It is not long, my Antony, since, with these hands, I buried thee. Alas! they were then free, but thy Cleopatra is now a prisoner, attended by guard, lest, in the transports of her grief, she should disfigure this captive body, which is reserved to adorn the triumph over thee. These are the last offerings, the last honors she can pay thee; for she is now to be conveyed to a distant country. Nothing could part us while we lived, but in death we are to be divided. Thou, though a Roman, liest buried in Egypt; and I, an Egyptian, must be interred in Italy, the only favor I shall receive from thy country. Yet, if the Gods of Rome have power or mercy left (for surely those of Egypt have forsaken us), let them not suffer me to be led in living triumph to thy disgrace! No! hide me, hide me with thee in the grave; for life, since thou hast left it, has been misery to me.
The sole surviving daughter of the great King Ptolemy of Egypt, Cleopatra was seventeen years old when her father died.
By his will the King made her joint heir to the throne with her brother Ptolemy, several years her junior. And according to the custom not unusual among royalty at that time, it was provided that Ptolemy should become the husband of Cleopatra.
She was a woman--her brother a child.
She had intellect, ambition, talent. She knew the history of her own country, and that of Assyria, Greece and Rome; and all the written languages of the world were to her familiar. She had been educated by the philosophers, who had brought from Greece the science of Pythagoras and Plato. Her companions had been men--not women, or nurses, or pious, pedantic priests.
Through the veins of her young body pulsed and leaped life plus.
She abhorred the thought of an alliance with her weak-chinned brother; and the ministers of state who suggested another husband, as a compromise, were dismissed with a look. They said she was intractable, contemptuous, unreasonable, and was scheming for the sole possession of the throne. She was not to be diverted even by ardent courtiers who were sent to her, and who lay in wait, ready with amorous sighs--she scorned them all.
Yet she was a woman still, and in her dreams she saw the coming prince.
She was banished from Alexandria.
A few friends followed her, and an army was formed to force from the enemy her rights.
But other things were happening. A Roman army came leisurely drifting in with the tide, and disembarked at Alexandria. The Great Cæsar himself was in command--a mere holiday, he said. He had intended to join the land forces of Mark Antony and help crush the rebellious Pompey, but Antony had done the trick alone, and only a few days before, word had come that Pompey was dead.
Cæsar knew that civil war was on in Alexandria, and being near he sailed slowly in, sending messengers ahead warning both sides to lay down their arms.
With him was the far-famed invincible Tenth Legion that had ravished Gaul. Cæsar wanted to rest his men, and incidentally to reward them. They took possession of the city without a blow.
Cleopatra's troops laid down their arms, but Ptolemy's refused. They were simply chased beyond the walls, and their punishment was for a time deferred.
Cæsar took possession of the palace of the King, and his soldiers accommodated themselves in the houses, public buildings and temples as best they could.
Cleopatra asked for a personal interview that she might present her cause. Cæsar declined to meet her. He understood the trouble--many such cases he had seen. Claimants for thrones were not new to him. Where two parties quarreled both were right--or wrong--it really mattered little. It is absurd to quarrel--still more foolish to fight. Cæsar was a man of peace, and to keep the peace he would appoint one of his generals governor, and make Egypt a Roman colony. In the meantime he would rest a week or two, with the kind permission of the Alexandrians, and work upon his "Commentaries"--no, he would not see either Cleopatra or Ptolemy: any information desired he would get through his trusted emissaries.
In the service of Cleopatra was a Sicilian slave who had been her personal servant since she was a little girl. This man's name was Appolidorus--a man of giant stature and imposing mien. Ten years before his tongue had been torn out as a token that as he was to attend a queen he should tell no secrets.
Appolidorus had but one thought in life, and that was to defend his gracious queen. He slept at the door of Cleopatra's tent, a naked sword at his side, held in his clenched and brawny hand.
And now behold at dusk of day the grim and silent Appolidorus, carrying upon his giant shoulders a large and curious rug, rolled up and tied 'round at either end with ropes. He approaches the palace of the King, and at the guarded gate hands a note to the officer in charge. This note gives information to the effect that a certain patrician citizen of Alexandria, being glad that the gracious Cæsar had deigned to visit Egypt, sends him the richest rug that can be woven, done, in fact, by his wife and daughters and held against this day, awaiting Rome's greatest son.
The officer reads the note, and orders a soldier to accept the gift and carry it within--presents were constantly arriving. A sign from the dumb giant makes the soldier stand back--the present is for Cæsar and can be delivered only in person. "Lead and I will follow," were the words done in stern pantomime.
The officer laughs, sends the note inside, and the messenger soon returning, signifies that the present is acceptable and the slave bearing it shall be shown in. Appolidorus shifts the burden to the other shoulder, and follows the soldier through the gate, up the marble steps, along the splendid hallway lighted by flaring torches and lined with reclining Roman soldiers.
At a door they pause an instant, there is a whispered word--they enter.
The room is furnished as becomes the room that is the private library of the King of Egypt. In one corner, seated at the table, pen in hand, sits a man of middle age, pale, clean-shaven, with hair close-cropped. His dress is not that of a soldier--it is the flowing, white robe of a Roman Priest. Only one servant attends this man, a secretary, seated near, who rises and explains that the present is acceptable and shall be deposited on the floor.
The pale man at the table looks up, smiles a tired smile, and murmurs in a perfunctory way his thanks.
Appolidorus having laid his burden on the floor, kneels to untie the ropes.
The secretary explains that he need not trouble, pray bear thanks and again thanks to his master--he need not tarry!
The dumb man on his knees neither hears nor heeds.
The rug is unrolled.
From out the roll a woman leaps lightly to her feet--a beautiful young woman of twenty.
She stands there, poised, defiant, gazing at the pale-faced man seated at the table.
He is not surprised--he never was. One might have supposed he received all his visitors in this manner.
"Well?" he says in a quiet way, a half-smile parting his thin lips.
The woman's breast heaves with tumultuous emotion--just an instant. She speaks, and there is no tremor in her tones. Her voice is low, smooth and scarcely audible: "I am Cleopatra."
The man at the desk lays down his pen, leans back and gently nods his head, as much as to say, indulgently, "Yes, my child, I hear--go on!"
"I am Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and I would speak with thee alone."
She paused; then raising one jeweled arm motions to Appolidorus that he shall withdraw. With a similar motion, the man at the desk signifies the same to his astonished secretary.
* * * * * * *
Appolidorus went down the long hallway, down the stone steps and waited at the outer gate amid the throng of soldiers. They questioned him, gibed him, railed at him, but they got no word in reply.
He waited--he waited an hour, two--and then came a messenger with a note written on a slip of parchment. The words ran thus: "Well-beloved 'Dorus: Veni, vidi, vici! Go fetch my maids, also all of our personal belongings."
* * * * * * *
Standing alone by the slashed and stiffened corpse of Julius Cæsar, Mark Antony says:
"Thou art the ruins of the noblest man That ever lived in the tide of times."
Cæsar had two qualities that mark the man of supreme power: he was gentle and he was firm.
To be gentle, generous, lenient, forgiving, and yet never relinquish the vital thing--this is to be great.
To know when to be generous and when firm--this is wisdom.
The first requisite in ruling others is to rule one's own spirit.
The suavity, moderation, dignity and wise diplomacy of Cæsar led him by sure and safe steps from a lowly clerkship to positions of gradually increasing responsibility. At thirty-seven he was elected Pontifex Maximus--the head of the State Religion.
Between Pagan Rome and Christian Paganism there is small choice--all State religions are very much alike. Cæsar was Pope: and no State religion since his time has been an improvement on that of Cæsar.
In his habits Cæsar was ascetic--a scholar by nature. He was tall, slender, and in countenance sad. For the intellect Nature had given him, she had taken toll by cheating him in form and feature. He was deliberate and of few words--he listened in a way that always first complimented the speaker and then disconcerted him.
By birth he was a noble, and by adoption one of the people. He was both plebeian and patrician.
His military experience had been but slight, though creditable, and his public addresses were so few that no one claimed he was an orator. He had done nothing of special importance, and yet the feeling was everywhere that he was the greatest man in Rome. The nobles feared him, trembling at thought of his displeasure. The people loved him--he called them, "My children."
Cæsar was head of the Church, but politically there were two other strong leaders in Rome, Pompey and Crassus. These two men were rich, and each was at the head of a large number of followers whom he had armed as militia "for the defense of State." Cæsar was poor in purse and could not meet them in their own way even if so inclined. He saw the danger of these rival factions. Strife between them was imminent--street fights were common--and it would require only a spark to ignite the tinder.
Cæsar the Pontiff--the man of peace--saw a way to secure safety for the State from these two men who had armed their rival legions to protect it.
To secure this end he would crush them both.
The natural way to do this would have been to join forces with the party he deemed the stronger, and down the opposition. But this done, the leader with whom he had joined forces would still have to be dealt with.
Cæsar made peace between Pompey and Crassus by joining with them, forming a Triumvirate.
This was one of the greatest strokes of statecraft ever devised. It made peace at home--averted civil war--cemented rival factions.
When three men join forces, make no mistake--power is never equally divided.
Before the piping times of peace could pall, a foreign war diverted attention from approaching difficulties at home.
The Gauls were threatening--they were always threatening--war could be had with them any time by just pushing out upon them. To the south, Sicily, Greece, Persia and Egypt had been exploited--fame and empire lay in the dim and unknown North.
Only a Cæsar could have known this. He had his colleagues make him governor of Gaul. Gaul was a troublesome place to be, and they were quite willing he should go there. For a priest to go among the fighting Gauls--they smiled and stroked their chins! Gaul had definite boundaries on the south--the Rubicon marked the line--but on the north it was without limit. Real-estate owners own as high in the air and as deep in the earth as they wish to go. Cæsar alone guessed the greatness of Gaul.
Under pretense of protecting Rome from a threatened invasion he secured the strongest legions of Pompey and Crassus. Combining them into one army he led them northward to such conquest and victory as the world had never before seen.
It is not for me to tell the history of Cæsar's Gallic wars. Suffice it to say that in eight years he had penetrated what is now Switzerland, France, Germany and England. Everywhere he left monuments of his greatness in the way of splendid highways, baths, aqueducts and temples. Colonies of settlers from the packed population of Rome followed the victors.
An army left to itself after conquest will settle down to riot and mad surfeit, but this man kept his forces strong by keeping them at work--discipline was never relaxed, yet there was such kindness and care for his men that no mutiny ever made head.
Cæsar became immensely rich--his debts were now all paid--the treasure returned to Rome did the general coffers fill, his name and fame were blazoned on the Roman streets.
When he returned he knew, and had always known, it would be as a conquering hero. Pompey and Crassus did not wish Cæsar to return. He was still governor of Gaul and should stay there. They made him governor--he must do as they required--they sent him his orders. "The die is cast," said Cæsar on reading the message. Immediately he crossed the Rubicon.
An army fights for a leader, not a cause. The leader's cause is theirs. Cæsar had led his men to victory, and he had done it with a comparatively small degree of danger. He never made an attack until every expedient for peace was exhausted. He sent word to each barbaric tribe to come in and be lovingly annexed, or else be annexed willy-nilly. He won, but through diplomacy where it was possible. When he did strike, it was quickly, unexpectedly and hard. The priest was as great a strategist as he was a diplomat. He pardoned his opposers when they would lay down their arms--he wanted success, not vengeance. But always he gave his soldiers the credit.
They were loyal to him.
Pompey and Crassus could not oppose a man like this--they fled.
Cæsar's most faithful and trusted colleague was Mark Antony, seventeen years his junior--a slashing, dashing, audacious, exuberant fellow.
Cæsar became dictator, really king or emperor. He ruled with moderation, wisely and well. He wore the purple robe of authority, but refused the crown. He was honored, revered, beloved. The habit of the Pontiff still clung to him--he called the people, "My children."
The imperturbable calm of the man of God was upon him. His courage was unimpeachable, but caution preserved him from personal strife. That he could ever be approached by one and all was his pride.
But clouds were beginning to gather.
He had pardoned his enemies, but they had not forgiven him.
There were whisperings that he was getting ready to assume the office of emperor. At a certain parade when Cæsar sat upon the raised seat, reviewing the passing procession, Mark Antony, the exuberant, left his place in the ranks, and climbing to the platform, tried to crown his beloved leader with laurel. Cæsar had smilingly declined the honor, amid the plaudits of the crowd.
Some said this whole episode was planned to test the temper of the populace.
Another cause of offense was that, some time before, Cæsar had spent several months in Alexandria at the court of Cleopatra. And now the young and beautiful queen had arrived in Rome, and Cæsar had appeared with her at public gatherings. She had with her a boy, two years old, by name Cæsario.
This Egyptian child, said the conspirators, was to be the future Emperor of Rome. To meet this accusation Cæsar made his will and provided that his grand-nephew, Octavius Cæsar, should be his adopted son and heir. But this was declared a ruse.
The murmurings grew louder.
Sixty senators combined to assassinate Cæsar. The high position of these men made them safe--by standing together they would be secure.
Cæsar was warned, but declined to take the matter seriously. He neither would arm himself nor allow guards to attend him.
On the Fifteenth of March, B. C. Forty-four, as Cæsar entered the Senate the rebels crowded upon him under the pretense of handing him a petition, and at a sign fell upon him. Twenty-three of the conspirators got close enough to send their envious daggers home.
Brutus dipped his sword in the flowing blood, and waving the weapon aloft cried, "Liberty is restored!"
Two days later, Mark Antony, standing by the dead body of his beloved chief, sadly mused:
"Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times."
* * * * * * *
Cæsar died aged fifty-six. Mark Antony, his executor, occupying the office next in importance, was thirty-nine.
In point of physique Mark Antony far surpassed Cæsar: they were the same height, but Antony was almost heroic in stature and carriage, muscular and athletic. His face was comely: his nose large and straight; his eyes set wide apart; his manner martial. If he lacked in intellect, in appearance he held averages good.
Antony had occupied the high offices of questor and tribune, the first calling for literary ability, the second for skill as an orator. Cæsar, the wise and diplomatic, had chosen Mark Antony as his Secretary of State on account of his peculiar fitness, especially in representing the Government at public functions. Antony had a handsome presence, a gracious tongue, and was a skilled and ready writer. Cæsar himself was too great a man to be much in evidence.
In passing it is well to note that all the tales as to the dissipation and profligacy of Mark Antony in his early days come from the "Philippics" of Cicero, who made the mistake of executing Lentulus, the step-father of Mark Antony, and then felt called upon forever after to condemn the entire family. "Philippics" are always a form of self-vindication.
However, it need not be put forward that Mark Antony was by any means a paragon of virtue--a man who has been successively and successfully soldier, lawyer, politician, judge, rhetorician and diplomat is what he is. Rome was the ruler of the world; Cæsar was the undisputed greatest man of Rome; and Mark Antony was the right hand of Cæsar.
At the decisive battle of Pharsalia, Cæsar had chosen Mark Antony to lead the left wing while he himself led the right. More than once Mark Antony had stopped the Roman army in its flight and had turned defeat into victory. In the battle with Aristobulus he was the first to scale the wall.
His personal valor was beyond cavil--he had distinguished himself in every battle in which he had taken part.
It was the first intent of the conspirators that Cæsar and Antony should die together, but the fear was that the envious hate of the people toward Cæsar would be neutralized by the love the soldiers bore both Cæsar and Antony. So they counted on the cupidity and ambition of Antony to keep the soldiers in subjection.
Antony was kept out of the plot, and when the blow was struck he was detained at his office by pretended visitors who wanted a hearing.
When news came to him that Cæsar was dead, he fled, thinking that massacre would follow. But the next day he returned and held audience with the rebels.
Antony was too close a follower of Cæsar to depart from his methods. Naturally he was hasty and impulsive; but now, everything he did was in imitation of the great man he had loved.
Cæsar always pardoned. Antony listened to the argument of Brutus that Cæsar had been removed for the good of Rome. Brutus proposed that Antony should fill Cæsar's place as Consul or nominal dictator; and in return Brutus and Cassius were to be made governors of certain provinces--amnesty was to be given to all who were in the plot.
Antony agreed, and at once the Assembly was called and a law passed tendering pardon to all concerned--thus was civil war averted. Cæsar was dead, but Rome was safe.
The funeral of Cæsar was to occur the next day. It was to be the funeral of a private citizen--the honor of a public funeral-pyre was not to be his. Brutus would say a few words, and Antony, as the closest friend of the dead, would also speak--the body would be buried and all would go on in peace.
Antony had done what he had because it was the only thing he could do. To be successor of Cæsar filled his ambition to the brim--but to win the purple by a compromise with the murderers! It turned his soul to gall.
At the funeral of Cæsar the Forum was crowded to every corner with a subdued, dejected, breathless throng. People spoke in whispers--no one felt safe--the air was stifled and poisoned with fear and fever.
Brutus spoke first: we do not know his exact words, but we know the temper of the man, and his mental attitude.
Mark Antony had kept the peace, but if he could only feel that the people were with him he would drive the sixty plotting conspirators before him like chaff before the whirlwind.
He would then be Cæsar's successor because he had avenged his death.
The orator must show no passion until he has aroused passion in the hearer--oratory is a collaboration. The orator is the active principle--the audience the passive.
Mark Antony, the practised orator, begins with simple propositions to which all agree. Gradually he sends out quivering feelers--the response returns--he continues, the audience answers back--he plays upon their emotion, and soon only one mind is supreme, and that is his own.
We know what he did and how he did it, but his words are lost. Shakespeare, the man of imagination, supplies them.
The plotters have made their defense--it is accepted.
Antony, too, defends them--he repeats that they are honorable men, and to reiterate that a man is honorable is to admit that possibly he is not. The act of defense implies guilt--and to turn defense into accusation through pity and love for the one wronged is the supreme task of oratory.
From love of Cæsar to hate for Brutus and Cassius is but a step. Panic takes the place of confidence among the conspirators--they slink away. The spirit of the mob is uppermost--the only honor left to Cæsar is the funeral-pyre. Benches are torn up, windows pulled from their fastenings, every available combustible is added to the pile, and the body of Cæsar--he alone calm and untroubled amid all this mad mob--is placed upon this improvised throne of death. Torches flare and the pile is soon in flames.
Night comes on, and the same torches that touched to red the funeral-couch of Cæsar hunt out the houses of the conspirators who killed him.
But the conspirators have fled.
One man is supreme, and that man is Mark Antony.
* * * * * * *
To maintain a high position requires the skill of a harlequin. It is an abnormality that any man should long tower above his fellows.
For a few short weeks Mark Antony was the pride and pet of Rome. He gave fetes, contests, processions and entertainments of lavish kind. "These things are pleasant, but they have to be paid for," said Cicero.
Then came from Illyria, Octavius Cæsar, aged nineteen, the adopted son of Cæsar the Great, and claimed his patrimony.
Antony laughed at the stripling, and thought to bribe him with a fete in his honor and a promise, and in the meantime a clerkship where there was no work to speak of and pay in inverse ratio.
The boy was weak in body and commonplace in mind--in way of culture he had been overtrained--but he was stubborn.
Mark Antony lived so much on the surface of things that he never imagined there was a strong party pushing the "Young Augustus" forward.
Finally Antony became impatient with the importuning young man, and threatened to send him on his way with a guard at his heels to see that he did not return.
At once a storm broke over the head of Antony. It came from a seemingly clear sky--Antony had to flee, not Octavius.
The soldiers of the Great Cæsar had been remembered in his will with seventy-five drachmas to every man, and the will must stand or fall as an entirety. Cæsar had provided that Octavius should be his successor--this will must be respected. Cicero was the man who made the argument. The army was with the will of the dead man, rather than with the ambition of the living.
Antony fled, but gathered a goodly army as he went, intending to return.
After some months of hard times passion cooled, and Antony, Octavius and Lepidus, the chief general of Octavius, met in the field for consultation. Swayed by the eloquence of Antony, who was still full of the precedents of the Great Cæsar, a Triumvirate was formed, and Antony, Octavius and Lepidus coolly sat down to divide the world between them.
One strong argument that Antony used for the necessity of this partnership was that Brutus and Cassius were just across in Macedonia, waiting and watching for the time when civil war would so weaken Rome that they could step in and claim their own.
Brutus and his fellow conspirators must be punished.
In two years from that time, they had performed their murderous deed; Cassius was killed at his own request by his servant, and Brutus had fallen on his sword to escape the sword of Mark Antony.
In the stress of defeat and impending calamity, Mark Antony was a great man; he could endure anything but success.
But now there were no more enemies to conquer: unlike Cæsar the Great he was no scholar, so books were not a solace; to build up and beautify a great State did not occur to him. His camp was turned into a place of mad riot and disorder. Harpers, dancers, buffoons and all the sodden splendor of the East made the nights echo with "shouts, sacrifices, songs and groans."
When Antony entered Ephesus the women went out to meet him in the undress of bacchanals, while troops of naked boys representing cupids, and men clothed like satyrs danced at the head of the procession. Everywhere were ivy crowns, spears wreathed with green, and harps, flutes, pipes, and human voices sang songs of praise to the great god Bacchus--for such Antony liked to be called.
Antony knew that between Cleopatra and Cæsar there had been a tender love. All the world that Cæsar ruled, Antony now ruled--or thought he did. In the intoxication of success he, too, would rule the heart that the great Cæsar had ruled. He would rule this proud heart or he would crush it beneath his heel.
He dispatched Dellius, his trusted secretary, to Alexandria, summoning the Queen to meet him at Cilicia, and give answer as to why she had given succor to the army of Cassius.
The charge was preposterous, and if sincere, shows the drunken condition of Antony's mind. Cleopatra loved Cæsar--he was to her the King of Kings, the one supreme and god-like man of earth. Her studious and splendid mind had matched his own; this cold, scholarly man of fifty-two had been her mate--the lover of her soul. Scarcely five short years before, she had attended him on his journey as he went away, and there on the banks of the Nile as they parted, her unborn babe responded to the stress of parting, no less than she.
Afterward she had followed him to Rome that he might see his son, Cæsario.
She was in Rome when Brutus and Cassius struck their fatal blows, and had fled, disguised, her baby in her arms--refusing to trust the precious life in the hands of hirelings.
And now that she should be accused of giving help to the murderer of her joy! She had execrated and despised Cassius, and now she hated, no less, the man who had wrongfully accused her.
But he was dictator--his summons must be obeyed. She would obey it, but she would humiliate him.
Antony waited at Cilicia on the day appointed, but Cleopatra did not appear. He waited two days--three--and very leisurely, up the river, the galleys of Cleopatra came.
But she did not come as suppliant.
Her curiously carved galley was studded with nails of gold; the oars were all tipped with silver; the sails were of purple silk. The rowers kept time to the music of flutes. The Queen in the gauzy dress of Venus reclined under a canopy, fanned by cupids. Her maids were dressed like the Graces, and fragrance of burning incense diffused the shores.
The whole city went down the river to meet this most gorgeous pageant, and Antony the proud was left at the tribunal alone.
On her arrival Cleopatra sent official word of her presence. Antony sent back word that she should come to him.
She responded that if he wished to see her he should call and pay his respects.
He went down to the riverside and was astonished at the dazzling, twinkling lights and all the magnificence that his eyes beheld. Very soon he was convinced that in elegance and magnificence he could not cope with this Egyptian queen.
The personal beauty of Cleopatra was not great. Many of her maids outshone her. Her power lay in her wit and wondrous mind. She adapted herself to conditions; and on every theme and topic that the conversation might take, she was at home.
Her voice was marvelously musical, and was so modulated that it seemed like an instrument of many strings. She spoke all languages, and therefore had no use for interpreters.
When she met Antony she quickly took the measure of the man. She fell at once into his coarse soldier ways, and answered him jest for jest.
Antony was at first astonished, then subdued, next entranced--a woman who could be the comrade of a man she had never seen before! She had the intellect of a man and all the luscious weaknesses of a woman.
Cleopatra had come hating this man Antony, and to her surprise she found him endurable--and more. Besides that, she had cause to be grateful to him--he had destroyed those conspirators who had killed her Cæsar--her King of Kings.
She ordered her retinue to make ready to return. The prows were turned toward Alexandria; and aboard the galley of the Queen, beneath the silken canopy, at the feet of Cleopatra, reclined the great Mark Antony.
* * * * * * *
The subject is set forth in Byron's masterly phrase, "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart; 'tis woman's whole existence." Still, I suppose it will not be disputed that much depends upon the man and--the woman.
In this instance we have a strong, wilful, ambitious and masculine man. Up to the time he met Cleopatra, love was of his life apart; after this, it was his whole existence. When they first met there at Cilicia, Antony was past forty; she was twenty-five.
Plutarch tells us that Fulvia, the wife of Antony, an earnest and excellent woman, had tried to discipline him. The result was that, instead of bringing him over to her way of thinking, she had separated him from her.
Cleopatra ruled the man by entwining her spirit with his--mixing the very fibers of their being--fastening her soul to his with hoops of steel. She became a necessity to him--a part and parcel of the fabric of his life. Together they attended to all the affairs of State. They were one in all the games and sports. The exuberant animal spirits of Antony occasionally found vent in roaming the streets of Alexandria at dead of night, rushing into houses and pulling people out of bed, and then absconding before they were well awake. In these nocturnal pranks, Cleopatra often attended him, dressed like a boy. Once they both got well pummeled, and deservedly, but they stood the drubbing rather than reveal their identity.
The story of their fishing together, and Antony making all the catch has been often told. He had a skilful diver go down every now and then and place a fish on his hook. Finally, when he grew beautifully boastful, as successful fishermen are apt to do, Cleopatra had her diver go down and attach a large Newfoundland salt codfish to his hook, which when pulled up before the company turned the laugh, and in the guise of jest taught the man a useful lesson. Antony should have known better than to try to deceive a woman like that--other men have tried it before and since.
But all this horseplay was not to the higher taste of Cleopatra--with Cæsar, she would never have done it.
It is the man who gives the key to conduct in marriage, not the woman; the partnership is successful only as a woman conforms her life to his. If she can joyfully mingle her life with his, destiny smiles in benediction and they become necessary to each other. If she grudgingly gives, conforming outwardly, with mental reservations, she droops, and spirit flagellates the body until it sickens, dies. If she holds out firmly upon principle, intent on preserving her individuality, the man, if small, sickens and dies; if great he finds companionship elsewhere, and leaves her to develop her individuality alone--which she never does. One of three things happens to her: she dies, lapses into nullity, or finds a mate whose nature is sufficiently like her own that they can blend.
Cleopatra was a greater woman, far, than Antony was a man. But she conformed her life to his and counted it joy. She was capable of better things, but she waived them all, as strong women do and have done since the world began. Love is woman's whole existence--sometimes. But love was not Cleopatra's whole existence, any more than it is the sole existence of the silken Sara, whose prototype she was. Cleopatra loved power first, afterward she loved love. By attaching to herself a man of power both ambitions were realized.
Two years had gone by, and Antony still remained at Alexandria. Importunities, requests and orders had all failed to move him to return. The days passed in the routine affairs of State, hunting, fishing, excursions, fetes and games. Antony and Cleopatra were not separated night or day.
Suddenly news of serious import came: Fulvia, and Lucius, the brother of Antony, had rebelled against Cæsar and had gathered an army to fight him.
Antony was sore distressed, and started at once to the scene of the difficulty. Fulvia's side of the story was never told, for before Antony arrived in Italy she was dead.
Octavius Cæsar came out to meet Antony and they met as friends. According to Cæsar the whole thing had been planned by Fulvia as a scheme to lure her lord from the arms of Cleopatra. And anyway the plan had worked. The Triumvirate still existed--although Lepidus had practically been reduced to the rank of a private citizen.
Antony and Cæsar would now rule the world as one, and to cement the bond Antony should take the sister of Octavius to wife. Knowing full well the relationship of Antony and Cleopatra, she consented to the arrangement, and the marriage ceremony was duly performed.
Antony was the head of the Roman army and to a great degree the actual ruler. Power was too unequally divided between him and Cæsar for either to be happy--they quarreled like boys at play.
Antony was restless, uneasy, impatient. Octavia tried to keep the peace, but her kindly offices only made matters worse.
War broke out between Rome and certain tribes in the East, and Antony took the field. Octavia importuned her liege that she might attend him, and he finally consented. She went as far as Athens, then across to Macedonia, and here Antony sent her home to her brother that she might escape the dangers of the desert.
Antony followed the enemy down into Syria; and there sent for Cleopatra, that he might consult with her about joining the forces of Egypt with those of Rome to crush the barbarians.
Cleopatra came on, the consultation followed, and it was decided that when Cæsar the Great--the god-like man whose memory they mutually revered--said, "War is a foolish business," he was right. They would let the barbarians slide--if they deserved punishment, the gods would look after the case. If the barbarians did not need punishment, then they should go free.
Tents were struck, pack-camels were loaded, horses were saddled, and the caravan started for Alexandria. By the side of the camel that carried the queen, quietly stepped the proud barb that bore Mark Antony.
* * * * * * *
Cleopatra and Antony ruled Egypt together for fourteen years. The country had prospered, even in spite of the extravagance of its governors, and the Egyptians had shown a pride in their Roman ruler, as if he had done them great honor to remain and be one with them.
Cæsario was approaching manhood--his mother's heart was centering her ambition in him--she called him her King of Kings, the name she had given to his father. Antony was fond of the young man, and put him forward at public fetes even in advance of Cleopatra, his daughter, and Alexander and Ptolemy, his twin boys by the same mother. In playful paraphrase of Cleopatra, Antony called her the Queen of Kings, and also the Mother of Kings.
Word reached Rome that these children of Cleopatra were being trained as if they were to rule the world--perhaps it was so to be! Octavius Cæsar scowled. For Antony to wed his sister, and then desert her, and bring up a brood of barbarians to menace the State, was a serious offense.
An order was sent commanding Antony to return--requests and prayer all having proved futile and fruitless.
Antony had turned into fifty; his hair and beard were whitening with the frost of years. Cleopatra was near forty--devoted to her children, being their nurse, instructor, teacher.
The books refer to the life of Antony and Cleopatra as being given over to sensuality, licentiousness, profligacy. Just a word here to state this fact: sensuality alone sickens and turns to satiety ere a single moon has run her course. Sensuality was a factor in the bond, because sensuality is a part of life; but sensuality alone soon separates a man and a woman--it does not long unite. The bond that united Antony and Cleopatra can not be disposed of by either the words "sensuality" or "licentiousness"--some other term here applies: make it what you wish.
A copy of Antony's will had been stolen from the Alexandria archives and carried to Rome by traitors in the hope of personal reward. Cæsar read the will to Senate. One clause of it was particularly offensive to Cæsar: it provided that on the death of Antony, wherever it might occur, his body should be carried to Cleopatra. The will also provided that the children of Cleopatra should be provided for first, and afterward the children of Fulvia and Octavia.
The Roman Senate heard the will, and declared Mark Antony an outlaw--a public enemy.
Erelong Cæsar himself took the field and the Roman legions were pressing down upon Egypt. The renegade Mark Antony was fighting for his life. For a time he was successful, but youth was no longer his, the spring had gone out of his veins, and pride and prosperity had pushed him toward fatty degeneration.
His soldiers lost faith in him, and turned to the powerful name of Cæsar--a name to conjure with. A battle had been arranged between the fleet of Mark Antony and that of Cæsar. Mark Antony stood upon a hillside, overlooking the sea, and saw the valiant fleet approach, in battle-array, the ships of the enemy. The two fleets met, hailed each other in friendly manner with their oars, turned and together sailed away.
On shore the cavalry had done the same as the soldiers on the sea--the infantry were routed.
Mark Antony was undone--he made his way back to the city, and as usual sought Cleopatra. The palace was deserted, save for a few servants. They said that the Queen had sent the children away some days before, and she was in the mausoleum.
To the unhappy man this meant that she was dead. He demanded that his one faithful valet, known by the fanciful name of Eros, should keep his promise and kill him. Eros drew his sword, and Antony bared his breast, but instead of striking the sword into the vitals of his master, Eros plunged the blade into his own body, and fell at his master's feet.
At which Mark Antony exclaimed, "This was well done, Eros--thy heart would not permit thee to kill thy master, but thou hast set him an example!" So saying, he plunged his sword into his bowels.
The wound was not deep enough to cause immediate death, and Antony begged the gathered attendants to kill him.
Word had been carried to Cleopatra, who had moved into her mausoleum for safety. This monument and tomb had been erected some years before; it was made of square blocks of solid stone, and was the stoutest building in Alexandria. While Antony was outside the walls fighting, Cleopatra had carried into this building all of her jewelry, plate, costly silks, gold, silver, pearls, her private records and most valuable books. She had also carried into the mausoleum a large quantity of flax and several torches.
The intent was that, if Antony were defeated and the city taken by Cæsar, the conqueror should not take the Queen alive, neither should he have her treasure. With her two women, Iras and Charmion, she entered the tomb, all agreeing that when the worst came they would fire the flax and die together.
When the Queen heard that Antony was at death's door she ordered that he should be brought to her. He was carried on a litter to the iron gate of the tomb; but she, fearing treachery, would not unbar the door. Cords were let down from a window above, and the Queen and her two women, with much effort, drew the sorely stricken man up, and lifted him through the window.
Cleopatra embraced him, calling him her lord, her life, her king, her husband. She tried to stanch his wound, but the death-rattle was already in his throat. "Do not grieve," he said; "remember our love--remember, too, I fought like a Roman and have been overcome only by a Roman!"
And so holding him in her arms, Antony died.
When Cæsar heard that his enemy was dead, he put on mourning for the man who had been his comrade and colleague, and sent messages of condolence to Cleopatra. He set apart a day for the funeral and ordered that the day should be sacred, and Cleopatra should not be disturbed in any way.
Cleopatra prepared the body for burial with her own hands, dug the grave alone, and with her women laid the body to rest, and she alone gave the funeral address.
Cæsar was gentle, gracious, kind. Assurances came that he would do neither the city nor the Queen the slightest harm.
Cleopatra demanded Egypt for her children, and for herself she wished only the privilege of living with her grief in obscurity. Cæsar would make no promises for her children, but as for herself she should still be Queen--they were of one age--why should not Cæsar and Cleopatra still rule, just as, indeed, a Cæsar had ruled before!
But this woman had loved the Great Cæsar, and now her heart was in the grave with Mark Antony--she scorned the soft, insinuating promises.
She clothed herself in her most costly robes, wearing the pearls and gems that Antony had given her, and upon her head was the diadem that proclaimed her Queen. A courier from Cæsar's camp knocked at the door of the mausoleum, but he knocked in vain.
Finally a ladder was procured, and he climbed to the window through which the body of Antony had been lifted.
In the lower room he saw the Queen seated in her golden chair of state, robed and serene, dead. At her feet lay Iras, lifeless. The faithful Charmion stood as if in waiting at the back of her mistress' chair, giving a final touch to the diadem that sat upon the coils of her lustrous hair.
The messenger from Cæsar stood in the door aghast--orders had been given that Cleopatra should not be harmed, neither should she be allowed to harm herself.
Now she had escaped!
"Charmion!" called the man in stern rebuke. "How was this done?"
"Done, sir," said Charmion, "as became a daughter of the King of Egypt."
As the woman spoke the words she reeled, caught at the chair, fell, and was dead.
Some said these women had taken a deadly poison invented by Cleopatra and held against this day; others, still, told of how a countryman had brought a basket of figs, by appointment, covered over with green leaves, and in the basket was hidden an asp, that deadliest of serpents. Cleopatra had placed the asp in her bosom, and the other women had followed her example.
Cæsar, still wearing mourning for Mark Antony, went into retirement and for three days refused all visitors. But first he ordered that the body of Cleopatra, clothed as she had died, in her royal robes, should be placed in the grave beside the body of Mark Antony.
And it was so done.