “Οἰ θριαμβεúσομαι” was printed that way.

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can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.