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Cleopatra by Jacob Abbott

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Makers of History




[Illustration: CLEOPATRA.]


Of all the beautiful women of history, none has left us such convincing
proofs of her charms as Cleopatra, for the tide of Rome's destiny, and,
therefore, that of the world, turned aside because of her beauty. Julius
Caesar, whose legions trampled the conquered world from Canopus to the
Thames, capitulated to her, and Mark Antony threw a fleet, an empire and
his own honor to the winds to follow her to his destruction. Disarmed at
last before the frigid Octavius, she found her peerless body measured by
the cold eye of her captor only for the triumphal procession, and the
friendly asp alone spared her Rome's crowning ignominy.



















[Illustration: Map--'Scene of CLEOPATRA'S HISTORY']



The parentage and birth of Cleopatra.--Cleopatra's residence in
Egypt.--Physical aspect of Egypt.--The eagle's wings and
science.--Physical peculiarities of Egypt connected with the laws of
rain.--General laws of rain.--Causes which modify the quantity of
rain.--Striking contrasts.--Rainless regions.--Great rainless region of
Asia and Africa.--The Andes.--Map of the rainless region.--Valley of the
Nile.--The Red Sea.--The oases.--Siweh.--Mountains of the Moon.--The
River Nile.--Incessant rains.--Inundation of the Nile.--Course of the
river.--Subsidence of the waters.--Luxuriant vegetation.--Absence of
forests.--Great antiquity of Egypt.--Her monuments.--The Delta of the
Nile.--The Delta as seen from the sea.--Pelusiac mouth of the Nile.--The
Canopic mouth.--Ancient Egypt.--The Pyramids.--Conquests of the Persians
and Macedonians.--The Ptolemies.--Founding of Alexandria.--The Pharos.

The story of Cleopatra is a story of crime. It is a narrative of the
course and the consequences of unlawful love. In her strange and
romantic history we see this passion portrayed with the most complete
and graphic fidelity in all its influences and effects; its
uncontrollable impulses, its intoxicating joys, its reckless and mad
career, and the dreadful remorse and ultimate despair and ruin in which
it always and inevitably ends.

Cleopatra was by birth an Egyptian; by ancestry and descent she was a
Greek. Thus, while Alexandria and the Delta of the Nile formed the scene
of the most important events and incidents of her history, it was the
blood of Macedon which flowed in her veins. Her character and action are
marked by the genius, the courage, the originality, and the
impulsiveness pertaining to the stock from which she sprung. The events
of her history, on the other hand, and the peculiar character of her
adventures, her sufferings, and her sins, were determined by the
circumstances with which she was surrounded, and the influences which
were brought to bear upon her in the soft and voluptuous clime where the
scenes of her early life were laid.

Egypt has always been considered as physically the most remarkable
country on the globe. It is a long and narrow valley of verdure and
fruitfulness, completely insulated from the rest of the habitable world.
It is more completely insulated, in fact, than any literal island could
be, inasmuch as deserts are more impassable than seas. The very
existence of Egypt is a most extraordinary phenomenon. If we could but
soar with the wings of an eagle into the air, and look down upon the
scene, so as to observe the operation of that grand and yet simple
process by which this long and wonderful valley, teeming so profusely
with animal and vegetable life, has been formed, and is annually
revivified and renewed, in the midst of surrounding wastes of silence,
desolation, and death, we should gaze upon it with never-ceasing
admiration and pleasure. We have not the wings of the eagle, but the
generalizations of science furnish us with a sort of substitute for

The long series of patient, careful, and sagacious observations, which
have been continued now for two thousand years, bring us results, by
means of which, through our powers of mental conception, we may take a
comprehensive survey of the whole scene, analogous, in some respects, to
that which direct and actual vision would afford us, if we could look
down upon it from the eagle's point of view. It is, however, somewhat
humiliating to our pride of intellect to reflect that long-continued
philosophical investigations and learned scientific research are, in
such a case as this, after all, in some sense, only a sort of substitute
for wings. A human mind connected with a pair of eagle's wings would
have solved the mystery of Egypt in a week; whereas science, philosophy,
and research, confined to the surface of the ground, have been occupied
for twenty centuries in accomplishing the undertaking.

It is found at last that both the existence of Egypt itself, and its
strange insulation in the midst of boundless tracts of dry and barren
sand, depend upon certain remarkable results of the general laws of
rain. The water which is taken up by the atmosphere from the surface of
the sea and of the land by evaporation, falls again, under certain
circumstances, in showers of rain, the frequency and copiousness of
which vary very much in different portions of the earth. As a general
principle, rains are much more frequent and abundant near the equator
than in temperate climes, and they grow less and less so as we approach
the poles. This might naturally have been expected; for, under the
burning sun of the equator, the evaporation of water must necessarily go
on with immensely greater rapidity than in the colder zones, and all the
water which is taken up must, of course, again come down.

It is not, however, wholly by the latitude of the region in which the
evaporation takes place that the quantity of rain which falls from the
atmosphere is determined; for the condition on which the falling back,
in rain, of the water which has been taken up by evaporation mainly
depends, is the cooling of the atmospheric stratum which contains it;
and this effect is produced in very various ways, and many different
causes operate to modify it. Sometimes the stratum is cooled by being
wafted over ranges of mountains, sometimes by encountering and becoming
mingled with cooler currents of air; and sometimes, again, by being
driven in winds toward a higher, and, consequently, cooler latitude. If,
on the other hand, air moves from cold mountains toward warm and sunny
plains, or from higher latitudes to lower, or if, among the various
currents into which it falls, it becomes mixed with air warmer than
itself, its capacity for containing vapor in solution is increased, and,
consequently, instead of releasing its hold upon the waters which it has
already in possession, it becomes thirsty for more. It moves over a
country, under these circumstances, as a warm and drying wind. Under a
reverse of circumstances it would have formed drifting mists, or,
perhaps, even copious showers of rain.

It will be evident, from these considerations, that the frequency of the
showers, and the quantity of the rain which will fall, in the various
regions respectively which the surface of the earth presents, must
depend on the combined influence of many causes, such as the warmth of
the climate, the proximity and the direction of mountains and of seas,
the character of the prevailing winds, and the reflecting qualities of
the soil. These and other similar causes, it is found, do, in fact,
produce a vast difference in the quantity of rain which falls in
different regions. In the northern part of South America, where the land
is bordered on every hand by vast tropical seas, which load the hot and
thirsty air with vapor, and where the mighty Cordillera of the Andes
rears its icy summits to chill and precipitate the vapors again, a
quantity of rain amounting to more than ten feet in perpendicular height
falls in a year. At St. Petersburg, on the other hand, the quantity thus
falling in a year is but little more than one foot. The immense deluge
which pours down from the clouds in South America would, if the water
were to remain where it fell, wholly submerge and inundate the country.
As it is, in flowing off through the valleys to the sea, the united
torrents form the greatest river on the globe--the Amazon; and the
vegetation, stimulated by the heat, and nourished by the abundant and
incessant supplies of moisture, becomes so rank, and loads the earth
with such an entangled and matted mass of trunks, and stems, and twining
wreaths and vines, that man is almost excluded from the scene. The
boundless forests become a vast and almost impenetrable jungle,
abandoned to wild beasts, noxious reptiles, and huge and ferocious birds
of prey.

Of course, the district of St. Petersburg, with its icy winter, its low
and powerless sun, and its twelve inches of annual rain, must
necessarily present, in all its phenomena of vegetable and animal life,
a striking contrast to the exuberant prolificness of New Grenada. It is,
however, after all, not absolutely the opposite extreme. There are
certain regions on the surface of the earth that are actually rainless;
and it is these which present us with the true and real contrast to the
luxuriant vegetation and teeming life of the country of the Amazon. In
these rainless regions all is necessarily silence, desolation, and
death. No plant can grow; no animal can live. Man, too, is forever and
hopelessly excluded. If the exuberant abundance of animal and vegetable
life shut him out, in some measure, from regions which an excess of heat
and moisture render too prolific, the total absence of them still more
effectually forbids him a home in these. They become, therefore, vast
wastes of dry and barren sands in which no root can find nourishment,
and of dreary rocks to which not even a lichen can cling.

The most extensive and remarkable rainless region on the earth is a vast
tract extending through the interior and northern part of Africa, and
the southwestern part of Asia. The Red Sea penetrates into this tract
from the south, and thus breaks the outline and continuity of its form,
without, however, altering, or essentially modifying its character. It
divides it, however, and to the different portions which this division
forms, different names have been given. The Asiatic portion is called
Arabia Deserta; the African tract has received the name of Sahara; while
between these two, in the neighborhood of Egypt, the barren region is
called simply _the desert_. The whole tract is marked, however,
throughout, with one all-pervading character: the absence of vegetable,
and, consequently, of animal life, on account of the absence of rain.
The rising of a range of lofty mountains in the center of it, to produce
a precipitation of moisture from the air, would probably transform the
whole of the vast waste into as verdant, and fertile, and populous a
region as any on the globe.

[Illustration: VALLEY OF THE NILE]

As it is, there are no such mountains. The whole tract is nearly level,
and so little elevated above the sea, that, at the distance of many
hundred miles in the interior, the land rises only to the height of a
few hundred feet above the surface of the Mediterranean; whereas in New
Grenada, at less than one hundred miles from the sea, the chain of the
Andes rises to elevations of from ten to fifteen thousand feet. Such an
ascent as that of a few hundred feet in hundreds of miles would be
wholly imperceptible to any ordinary mode of observation; and the great
rainless region, accordingly, of Africa and Asia is, as it appears to
the traveler, one vast plain, a thousand miles wide and five thousand
miles long, with only one considerable interruption to the dead monotony
which reigns, with that exception, every where over the immense expanse
of silence and solitude. The single interval of fruitfulness and life is
the valley of the Nile.

There are, however, in fact, three interruptions to the continuity of
this plain, though only one of them constitutes any considerable
interruption to its barrenness. They are all of them valleys, extending
from north to south, and lying side by side. The most easterly of these
valleys is so deep that the waters of the ocean flow into it from the
south, forming a long and narrow inlet called the Red Sea. As this inlet
communicates freely with the ocean, it is always nearly of the same
level, and as the evaporation from it is not sufficient to produce rain,
it does not even fertilize its own shores. Its presence varies the
dreary scenery of the landscape, it is true, by giving us surging waters
to look upon instead of driving sands; but this is all. With the
exception of the spectacle of an English steamer passing, at weary
intervals, over its dreary expanse, and some moldering remains of
ancient cities on its eastern shore, it affords scarcely any indications
of life. It does very little, therefore, to relieve the monotonous
aspect of solitude and desolation which reigns over the region into
which it has intruded.

The most westerly of the three valleys to which we have alluded is only
a slight depression of the surface of the land marked by a line of
_oases_. The depression is not sufficient to admit the waters of the
Mediterranean, nor are there any rains over any portion of the valley
which it forms sufficient to make it the bed of a stream. Springs issue,
however, here and there, in several places, from the ground, and,
percolating through the sands along the valley, give fertility to little
dells, long and narrow, which, by the contrast that they form with the
surrounding desolation, seem to the traveler to possess the verdure and
beauty of Paradise. There is a line of these oases extending along this
westerly depression, and some of them are of considerable extent. The
oasis of Siweh, on which stood the far-famed temple of Jupiter Ammon,
was many miles in extent, and was said to have contained in ancient
times a population of eight thousand souls. Thus, while the most
easterly of the three valleys which we have named was sunk so low as to
admit the ocean to flow freely into it, the most westerly was so
slightly depressed that it gained only a circumscribed and limited
fertility through the springs, which, in the lowest portions of it,
oozed from the ground. The third valley--the central one--remains now to
be described.

The reader will observe, by referring once more to the map, that south
of the great rainless region of which we are speaking, there lie groups
and ranges of mountains in Abyssinia, called the Mountains of the Moon.
These mountains are near the equator, and the relation which they
sustain to the surrounding seas, and to currents of wind which blow in
that quarter of the world, is such, that they bring down from the
atmosphere, especially in certain seasons of the year, vast and
continual torrents of rain. The water which thus falls drenches the
mountain sides and deluges the valleys. There is a great portion of it
which can not flow to the southward or eastward toward the sea, as the
whole country consists, in those directions, of continuous tracts of
elevated land. The rush of water thus turns to the northward, and,
pressing on across the desert through the great central valley which we
have referred to above, it finds an outlet, at last, in the
Mediterranean, at a point two thousand miles distant from the place
where the immense condenser drew it from the skies. The river thus
created is the Nile. It is formed, in a word, by the surplus waters of a
district inundated with rains, in their progress across a rainless
desert, seeking the sea.

If the surplus of water upon the Abyssinian mountains had been constant
and uniform, the stream, in its passage across the desert, would have
communicated very little fertility to the barren sands which it
traversed. The immediate banks of the river would have, perhaps, been
fringed with verdure, but the influence of the irrigation would have
extended no farther than the water itself could have reached, by
percolation through the sand. But the flow of the water is not thus
uniform and steady. In a certain season of the year the rains are
incessant, and they descend with such abundance and profusion as almost
to inundate the districts where they fall. Immense torrents stream down
the mountain sides; the valleys are deluged; plains turn into morasses,
and morasses into lakes. In a word, the country becomes half submerged,
and the accumulated mass of waters would rush with great force and
violence down the central valley of the desert, which forms their only
outlet, if the passage were narrow, and if it made any considerable
descent in its course to the sea. It is, however, not narrow, and the
descent is very small. The depression in the surface of the desert,
through which the water flows, is from five to ten miles wide, and,
though it is nearly two thousand miles from the rainy district across
the desert to the sea, the country for the whole distance is almost
level. There is only sufficient descent, especially for the last
thousand miles, to determine a very gentle current to the northward in
the waters of the stream.

Under these circumstances, the immense quantity of water which falls in
the rainy district in these inundating tropical showers, expands over
the whole valley, and forms for a time an immense lake, extending in
length across the whole breadth of the desert. This lake is, of course,
from five to ten miles wide, and a thousand miles long. The water in it
is shallow and turbid, and it has a gentle current toward the north. The
rains, at length, in a great measure cease; but it requires some months
for the water to run off and leave the valley dry. As soon as it is
gone, there springs up from the whole surface of the ground which has
been thus submerged a most rank and luxuriant vegetation.

This vegetation, now wholly regulated and controlled by the hand of man,
must have been, in its original and primeval state, of a very peculiar
character. It must have consisted of such plants only as could exist
under the condition of having the soil in Which they grew laid, for a
quarter of the year, wholly under water. This circumstance, probably,
prevented the valley of the Nile from having been, like other fertile
tracts of land, encumbered, in its native state, with forests. For the
same reason, wild beasts could never have haunted it. There were no
forests to shelter them, and no refuge or retreat for them but the dry
and barren desert, during the period of the annual inundations. This
most extraordinary valley seems thus to have been formed and preserved
by Nature herself for the special possession of man. She herself seems
to have held it in reserve for him from the very morning of creation,
refusing admission into it to every plant and every animal that might
hinder or disturb his occupancy and control. And if he were to abandon
it now for a thousand years, and then return to it once more, he would
find it just as he left it, ready for his immediate possession. There
would be no wild beasts that he must first expel, and no tangled forests
would have sprung up, that his ax must first remove. Nature is the
husbandman who keeps this garden of the world in order, and the means
and machinery by which she operates are the grand evaporating surfaces
of the seas, the beams of the tropical sun, the lofty summits of the
Abyssinian Mountains, and, as the product and result of all this
instrumentality, great periodical inundations of summer rain.

For these or some other reasons Egypt has been occupied by man from the
most remote antiquity. The oldest records of the human race, made three
thousand years ago, speak of Egypt as ancient then, when they were
written. Not only is Tradition silent, but even Fable herself does not
attempt to tell the story of the origin of her population. Here stand
the oldest and most enduring monuments that human power has ever been
able to raise. It is, however, somewhat humiliating to the pride of the
race to reflect that the loftiest and proudest, as well as the most
permanent and stable of all the works which man has ever accomplished,
are but the incidents and adjuncts of a thin stratum of alluvial
fertility, left upon the sands by the subsiding waters of summer

The most important portion of the alluvion of the Nile is the northern
portion, where the valley widens and opens toward the sea, forming a
triangular plain of about one hundred miles in length on each of the
sides, over which the waters of the river flow in a great number of
separate creeks and channels. The whole area forms a vast meadow,
intersected every where with slow-flowing streams of water, and
presenting on its surface the most enchanting pictures of fertility,
abundance, and beauty. This region is called the Delta of the Nile.

The sea upon the coast is shallow, and the fertile country formed by the
deposits of the river seems to have projected somewhat beyond the line
of the coast; although, as the land has not advanced perceptibly for the
last eighteen hundred years, it may be somewhat doubtful whether the
whole of the apparent protrusion is not due to the natural conformation
of the coast, rather than to any changes made by the action of the

The Delta of the Nile is so level itself, and so little raised above the
level of the Mediterranean, that the land seems almost a continuation of
the same surface with the sea, only, instead of blue waters topped with
white-crested waves, we have broad tracts of waving grain, and gentle
swells of land crowned with hamlets and villages. In approaching the
coast, the navigator has no distant view of all this verdure and beauty.
It lies so low that it continues beneath the horizon until the ship is
close upon the shore. The first landmarks, in fact, which the seaman
makes, are the tops of trees growing apparently out of the water, or the
summit of an obelisk, or the capital of a pillar, marking the site of
some ancient and dilapidated city.

The most easterly of the channels by which the waters of the river find
their way through the Delta to the sea, is called, as it will be seen
marked upon the map, the Pelusiac branch. It forms almost the boundary
of the fertile region of the Delta on the eastern side. There was an
ancient city named Pelusium near the mouth of it. This was, of course,
the first Egyptian city reached by those who arrived by land from the
eastward, traveling along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. On
account of its thus marking the eastern frontier of the country, it
became a point of great importance, and is often mentioned in the
histories of ancient times.

The westernmost mouth of the Nile, on the other hand, was called the
Canopic mouth. The distance along the coast from the Canopic mouth to
Pelusium was about a hundred miles. The outline of the coast was
formerly, as it still continues to be, very irregular, and the water
shallow. Extended banks of sand protruded into the sea, and the sea
itself, as if in retaliation, formed innumerable creeks, and inlets, and
lagoons in the land. Along this irregular and uncertain boundary the
waters of the Nile and the surges of the Mediterranean kept up an
eternal war, with energies so nearly equal, that now, after the lapse of
eighteen hundred years since the state of the contest began to be
recorded, neither side has been found to have gained any perceptible
advantage over the other. The river brings the sands down, and the sea
drives them incessantly back, keeping the whole line of the shore in
such a condition as to make it extremely dangerous and difficult of
access to man.

It will be obvious, from this description of the valley of the Nile,
that it formed a country which in ancient times isolated and secluded,
in a very striking manner, from all the rest of the world. It was wholly
shut in by deserts, on every side, by land; and the shoals, and
sand-bars, and other dangers of navigation which marked the line of the
coast, seemed to forbid approach by sea. Here it remained for many ages,
under the rule of its own native ancient kings. Its population was
peaceful and industrious. Its scholars were famed throughout the world
for their learning, their science, and their philosophy.

It was in these ages, before other nations had intruded upon its
peaceful seclusion, that the Pyramids were built, and the enormous
monoliths carved, and those vast temples reared whose ruined columns are
now the wonder of mankind. During these remote ages, too, Egypt was, as
now, the land of perpetual fertility and abundance. There would always
be corn in Egypt, wherever else famine might rage. The neighboring
nations and tribes in Arabia, Palestine, and Syria, found their way to
it, accordingly, across the deserts on the eastern side, when driven by
want, and thus opened a way of communication. At length the Persian
monarchs, after extending their empire westward to the Mediterranean,
found access by the same road to Pelusium, and thence overran and
conquered the country. At last, about two hundred and fifty years before
the time of Cleopatra, Alexander the Great, when he subverted the
Persian empire, took possession of Egypt, and annexed it, among the
other Persian provinces, to his own dominions. At the division of
Alexander's empire, after his death, Egypt fell to one of his generals,
named Ptolemy. Ptolemy made it his kingdom, and left it, at his death,
to his heirs. A long line of sovereigns succeeded him, known in history
as the dynasty of the Ptolemies--Greek princes, reigning over an
Egyptian realm. Cleopatra was the daughter of the eleventh in the line.

The capital of the Ptolemies was Alexandria. Until the time of
Alexander's conquest, Egypt had no sea-port. There were several
landing-places along the coast, but no proper harbor. In fact Egypt had
then so little commercial intercourse with the rest of the world, that
she scarcely needed any. Alexander's engineers, however, in exploring
the shore, found a point not far from the Canopic mouth of the Nile
where the water was deep, and where there was an anchorage ground
protected by an island. Alexander founded a city there, which he called
by his own name. He perfected the harbor by artificial excavations and
embankments. A lofty light-house was reared, which formed a landmark by
day, and exhibited a blazing star by night to guide the galleys of the
Mediterranean in. A canal was made to connect the port with the Nile,
and warehouses were erected to contain the stores of merchandise. In a
word, Alexandria became at once a great commercial capital. It was the
seat, for several centuries, of the magnificent government of the
Ptolemies; and so well was its situation chosen for the purposes
intended, that it still continues, after the lapse of twenty centuries
of revolution and change, one of the principal emporiums of the commerce
of the East.



The dynasty of the Ptolemies.--The founder.--Philip of
Macedon.--Alexander.--The intrigue discovered.--Ptolemy
banished.--Accession of Alexander.--Ptolemy's elevation.--Death of
Alexander.--Ptolemy becomes King of Egypt.--Character of Ptolemy's
reign.--The Alexandrian library.--Abdication of Ptolemy.--Ptolemy
Philadelphus.--Death of Ptolemy.--Subsequent degeneracy of the
Ptolemies.--Incestuous marriages of the Ptolemy family.--Ptolemy
Physcon.--Origin of his name.--Circumstances of Physcon's
accession.--Cleopatra.--Physcon's brutal perfidity.--He marries his
wife's daughter.--Atrocities of Physcon.--His flight.--Cleopatra assumes
the government.--Her birth-day.--Barbarity of Physcon.--Grief of
Cleopatra.--General character of the Ptolemy family.--Lathyrus.
--Terrible quarrels with his mother.--Cruelties of Cleopatra.
--Alexander kills her.--Cleopatra a type of the family.--Her
two daughters.--Unnatural war.--Tryphena's hatred of her sister.--Taking
of Antioch.--Cleopatra flees to a temple.--Jealousy of Tryphena.--Her
resentment increases.--Cruel and sacrilegious murder.--The moral
condition of mankind not degenerating.

The founder of the dynasty of the Ptolemies--the ruler into whose hands
the kingdom of Egypt fell, as has already been stated, at the death of
Alexander the Great--was a Macedonian general in Alexander's army. The
circumstances of his birth, and the events which led to his entering
into the service of Alexander, were somewhat peculiar. His mother, whose
name was Arsinoe, was a personal favorite and companion of Philip, king
of Macedon, the father of Alexander. Philip at length gave Arsinoe in
marriage to a certain man of his court named Lagus. A very short time
after the marriage, Ptolemy was born. Philip treated the child with the
same consideration and favor that he had evinced toward the mother. The
boy was called the son of Lagus, but his position in the royal court of
Macedon was as high and honorable, and the attentions which he received
were as great, as he could have expected to enjoy if he had been in
reality a son of the king. As he grew up, he attained to official
stations of considerable responsibility and power.

In the course of time, a certain transaction occurred by means of which
Ptolemy involved himself in serious difficulty with Philip, though by
the same means he made Alexander very strongly his friend. There was a
province of the Persian empire called Caria, situated in the
southwestern part of Asia Minor. The governor of this province had
offered his daughter to Philip as the wife of one of his sons named
Aridaeus, the half brother of Alexander. Alexander's mother, who was not
the mother of Aridaeus, was jealous of this proposed marriage. She
thought that it was part of a scheme for bringing Aridaeus forward into
public notice, and finally making him the heir to Philip's throne;
whereas she was very earnest that this splendid inheritance should be
reserved for her own son. Accordingly, she proposed to Alexander that
they should send a secret embassage to the Persian governor, and
represent to him that it would be much better, both for him and for his
daughter, that she should have Alexander instead of Aridaeus for a
husband, and induce him, if possible, to demand of Philip that he should
make the change.

Alexander entered readily into this scheme, and various courtiers,
Ptolemy among the rest, undertook to aid him in the accomplishment of
it. The embassy was sent. The governor of Caria was very much pleased
with the change which they proposed to him. In fact, the whole plan
seemed to be going on very successfully toward its accomplishment, when,
by some means or other, Philip discovered the intrigue. He went
immediately into Alexander's apartment, highly excited with resentment
and anger. He had never intended to make Aridaeus, whose birth on the
mother's side was obscure and ignoble, the heir to his throne, and he
reproached Alexander in the bitterest terms for being of so debased and
degenerate a spirit as to desire to marry the daughter of a Persian
governor; a man who was, in fact, the mere slave, as he said, of a
barbarian king.

Alexander's scheme was thus totally defeated; and so displeased was his
father with the officers who had undertaken to aid him in the execution
of it, that he banished them all from the kingdom. Ptolemy, in
consequence of this decree, wandered about an exile from his country for
some years, until at length the death of Philip enabled Alexander to
recall him. Alexander succeeded his father as King of Macedon, and
immediately made Ptolemy one of his principal generals. Ptolemy rose, in
fact, to a very high command in the Macedonian army, and distinguished
himself very greatly in all the celebrated conqueror's subsequent
campaigns. In the Persian invasion, Ptolemy commanded one of the three
grand divisions of the army, and he rendered repeatedly the most signal
services to the cause of his master. He was employed on the most distant
and dangerous enterprises, and was often intrusted with the management
of affairs of the utmost importance. He was very successful in all his
undertakings. He conquered armies, reduced fortresses, negotiated
treaties, and evinced, in a word, the highest degree of military energy
and skill. He once saved Alexander's life by discovering and revealing a
dangerous conspiracy which had been formed against the king. Alexander
had the opportunity to requite this favor, through a divine
interposition vouchsafed to him, it was said, for the express purpose of
enabling him to evince his gratitude. Ptolemy had been wounded by a
poisoned arrow, and when all the remedies and antidotes of the
physicians had failed, and the patient was apparently about to die, an
effectual means of cure was revealed to Alexander in a dream, and
Ptolemy, in his turn, was saved.

At the great rejoicings at Susa, when Alexander's conquests were
completed, Ptolemy was honored with a golden crown, and he was married,
with great pomp and ceremony, to Artacama, the daughter of one of the
most distinguished Persian generals.

At length Alexander died suddenly, after a night of drinking and
carousal at Babylon. He had no son old enough to succeed him, and his
immense empire was divided among his generals. Ptolemy obtained Egypt
for his share. He repaired immediately to Alexandria, with a great army,
and a great number of Greek attendants and followers, and there
commenced a reign which continued, in great prosperity and splendor, for
forty years. The native Egyptians were reduced, of course, to subjection
and bondage. All the offices in the army, and all stations of trust and
responsibility in civil life, were filled by Greeks. Alexandria was a
Greek city, and it became at once one of the most important commercial
centers in all those seas. Greek and Roman travelers found now a
language spoken in Egypt which they could understand, and philosophers
and scholars could gratify the curiosity which they had so long felt, in
respect to the institutions, and monuments, and wonderful physical
characteristics of the country, with safety and pleasure. In a word, the
organization of a Greek government over the ancient kingdom, and the
establishment of the great commercial relations of the city of
Alexandria, conspired to bring Egypt out from its concealment and
seclusion, and to open it in some measure to the intercourse, as well as
to bring it more fully under the observation, of the rest of mankind.

Ptolemy, in fact, made it a special object of his policy to accomplish
these ends. He invited Greek scholars, philosophers, poets, and artists,
in great numbers, to come to Alexandria, and to make his capital their
abode. He collected an immense library, which subsequently, under the
name of the Alexandrian library, became one of the most celebrated
collections of books and manuscripts that was ever made. We shall have
occasion to refer more particularly to this library in the next chapter.

Besides prosecuting these splendid schemes for the aggrandizement of
Egypt, King Ptolemy was engaged, during almost the whole period of his
reign, in waging incessant wars with the surrounding nations. He engaged
in these wars, in part, for the purpose of extending the boundaries of
his empire, and in part for self-defense against the aggressions and
encroachments of other powers. He finally succeeded in establishing his
kingdom on the most stable and permanent basis, and then, when he was
drawing toward the close of his life, being in fact over eighty years of
age, he abdicated his throne in favor of his youngest son, whose name
was also Ptolemy, Ptolemy the father, the founder of the dynasty, is
known commonly in history by the name of Ptolemy Soter. His son is
called Ptolemy Philadelphia. This son, though the youngest, was
preferred to his brothers as heir to the throne on account of his being
the son of the most favored and beloved of the monarch's wives. The
determination of Soter to abdicate the throne himself arose from his
wish to put this favorite son in secure possession of it before his
death, in order to prevent the older brothers from disputing the
succession. The coronation of Philadelphus was made one of the most
magnificent and imposing ceremonies that royal pomp and parade ever
arranged. Two years afterward Ptolemy the father died, and was buried by
his son with a magnificence almost equal to that of his own coronation.
His body was deposited in a splendid mausoleum, which had been built for
the remains of Alexander; and so high was the veneration which was felt
by mankind for the greatness of his exploits and the splendor of his
reign, that divine honors were paid to his memory. Such was the origin
of the great dynasty of the Ptolemies.

Some of the early sovereigns of the line followed in some degree the
honorable example set them by the distinguished founder of it; but this
example was soon lost, and was succeeded by the most extreme degeneracy
and debasement. The successive sovereigns began soon to live and to
reign solely for the gratification of their own sensual propensities and
passions. Sensuality begins sometimes with kindness, but it ends always
in the most reckless and intolerable cruelty. The Ptolemies became, in
the end, the most abominable and terrible tyrants that the principle of
absolute and irresponsible power ever produced. There was one vice in
particular, a vice which they seem to have adopted from the Asiatic
nations of the Persian empire, that resulted in the most awful
consequences. This vice was incest.

The law of God, proclaimed not only in the Scriptures, but in the native
instincts of the human soul, forbids intermarriages among those
connected by close ties of consanguinity. The necessity for such a law
rests on considerations which can not here be fully explained. They are
considerations, however, which arise from causes inherent in the very
nature of man as a social being, and which are of universal, perpetual,
and insurmountable force. To guard his creatures against the deplorable
consequences, both physical and moral, which result from the practice of
such marriages, the great Author of Nature has implanted in every mind
an instinctive sense of their criminality, powerful enough to give
effectual warning of the danger, and so universal as to cause a distinct
condemnation of them to be recorded in almost every code of written law
that has ever been promulgated among mankind. The Persian sovereigns
were, however, above all law, and every species of incestuous marriage
was practiced by them without shame. The Ptolemies followed their

One of the most striking exhibitions of the nature of incestuous
domestic life which is afforded by the whole dismal panorama of pagan
vice and crime, is presented in the history of the great-grandfather of
the Cleopatra who is the principal subject of this narrative. He was
Ptolemy Physcon, the seventh in the line. It is necessary to give some
particulars of his history and that of his family, in order to explain
the circumstances under which Cleopatra herself came upon the stage. The
name Physcon, which afterward became his historical designation, was
originally given him in contempt and derision. He was very small of
stature in respect to height, but his gluttony and sensuality had made
him immensely corpulent in body, so that he looked more like a monster
than a man. The term Physcon was a Greek word, which denoted
opprobriously the ridiculous figure that he made.

The circumstances of Ptolemy Physcon's accession to the throne afford
not only a striking illustration of his character, but a very faithful
though terrible picture of the manners and morals of the times. He had
been engaged in a long and cruel war with his brother, who was king
before him, in which war he had perpetrated all imaginable atrocities,
when at length his brother died, leaving as his survivors his wife, who
was also his sister, and a son who was yet a child. This son was
properly the heir to the crown. Physcon himself, being a brother, had no
claim, as against a son. The name of the queen was Cleopatra. This was,
in fact, a very common name among the princesses of the Ptolemaic line.
Cleopatra, besides her son, had a daughter, who was at this time a young
and beautiful girl. Her name was also Cleopatra. She was, of course, the
niece, as her mother was the sister, of Physcon.

The plan of Cleopatra the mother, after her husband's death, was to make
her son the king of Egypt, and to govern herself, as regent, until he
should become of age. The friends and adherents of Physcon, however,
formed a strong party in _his_ favor. They sent for him to come to
Alexandria to assert his claims to the throne. He came, and a new civil
war was on the point of breaking out between the brother and sister,
when at length the dispute was settled by a treaty, in which it was
stipulated that Physcon should marry Cleopatra, and be king; but that he
should make the son of Cleopatra by her former husband his heir. This
treaty was carried into effect so far as the celebration of the marriage
with the mother was concerned, and the establishment of Physcon upon the
throne. But the perfidious monster, instead of keeping his faith in
respect to the boy, determined to murder him; and so open and brutal
were his habits of violence and cruelty, that he undertook to perpetrate
the deed himself, in open day. The boy fled shrieking to the mother's
arms for protection, and Physcon stabbed and killed him there,
exhibiting the spectacle of a newly-married husband murdering the son of
his wife in her very arms!

It is easy to conceive what sort of affection would exist between a
husband and a wife after such transactions as these. In fact, there had
been no love between them from the beginning. The marriage had been
solely a political arrangement. Physcon hated his wife, and had murdered
her son, and then, as if to complete the exhibition of the brutal
lawlessness and capriciousness of his passions, he ended with falling in
love with her daughter. The beautiful girl looked upon this heartless
monster, as ugly and deformed in body as he was in mind, with absolute
horror. But she was wholly in his power. He compelled her, by violence,
to submit to his will. He repudiated the mother, and forced the daughter
to become his wife.

Physcon displayed the same qualities of brutal tyranny and cruelty in
the treatment of his subjects that he manifested in his own domestic
relations. The particulars we can not here give, but can only say that
his atrocities became at length absolutely intolerable, and a revolt so
formidable broke out, that he fled from the country. In fact he barely
escaped with his life, as the mob had surrounded the palace and were
setting it on fire, intending to burn the tyrant himself and all the
accomplices of his crimes together. Physcon, however, contrived to make
his escape. He fled to the island of Cyprus, taking with him a certain
beautiful boy, his son by the Cleopatra whom he had divorced; for they
had been married long enough before the divorce, to have a son. The name
of this boy was Memphitis. His mother was very tenderly attached to him,
and Physcon took him away on this very account, to keep him as a hostage
for his mother's good behavior. He fancied that, when he was gone, she
might possibly attempt to resume possession of the throne.

His expectations in this respect were realized. The people of Alexandria
rallied around Cleopatra, and called upon her to take the crown. She did
so, feeling, perhaps, some misgivings in respect to the danger which
such a step might possibly bring upon her absent boy. She quieted
herself, however, by the thought that he was in the hands of his own
father, and that he could not possibly come to harm.

After some little time had elapsed, and Cleopatra was beginning to be
well established in her possession of the supreme power at Alexandria,
her birth-day approached, and arrangements were made for celebrating it
in the most magnificent manner. When the day arrived, the whole city was
given up to festivities and rejoicing. Grand entertainments were given
in the palace, and games, spectacles, and plays in every variety, were
exhibited and performed in all quarters of the city. Cleopatra herself
was enjoying a magnificent entertainment, given to the lords and ladies
of the court and the officers of her army, in one of the royal palaces.

In the midst of this scene of festivity and pleasure, it was announced
to the queen that a large box had arrived for her. The box was brought
into the apartment. It had the appearance of containing some magnificent
present, sent in at that time by some friend in honor of the occasion.
The curiosity of the queen was excited to know what the mysterious
coffer might contain. She ordered it to be opened; and the guests
gathered around, each eager to obtain the first glimpse of the contents.
The lid was removed, and a cloth beneath it was raised, when, to the
unutterable horror of all who witnessed the spectacle, there was seen
the head and hands of Cleopatra's beautiful boy, lying among masses of
human flesh, which consisted of the rest of his body cut into pieces.
The head had been left entire, that the wretched mother might recognize
in the pale and lifeless features the countenance of her son. Physcon
had sent the box to Alexandria, with orders that it should be retained
until the evening of the birth-day, and then presented publicly to
Cleopatra in the midst of the festivities of the scene. The shrieks and
cries with which she filled the apartments of the palace at the first
sight of the dreadful spectacle, and the agony of long-continued and
inconsolable grief which followed, showed how well the cruel contrivance
of the tyrant was fitted to accomplish its end.

It gives us no pleasure to write, and we are sure it can give our
readers no pleasure to peruse, such shocking stories of bloody cruelty
as these. It is necessary, however, to a just appreciation of the
character of the great subject of this history, that we should
understand the nature of the domestic influences that reigned in the
family from which she sprung. In fact, it is due, as a matter of simple
justice to her, that we should know what these influences were, and what
were the examples set before her in her early life; since the privileges
and advantages which the young enjoy in their early years, and, on the
other hand, the evil influences under which they suffer, are to be taken
very seriously into the account when we are passing judgment upon the
follies and sins into which they subsequently fall.

The monster Physcon lived, it is true, two or three generations before
the great Cleopatra; but the character of the intermediate generations,
until the time of her birth, continued much the same. In fact, the
cruelty, corruption, and vice which reigned in every branch of the royal
family increased rather than diminished. The beautiful niece of Physcon,
who, at the time of her compulsory marriage with him, evinced such an
aversion to the monster, had become, at the period of her husband's
death, as great a monster of ambition, selfishness, and cruelty as he.
She had two sons, Lathyrus and Alexander. Physcon, when he died, left
the kingdom of Egypt to her by will, authorizing her to associate with
her in the government whichever of these two sons she might choose. The
oldest was best entitled to this privilege, by his priority of birth;
but she preferred the youngest, as she thought that her own power would
be more absolute in reigning in conjunction with him, since he would be
more completely under her control. The leading powers, however, in
Alexandria, resisted this plan, and insisted on Cleopatra's associating
her oldest son, Lathyrus, with her in the government of the realm. They
compelled her to recall Lathyrus from the banishment into which she had
sent him, and to put him nominally upon the throne. Cleopatra yielded to
this necessity, but she forced her son to repudiate his wife, and to
take, instead, another woman, whom she fancied she could make more
subservient to her will. The mother and the son went on together for a
time, Lathyrus being nominally king, though her determination that she
would rule, and his struggles to resist her intolerable tyranny, made
their wretched household the scene of terrible a perpetual quarrels. At
last Cleopatra seized a number of Lathyrus's servants, the eunuchs who
were employed in various offices about the palace, and after wounding
and mutilating them in a horrible manner, she exhibited them to the
populace, saying that it was Lathyrus that had inflicted the cruel
injuries upon the sufferers, and calling upon them to arise and punish
him for his crimes. In this and in other similar ways she awakened among
the people of the court and of the city such an animosity against
Lathyrus, that they expelled him from the country. There followed a long
series of cruel and bloody wars, between the mother and the son in the
course of which each party perpetrated against the other almost every
imaginable deed of atrocity and crime. Alexander, the youngest son was
so afraid of his terrible mother, that he did not dare to remain in
Alexandria with her, but went into a sort of banishment of his own
accord. He, however, finally returned to Egypt. His mother immediately
supposed that he was intending to disturb her possession of power, and
resolved to destroy him. He became acquainted with her designs, and,
grown desperate by the long-continued pressure of her intolerable
tyranny, he resolved to bring the anxiety and terror in which he lived
to an end by killing her. This he did, and then fled the country.
Lathyrus, his brother, then returned, and reigned for the rest of his
days in a tolerable degree of quietness and peace. At length Lathyrus
died, and left the kingdom to his son, Ptolemy Auletes, who was the
great Cleopatra's father.

We can not soften the picture which is exhibited to our view in the
history of this celebrated family, by regarding the mother of Auletes,
in the masculine and merciless trails and principles which she displayed
so energetically throughout her terrible career, as an exception to the
general character of the princesses who appeared from time to time in
the line. In ambition, selfishness, unnatural and reckless cruelty, and
utter disregard of every virtuous principle and of every domestic tie,
she was but the type and representative of all the rest.

She had two daughters, for example, who were the consistent and worthy
followers of such a mother. A passage in the lives of these sisters
illustrates very forcibly the kind of sisterly affection which prevailed
in the family of the Ptolemies. The case was this:

There were two princes of Syria, a country lying northeast of the
Mediterranean Sea, and so not very far from Egypt, who, though they were
brothers, were in a state of most deadly hostility to each other. One
had attempted to poison the other, and afterward a war had broken out
between them, and all Syria was suffering from the ravages of their
armies. One of the sisters, of whom we have been speaking, married one
of these princes. Her name was Tryphena. After some time, but yet while
the unnatural war was still raging between the two brothers, Cleopatra,
the other sister--the same Cleopatra, in fact, that had been divorced
from Lathyrus at the instance of his mother--espoused the other brother.
Tryphena was exceedingly incensed against Cleopatra for marrying her
husband's mortal foe, and the implacable hostility and hate of the
sisters was thenceforth added to that which the brothers had before
exhibited, to complete the display of unnatural and parricidal passion
which this shameful contest presented to the world.

In fact, Tryphena from this time seemed to feel a new and highly-excited
interest in the contest, from her eager desire to revenge herself on her
sister. She watched the progress of it, and took an active part in
pressing forward the active prosecution of the war. The party of her
husband, either from this or some other causes, seemed to be gaining the
day. The husband of Cleopatra was driven from one part of the country to
another, and at length, in order to provide for the security of his
wife, he left her in Antioch, a large and strongly-fortified city, where
he supposed that she would be safe, while he himself was engaged in
prosecuting the war in other quarters where his presence seemed to be

On learning that her sister was at Antioch, Tryphena urged her husband
to attack the place. He accordingly advanced with a strong detachment of
the army, and besieged and took the city. Cleopatra would, of course,
have fallen into his hands as a captive; but, to escape this fate, she
fled to a temple for refuge. A temple was considered, in those days, an
inviolable sanctuary. The soldiers accordingly left her there. Tryphena,
however, made a request that her husband would deliver the unhappy
fugitive into her hands. She was determined, she said, to kill her. Her
husband remonstrated with her against this atrocious proposal. "It would
be a wholly useless act of cruelty," said he, "to destroy her life. She
can do us no possible harm in the future progress of the war, while to
murder her under these circumstances will only exasperate her husband
and her friends, and nerve them with new strength for the remainder of
the contest. And then, besides, she has taken refuge in a temple; and if
we violate that sanctuary, we shall incur, by such an act of sacrilege,
the implacable displeasure of Heaven. Consider, too, that she is your
sister, and for you to kill her would be to commit an unnatural and
wholly inexcusable crime."

So saying, he commanded Tryphena to say no more upon the subject, for he
would on no account consent that Cleopatra should suffer any injury

This refusal on the part of her husband to comply with her request only
inflamed Tryphena's insane resentment and anger the more. In fact, the
earnestness with which he espoused her sister's cause, and the interest
which he seemed to feel in her fate, aroused Tryphena's jealousy. She
believed, or pretended to believe, that her husband was influenced by a
sentiment of love in so warmly defending her. The object of her hate,
from being simply an enemy, became now, in her view, a rival, and she
resolved that, at all hazards, she should be destroyed. She accordingly
ordered a body of desperate soldiers to break into the temple and seize
her. Cleopatra fled in terror to the altar, and clung to it with such
convulsive force that the soldiers cut her hands off before they could
tear her away, and then, maddened by her resistance and the sight of
blood, they stabbed her again and again upon the floor of the temple,
where she fell. The appalling shrieks with which the wretched victim
filled the air in the first moments of her flight and her terror,
subsided, as her life ebbed away, into the most awful imprecations of
the judgments of Heaven upon the head of the unnatural sister whose
implacable hate had destroyed her.

Notwithstanding the specimens that we have thus given of the character
and action of this extraordinary family, the government of this dynasty,
extending, as it did, through the reigns of thirteen sovereigns and over
a period of nearly three hundred years, has always been considered one
of the most liberal, enlightened, and prosperous of all the governments
of ancient times. We shall have something to say in the next chapter in
respect to the internal condition of the country while these violent men
were upon the throne. In the mean time, we will here only add, that
whoever is inclined, in observing the ambition, the selfishness, the
party spirit, the unworthy intrigues, and the irregularities of moral
conduct, which modern rulers and statesmen sometimes exhibit to mankind
in their personal and political career, to believe in a retrogression
and degeneracy of national character as the world advances in age, will
be very effectually undeceived by reading attentively a full history of
this celebrated dynasty, and reflecting, as he reads, that the narrative
presents, on the whole, a fair and honest exhibition of the general
character of the men by whom, in ancient times, the world was governed.



Internal administration of the Ptolemies.--Industry of the people.--Its
happy effects.--Idleness the parent of vice.--An idle aristocracy
generally vicious.--Degradation and vice.--Employment a cure for
both.--Greatness of Alexandria.--Situation of its port.--Warehouses and
granaries.--Business of the port.--Scenes within the city.--The natives
protected in their industry.--Public edifices.--The light-house.--Fame
of the light-house.--Its conspicuous position.--Mode of lighting the
tower.--Modern method--The architect of the Pharos.--His ingenious
stratagem.--Ruins of the Pharos.--The Alexandrian library.--Immense
magnitude of the library.--The Serapion.--The Serapis of Egypt.--The
Serapis of Greece.--Ptolemy's dream.--Importance of the
statue.--Ptolemy's proposal to the King of Sinope.--His ultimate
success.--Mode of obtaining books.--The Jewish Scriptures.--Seclusion of
the Jews.--Interest felt in their Scriptures.--Jewish slaves in
Egypt.--Ptolemy's designs.--Ptolemy liberates the slaves.--Their ransom
paid.--Ptolemy's success.--The Septuagint.--Early copies of the
Septuagint.--Present copies.--Various other plans of the
Ptolemies.--Means of raising money.--Heavy taxes.--Poverty of the
people.--Ancient and modern capitals.--Liberality of the
Ptolemies.--Splendor and renown of Alexandria.--Her great rival.

It must not be imagined by the reader that the scenes of vicious
indulgence, and reckless cruelty and crime, which were exhibited with
such dreadful frequency, and carried to such an enormous excess in the
palaces of the Egyptian kings, prevailed to the same extent throughout
the mass of the community during the period of their reign. The internal
administration of government, and the institutions by which the
industrial pursuits of the mass of the people were regulated, and peace
and order preserved, and justice enforced between man and man, were all
this time in the hands of men well qualified, on the whole, for the
trusts committed to their charge, and in a good degree faithful in the
performance of their duties; and thus the ordinary affairs of
government, and the general routine of domestic and social life, went
on, notwithstanding the profligacy of the kings, in a course of very
tolerable peace, prosperity, and happiness. During every one of the
three hundred years over which the history of the Ptolemies extends, the
whole length and breadth of the land of Egypt exhibited, with
comparatively few interruptions, one wide-spread scene of busy industry.
The inundations came at their appointed season, and then regularly
retired. The boundless fields which the waters had fertilized were then
every where tilled. The lands were plowed; the seed was sown; the canals
and water-courses, which ramified from the river in every direction over
the ground, were opened or closed, as the case required, to regulate the
irrigation. The inhabitants were busy, and, consequently, they were
virtuous. And as the sky of Egypt is seldom or never darkened by clouds
and storms, the scene presented to the eye the same unchanging aspect of
smiling verdure and beauty, day after day, and month after month, until
the ripened grain was gathered into the store-houses, and the land was
cleared for another inundation.

We say that the people were virtuous because they were busy; for there
is no principle of political economy more fully established than that
vice in the social state is the incident and symptom of idleness. It
prevails always in those classes of every great population who are
either released by the possession of fixed and unchangeable wealth from
the necessity, or excluded by their poverty and degradation from the
advantage, of useful employment. Wealth that is free, and subject to its
possessor's control, so that he can, if he will, occupy himself in the
management of it, while it sometimes may make individuals vicious, does
not generally corrupt classes of men, for it does not make them idle.
But wherever the institutions of a country are such as to create an
aristocratic class, whose incomes depend on entailed estates, or on
fixed and permanent annuities, so that the capital on which they live
can not afford them any mental occupation, they are doomed necessarily
to inaction and idleness. Vicious pleasures and indulgences are, with
such a class as a whole, the inevitable result; for the innocent
enjoyments of man are planned and designed by the Author of Nature only
for the intervals of rest and repose in a life of activity. They are
always found wholly insufficient to satisfy one who makes pleasure the
whole end and aim of his being.

In the same manner, if, either from the influence of the social
institutions of a country, or from the operation of natural causes which
human power is unable to control, there is a class of men too low, and
degraded, and miserable to be reached by the ordinary inducements to
daily toil, so certain are they to grow corrupt and depraved, that
degradation has become in all languages a term almost synonymous with
vice. There are many exceptions, it is true, to these general laws. Many
active men are very wicked; and there have been frequent instances of
the most exalted virtue among nobles and kings. Still, as a general law,
it is unquestionably true that vice is the incident of idleness; and the
sphere of vice, therefore, is at the top and at the bottom of society--
those being the regions in which idleness reigns. The great remedy, too,
for vice is employment. To make a community virtuous, it is essential
that all ranks and gradations of it, from the highest to the lowest,
should have something to do.

In accordance with these principles, we observe that, while the most
extreme and abominable wickedness seemed to hold continual and absolute
sway in the palaces of the Ptolemies, and among the nobles of their
courts, the working ministers of state, and the men on whom the actual
governmental functions devolved, discharged their duties with wisdom and
fidelity, and throughout all the ordinary ranks and gradations of
society there prevailed generally a very considerable degree of
industry, prosperity and happiness. This prosperity prevailed not only
in the rural districts of the Delta and along the valley of the Nile,
but also among the merchants, and navigators, and artisans of

Alexandria became, in fact, very soon after it was founded, a very great
and busy city. Many things conspired to make it at once a great
commercial emporium. In the first place, it was the depot of export for
all the surplus grain and other agricultural produce which was raised in
such abundance along the Egyptian valley. This produce was brought down
in boats to the upper point of the Delta, where the branches of the
river divided, and thence down the Canopic branch to the city. The city
was not, in fact, situated directly upon this branch, but upon a narrow
tongue of land, at a little distance from it, near the sea. It was not
easy to enter the channel directly, on account of the bars and
sand-banks at its mouth, produced by the eternal conflict between the
waters of the river and the surges of the sea. The water was deep,
however, as Alexander's engineers had discovered, at the place where the
city was built, and, by establishing the port there, and then cutting a
canal across to the Nile, they were enabled to bring the river and the
sea at once into easy communication.

The produce of the valley was thus brought down the river and through
the canal to the city. Here immense warehouses and granaries were
erected for its reception, that it might be safely preserved until the
ships that came into the port were ready to take it away. These ships
came from Syria, from all the coasts of Asia Minor, from Greece, and
from Rome. They brought the agricultural productions of their own
countries, as well as articles of manufacture of various kinds; these
they sold to the merchants of Alexandria, and purchased the productions
of Egypt in return.

The port of Alexandria presented thus a constant picture of life and
animation. Merchant ships were continually coming and going, or lying at
anchor in the roadstead. Seamen were hoisting sails, or raising anchors,
or rowing their capacious galleys through the water, singing, as they
pulled, to the motion of the oars. Within the city there was the same
ceaseless activity. Here groups of men were unloading the canal boats
which had arrived from the river. There porters were transporting bales
of merchandise or sacks of grain from a warehouse to a pier, or from one
landing to another The occasional parading of the king's guards, or the
arrival and departure of ships of war to land or to take away bodies of
armed men, were occurrences that sometimes intervened to interrupt, or
as perhaps the people then would have said, to adorn this scene of
useful industry; and now and then, for a brief period, these peaceful
vocations would be wholly suspended and set aside by a revolt or by a
civil war, waged by rival brothers against each other, or instigated by
the conflicting claims of a mother and son. These interruptions,
however, were comparatively few, and, in ordinary cases, not of long
continuance. It was for the interest of all branches of the royal line
to do as little injury as possible to the commercial and agricultural
operations of the realm. In fact, it was on the prosperity of those
operations that the revenues depended. The rulers were well aware of
this, and so, however implacably two rival princes may have hated one
another, and however desperately each party may have struggled to
destroy all active combatants whom they should find in arms against
them, they were both under every possible inducement to spare the
private property and the lives of the peaceful population. This
population, in fact, engaged thus in profitable industry, constituted,
with the avails of their labors, the very estate for which the
combatants were contending.

Seeing the subject in this light, the Egyptian sovereigns, especially
Alexander and the earlier Ptolemies, made every effort in their power to
promote the commercial greatness of Alexandria. They built palaces, it
is true, but they also built warehouses.

One of the most expensive and celebrated of all the edifices that they
reared was the light-house which has been already alluded to. This
light-house was a lofty tower, built of white marble. It was situated
upon the island of Pharos, opposite to the city, and at some distance
from it. There was a sort of isthmus of shoals and sand-bars connecting
the island with the shore. Over these shallows a pier or causeway was
built, which finally became a broad and inhabited neck. The principal
part of the ancient city, however, was on the main land.

The curvature of the earth requires that a light-house on a coast should
have a considerable elevation, otherwise its summit would not appear
above the horizon, unless the mariner were very near. To attain this
elevation, the architects usually take advantage of some hill or cliff,
or rocky eminence near the shore. There was, however, no opportunity to
do this at Pharos; for the island was, like the main land, level and
low. The requisite elevation could only be attained, therefore, by the
masonry of an edifice, and the blocks of marble necessary for the work
had to be brought from a great distance. The Alexandrian light-house was
reared in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, the second monarch in the
line. No pains or expense were spared in its construction. The edifice,
when completed, was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. It
was indebted for its fame, however, in some degree, undoubtedly to the
conspicuousness of its situation, rising, as it did, at the entrance of
the greatest commercial emporium of its time, and standing there, like a
pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, to attract the welcome gaze
of every wandering mariner whose ship came within its horizon, and to
awaken his gratitude by tendering him its guidance and dispelling his

The light at the top of the tower was produced by a fire, made of such
combustibles as would emit the brightest flame. This fire burned slowly
through the day, and then was kindled up anew when the sun went down,
and was continually replenished through the night with fresh supplies of
fuel. In modern times, a much more convenient and economical mode is
adopted to produce the requisite illumination. A great blazing lamp
burns brilliantly in the center of the lantern of the tower, and all
that part of the radiation from the flame which would naturally have
beamed upward, or downward, or laterally, or back toward the land, is so
turned by a curious system of reflectors and polyzonal lenses, most
ingeniously contrived and very exactly adjusted, as to be thrown forward
in one broad and thin, but brilliant sheet of light, which shoots out
where its radiance is needed, over the surface of the sea. Before these
inventions were perfected, far the largest portion of the light emitted
by the illumination of light-house towers streamed away wastefully in
landward directions, or was lost among the stars.

Of course, the glory of erecting such an edifice as the Pharos of
Alexandria, and of maintaining it in the performance of its functions,
was very great; the question might, however, very naturally arise
whether this glory was justly due to the architect through whose
scientific skill the work was actually accomplished, or to the monarch
by whose power and resources the architect was sustained. The name of
the architect was Sostratus. He was a Greek. The monarch was, as has
already been stated, the second Ptolemy, called commonly Ptolemy
Philadelphus. Ptolemy ordered that, in completing the tower, a marble
tablet should be built into the wall, at a suitable place near the
summit, and that a proper inscription should be carved upon it, with his
name as the builder of the edifice conspicuous thereon. Sostratus
preferred inserting his own name. He accordingly made the tablet and set
it in its place. He cut the inscription upon the face of it, in Greek
characters, with his own name as the author of the work. He did this
secretly, and then covered the face of the tablet with an artificial
composition, made with lime, to imitate the natural surface of the
stone. On this outer surface he cut a new inscription, in which he
inserted the name of the king. In process of time the lime moldered
away, the king's inscription disappeared, and his own, which
thenceforward continued as long as the building endured, came out to

The Pharos was said to have been four hundred feet high. It was famed
throughout the world for many centuries; nothing, however, remains of it
now but a heap of useless and unmeaning ruins.

Besides the light that beamed from the summit of this lofty tower, there
was another center of radiance and illumination in ancient Alexandria,
which was in some respects still more conspicuous and renowned, namely,
an immense library and museum established and maintained by the
Ptolemies. The Museum, which was first established, was not, as its name
might now imply, a collection of curiosities, but an institution of
learning, consisting of a body of learned men, who devoted their time to
philosophical and scientific pursuits. The institution was richly
endowed, and magnificent buildings were erected for its use. The king
who established it began immediately to make a collection of books for
the use of the members of the institution. This was attended with great
expense, as every book that was added to the collection required to be
transcribed with a pen on parchment or papyrus with infinite labor and
care. Great numbers of scribes were constantly employed upon this work
at the Museum. The kings who were most interested in forming this
library would seize the books that were possessed by individual
scholars, or that were deposited in the various cities of their
dominions, and then, causing beautiful copies of them to be made by the
scribes of the Museum, they would retain the originals for the great
Alexandrian library, and give the copies to the men or the cities that
had been thus despoiled. In the same manner they would borrow, as they
called it, from all travelers who visited Egypt, any valuable books
which they might have in their possession, and, retaining the originals,
give them back copies instead.

In process of time the library increased to four hundred thousand
volumes. There was then no longer any room in the buildings of the
Museum for further additions. There was, however, in another part of the
city, a great temple called the Serapion. This temple was a very
magnificent edifice, or, rather, group of edifices, dedicated to the god
Serapis. The origin and history of this temple were very remarkable. The
legend was this:

It seems that one of the ancient and long-venerated gods of the
Egyptians was a deity named Serapis. He had been, among other
divinities, the object of Egyptian adoration ages before Alexandria was
built or the Ptolemies reigned. There was also, by a curious
coincidence, a statue of the same name at a great commercial town named
Sinope, which was built upon the extremity of a promontory which
projected from Asia Minor into the Euxine Sea. Sinope was, in some
sense, the Alexandria of the north, being the center and seat of a great
portion of the commerce of that quarter of the world.

The Serapis of Sinope was considered as the protecting deity of seamen,
and the navigators who came and went to and from the city made
sacrifices to him, and offered him oblations and prayers, believing that
they were, in a great measure, dependent upon some mysterious and
inscrutable power which he exercised for their safety in storms. They
carried the knowledge of his name, and tales of his imaginary
interpositions, to all the places that they visited; and thus the fame
of the god became extended, first, to all the coasts of the Euxine Sea,
and subsequently to distant provinces and kingdoms. The Serapis of
Sinope began to be considered every where as the tutelar god of seamen.

Accordingly, when the first of the Ptolemies was forming his various
plans for adorning and aggrandizing Alexandria, he received, he said,
one night, a divine intimation in a dream that he was to obtain the
statue of Serapis from Sinope, and set it up in Alexandria, in a
suitable temple which he was in the mean time to erect in honor of the
god. It is obvious that very great advantages to the city would result
from the accomplishment of this design. In the first place, a temple to
the god Serapis would be a new distinction for it in the minds of the
rural population, who would undoubtedly suppose that the deity honored
by it was their own ancient god. Then the whole maritime and nautical
interest of the world, which had been, accustomed to adore the god of
Sinope, would turn to Alexandria as the great center of religious
attraction, if their venerated idol could be carried and placed in a new
and magnificent temple built expressly for him there. Alexandria could
never be the chief naval port and station of the world, unless it
contained the sanctuary and shrine of the god of seamen.

Ptolemy sent accordingly to the King of Sinope and proposed to purchase
the idol. The embassage was, however, unsuccessful. The king refused to
give up the god. The negotiations were continued for two years, but all
in vain. At length, on account of some failure in the regular course of
the seasons on that coast, there was a famine there, which became
finally so severe that the people of the city were induced to consent to
give up their deity to the Egyptians in exchange for a supply of corn.
Ptolemy sent the corn and received the idol. He then built the temple,
which, when finished, surpassed in grandeur and magnificence almost
every sacred structure in the world.

It was in this temple that the successive additions to the Alexandrian
library were deposited, when the apartments of the Museum became full.
In the end there were four hundred thousand rolls or volumes in the
Museum, and three hundred thousand in the Serapion. The former was
called the parent library, and the latter, being, as it were, the
offspring of the first, was called the daughter.

Ptolemy Philadelphus, who interested himself very greatly in collecting
this library, wished to make it a complete collection of all the books
in the world. He employed scholars to read and study, and travelers to
make extensive tours, for the purpose of learning what books existed
among all the surrounding nations; and, when he learned of their
existence, he spared no pains or expense in attempting to procure either
the originals themselves, or the most perfect and authentic copies of
them. He sent to Athens and obtained the works of the most celebrated
Greek historians, and then causing, as in other cases, most beautiful
transcripts to be made, he sent the transcripts back to Athens, and a
very large sum of money with them as an equivalent for the difference of
value between originals and copies in such an exchange.

In the course of the inquiries which Ptolemy made into the literature of
the surrounding nations, in his search for accessions to his library, he
heard that the Jews had certain sacred writings in their temple at
Jerusalem, comprising a minute and extremely interesting history of
their nation from the earliest periods and also many other books of
sacred prophecy and poetry. These books, which were, in fact, the Hebrew
Scriptures of the Old Testament, were then wholly unknown to all nations
except the Jews, and among the Jews were known only to priests and
scholars. They were kept sacred at Jerusalem. The Jews would have
considered them as profaned in being exhibited to the view of pagan
nations. In fact, the learned men of other countries would not have been
able to read them; for the Jews secluded themselves so closely from the
rest of mankind, that their language was, in that age, scarcely ever
heard beyond the confines of Judea and Galilee.

Ptolemy very naturally thought that a copy of these sacred books would
be a great acquisition to his library. They constituted, in fact, the
whole literature of a nation which was, in some respects, the most
extraordinary that ever existed on the globe. Ptolemy conceived the
idea, also, of not only adding to his library a copy of these writings
in the original Hebrew, but of causing a translation of them to be made
into Greek, so that they might easily be read by the Greek and Roman
scholars who were drawn in great numbers to his capital by the libraries
and the learned institutions which he had established there. The first
thing to be effected, however, in accomplishing either of these plans,
was to obtain the consent of the Jewish authorities. They would probably
object to giving up any copy of their sacred writings at all.

There was one circumstance which led Ptolemy to imagine that the Jews
would, at that time particularly, be averse to granting any request of
such a nature coming from an Egyptian king, and that was, that during
certain wars which had taken place in previous reigns, a considerable
number of prisoners had been taken by the Egyptians, and had been
brought to Egypt as captives, where they had been sold to the
inhabitants, and were now scattered over the land as slaves. They were
employed as servile laborers in tilling the fields, or in turning
enormous wheels to pump up water from the Nile. The masters of these
hapless bondmen conceived, like other slave-holders, that they had a
right of property in their slaves. This was in some respects true, since
they had bought them of the government at the close of the war for a
consideration; and though they obviously derived from this circumstance
no valid proprietary right or claim as against the men personally, it
certainly would seem that it gave them a just claim against the
government of whom they bought, in case of subsequent manumission.

Ptolemy or his minister, for it can not now be known who was the real
actor in these transactions, determined on liberating these slaves and
sending them back to their native land, as a means of propitiating the
Jews and inclining them to listen favorably to the request which he was
about to prefer for a copy of their sacred writings. He, however, paid
to those who held the captives a very liberal sum for ransom. The
ancient historians, who never allow the interest of their narratives to
suffer for want of a proper amplification on their part of the scale on
which the deeds which they record were performed, say that the number of
slaves liberated on this occasion was a hundred and twenty thousand, and
the sum paid for them, as compensation to the owners, was six hundred
talents, equal to six hundred thousand dollars.[1]

[Footnote 1: It will be sufficiently accurate for the general
reader of history to consider the Greek talent, referred to in
such transactions as these, as equal in English money to two
hundred and fifty pounds, in American to a thousand dollars.
It is curious to observe that, large as the total was that was
paid for the liberation of these slaves, the amount paid for
each individual was, after all, only a sum equal to about five

And yet this was only a preliminary expense to pave the way for the
acquisition of a single series of books, to add to the variety of the
immense collection.

After the liberation and return of the captives, Ptolemy sent a splendid
embassage to Jerusalem, with very respectful letters to the high priest,
and with very magnificent presents. The embassadors were received with
the highest honors. The request of Ptolemy that he should be allowed to
take a copy of the sacred books for his library was very readily
granted. The priests caused copies to be made of all the sacred
writings. These copies were executed in the most magnificent style, and
were splendidly illuminated with letters of gold. The Jewish government
also, at Ptolemy's request, designated a company of Hebrew scholars, six
from each tribe--men learned in both the Greek and Hebrew languages--to
proceed to Alexandria, and there, at the Museum, to make a careful
translation of the Hebrew books into Greek. As there were twelve tribes,
and six translators chosen from each, there were seventy-two translators
in all. They made their translation, and it was called the _Septuagini_,
from the Latin _septuaginta duo_, which means seventy-two.

Although out of Judea there was no feeling of reverence for these Hebrew
Scriptures as books of divine authority, there was still a strong
interest felt in them as very entertaining and curious works of history,
by all the Greek and Roman scholars who frequented Alexandria to study
at the Museum. Copies were accordingly made of the Septuagint
translation, and were taken to other countries; and there, in process of
time, copies of the copies were made, until at length the work became
extensively circulated throughout the whole learned world. When,
finally, Christianity became extended over the Roman empire, the priests
and monks looked with even a stronger interest than the ancient scholars
had felt upon this early translation of so important a portion of the
sacred Scriptures. They made new copies for abbeys, monasteries, and
colleges; and when, at length, the art of printing was discovered, this
work was one of the first on which the magic power of typography was
tried. The original manuscript made by the scribes of the seventy-two,
and all the early transcripts which were made from it, have long since
been lost or destroyed; but, instead of them, we have now hundreds of
thousands of copies in compact printed volumes, scattered among the
public and private libraries of Christendom. In fact, now, after the
lapse of two thousand years, a copy of Ptolemy's Septuagint may be
obtained of any considerable bookseller in any country of the civilized
world; and though it required a national embassage, and an expenditure,
if the accounts are true, of more than a million of dollars, originally
to obtain it, it may be procured without difficulty now by two days'
wages of an ordinary laborer.

Besides the building of the Pharos, the Museum, and the Temple of
Serapis, the early Ptolemies formed and executed a great many other
plans tending to the same ends which the erection of these splendid
edifices was designed to secure, namely, to concentrate in Alexandria
all possible means of attraction, commercial, literary, and religious,
so as to make the city the great center of interest, and the common
resort for all mankind. They raised immense revenues for these and other
purposes by taxing heavily the whole agricultural produce of the valley
of the Nile. The inundations, by the boundless fertility which they
annually produced, supplied the royal treasuries. Thus the Abyssinian
rains at the sources of the Nile built the Pharos at its mouth, and
endowed the Alexandrian library.

The taxes laid upon the people of Egypt to supply the Ptolemies with
funds were, in fact, so heavy, that only the bare means of subsistence
were left to the mass of the agricultural population. In admiring the
greatness and glory of the city, therefore, we must remember that there
was a gloomy counterpart to its splendor in the very extended
destitution and poverty to which the mass of the people were everywhere
doomed. They lived in hamlets of wretched huts along the banks of the
river, in order that the capital might be splendidly adorned with
temples and palaces. They passed their lives in darkness and ignorance,
that seven hundred thousand volumes of expensive manuscripts might be
enrolled at the Museum for the use of foreign philosophers and scholars.
The policy of the Ptolemies was, perhaps, on the whole, the best, for
the general advancement and ultimate welfare of mankind, which could
have been pursued in the age in which they lived and acted; but, in
applauding the results which they attained, we must not wholly forget
the cost which they incurred in attaining them. At the same cost, we
could, at the present day, far surpass them. If the people of the United
States will surrender the comforts and conveniences which they
individually enjoy--if the farmers scattered in their comfortable homes
on the hill-sides and plains throughout the land will give up their
houses, their furniture, their carpets, their books, and the privileges
of their children, and then--withholding from the produce of their
annual toil only a sufficient reservation to sustain them and their
families through the year, in a life like that of a beast of burden,
spent in some miserable and naked hovel--send the rest to some
hereditary sovereign residing upon the Atlantic sea-board, that he may
build with the proceeds a splendid capital, they may have an Alexandria
now that will infinitely exceed the ancient city of the Ptolemies in
splendor and renown. The nation, too, would, in such a case, pay for its
metropolis the same price, precisely, that the ancient Egyptians paid
for theirs.

The Ptolemies expended the revenues which they raised by this taxation
mainly in a very liberal and enlightened manner, for the accomplishment
of the purposes which they had in view. The building of the Pharos, the
removal of the statue of Serapis, and the endowment of the Museum and
the library were great conceptions, and they were carried into effect in
the most complete and perfect manner. All the other operations which
they devised and executed for the extension and aggrandizement of the
city were conceived and executed in the same spirit of scientific and
enlightened liberality. Streets were opened; the most splendid palaces
were built; docks, piers and breakwaters were constructed, and
fortresses and towers were armed and garrisoned. Then every means was
employed to attract to the city a great concourse from all the most
highly-civilized nations then existing. The highest inducements were
offered to merchants, mechanics, and artisans to make the city their
abode. Poets, painters, sculptors, and scholars of every nation and
degree were made welcome, and every facility was afforded them for the
prosecution of their various pursuits. These plans were all eminently
successful. Alexandria rose rapidly to the highest consideration and
importance; and, at the time when Cleopatra--born to preside over this
scene of magnificence and splendor--came upon the stage, the city had
but one rival in the world. That rival was Rome.



Rome the rival of Alexandria.--Extent of their rule.--Extension of the
Roman empire.--Cleopatra's father.--Ptolemy's ignoble birth.--Caesar and
Pompey.--Ptolemy purchases the alliance of Rome.--Taxes to raise the
money.--Revolt at Alexandria.--Ptolemy's flight.--Berenice.--Her
marriage with Seleucus.--Cleopatra's early life.--Ptolemy an object of
contempt.--Ptolemy's interview with Cato.--Character of
Cato.--Ptolemy's reception.--Cato's advice to him.--Ptolemy arrives at
Rome.--His application to Pompey.--Action of the Roman senate.--Plans
for restoring Ptolemy.--Measures of Berenice.--Her embassage to
Rome.--Ptolemy's treachery.--Its consequences.--Opposition to
Ptolemy.--The prophecy.--Attempts to evade the oracle.--Gabinius
undertakes the cause.--Mark Antony.--His history and character.--Antony
in Greece.--He joins Gabinius.--Danger of crossing the deserts.--Armies
destroyed.--Mark Antony's character.--His personal appearance.--March
across the desert.--Pelusium taken.--March across the Delta.--Success
of the Romans.--Berenice a prisoner.--Fate of Archelaus.--Grief of
Antony.--Unnatural joy of Ptolemy.

When the time was approaching in which Cleopatra appeared upon the
stage, Rome was perhaps the only city that could be considered as the
rival of Alexandria, in the estimation of mankind, in respect to
interest and attractiveness as a capital. In one respect, Rome was
vastly superior to the Egyptian metropolis, and that was in the
magnitude and extent of the military power which it wielded among the
nations of the earth. Alexandria ruled over Egypt, and over a few of the
neighboring coasts and islands; but in the course of the three centuries
during which she had been acquiring her greatness and fame, the Roman
empire had extended itself over almost the whole civilized world. Egypt
had been, thus far, too remote to be directly reached; but the affairs
of Egypt itself became involved at length with the operations of the
Roman power, about the time of Cleopatra's birth, in a very striking and
peculiar manner; and as the consequences of the transaction were the
means of turning the whole course of the queen's subsequent history, a
narration of it is necessary to a proper understanding of the
circumstances under which she commenced her career. In fact, it was the
extension of the Roman empire to the limits of Egypt, and the
connections which thence arose between the leading Roman generals and
the Egyptian sovereign, which have made the story of this particular
queen so much more conspicuous, as an object of interest and attention
to mankind, than that of any other one of the ten Cleopatras who rose
successively in the same royal line.

Ptolemy Auletes, Cleopatra's father, was perhaps, in personal character,
the most dissipated, degraded, and corrupt of all the sovereigns in the
dynasty. He spent his whole time in vice and debauchery. The only honest
accomplishment that he seemed to possess was his skill in playing upon
the flute; of this he was very vain. He instituted musical contests, in
which the musical performers of Alexandria played for prizes and crowns;
and he himself was accustomed to enter the lists with the rest as a
competitor. The people of Alexandria, and the world in general,
considered such pursuits as these wholly unworthy the attention of the
representative of so illustrious a line of sovereigns, and the
abhorrence which they felt for the monarch's vices and crimes was
mingled with a feeling of contempt for the meanness of his ambition.

There was a doubt in respect to his title to the crown, for his birth,
on the mother's side, was irregular and ignoble. Instead, however, of
attempting to confirm and secure his possession of power by a vigorous
and prosperous administration of the government, he wholly abandoned all
concern in respect to the course of public affairs; and then, to guard
against the danger of being deposed, he conceived the plan of getting
himself recognized at Rome as one of the allies of the Roman people. If
this were once done, he supposed that the Roman government would feel
under an obligation to sustain him on his throne in the event of any
threatened danger.

The Roman government was a sort of republic, and the two most powerful
men in the state at this time were Pompey and Caesar. Caesar was in the
ascendency at Rome at the time that Ptolemy made his application for an
alliance. Pompey was absent in Asia Minor, being engaged in prosecuting
a war with Mithradates, a very powerful monarch, who was at that time
resisting the Roman power. Caesar was very deeply involved in debt, and
was, moreover, very much in need of money, not only for relief from
existing embarrassments, but as a means of subsequent expenditure, to
enable him to accomplish certain great political schemes which he was
entertaining. After many negotiations and delays, it was agreed that
Caesar would exert his influence to secure an alliance between the Roman
people and Ptolemy, on condition that Ptolemy paid him the sum of six
thousand talents, equal to about six millions of dollars. A part of the
money, Caesar said, was for Pompey.

The title of ally was conferred, and Ptolemy undertook to raise the
money which he had promised by increasing the taxes of his kingdom. The
measures, however, which he thus adopted for the purpose of making
himself the more secure in his possession of the throne, proved to be
the means of overthrowing him. The discontent and disaffection of his
people, which had been strong and universal before, though suppressed
and concealed, broke out now into open violence. That there should be
laid upon them, in addition to all their other burdens, these new
oppressions, heavier than those which they had endured before, and
exacted for such a purpose too, was not to be endured. To be compelled
to see their country sold on any terms to the Roman people was
sufficiently hard to bear; but to be forced to raise, themselves, and
pay the price of the transfer, was absolutely intolerable. Alexandria
commenced a revolt. Ptolemy was not a man to act decidedly against such
a demonstration, or, in fact, to evince either calmness or courage in
any emergency whatever. His first thought was to escape from Alexandria
to save his life. His second, to make the best of his way to Rome, to
call upon the Roman people to come to the succor of their ally!

Ptolemy left five children behind him in his flight The eldest was the
Princess Berenice, who had already reached maturity. The second was the
great Cleopatra, the subject of this history. Cleopatra was, at this
time, about eleven years old. There were also two sons, but they were
very young. One of them was named Ptolemy.

The Alexandrians determined on raising Berenice to the throne in her
father's place, as soon as his flight was known. They thought that the
sons were too young to attempt to reign in such an emergency, as it was
very probable that Auletes, the father, would attempt to recover his
kingdom. Berenice very readily accepted the honor and power which were
offered to her. She established herself in her father's palace, and
began her reign in great magnificence and splendor. In process of time
she thought that her position would be strengthened by a marriage with a
royal prince from some neighboring realm. She first sent embassadors to
make proposals to a prince of Syria named Antiochus. The embassadors
came back, bringing word that Antiochus was dead, but that he had a
brother named Seleucus, upon whom the succession fell. Berenice then
sent them back to make the same offers to him. He accepted the
proposals, came to Egypt, and he and Berenice were married. After trying
him for a while, Berenice found that, for some reason or other, she did
not like him as a husband, and, accordingly she caused him to be

At length, after various other intrigues and much secret management,
Berenice succeeded in a second negotiation, and married a prince, or a
pretended prince, from some country of Asia Minor, whose name was
Archelaus. She was better pleased with this second husband than she had
been with the first, and she began, at last, to feel somewhat settled
and established on her throne, and to be prepared, as she thought, to
offer effectual resistance to her father in case he should ever attempt
to return.

It was in the midst of the scenes, and surrounded by the influences
which might be expected to prevail in the families of such a father and
such a sister, that Cleopatra spent those years of life in which the
character is formed. During all these revolutions, and exposed to all
these exhibitions of licentious wickedness, and of unnatural cruelty and
crime, she was growing up in the royal palaces a spirited and beautiful,
but indulged and neglected child.

In the mean time, Auletes, the father, went on toward Rome. So far as
his character and his story were known among the surrounding nations, he
was the object of universal obloquy, both on account of his previous
career of degrading vice, and now, still more, for this ignoble flight
from the difficulties in which his vices and crimes had involved him.

He stopped, on the way, at the island of Rhodes. It happened that Cato,
the great Roman philosopher and general, was at Rhodes at this time.
Cato was a man of stern, unbending virtue, and of great influence at
that period in public affairs. Ptolemy sent a messenger to inform Cato
of his arrival, supposing, of course, that the Roman general would
hasten, on hearing of the fact, to pay his respects to so great a
personage as he, a king of Egypt--a Ptolemy--though suffering under a
temporary reverse of fortune. Cato directed the messenger to reply that,
so far as he was aware, he had no particular business with Ptolemy.
"Say, however, to the king," he added, "that, if he has any business
with me, he may call and see me, if he pleases."

Ptolemy was obliged to suppress his resentment and submit. He thought it
very essential to the success of his plans that he should see Cato, and
secure, if possible, his interest and co-operation; and he consequently
made preparations for paying, instead of receiving, the visit, intending
to go in the greatest royal state that he could command. He accordingly
appeared at Cato's lodgings on the following day, magnificently dressed,
and accompanied by many attendants. Cato, who was dressed in the
plainest and most simple manner, and whose apartment was furnished in a
style corresponding with the severity of his character, did not even
rise when the king entered the room. He simply pointed with his hand,
and bade the visitor take a seat.

Ptolemy began to make a statement of his case, with a view to obtaining
Cato's influence with the Roman people to induce them to interpose in
his behalf. Cato, however, far from evincing any disposition to espouse
his visitor's cause, censured him, in the plainest terms, for having
abandoned his proper position in his own kingdom, to go and make himself
a victim and a prey for the insatiable avarice of the Roman leaders.
"You can do nothing at Rome," he said, "but by the influence of bribes;
and all the resources of Egypt will not be enough to satisfy the Roman
greediness for money." He concluded by recommending him to go back to
Alexandria, and rely for his hopes of extrication from the difficulties
which surrounded him on the exercise of his own energy and resolution

Ptolemy was greatly abashed at this rebuff, but, on consultation with
his attendants and followers, it was decided to be too late now to
return. The whole party accordingly re-embarked on board their galleys,
and pursued their way to Rome.

Ptolemy found, on his arrival at the city, that Caesar was absent in
Gaul, while Pompey, on the other hand, who had returned victorious from
his campaigns against Mithradates, was now the great leader of influence
and power at the Capitol. This change of circumstances was not, however,
particularly unfavorable; for Ptolemy was on friendly terms with Pompey,
as he had been with Caesar. He had assisted him in his wars with
Mithradates by sending him a squadron of horse, in pursuance of his
policy of cultivating friendly relations with the Roman people by every
means in his power. Besides, Pompey had received a part of the money
which Ptolemy had paid to Caesar as the price of the Roman alliance, and
was to receive his share of the rest in case Ptolemy should ever be
restored. Pompey was accordingly interested in favoring the royal
fugitive's cause. He received him in his palace, entertained him in
magnificent style, and took immediate measures for bringing his cause
before the Roman Senate, urging upon that body the adoption of immediate
and vigorous measures for effecting his restoration, as an ally whom
they were bound to protect against his rebellious subjects. There was at
first some opposition in the Roman Senate against espousing the cause of
such a man, but it was soon put down, being overpowered in part by
Pompey's authority, and in part silenced by Ptolemy's promises and
bribes. The Senate determined to restore the king to his throne, and
began to make arrangements for carrying the measure into effect.

The Roman provinces nearest to Egypt were Cilicia and Syria, countries
situated on the eastern and northeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea,
north of Judea. The forces stationed in these provinces would be, of
course, the most convenient for furnishing the necessary troops for the
expedition. The province of Cilicia was under the command of the consul
Lentulus. Lentulus was at this time at Rome; he had repaired to the
capital for some temporary purpose, leaving his province and the troops
stationed there under the command, for the time, of a sort of lieutenant
general named Gabinius. It was concluded that this Lentulus, with his
Syrian forces, should undertake the task of reinstating Ptolemy on his

While these plans and arrangements were yet immature, a circumstance
occurred which threatened, for a time, wholly to defeat them. It seems
that when Cleopatra's father first left Egypt, he had caused a report to
be circulated there that he had been killed in the revolt. The object of
this stratagem was to cover and conceal his flight. The government of
Berenice soon discovered the truth, and learned that the fugitive had
gone in the direction of Rome. They immediately inferred that he was
going to appeal to the Roman people for aid, and they determined that,
if that were the case, the Roman people, before deciding in his favor,
should have the opportunity to hear their side of the story as well as
his. They accordingly made preparations at once for sending a very
imposing embassage to Rome. The deputation consisted of more than a
hundred persons. The object of Berenice's government in sending so large
a number was not only to evince their respect for the Roman people, and
their sense of the magnitude of the question at issue, but also to guard
against any efforts that Ptolemy might make to intercept the embassage
on the way, or to buy off the members of it by bribes. The number,
however large as it was, proved insufficient to accomplish this purpose.
The whole Roman world was at this time in such a condition of disorder
and violence, in the hands of the desperate and reckless military
leaders who then bore sway, that there were everywhere abundant
facilities for the commission of any conceivable crime. Ptolemy
contrived, with the assistance of the fierce partisans who had espoused
his cause, and who were deeply interested in his success on account of
the rewards which were promised them, to waylay and destroy a large
proportion of this company before they reached Rome. Some were
assassinated; some were poisoned; some were tampered with and bought off
by bribes. A small remnant reached Rome; but they were so intimidated by
the dangers which surrounded them, that they did not dare to take any
public action in respect to the business which had been committed to
their charge. Ptolemy began to congratulate himself on having completely
circumvented his daughter in her efforts to protect herself against his

Instead of that, however, it soon proved that the effect of this
atrocious treachery was exactly the contrary of what its perpetrators
had expected. The knowledge of the facts became gradually extended among
the people of Rome and it awakened a universal indignation. The party
who had been originally opposed to Ptolemy's cause seized the
opportunity to renew their opposition; and they gained so much strength
from the general odium which Ptolemy's crimes had awakened, that Pompey
found it almost impossible to sustain his cause.

At length the party opposed to Ptolemy found, or pretended to find, in
certain sacred books, called the Sibylline Oracles, which were kept in
the custody of the priests, and were supposed to contain prophetic
intimations of the will of Heaven in respect to the conduct of public
affairs, the following passage:

_"If a king of Egypt should apply to you for aid, treat him in a
friendly manner, but do not furnish him with troops; for if you
do, you will incur great danger."_

This made new difficulty for Ptolemy's friends. They attempted, at
first, to evade this inspired injunction by denying the reality of it.
There was no such passage to be found, they said. It was all an
invention of their enemies. This point seems to have been overruled, and
then they attempted to give the passage some other than the obvious
interpretation. Finally they maintained that, although it prohibited
their furnishing Ptolemy himself with troops, it did not forbid their
sending an armed force into Egypt under leaders of their own. _That_
they could certainly do; and then, when the rebellion was suppressed,
and Berenice's government overthrown, they could invite Ptolemy to
return to his kingdom and resume his crown in a peaceful manner. This,
they alleged, would not be "furnishing him with troops," and, of course
would not be disobeying the oracle.

These attempts to evade the direction of the oracle on the part of
Ptolemy's friends, only made the debates and dissensions between them
and his enemies more violent than ever. Pompey made every effort in his
power to aid Ptolemy's cause; but Lentulus, after long hesitation and
delay, decided that it would not be safe for him to embark in it. At
length, however, Gabinius, the lieutenant who commanded in Syria, was
induced to undertake the enterprise. On certain promises which he
received from Ptolemy, to be performed in case he succeeded, and with a
certain encouragement, not very legal or regular, which Pompey gave him,
in respect to the employment of the Roman troops under his command, he
resolved to march to Egypt. His route, of course, would lie along the
shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and through the desert, to Pelusium,
which has already been mentioned as the frontier town on this side of
Egypt. From Pelusium he was to march through the heart of the Delta to
Alexandria, and, if successful in his invasion, overthrow the government
of Berenice and Archelaus, and then, inviting Ptolemy to return,
reinstate him on the throne.

In the prosecution of this dangerous enterprise, Gabinius relied
strongly on the assistance of a very remarkable man, then his second in
command, who afterward acted a very important part in the subsequent
history of Cleopatra. His name was Mark Antony. Antony was born in Rome,
of a very distinguished family, but his father died when he was very
young, and being left subsequently much to himself, he became a very
wild and dissolute young man. He wasted the property which his father
had left him in folly and vice; and then going on desperately in the
same career, he soon incurred enormous debts, and involved himself, in
consequence, in inextricable difficulties. His creditors continually
harassed him with importunities for money, and with suits at law to
compel payments which he had no means of making. He was likewise
incessantly pursued by the hostility of the many enemies that he had
made in the city by his violence and his crimes. At length he absconded,
and went to Greece.

Here Gabinius, when on his way to Syria, met him, and invited him to
join his army rather than to remain where he was in idleness and
destitution. Antony, who was as proud and lofty in spirit as he was
degraded in morals and condition, refused to do this unless Gabinius
would give him a command. Gabinius saw in the daring and reckless energy
which Antony manifested the indications of the class of qualities which
in those days made a successful soldier, and acceded to his terms. He
gave him the command of his cavalry. Antony distinguished himself in the
Syrian campaigns that followed, and was now full of eagerness to engage
in this Egyptian enterprise. In fact, it was mainly his zeal and
enthusiasm to embark in the undertaking which was the means of deciding
Gabinius to consent to Ptolemy's proposals.

The danger and difficulty which they considered as most to be
apprehended in the whole expedition was the getting across the desert to
Pelusium. In fact, the great protection of Egypt had always been her
isolation. The trackless and desolate sands, being wholly destitute of
water, and utterly void, could be traversed, even by a caravan of
peaceful travelers, only with great difficulty and danger. For an army
to attempt to cross them, exposed, as the troops would necessarily be,
to the assaults of enemies who might advance to meet them on the way,
and sure of encountering a terrible opposition from fresh and vigorous
bands when they should arrive--wayworn and exhausted by the physical
hardships of the way--at the borders of the inhabited country, was a
desperate undertaking. Many instances occurred in ancient times in which
vast bodies of troops, in attempting marches over the deserts by which
Egypt was surrounded, were wholly destroyed by famine or thirst, or
overwhelmed by storms of sand.

These difficulties and dangers, however, did not at all intimidate Mark
Antony. The anticipation, in fact, of the glory of surmounting them was
one of the main inducements which led him to embark in the enterprise.
The perils of the desert constituted one of the charms which made the
expedition so attractive. He placed himself, therefore, at the head of
his troop of cavalry, and set off across the sands in advance of
Gabinius, to take Pelusium, in order thus to open a way for the main
body of the army into Egypt. Ptolemy accompanied Antony. Gabinius was to

With all his faults, to call them by no severer name, Mark Antony
possessed certain great excellences of character. He was ardent, but
then he was cool, collected, and sagacious; and there was a certain
frank and manly generosity continually evincing itself in his conduct
and character which made him a great favorite among his men. He was at
this time about twenty-eight years old, of a tall and manly form, and of
an expressive and intellectual cast of countenance. His forehead was
high, his nose aquiline, and his eyes full of vivacity and life. He was
accustomed to dress in a very plain and careless manner, and he assumed
an air of the utmost familiarity and freedom in his intercourse with his
soldiers. He would join them in their sports, joke with them, and
good-naturedly receive their jokes in return; and take his meals,
standing with them around their rude tables, in the open field. Such
habits of intercourse with his men in a commander of ordinary character
would have been fatal to his ascendency over them; but in Mark Antony's
case, these frank and familiar manners seemed only to make the military
genius and the intellectual power which he possessed the more
conspicuous and the more universally admired.

Antony conducted his troop of horsemen across the desert in a very safe
and speedy manner, and arrived before Pelusium. The city was not
prepared to resist him. It surrendered at once, and the whole garrison
fell into his hands as prisoners of war. Ptolemy demanded that they
should all be immediately killed. They were rebels, he said, and, as
such, ought to be put to death. Antony, however, as might have been
expected from his character, absolutely refused to allow of any such
barbarity. Ptolemy, since the power was not yet in his hands, was
compelled to submit, and to postpone gratifying the spirit of vengeance
which had so long been slumbering in his breast to a future day. He
could the more patiently submit to this necessity, since it appeared
that the day of his complete and final triumph over his daughter and all
her adherents was now very nigh at hand.

In fact, Berenice and her government, when they heard of the arrival of
Antony and Ptolemy at Pelusium, of the fall of that city, and of the
approach of Gabinius with an overwhelming force of Roman soldiers, were
struck with dismay. Archelaus, the husband of Berenice, had been, in
former years, a personal friend of Antony's. Antony considered, in fact,
that they were friends still, though required by what the historian
calls their duty to fight each other for the possession of the kingdom.
The government of Berenice raised an army. Archelaus took command of it,
and advanced to meet the enemy. In the mean time, Gabinius arrived with
the main body of the Roman troops, and commenced his march, in
conjunction with Antony, toward the capital. As they were obliged to
make a circuit to the southward, in order to avoid the inlets and
lagoons which, on the northern coast of Egypt, penetrate for some
distance into the land, their course led them through the heart of the
Delta. Many battles were fought, the Romans every where gaining the
victory. The Egyptian soldiers were, in fact, discontented and mutinous,
perhaps, in part, because they considered the government on the side of
which they were compelled to engage as, after all a usurpation. At
length a great final battle was fought, which settled the controversy.
Archelaus was slain upon the field, and Berenice was taken prisoner;
their government was wholly overthrown, and the way was opened for the
march of the Roman armies to Alexandria.

Mark Antony, when judged by our standards, was certainly, as well as
Ptolemy, a depraved and vicious man; but his depravity was of a very
different type from that of Cleopatra's father. The difference in the
men, in one respect, was very clearly evinced by the objects toward
which their interest and attention were respectively turned after this
great battle. While the contest had been going on, the king and queen of
Egypt, Archelaus and Berenice, were, of course, in the view both of
Antony and Ptolemy, the two most conspicuous personages in the army of
their enemies; and while Antony would naturally watch with the greatest
interest the fate of his friend, the king, Ptolemy, would as naturally
follow with the highest concern the destiny of his daughter.
Accordingly, when the battle was over, while the mind of Ptolemy might,
as we should naturally expect, be chiefly occupied by the fact that his
_daughter_ was made a captive, Antony's, we might suppose, would be
engrossed by the tidings that his _friend_ had been slain.

The one rejoiced and the other mourned. Antony sought for the body of
his friend on the field of battle, and when it was found, he gave
himself wholly to the work of providing for it a most magnificent
burial. He seemed, at the funeral, to lament the death of his ancient
comrade with real and unaffected grief. Ptolemy, on the other hand, was
overwhelmed with joy at finding his daughter his captive. The
long-wished-for hour for the gratification of his revenge had come at
last, and the first use which he made of his power when he was put in
possession of it at Alexandria was to order his daughter to be beheaded.



Cleopatra.--Excitement in Alexandria.--Ptolemy restored.--Acquiescence
of the people.--Festivities.--Popularity of Antony.--Antony's
generosity.--Anecdote.--Antony and Cleopatra.--Antony returns to
Rome.--Ptolemy's murders.--Pompey and Caesar.--Close of Ptolemy's
reign.--Settlement of the succession.--Accession of Cleopatra.--She is
married to her brother.--Pothinus, the eunuch.--His character and
government.--Machinations of Pothinus.--Cleopatra is expelled.
--Cleopatra's army.--Approaching contest.--Caesar and Pompey.
--Battle of Pharsalia.--Pompey at Pelusium.--Treachery of
Pothinus.--Caesar's pursuit of Pompey.--His danger.--Caesar at
Alexandria.--Astonishment of the Egyptians.--Caesar presented with
Pompey's head.--Pompey's seal.--Situation of Caesar.--His
demands.--Conduct of Pothinus.--Quarrels--Policy of Pothinus.
--Contentions.--Caesar sends to Syria for additional troops.

At the time when the unnatural quarrel between Cleopatra's father and
her sister was working its way toward its dreadful termination, as
related in the last chapter, she herself was residing at the royal
palace in Alexandria, a blooming and beautiful girl of about fifteen.
Fortunately for her, she was too young to take any active part
personally in the contention. Her two brothers were still younger than
herself. They all three remained, therefore, in the royal palaces, quiet
spectators of the revolution, without being either benefited or injured
by it. It is singular that the name of both the boys was Ptolemy.

The excitement in the city of Alexandria was intense and universal when
the Roman army entered it to reinstate Cleopatra's father upon his
throne. A very large portion of the inhabitants were pleased with having
the former king restored. In fact, it appears, by a retrospect of the
history of kings that when a legitimate hereditary sovereign or dynasty
is deposed and expelled by a rebellious population, no matter how
intolerable may have been the tyranny, or how atrocious the crimes by
which the patience of the subject was exhausted, the lapse of a very few
years is ordinarily sufficient to produce a very general readiness to
acquiesce in a restoration; and in this particular instance there had
been no such superiority in the government of Berenice, during the
period while her power continued, over that of her father, which she had
displaced, as to make this case an exception to the general rule. The
mass of the people, therefore--all those, especially, who had taken no
active part in Berenice's government--were ready to welcome Ptolemy back
to his capital. Those who had taken such a part were all summarily
executed by Ptolemy's orders.

There was, of course, a great excitement throughout the city on the
arrival of the Roman army. All the foreign influence and power which had
been exercised in Egypt thus far, and almost all the officers, whether
civil or military, had been Greek. The coming of the Romans was the
introduction of a new element of interest to add to the endless variety
of excitements which animated the capital.

The restoration of Ptolemy was celebrated with games, spectacles, and
festivities of every kind, and, of course, next to the king himself, the
chief center of interest and attraction in all these public rejoicings
would be the distinguished foreign generals by whose instrumentality the
end had been gained.

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