| On the Shores of the Great Sea|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book I of the Story of the World series. Focuses on the civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea from the time of Abraham to the birth of Christ. Brief histories of the Ancient Israelites, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Scythians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans are given, concluding with the conquest of the entire Mediterranean by Rome. Important myths and legends that preceded recorded history are also related. Ages 9-18 |
THE EMPIRE OF ROME
"Comes the Last Age, of which the Sibyl sang—
A new-born cycle of the rolling years:
Justice returns to earth."
IT was, indeed, a dangerous Rome, to which young Cæsar, now came to claim his birthright; but he soon showed his
countrymen, that he was a worthy successor, of his great uncle. Stories were told of him, as an infant, that
showed he was marked out for greatness, according to the early ideas of the Romans.
When he was a small baby he was laid in his cradle by his nurse. The next day he was missing and nowhere to be
found. They sought for him long, and then found him on a high tower, commanding a view of the sea, lying with
his face to the rising sun. When he first began to speak, a
 story says, that he commanded some troublesome croaking frogs, to be silent, and the frogs have never croaked
there since that day.
It was not long, before the Romans made Cæsar's young heir consul, while Mark Antony, who had grasped at power,
on the death of the man he had called his friend, was declared to be an enemy of the State. The murderers of
Julius Cæsar had, in their turn, been murdered, amongst them the aged Cicero; but Rome was still unsettled,
Rome was still dangerous.
At last Mark Antony fled to raise an army against the young Cæsar. He had schemes of conquering the East and
making Alexandria the capital of the world; but instead of this, he became captivated by the beautiful Queen of
Egypt, for whom Julius Cæsar had fought before. He had met her in Rome, when she had stayed with Cæsar. Now he
met her again at Tarsus, and at once fell captive to her charms and her wit.
Cleopatra sailed up the river, in a gilded vessel, with purple sails and silver oars, to the music of flutes
and reed pipes. She lay under an awning spangled with gold, surrounded by her beautiful slaves. Mark Antony
soon loved her. He spent all his time with her, he laid aside his Roman dress and his Roman manners to adopt
those of Egypt.
CLEOPATRA SAILED UP THE RIVER, IN A GILDED VESSEL, WITH PURPLE SAILS AND SILVER OARS.
Ugly rumours about him, reached Rome, and Cæsar determined to put an end, to this growing
 power, beyond the seas. He mustered a fleet and army and met the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra off the southern
coast of Greece. For some days a rough sea prevented any battle, but when the battle began, it was very
unequal. The huge bulks of the Eastern ships were ill adapted for advance or retreat. They were no match for
the skilfully managed triremes of the Romans, and while they rolled heavily on the waters, up went the sail of
Cleopatra's galley, and, followed by sixty Egyptian ships and the despairing Antony, she fled across the sea to
Alexandria. Thither Cæsar followed, by way of Asia and Syria. All the princes of Asia bowed down to him, and
Herod, King of Judea, made friends with the conqueror. He arrived at Alexandria, to hear the news, that Antony
had killed himself, and that the queen, Cleopatra, had shut herself up in a strong tower.
Once, and once only, Cæsar saw her; she tried to excite his pity, but failed. She discovered that he intended
to have her taken to Rome, to take part in his triumph. The humiliation was more than she could bear. The next
day she was found lying on her couch, in her royal robes, dead. Her two maids were dying on either side.
"Is this well?" asked the man, who found her.
"It is well for the daughter of kings," answered the dying maid.
And so Egypt became a Roman province.
Cæsar went back to Rome, triumphant. The
 death of Antony put an end to the fierce struggles, that had torn Rome, for the ten years, following the death
of Julius Cæsar. It seemed, as if the great empire of Rome, might have rest for a time now, under the man, who
had already done so much. He now occupied not only the highest place in the city and the highest place in the
State, but he was chief of the army.
The man who rules an empire and commands the army of that empire is called an emperor; so Cæsar was now an
emperor. He also took the name of Augustus, a word applied to things most noble, most dignified, most high.
From this time, therefore, we must call him Cæsar Augustus.
Well and wisely did Augustus rule the Roman people. He lived simply amongst them, he dressed as a plain
citizen, he joined in the life of the people. His house was unadorned, his meals were taken in haste and were
not luxurious. To his Court and to his person he drew the greatest poets and writers of his age. In his reign
Virgil, tall, dark, and shy, might have been seen walking about the streets of Rome, while Horace, who had
fought for his country in days gone by, was poet-laureate to the emperor. Lesser singers lived too, in these
days of prosperity, ever praising the man, who had restored law and order to Rome, the man who had won peace
for their great empire—even Cæsar Augustus, the first Emperor of the Roman Empire.
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