ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
 THE battles of Philippi and the death of Brutus and
Cassius put an end to the republican party to whom
Cæsar owed his death. The whole realm was handed over
to the imperial Triumvirate, who now made a new
division of the vast Roman world. Antony took as his
share all the mighty realm of the East; Octavius all
the West. To Lepidus, whom his powerful confederates
did not take the trouble to consult, only Africa was
The after-career of Antony was a curious and impressive
one. He loved a bewitching Egyptian queen, and for a
false love lost the vast dominion he had won. The story
is one of the most romantic and popular of all that
have come to us from the past. It has been told in
detail by Plutarch and richly dramatized by
Shakespeare. We give it here in brief epitome.
Fourteen years previously Antony had visited
Alexandria, and had there seen the youthful Cleopatra,
then a girl of fifteen, but already so beautiful and
attractive that the susceptible Roman was deeply
smitten with her charms. Later she had charmed Cæsar,
and now when the lord of the East set out on a tour of
his new dominions, the love queen of Egypt left her
capital for Cilicia with the purpose of making him her
 It was midsummer of the year 41 B.C. when Antony
arrived at Tarsus, on the river Cydnus. Up this stream
to visit him came, in more than Oriental pomp, the
beautiful Egyptian queen. The galley that bore her was
gorgeous beyond comparison. Its sails were of Tyrian
purple; silver oars fretted the yielding wave, while
music timed their rise and fall; the poop glittered
with burnished gold; rich perfumes filled the air with
fragrance. Here, on a splendid couch, under a spangled
canopy, reclined Cleopatra, attired as Venus, and
surrounded by attendants dressed as Graces and Cupids.
Beautiful slaves moved oars and ropes, and the whole
array was one of wondrous charm. We cannot do better
than quote Shakespeare's vivid description of this
"The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Burned on the water; the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water that they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggared all description; she did lie
In her pavilion-cloth-of-gold of tissue—
Out picturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature; on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colored fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool."
The people of Tarsus ran in crowds to gaze on this
wondrous spectacle, leaving Antony alone in the
 Forum. At the request of Cleopatra he came also, and
was so captivated at sight that he became her slave. He
forgot Rome, forgot his wife Fulvia, forgot honor and
dignity, through his wild passion for this Egyptian
sorceress. Following her to Alexandria, he laid aside
his Roman garb for the Oriental costume of the Egyptian
court, gave way to all Cleopatra's pleasure-loving
caprices, and lived in a perpetual round of orgies and
festivities, heedless of honor and duty, and caring for
naught but love and sensual enjoyment.
Intoxicated with pleasure, Antony did not know what
risk he ran. Shortly before Octavius had been spoken of
as a boy, whom it would be easy to manage and control.
He was feeble and sickly,—so much so, indeed, that just
at this time his death was reported in Rome. But the
"boy" was ambitious, astute, and far-seeing, and Marc
Antony was descending to ruin with every step he took
in his career of folly and profligacy.
The history of the succeeding years is long, but must
here be made short. The two lords of Rome were changed
from friends to enemies by the act of Fulvia, the wife
of Antony. Octavius had married her daughter Claudia,
and now divorced her. Anger at this, and a hope of
winning Antony from the seductions of the Egyptian
queen, caused her to organize a formidable revolt
against Octavius. She succeeded in raising a large
army, but Antony was still too absorbed in Cleopatra to
come to her aid, and Agrippa, the able general of
Octavius, soon put down the revolt.
 Then, when it was too late to help her, Antony awoke
from his lethargy, and sailed to battle with Octavius.
He besieged Brundusium. But Fulvia had died, the
soldiers had no heart for civil war, and the great
rivals again made peace. Antony married Octavia, the
sister of Octavius, they divided the Roman world
between them as before, and Rome was made happy by a
grand round of games and festivities.
For three years Antony remained true to his new wife,
and aided Octavius in putting down the foes of Rome.
Then, during a campaign in Syria, his old passion for
the fascinating Egyptian returned, he called Cleopatra
to him, dallied with her instead of prosecuting his
march, and in the end was forced to retreat in haste
from the barbarian foe.
For three years now Antony was the willing slave of the
enchanting queen. The courage and stoical endurance of
the soldier vanished, and were replaced by the soft
indulgence of the voluptuary. The rigid discipline of
the camp was exchanged for the idle and often childish
amusements of the Oriental court. Cleopatra enchained
him with an endless round of pleasures and
profligacies. Now, while in a fishing-boat on the Nile,
the queen amused him by having salted fish fixed by
divers on his hook, which he drew up amid the laughter
of the party. Again she wagered that she would consume
ten million sesterces at a meal, and won her wager by
drinking vinegar in which she had dissolved a priceless
pearl. All the enjoyments that the fancy of the cunning
enchantress could devise were spread around him,
 and he let the world roll unheeded by while he yielded
to their alluring charm.
THE GALLEY OF CLEOPATRA.
Antony posed at festive tables in the character of the
god Osiris, while Cleopatra played the role of Isis. He
issued coins which bore her head and his. He gave away
kingdoms and principalities in the East to please her
fancy. It was her hope and aim to lead her yielding
lover to the conquest of Rome, and to rule as empress
of that imperial city.
But the madness of Antony led to destruction, not
empire. The story of his doings was repeated at Rome,
where the voluptuary lost credit as Octavius gained it.
Antony's friends urged him to dismiss Cleopatra and
fight for the empire. Instead of this the infatuated
madman divorced Octavia and clung to the Egyptian
This act led to an open rupture. Octavius, by authority
of the senate, declared war, not against Antony, but
against Cleopatra. Antony was at length roused. He
gathered an army in haste, passed to Ephesus and
Athens, and everywhere levied men and collected ships.
A last and great struggle for the supreme headship of
the Roman world was at hand.
Octavius was not skilled in war, but he had in Agrippa
one of the ablest of ancient generals, and was wise
enough to trust all warlike operations to him. Antony
had strongly fortified himself at Actium, on the west
coast of Greece, while the strong fleet he had gathered
lay in its spacious bay. Here took place one of the
decisive battles of the world's history.
 Antony had made the fatal mistake of bringing Cleopatra
with him. Under her advice he played the part of a
poltroon instead of a soldier. His chief officers,
disgusted by his fascination, deserted him in numbers,
and, yielding to her urgent fears, he resolved to fly
with the fleet and abandon the army.
In this act of folly he failed. A strong gale from the
south kept the fleet for four days in the harbor. Then
the ships of Octavius came up, and the two fleets
joined battle off the headland of Actium.
The ships of Antony were much larger and more powerful than those of Octavius. Little
impression was made on them by the light Italian
vessels, and had Antony been a soldier still, or
Cleopatra possessed as much courage as guile, the
victory might well have been theirs. But battle was no
place for the pleasure-loving queen. Filled with
terror, she took advantage of the first wind that came,
and sailed hastily away, followed by sixty Egyptian
The moment Antony discovered her flight he gave up the
world for love. Springing from his ship-of-war into a
light galley, he hastened in wild pursuit after his
flying mistress. Overtaking her vessel, he went on
board, but seated himself in morose misery at a
distance, and would have nothing to do with her. Ruin
and despair were now his mistresses.
Their commander fled, the ships fought on, and yielded
not till the greater part of them were in flames.
Before night they were all destroyed, and
 with them perished most of those on board, while all
the treasure was lost. When the army heard of Antony's
desertion the legions went over to the conqueror. That
brief sea-fight had ended the war.
For a year Octavius did not trouble his rival. He spent
the time in cementing his power in Greece and Asia
Minor. Cleopatra tried her fascinations on him, as she
had on Cæsar and Antony, but in vain. She sought to fly
to some place beyond the reach of Rome, but Arabs
destroyed her ships. At length Octavius came. Antony
made some show of hostility, but Cleopatra betrayed the
fleet to his rival and all resistance ended. Octavius
entered the open gates of Alexandria as a conqueror.
The queen shut herself up in a building which she had
erected as a mausoleum. It had no door, being built to
receive her body after death, and word was sent out
that she was already dead.
When these false tidings were brought to Antony all his
anger against the fair traitress was replaced by a
flood of his old tenderness. In despair he stabbed
himself, bidding his attendants to lay his body beside
that of Cleopatra.
Still living, he was borne to the queen's retreat,
where, moved by pity, she had him drawn up by cords
into an upper window. Here she threw herself in agony
on his body, bathed his face with her tears, and
continued to bemoan his fate until he was dead.
She afterwards consented to receive Octavius. He spoke
her fairly, but she was wise enough to see that all her
charms were lost on him, and that he
 proposed to degrade her by making her walk as a captive
in his triumph.
With a cunning greater than his own, Cleopatra promised
to submit. She had no apparent means of taking her life
in the cell, every dangerous weapon was removed by his
orders, and he left her, as he supposed, a safe victim
of his wiles.
He did not know Cleopatra. When his messengers
returned, at the hour fixed, to conduct her away, they
found only the dead body of Cleopatra stretched upon
her couch, and by her side her two faithful attendants,
Iris and Charmion. It is said that she died from the
bite of an asp, a venomous Egyptian serpent, which had
been secretly conveyed to her concealed in a basket of
fruit; but this story remains unconfirmed.
Plutarch tells the story thus: "But when they opened
the doors they found Cleopatra stark dead, laid upon a
bed of gold, attired and arrayed in her royal robes,
and one of her two women, who was called Iris, dead at
her feet, and the other woman (called Charmion) half
dead, and trembling, trimming the diadem which
Cleopatra wore upon her head.
"One of the soldiers, seeing her, angrily said to her,
'Is that well done, Charmion?' 'Very well,' said she
again, 'and meet for a princess descended from the race
of so many noble kings.' She said no more, but fell
down dead, hard by the bed.
"Now Cæsar, though he was marvellous sorry for the
death of Cleopatra, yet he wondered at her noble mind
and courage, and therefore commanded that she should be
nobly buried and laid by Antony."
 Thus ends the story of these two famous lovers of old.
Octavius, afterwards known as Cæsar Augustus, reigned
sole emperor of Rome, and the republic was at an end.
He was not formally proclaimed emperor, but liberty and
independence were thereafter forgotten words in Rome.
He ended the old era of Roman history by closing the
Temple of Janus, for the third time since it was built,
and by freely forgiving all the friends of Antony. He
had nothing to fear and had no thirst for blood and
misery. Base as he had shown himself in his youth, his
reign was a noble one, and during it Rome reached its
highest level of literary and military glory.