Joan Of Arc
Catherine De Medici
Read More Articles About: Famous Women
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
B. C. 69-30
"THE SORCERESS OF THE NILE "
The story of Cleopatra made such a noise in the ancient world, and was the cause of an astonishment so profound, that the authors of antiquity left very complete accounts, which the curiosity of succeeding generations, or some other good fortune, has preserved.
The modern world peruses this chapter in history be-cause, with a knowledge of humanity broadened by two thousand years of additional experience, it is to be seen that the actors in this ancient tragedy were conspicuous examples of human nature under the influence of the arbitrary passion of love. An Antony and Cleopatra play their sad parts before us all, at some time in our lives, and the mystery and marvel of it never diminish. In every circle of every city, in every town, village, and ham-let, at least two people there are, in each generation, who love each other, and whose love brings desolation, where other people's affections begin a life-long joy.
It is common for moralists to point to Cleopatra as a type of the pagan woman, or woman as she existed before the Christian era; but this is manifestly an error. We have seen that the noble Aspasia and Cornelia both lived before Cleopatra, and in Judith we have the celebration of the characteristics which made the ideal woman in the early world. Cleopatras lived along with Judith; they live today. There is no sign that the time will ever come when some woman may not arise, and by her wit, learning, beauty, "magnetism," and turnstile caprice, transform the wisest man into a lover and a fool.
Cleopatra wrought on at least five leading men Caesar, Antony, Herod, Dolabella (the intimate friend of Augustus), and Augustus himself. She ensnared Caesar, but he, an elderly and judicious man, escaped; she ruined Antony; she could have ruined Dolabella had she tarried on the earth which she had disgraced; her charms fell on Herod of Judea and on Augustus, without harm to either. It is not probable that all men are open to the terrible disorder that overcame Caesar and took an empire away from Antony; for it was not Cleopatra's fault that she did not carry war, death and devastation further into the world.
As it was, this beautiful woman, who died at 39 years, who read, wrote and spoke with ease in the hieroglyphical, cuneiform, hieratic, demotic, Phoenician, Hebrew, Greek and Latin languages; who could converse with the Troglodytes, Libyans, Scythians, and other barbarians, without an interpreter; who had received a throne in the oldest country in the world; this woman, by a career of unparalleled waste and folly, erased her kingdom from the map of the world, reduced Egypt to a province, in which condition it has remained; and even gave to the historians a new era the Era of the Actian Victory (the defeat of Antony), from which to reckon all dates in Egyptian affairs. She blotted out her nation and her calendar. And yet, foolish and wicked as she was, she loved Antony, she died with Antony, and the world, with rich wisdom and philosophy, somewhat reverently repeats her doings to succeeding generations. It is a pity that Beauty and Genius should curse the world, and it is not often that they do so; it is a pity that Love should afflict the world, for it usually covers life with blessings and honor. The chapter ui on which we now enter, therefore, is one of abstract instruction, whereby we may learn that moral lessons are not always successfully fetched out of history. But we think it would be well to despise Cleopatra, to pity Antony, and to condemn Casar, for he had not the excuse of Antony; Caesar could and did finally resist; over Antony the wasteful and vile siren cast a spell that was paramount in his nature.
The ancient writers about Cleopatra are the entire panel of Roman and Greek historians whose works remain all say something. Even Josephus details the episodes in which Herod had a share. Hirtius, the continuator of Caesar's Commentaries, Dion Cassius, Suetonius, Appian, Diodorus, Strabo, Florus, Velleius Paterculus, Julian, Orosius, Eutropius, even Livy, and the almost complete Plutarch that man to whom the modern world, in peering backward, owes the most these are the writers. It was a time in which the people believed there was a goddess Venus; Cleopatra embodied and impersonated this deity; the like of her had never been seen or read of, and she became the most conspicuous object in men's minds at the very moment that the Roman world seemed about to be dismembered.
Egypt was the granary of that Roman world, and Alexandria had become the principal market of civilization, taking away the prestige of the Phoenician and Attic coasts. The kingdom of the Ptolemies had endured over 250 years, following the death of Alexander the Great, but at the time of Cleopatra's father, Auletes was showing signs of decay. It was too near the invincible republic; its wheat was too necessary to Rome. As Cuba was certain to become a part of the United States, so Egypt must fall. It was the Egyptian question that did much to separate Casar, Cicero and Pompey, and when Auletes, was dethroned, it was the money of Pompey that restored him to power.
The very name of Auletes (flute-player) betrayed the character of this effeminate King, and Cleopatra came by her folly honestly. He probably offered the example that Nero afterward followed. Auletes danced in female attire and contested for the prize in public games. He was called the new Bacchus because of his extravangances, and Strabo says he was despised for his silliness as much as his grandfather Physcon for his wickedness. It was out of this kind of stock, in a land where the King could do no wrong, at a time when the world was breaking up in tremendous wars, that Cleopatra was born. She was 17 years old when Auletes, died, and though the eldest of the four children of Auletes she was too young to reign under the law. But it must be understood that she had long been a woman, for in the east the period of childhood is greatly shortened.
It is needless to attempt to describe her. Taste is a matter that varies with every climate, and the belle of one region is an object of ridicule or ignominy in another. We may suppose her short, large-waisted, and dark; those things are probable; whether her lips were large or small, her teeth white and prominent, or small and inconspicuous, we know not; her eyes, of course, were intelligent and beautiful. It is probable, however, all things considered, that her face conformed fairly well to the Greek classic models, for her blood was Greek, well naturalized to Africa, and the Romans, who were thin and Caucasian, would not have admired a strictly African type. What-ever her appearance, it was nearly without flaw under the canons of physical taste that ruled, and we should always think of Cleopatra as a woman who, to the men of her generation, seemed the ideal of human beauty.
Her father, in his will, left his throne to the two eldest children, Ptolemy and Cleopatra, under the tuition of the Roman people, and Pompey was appointed by the Roman Senate to be the guardian of the children the two sons were both named Ptolemy, and the younger daughter, ArsinoŽ. The elder brother and sister Ptolemy and Cleopatra were commanded to marry each other, under the Egyptian custom, and to reign together. But at this very time the civil war of Casar and Pompey broke out. The commander of the Egyptian army was Achillas, and he conspired with Ptolemy against Cleopatra and drove her out of Egypt. She raised an army, and the two Egyptian armies were confronting each other at Pelusium (now Tineh) when Pompey and Caesar met at the battle of Pharsalia. Pharsalia, now Pharsala, came into prominence again in 1896, when the Greeks and Turks fought a battle there. It is north of Athens, in Thessaly. As Pompey retreated, he bethought him of Auletes and his children, to whom he had restored a throne with his money, and set sail for Egypt, expecting a safe asylum.
Pompey concluded to treat with Ptolemy, and accordingly asked permission to land. Notwithstanding the acknowledged baseness of the act, it was considered by Achillas to be wise to ensnare and murder the guardian of the Egyptian kingdom, because Casar was now master of the world. Casar, following hard after, landed at Alexandria, east of Pelusium, and there he was given the head of Pompey. He had brought 4,000 troops all told, and yet saw no indications of danger. But, when he landed, the capricious Egyptians again changed their minds, and so valiant was the mob that the few troops he had were separated, and while Casar reached the King's palace with a part of his force, the rest were driven back to the ships, but probably under Casar's order to retreat.
A few days later, Casar had so conciliated the mob that he ventured abroad without harm. Meanwhile Cleopatra was encamped at Pelusium.
Casar, having considered himself safe in Alexandria, now assumed the magistracy or guardianship made vacant by the death of Pompey, and demanded of Achillas the return of the money lent by the Romans to re-establish the late Auletes some $6,000,000. To raise this money Achillas levied the most odious requisitions. He persuaded the young King to eat in earthen and wooden vessels in order to cast odium on Casar. The temples were plundered of their plate and golden ornaments, in order to exasperate the people against the Roman conqueror. The money which was raised enabled Caesar to pay his men.
The courageous Roman now took on the character of executor of the will of Auletes and issued peremptory mandates, in the name of the Roman people, directing the two armies to disband, and appointing time and place when and where he would hear and settle the differences between the brother and sister.
Each side appointed counsel, and hearings of the cause began in the King's palace at Alexandria.
It seems that Casar had already heard of the beauty of Cleopatra, and that she had heard he was not averse to seeing her. She therefore sent a private messenger to him, complaining that her cause before him was poorly managed by her counsel, and asking permission to appear before him in person. Receiving a favorable reply, she sailed for Pelusium with only one attendant, Apollodorus, the Sicilian, and arrived after dark in Alexandria. She was tied up in a mattress, and this burden Apollodorus carried on his back to Caesar's apartment, where the astonished Casar first beheld the beautiful young woman, and became infatuated at first sight of her. He accordingly heard her story, and on the next day sent for young Ptolemy, whom he, as guardian and Dictator of Rome, advised to receive Cleopatra as a fellow-sovereign on the Egyptian throne. At the same time, the young King learned that his sister was in the apartments of Caesar, and that the great and powerful Roman was in reality her counsel and best friend.
On this the boy went out upon the streets, tore the diadem from his head, and trampled it in the dust, calling the people of Egypt to avenge the shame that had come upon them. He led the mob into the palace and was captured. Caesar appeared on a balcony, and with a conciliatory speech appeased the multitude.
The next day, before the regular assembly of the people, Casar brought out Ptolemy and Cleopatra, caused the will of Auletes, to be read, and declared them conjointly sovereigns of the land, under the protectorate of Rome. But Pothinus, Ptolemy's treasurer and a fellow-conspirator with Achillas, circulated the report that Casar meant to dethrone Ptolemy, and prevailed on Achillas to march with his army from Pelusium to Alexandria, and drive Caesar, with his small force, out of the city.
This adventure is one of the most remarkable in Caesar's career, and shows how implicitly he confided in fortune. He had less than 2,000 soldiers in the palace, where he held both Ptolemy and Cleopatra; he sent smooth talkers to Achillas, who now advanced with 20,000 men. Achillas put Caesar's messengers to death. Casar so fortified the palace that Achillas could not take it, and burned his fleet of ships in order to keep it out of the enemy's hands. It seems that Casar very quickly made a Roman camp in the heart of the city; he had walls, towers, parapets, a passage to the harbor, and other war-like appurtenances which were likely to terrify and over-come the enemy.
Caesar having killed Pothinus, Ganymedes, another eunuch, fled out of the palace with Arsino , the Princess, and procured the execution of Achillas. Ganymedes now became the opponent of Cesar, and did well. In the battles by sea and land that ensued, Caesar was often in peril, and once swam from one ship to another, holding (according to Orosius) his Commentaries out of the water while he swam.
Mithradates of Pontus now marched into Egypt to Caesar's succor, took Pelusium, and, with Caesar, fought a great battle with Ptolemy, whom Caesar had previously liberated on a pledge which Ptolemy had broken. Ptolemy was drowned in the Nile. Cleopatra was placed on the throne, and Caesar compelled her to marry her surviving brother Ptolemy, then but eleven years old.
Caesar took Arsinoe to Rome, and in his triumph she walked in chains of gold. He set her at liberty, but would not allow her to return to Egypt.
Cleopatra bore Caesar a son named Caesarion, but she could not prevail on the great Julius to remain with her; a war on the Black Sea called him away, and she reigned as Queen, and as Queen Regent for her brother. As soon as the lad had reached the age at which he could lawfully reign with her, she caused him to be poisoned.
Her friend Caesar was now assassinated at Rome, and Antony, Lepidus and Octavius (Augustus) formed a triumvirate to avenge his death. Cleopatra very loyally took sides with Antony against Cassius and Brutus, and sent four legions to fight Cassius. These legions were tendered to Dolabella (afterward a lover of Cleopatra).
Cassius and Brutus met the triumvirs at Philippi, northeast of Pharsalia (it seems Graecia was then "the cockpit of Europe"), and Antony, the conqueror, passed over into Asia, and down the coast of Asia Minor to Tar-sus, on the Cydnus River, near Mt. Taurus, in Cilicia, a town now called Adana on the maps, although the old quarter is locally known as Tarsus.
It was here that Antony tarried, and, hearing that Cleopatra had offered the four legions to Cassius rather than to Dolabella, summoned the Queen of Egypt before him for purposes of explanation.
It is this journey by galley from Alexandria to Tarsus, and up the River Cydnus on the Asian coast, that offers the chief spectacle in Cleopatra's life. It has called forth the descriptive genius of Shakespeare, and Dryden did not hesitate to also write-in a like vein of the splendor of the scene. Dellius, who had been sent by Antony, no sooner saw Cleopatra at Alexandria than he advised her to go to Tarsus in the Homeric style, telling her that Antony would be so pleased with the show that he would at once become her friend. She followed this advice, took no offense at the mandatory letters of Antony, made great preparations for her voyage, and pressed heavily upon a rich kingdom for money, ornaments of value, and gifts. Following is the passage in Plutarch's "Life of Antony" from which Shakespeare forged his metrical account of the royal progress of Cleopatra. It should be noted that the ancient writer himself believed in the incarnation of the gods:
"She came sailing up the River Cydnus in a barge with gilded stern and outspread sails of purple, while oars of silver beat time to the music of flutes and fifes and harps. She herself lay all along under a canopy of cloth-of-gold, dressed as Venus in a picture, and beautiful young boys, like painted Cupids, stood on each side to fan her. Her maids were dressed like Sea-Nymphs and Graces, some steering at the rudder, some working at the ropes. The perfumes diffused themselves from the vessel to the shore, which was covered with multitudes, part following the galley up the river on either bank, part running out of the city to see the sight.
"The market-place was quite emptied, and Antony, at last, was left alone, sitting upon the tribunal, while the word went through all the multitude that Venus was come to feast with Bacchus for the common good of Asia. On her arrival, Antony sent to invite her to supper. She thought it fitter he should come to her; so, willing to show his good humor and courtesy, he complied and went. He found the preparations to receive him magnificent beyond expression, but nothing so admirable as the great number of lights; for on a sudden there was let down so great a number of branches with lights in them so ingeniously disposed, some in squares and some in circles, that the whole thing was a spectacle that has seldom been equaled for beauty."
Plutarch seems to doubt her peerless beauty, but he says that "the contact of her presence, if you lived with her, was irresistible. The attraction of her person, joining with the charm of her conversation and the character that attended all she said or did, was something bewitching. It was a pleasure merely to hear the sound of her voice, with which, like an instrument of many strings, she could pass from one instrument to another."
The attachment that instantly sprang up between Antony and Cleopatra was scandalous to the Roman Re-public. Casar had been slain by patriots because he had acted in a kingly way, and had also had too much to do with this Egyptian Queen. Now Fulvia, wife of Antony, was having her hands full at Rome, even to the extent of directing armed forces, to support his claims against Octavius. At the same time the Roman Empire was threatened in the east. And yet Cleopatra was able to keep Antony under her sway at Tarsus, and to lure him back to Alexandria, but not until he had sent to Miletus (the birthplace of Aspasia), and put ArsinoŽ, Cleopatra's sister, to death. At Tarsus Cleopatra distributed gifts of golden cups, richly bejeweled, with a profuseness never before heard of.
At Alexandria the lovers formed a company called "The Inimitable Livers." Plutarch says his own grand-father used to tell of an acquaintance who was taken into Cleopatra's kitchen, where he saw eight boars roasting whole; on which the visitor remarked that there must be many guests, but the cook laughed, and stated that no one could tell when Antony would dine. "Maybe," said he, "Antony will sup just now, maybe not this hour; maybe he will call for wine, or begin to talk, and will put it off. So that it is not one, but many suppers must be kept in readiness, as it is impossible to guess at his hours." If a boar were roasted a moment too long it would be spoiled. Gifts of plate in imitation of Cleopatra were distributed by Antony's son (by Fulvia), and a school of extravagance beyond record or tradition was set up at Alexandria, portending certain ruin and probable disgrace. While in the midst of these daily festivals, Antony got word that the Parthians were marching toward him into Syria, and that his wife, Fulvia, had been defeated by Octavius and driven out of Italy. He started for Syria, but changed his mind, and sailed to meet Octavius with 200 ships. On the way, news of his wife's (Fulvia's) death came to him, whereupon it became easily possible to effect a reconciliation with Octavius, for Antony, breaking off with Cleopatra, married Octavia, the sister of Octavius, and the Roman world was solemnly partitioned, so that Antony's rule extended from the Ionian or the Adriatic Sea eastward to China. Antony took Octavia, and made a splendid court at Athens. It was confidently expected by the Roman Senators that this compact would bring peace in the west and extend Roman dominion in Asia. And but for Cleopatra this might have been the case, for Antony soon tired of the dignified Octavia and hungered anew for the flattery upon which the fair Egyptian had fed him.
As an example of Cleopatra's mastery of the arts of seduction, Plutarch tells the celebrated fishing story: The twain went angling with hook and line, but Cleopatra had all the luck, whereupon Antony gave secret orders to the fishermen to dive under the water and attach live fishes to his hook, and these he drew with great triumph from the water. But the ruse was betrayed to Cleopatra, so she boasted of Antony's skill, and invited a fine party to see him fish the next day. No sooner was his hook down in the water than one of lier people attached to it a salted fish from another sea, which Antony drew up amid the laughter of his friends. "Ah, general," said Cleopatra, "leave the fishing-rod to us poor sovereigns of Pharos (light-house) and Canopus (probably meaning another light-house) ; your game is cities, provinces and kingdoms."
When. therefore, Antony entered upon the Parthian war, and had marched into Syria, he sent for his flatterer against the advice of his generals. For he had but just escaped war with Octavius once more through the intervention of Octavia, and it was already the opinion of the Roman world that Antony was not a proper magistrate. When Cleopatra arrived in Syria, Antony, following her desires, put several Syrian Princes to death and gave their dominions to Cleopatra, thus diminishing the Roman Empire. He then departed into Armenia, but again languishing under her absence from him, made a forced march in winter through the mountains of Armenia back to Syria, that killed sixty thousand soldiers through unnecessary exposure. The guilty lovers spent the rest of the winter on the Phoenician coast, when Antony made over to Egypt (or Cleopatra) a great part of the coast of Syria and Asia Minor. At this time she unsuccessfully begged him to put Herod of Judea to death, and to give Jerusalem to Egypt, but Antony would not comply, although he made some territorial concessions that embittered Herod. These acts destroyed Antony in the good opinion of the Romans, for they now regarded him as a foreign enemy, and an apostate Roman.
For these gifts Cleopatra consented to march with Antony to the Euphrates River on his way into Parthia. At that river she was prompt to return, and on her journey visited Jerusalem, where she set out to ensnare Herod. Herod, having her in his power, and seeing her perfidy to Antony, felt it safe to put her to death, but it was represented to him that Antony's vengeance would be terrible, whereupon the subtle Hebrew King changed his resolution, entertained her at great expense, and accompanied her to the borders of his kingdom. Antony soon followed her to Alexandria, carrying the Armenian King in captivity, and entering the city in a triumphal car. Cleopatra, seated on a golden throne, waited for the conqueror, and to her was presented the King in golden chains ; but this monarch had been shamefully captured. Thereupon Antony spread a feast for the people of Alexandria, and summoned them to meet in full assembly.
Seated on thrones of gold, side by side, sat Antony and Cleopatra. Antony made an oration, declaring Caesarion, son of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, joint sovereign of Egypt and Cyprus with Cleopatra his mother; to his own three children by Cleopatra he gave each a third of the remainder of the eastern world, with the title for each of King of Kings. He proclaimed himself to be the god Osiris, and Cleopatra the goddess Isis, and henceforth the infatuated man and woman attired them-selves in the costume which graphic superstition had long made peculiar to those deities. It was of course impossible to make the Egyptians believe that their sovereigns were really gods, and Octavius made good use of Antony's folly to further incense the Romans against the Eastern Triumvir.
While Octavius would have undoubtedly broken with Antony in time, still the adoption of Caesarion by Antony was an act alarming to the Western Triumvir, who had come to power because he was the adopted son of Julius Caesar. So, also, Cleopatra madly sought a rupture, because that must divorce Antony from Octavia. Therefore conditions now all conspired toward Antony's ruin. No sooner had Antony started on another Parthian expedition than he found it necessary to prepare to meet Octavius, whose intentions were certainly hostile. He now had Cleopatra with him, and she, by the use of many arts, prevailed on him to himself declare war on Rome, he at the same time sending a bill of divorce to Octavia, and ordering her to vacate his house at Rome. Again he lost a year of valuable time, making his court at Samos, and finally at Athens, enthroned in the forum with Cleopatra beside him, or sometimes giving her triumphal entries, and himself walking among her slaves.
It was the opinion of the world that Cleopatra had administered to Antony some Egyptian philtre, and Octavius, in his decree declaring war, in response to Antony, stated that he made war on Cleopatra, and now deprived Antony of the authority which he had let a woman exercise in his place. The generals whom Rome would have to fight, said Octavius, would be Mardion, the eunuch; Iras, Cleopatra's hairdressing girl, and Charmion, her waiting woman, who were Antony's chief state-councillors.
Antony had a vast power behind him, and Octavius was taxing a people who bore their burdens impatiently. The eastern world was habituated to the caprices of tyrants, and obeyed without murmuring. Thus the forces of the east, as well as the stage-players and musicians, were nearly all in Greece. Antony had an army of 112,000 soldiers, and 500 ships of war; some of his galleys had ten banks of oars. At that age, navigation was in the nature of a sea caravan that is, the boats took the places of elephants and camels; the army on land was always near to the squadron. Six tributary Kings and Cleopatra were with Antony in person, and six other Kings had sent auxiliaries. Antony's empire, east and west, extended (on the modern map) from Zante Island to Bagdad. Actium, where the battle was shortly to ensue, was in the Ionian region. Octavius had 250 galleys and about 100,000 soldiers. His galleys, however, were well manned, while the boats of Antony had been manned with ass-drivers, harvest-laborers and boys. It would have been far better for Antony to have fought on land, but the pride of Cleopatra stood in the way, and she persuaded him to invite a sea encounter. Meantime Octavius crossed from Italy to the Ionian coast north of Actium, and at last was prepared for battle before Antony could get his army and his sea-caravan together. The generals in Antony's councils began to feel that Antony should retreat inland, where, with added troops that awaited him, he, being the most experienced land captain then on earth, must surely win, while it would be no lasting disgrace to surrender the seas for a time to Caesar. But Cleopatra, evidently, had not so much trust in Antony. She believed it was to her interest to hazard the battle in ships. She had already conceived the project of deserting Antony and ensnaring Octavius, for the adopted son of Julius Casar had been busily at work corrupting Antony's generals and Kings, and promises had been probably held out to her, also.
At last the armies of the two commanders confronted each other across the straits at Actium (Nicopolis, in Western Greece), and Antony put 22,000 full-armed warriors aboard sixty of the best of Cleopatra's ships, and burned all the rest of the fleet. The sea-fight took place, the weather making fighting impracticable until the fifth day. Antony's ships were large, and there were always several small boats of Octavius around each one of Antony's. Nothing had been decided, when Cleopatra's sixty ships were seen hoisting sail and making away. No sooner did Antony observe this, than he proved himself to be thoroughly insane, for the brave soldier who had all day risked his life and personally urged on the battle, going from ship to ship in the midst of all danger, now, on finding Cleopatra in flight, at once left the battle half-finished and followed in one galley after the Queen.
Cleopatra took Antony on board, and he sat on the prow of her ship for three days, moody and in silence. But Cleopatra's women, knowing his nature, at last mollified him, and brought the Queen and her lover together again. When he landed in Laconia, Greece, he learned that Cesar had taken 300 ships and killed 5,000 men. Antony had left nineteen legions and 12,000 cavalry on shore, who waited seven days for his orders before going over to Caesar. There is not in history another case of desertion so astonishing as Antony's, for Antony was the most famous soldier then alive.
The remainder of the career of Antony and Cleopatra was even more extraordinary than what has gone before. The world was now busy going over to Caesar, and Antony, who considered such action the basest ingratitude, determined to enact the part of Timon of Athens, which Shakespeare has also extended into a play. Antony built what he called a Timoneum, near the Pharos at Alexandria, on a little mole in the sea, while Cleopatra set to work to see if she could not transport her ships overland to the Red Sea, to get out of Octavius way. But news of the desire of vengeance on the part of Octavius increased, for Octavius had real reason to fear Caesarion, and Antony, hearkening to the views of Cleopatra, that their end was near, deserted his Timoneum, again entered the palace that had cost him so dearly, and plunged into another orgy of drinking, feasting and present-making. Cleopatra, meanwhile, had practiced with all sorts of poisons, on prisoners that had been condemned to die. She at last adopted the asp, as conveying with its bite, a poison that brought on drowsiness without convulsions, and gave an easy death. At the same time she spared no efforts to come to an understanding with Octavius, who held out very good promises to her if she would give up Antony, and sent a personal representative, named Thyrsus, to Cleopatra. This Thyrsus made himself so free with Cleopatra that Antony grew jealous, and had him seized, whipped, and sent back to Octavius. Cleopatra again mollified Antony with a great feast on her birthday. "Many of the guests," says Plutarch, significantly, "sat down in want, and went home wealthy men." Octavius had been called to Rome, and Antony was given a whole winter in which to repair his fortunes. Josephus says that Herod of Judea offered to still stand by Antony, if Antony, would kill Cleopatra, seize Egypt, and make such a war as so great a general could easily organize. When Antony refused this offer, Herod made terms with Octavius.
The conduct of Cleopatra, after the spring campaign opened, and Octavius advanced on Pelusium, near Alexandria, must be theorized on the desire of the Queen to treat with Octavius, if she could. Though she could not deceive or ensnare Octavius, neither could he deceive her, and she must have been an exceedingly subtle woman. She sent to Octavius all the emblems of royalty, and urgently sued for an accommodation that would leave Egypt to her children. At last she offered to surrender Antony, but steadfastly refused to kill him herself, as Octavius desired.
Octavius was in dire need of money to pay his troops. Notwithstanding the prodigious waste of Cleopatra, it was believed that the Queen possessed a treasure that was still unparalleled, and Octavius feared that, in some way, the Queen, if she should kill herself, might make it impossible for him to secure the means to pay his soldiers. For she had conveyed her treasury to a tower near the temple of Isis, where, with a great quantity of aromatic wood, perfumes, and combustibles, she was prepared to make a funeral pyre that would leave Egypt practically poor. Yet Cleopatra was daily betraying Egypt to Octavius. First Pelusium was surrendered ; then Antony, fighting bravely before Alexandria itself, found the Egyptian army, under Cleopatra's private orders, in full retreat. At this time everybody save Antony knew that Cleopatra was false to him. When, at last, the whole army and navy had been scandalously betrayed to Octavius, Antony, in the rage of a lover, flew to the palace to kill his perfidious mistress, but found that she had shut herself in her tower, where she caused it to be reported that she had killed herself to avoid falling in the enemy's hands. This false news carried Antony from transports of rage to agonies of despair, and he shut himself in his room, and reminded his slave Eros that the time had now come to keep his promise to his master that he would kill the great Antony when the posture of the fallen soldier's affairs should require it. But the slave, overcome with sentiments of affection, stabbed himself and fell dead at Antony's feet.
Antony thereupon fell upon his own sword, but could not put an immediate end to himself, for when the officers broke into the apartment, he begged them to aid him on his journey into eternity. But one of them stole his sword and carried the weapon with the blood of Antony to Octavius, who thereupon retired into his tent, and caused it to be reported that he wept. But he redoubled his efforts to get Cleopatra alive into his power.
Meanwhile there was a noise in the city caused by the news of Antony's act, which could not fail to be carried to Cleopatra's tower, where only she and two serving-women (Iras and Charmion) were intrenched. From the top of the monument she ordered that Antony be brought to her, and when her secretary entered Antony's room he thought Antony was dying. But Antony, hearing the name of her whom he had so insanely loved, and learning that she still lived, opened his dying eyes, and begged to be taken to her, which was done. But Cleopatra did not dare to unlock the gate of the tower.
Here we may quote in full a passage from Plutarch's "Life of Antony," which, for dramatic interest, scarce has its equal in the secular writings of antiquity :
"Cleopatra, looking from a sort of window, let down ropes and cords, to which Antony was fastened; and she and her two women drew him up. Those that were present say that nothing was ever more sad than this spectacle, to see Antony, covered all over with blood and just expiring, thus drawn up, still holding up his hands to her, and lifting up his body with the little force he had left (as, indeed, it was no easy task for the women) ; and Cleopatra, with all her force, clinging to the rope, and straining her head to the ground, with difficulty pulled him up, while those below encouraged her with their cries, and joined in all her efforts and anxiety.
"When she had got him up, she laid him on the bed, tearing all her clothes, which she spread upon him, and beating her breasts with her hands, lacerating herself and disfiguring her own face with the blood from his wounds. She called him her lord, her husband, her emperor, and seemed to have pretty nearly forgotten all her own evils, she was so intent upon his misfortunes.
"Antony advised her that she should not pity him in this last turn of fate, but rather rejoice for him in remembrance of his past happiness, who had been of all men the most illustrious and powerful, and in the end had fallen not ignobly a Roman by a Roman overcome."
In this manner Antony died, happy in the arms of Cleopatra, and the news went out to the city. Thereupon the Romans set at work with much skill to capture Cleopatra alive. The messenger of Octavius stood at the gate, while Cleopatra, hoping to save Egypt for her children, stood inside the gate. While smooth speeches were whispered to the beleaguered woman from in front, other soldiers, by ladders, reached the embrasure where Antony had been taken in, and descended on Cleopatra be-hind, disarming her of her dagger, and taking her alive. She asked but one favor that she might bury Antony, for Kings and great commanders all clamored to Octavius for the honor. Octavius granted her request, and the embalmed body of the lover was interred with magnificence in the sepulchers of the Kings of Egypt. She had inflamed and ulcerated her breasts with beating on them, after the ancient manner, and, when the splendid funeral of Antony was over, fell ill of a fever, which she was glad to increase, hoping by that means to die. But the physicians of Octavius frustrated her designs and flattered her into the belief that the young conqueror could not fail to become her friend. When he prepared to visit her she was even of a mind to believe that sick and elderly as she was, she might still ensnare him, as she had over-come his adoptive father, the great Julius. What, then, was her chagrin, upon his entrance, and when she had thrown herself before him, to see that he kept his eyes fixed on the ground, and at the end of all her speeches, answered only in this blunt way, "Woman, be of good cheer; no harm shall be done you!" She wisely interpreted this to mean that she would be taken captive to Rome, the cruelest fate that could befall her pride. Yet she dissembled her opinion and showed him an inventory of her treasury, which in gratitude she was to give to him. But one of her own treasurers, then present, basely accused her to Octavius of concealing a portion of her wealth. On this, the enraged Cleopatra seized the officer by the hair and beat him in the face, explaining to the smiling conqueror that if she had reserved a few jewels it was not to adorn her own person, but to bestow them on Octavia, his sister, and Livia, his wife. This made Octavius believe that Cleopatra would go to Rome, which she had not the slightest notion of doing, and had artfully managed the entire affair. Yet Octavius had her carefully watched, so that, in her visits to Antony's tomb, which were permitted, she was not able to do herself any injury.
In the meantime Dolabella, an intimate friend of Octavius, being in love with Cleopatra, notified her that her time was short, as Octavius had already given orders to put her and her children on a vessel for Rome. She therefore gave a great feast to her custodians, and, diverting their attention, withdrew to her chamber, where she dressed herself in the royal robes of the Ptolemies, lay down on her bed, and asked for a basket of figs. Among the figs was an asp, and with the asp she made a wound in her arm, or made a wound, and thereafter caused the asp to strike there with its poisonous fangs. Her death followed without pain or uneasiness. Her chief custodian had meanwhile carried a letter from her to Octavius, in which she begged to be buried in the same tomb with Antony.
When Octavius arrived in Cleopatra's chamber he found her body on a golden bed in official robes, with diadem on her head. One of her women was dead and the other dying. And these were the women named in the proclamation of Octavius before Actium. Efforts to revive the Queen failed, and thereupon Octavius. deprived of the chief glory of his coming triumphal entry into Rome, very magnanimously gave orders to bury her with all possible pomp in the same tomb with Antony. Even her women were buried with the honor that became so much affection and fidelity. While the statues of Antony were all thrown down, the monuments of Cleopatra were left standing, and one of these ancient stones (known as Cleopatra's Needle) now adorns the chief pleasure-ground of New York City, whither it was transported from Alexandria after an extraordinary amount of engineering labor and peril. Octavius became Augustus, and the Augustan Age and the Actian Era arose out of the funeral pyres of Antony and Cleopatra,