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 strangled.
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 there.
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 throne.
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 designs.
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 follow.
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.
ACCESSION TO THE THRONE.
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.
Mark Antony was a special object of public regard and admiration at the time. His eccentric manners, his frank and honest air, his Roman simplicity of dress and demeanor, made him conspicuous; and his interposition to save the lives of the captured garrison of Pelusium, and the interest which he took in rendering such distinguished funeral honors to the enemy whom his army had slain in battle, impressed the people with the idea of a certain nobleness and magnanimity in his character, which, in spite of his faults, made him an object of general admiration and applause. The very faults of such a man assume often, in the eyes of the world, the guise and semblance of virtues. For example, it is related of Antony that, at one time in the course of his life, having a desire to make a present of some kind to a certain person, in requital for a favor which he had received from him, he ordered his treasurer to send a sum of money to his friend—and named for the sum to be sent an amount considerably greater than was really required under the circumstances of the case—acting thus, as he often did, under the influence of a blind and uncalculating generosity. The treasurer, more prudent than his master, wished to reduce the amount, but he did not dare directly to propose a reduction; so he counted out the money, and laid it in a pile in a place where Antony was to pass, thinking that when Antony saw the amount, he would perceive that it was too great. Antony, in passing by, asked what money that was. The treasurer said that it was the sum that he had ordered to be sent as a present to such a person, naming the individual intended. Antony was quick to perceive the object of the treasurer's maneuver. He immediately replied, "Ah! is that all? I thought the sum I named would make a better appearance than that; send him double the amount."
To determine, under such circumstances as these, to double an extravagance merely for the purpose of thwarting the honest attempt of a faithful servant to diminish it, made, too, in so cautious and delicate a way, is most certainly a fault. But it is one of those faults for which the world, in all ages, will persist in admiring and praising the perpetrator.
In a word, Antony became the object of general attention and favor during his continuance at Alexandria. Whether he particularly attracted Cleopatra's attention at this time or not does not appear. She, however, strongly attracted his. He admired her blooming beauty, her sprightliness and wit, and her various accomplishments. She was still, however, so young—being but fifteen years of age, while Antony was nearly thirty—that she probably made no very serious impression upon him. A short time after this, Antony went back to Rome, and did not see Cleopatra again for many years.
When the two Roman generals went away from Alexandria, they left a considerable portion of the army behind them, under Ptolemy's command, to aid him in keeping possession of his throne. Antony returned to Rome. He had acquired great renown by his march across the desert, and by the successful accomplishment of the invasion of Egypt and the restoration of Ptolemy. His funds, too, were replenished by the vast sums paid to him and to Gabinius by Ptolemy. The amount which Ptolemy is said to have agreed to pay as the price of his restoration was two thousand talents—equal to ten millions of dollars—a sum which shows on how great a scale the operations of this celebrated campaign were conducted. Ptolemy raised a large portion of the money required for his payments by confiscating the estates belonging to those friends of Berenice's government whom he ordered to be slain. It was said, in fact, that the numbers were very much increased of those that were condemned to die, by Ptolemy's standing in such urgent need of their property to meet his obligations.
Antony, through the results of this campaign, found himself suddenly raised from the position of a disgraced and homeless fugitive to that of one of the most wealthy and renowned, and, consequently, one of the most powerful personages in Rome. The great civil war broke out about this time between Caesar and Pompey. Antony espoused the cause of Caesar.
In the mean time, while the civil war between Caesar and Pompey was raging, Ptolemy succeeded in maintaining his seat on the throne, by the aid of the Roman soldiers whom Antony and Gabinius had left him, for about three years. When he found himself drawing toward the close of life, the question arose to his mind to whom he should leave his kingdom. Cleopatra was the oldest child, and she was a princess of great promise, both in respect to mental endowments and personal charms. Her brothers were considerably younger than she. The claim of a son, though younger, seemed to be naturally stronger than that of a daughter; but the commanding talents and rising influence of Cleopatra appeared to make it doubtful whether it would be safe to pass her by. The father settled the question in the way in which such difficulties were usually surmounted in the Ptolemy family. He ordained that Cleopatra should marry the oldest of her brothers, and that they two should jointly occupy the throne. Adhering also, still, to the idea of the alliance of Egypt with Rome, which had been the leading principle of the whole policy of his reign, he solemnly committed the execution of his will and the guardianship of his children, by a provision of the instrument itself, to the Roman Senate. The Senate accepted the appointment, and appointed Pompey as the agent, on their part, to perform the duties of the trust. The attention of Pompey was, immediately after that time, too much engrossed by the civil war waged between himself, and Caesar, to take any active steps in respect to the duties of his appointment. It seemed, however, that none were necessary, for all parties in Alexandria appeared disposed, after the death of the king, to acquiesce in the arrangements which he had made, and to join in carrying them into effect. Cleopatra was married to her brother—yet, it is true, only a boy. He was about ten years old. She was herself about eighteen. They were both too young to govern; they could only reign. The affairs of the kingdom were, accordingly, conducted by two ministers whom their father had designated. These ministers were Pothinus, a eunuch, who was a sort of secretary of state, and Achillas, the commander-in-chief of the armies.
Thus, though Cleopatra, by these events, became nominally a queen, her real accession to the throne was not yet accomplished. There were still many difficulties and dangers to be passed through, before the period arrived when she became really a sovereign. She did not, herself, make any immediate attempt to hasten this period, but seems to have acquiesced, on the other hand, very quietly, for a time, in the arrangements which her father had made.
Pothinus was a eunuch. He had been, for a long time, an officer of government under Ptolemy, the father. He was a proud, ambitious, and domineering man, determined to rule, and very unscrupulous in respect to the means which he adopted to accomplish his ends. He had been accustomed to regard Cleopatra as a mere child. Now that she was queen, he was very unwilling that the real power should pass into her hands. The jealousy and ill will which he felt toward her increased rapidly as he found, in the course of the first two or three years after her father's death, that she was advancing rapidly in strength of character, and in the influence and ascendency which she was acquiring over all around her. Her beauty, her accomplishments, and a certain indescribable charm which pervaded all her demeanor, combined to give her great personal power. But, while these things awakened in other minds feelings of interest in Cleopatra and attachment to her, they only increased the jealousy and envy of Pothinus. Cleopatra was becoming his rival. He endeavored to thwart and circumvent her. He acted toward her in a haughty and overbearing manner, in order to keep her down to what he considered her proper place as his ward; for he was yet the guardian both of Cleopatra and her husband, and the regent of the realm.
Cleopatra had a great deal of what is sometimes called spirit, and her resentment was aroused by this treatment. Pothinus took pains to enlist her young husband, Ptolemy, on his side, as the quarrel advanced. Ptolemy was younger, and of a character much less marked and decided than Cleopatra. Pothinus saw that he could maintain control over him much more easily and for a much longer time than over Cleopatra. He contrived to awaken the young Ptolemy's jealousy of his wife's rising influence, and to induce him to join in efforts to thwart and counteract it. These attempts to turn her husband against her only aroused Cleopatra's resentment the more. Hers was not a spirit to be coerced. The palace was filled with the dissensions of the rivals. Pothinus and Ptolemy began to take measures for securing the army on their side. An open rupture finally ensued, and Cleopatra was expelled from the kingdom.
She went to Syria. Syria was the nearest place of refuge, and then, besides, it was the country from which the aid had been furnished by which her father had been restored to the throne when he had been expelled, in a similar manner, many years before. Her father, it is true, had gone first to Rome; but the succors which he had negotiated for had been sent from Syria. Cleopatra hoped to obtain the same assistance by going directly there.
Nor was she disappointed. She obtained an army, and commenced her march toward Egypt, following the same track which Antony and Gabinius had pursued in coming to reinstate her father. Pothinus raised an army and went forth to meet her. He took Achillas as the commander of the troops, and the young Ptolemy as the nominal sovereign; while he, as the young king's guardian and prime minister, exercised the real power. The troops of Pothinus advanced to Pelusium. Here they met the forces of Cleopatra coming from the east. The armies encamped not very far from each other, and both sides began to prepare for battle.
The battle, however, was not fought. It was prevented by the occurrence of certain great and unforeseen events which at this crisis suddenly burst upon the scene of Egyptian history, and turned the whole current of affairs into new and unexpected channels. The breaking out of the civil war between the great Roman generals Caesar and Pompey, and their respective partisans, has already been mentioned as having occurred soon after the death of Cleopatra's father, and as having prevented Pompey from undertaking the office of executor of the will. This war had been raging ever since that time with terrible fury. Its distant thundering had been heard even in Egypt, but it was too remote to awaken there any special alarm. The immense armies of these two mighty conquerors had moved slowly—like two ferocious birds of prey, flying through the air, and fighting as they fly—across Italy into Greece, and from Greece, through Macedon, into Thessaly, contending in dreadful struggles with each other as they advanced, and trampling down and destroying every thing in their way. At length a great final battle had been fought at Pharsalia. Pompey had been totally defeated. He had fled to the sea-shore, and there, with a few ships and a small number of followers, he had pushed out upon the Mediterranean, not knowing whither to fly, and overwhelmed with wretchedness and despair. Caesar followed him in eager pursuit. He had a small fleet of galleys with him, on board of which he had embarked two or three thousand men. This was a force suitable, perhaps, for the pursuit of a fugitive, but wholly insufficient for any other design.
Pompey thought of Ptolemy. He remembered the efforts which he himself had made for the cause of Ptolemy Auletes, at Rome, and the success of those efforts in securing that monarch's restoration—an event through which alone the young Ptolemy had been enabled to attain the crown. He came, therefore to Pelusium, and, anchoring his little fleet off the shore, sent to the land to ask Ptolemy to receive and protect him. Pothinus, who was really the commander in Ptolemy's army, made answer to this application that Pompey should be received and protected, and that he would send out a boat to bring him to the shore. Pompey felt some misgivings in respect to this proffered hospitality, but he finally concluded to go to the shore in the boat which Pothinus sent for him. As soon as he landed, the Egyptians, by Pothinus's orders, stabbed and beheaded him on the sand. Pothinus and his council had decided that this would be the safest course. If they were to receive Pompey, they reasoned, Caesar would be made their enemy; if they refused to receive him, Pompey himself would be offended, and they did not know which of the two it would be safe to displease; for they did not know in what way, if both the generals were to be allowed to live, the war would ultimately end. "But by killing Pompey," they said, "we shall be sure to please Caesar and Pompey himself will lie still."
In the mean time, Caesar, not knowing to what part of Egypt Pompey had fled, pressed on directly to Alexandria. He exposed himself to great danger in so doing, for the forces under his command were not sufficient to protect him in case of his becoming involved in difficulties with the authorities there. Nor could he, when once arrived on the Egyptian coast, easily go away again; for, at the season of the year in which these events occurred, there was a periodical wind which blew steadily toward that part of the coast, and, while it made it very easy for a fleet of ships to go to Alexandria, rendered it almost impossible for them to return.
Caesar was very little accustomed to shrink from danger in any of his enterprises and plans, though still he was usually prudent and circumspect. In this instance, however, his ardent interest in the pursuit of Pompey overruled all considerations of personal safety. He arrived at Alexandria, but he found that Pompey was not there. He anchored his vessels in the port, landed his troops, and established himself in the city. These two events, the assassination of one of the great Roman generals on the eastern extremity of the coast, and the arrival of the other, at the same moment, at Alexandria, on the western, burst suddenly upon Egypt together, like simultaneous claps of thunder. The tidings struck the whole country with astonishment, and immediately engrossed universal attention. At the camps both of Cleopatra and Ptolemy, at Pelusium, all was excitement and wonder. Instead of thinking of a battle, both parties were wholly occupied in speculating on the results which were likely to accrue, to one side or to the other, under the totally new and unexpected aspect which public affairs had assumed.
Of course the thoughts of all were turned toward Alexandria. Pothinus immediately proceeded to the city, taking with him the young king. Achillas, too, either accompanied them, or followed soon afterward. They carried with them the head of Pompey, which they had cut off on the shore where they had killed him, and also a seal which they took from his finger. When they arrived at Alexandria, they sent the head, wrapped up in a cloth, and also the seal, as presents to Caesar. Accustomed as they were to the brutal deeds and heartless cruelties of the Ptolemies, they supposed that Caesar would exult at the spectacle of the dissevered and ghastly head of his great rival and enemy. Instead of this, he was shocked and displeased, and ordered the head to be buried with the most solemn and imposing funeral ceremonies. He, however, accepted and kept the seal. The device engraved upon it was a lion holding a sword in his paw—a fit emblem of the characters of the men, who, though in many respects magnanimous and just, had filled the whole world with the terror of their quarrels.
The army of Ptolemy, while he himself and his immediate counselors went to Alexandria, was left at Pelusium, under the command of other officers, to watch Cleopatra. Cleopatra herself would have been pleased, also, to repair to Alexandria and appeal to Caesar, if it had been in her power to do so; but she was beyond the confines of the country, with a powerful army of her enemies ready to intercept her on any attempt to enter or pass through it. She remained, therefore, at Pelusium, uncertain what to do.
In the mean time, Caesar soon found himself in a somewhat embarrassing situation at Alexandria. He had been accustomed, for many years, to the possession and the exercise of the most absolute and despotic power, wherever he might be; and now that Pompey, his great rival, was dead, he considered himself the monarch and master of the world. He had not, however, at Alexandria, any means sufficient to maintain and enforce such pretensions, and yet he was not of a spirit to abate, on that account, in the slightest degree, the advancing of them. He established himself in the palaces of Alexandria as if he were himself the king. He moved, in state, through the streets of the city, at the head of his guards, and displaying the customary emblems of supreme authority used at Rome. He claimed the six thousand talents which Ptolemy Auletes had formerly promised him for procuring a treaty of alliance with Rome, and he called upon Pothinus to pay the balance due. He said, moreover, that by the will of Auletes the Roman people had been made the executor; and that it devolved upon him as the Roman consul, and, consequently, the representative of the Roman people, to assume that trust, and in the discharge of it to settle the dispute between Ptolemy and Cleopatra, and he called upon Ptolemy to prepare and lay before him a statement of his claims, and the grounds on which he maintained his right to the throne to the exclusion of Cleopatra.
On the other hand, Pothinus, who had been as little accustomed to acknowledge a superior as Caesar, though his supremacy and domination had been exercised on a somewhat humbler scale, was obstinate and pertinacious in resisting all these demands, though the means and methods which he resorted to were of a character corresponding to his weak and ignoble mind. He fomented quarrels in the streets between the Alexandrian populace and Caesar's soldiers. He thought that, as the number of troops under Caesar's command in the city, and of vessels in the port, was small, he could tease and worry the Romans with impunity, though he had not the courage openly to attack them. He pretended to be a friend, or, at least, not an enemy, and yet he conducted himself toward them in an overbearing and insolent manner. He had agreed to make arrangements for supplying them with food, and he did this by procuring damaged provisions of a most wretched quality; and when the soldiers remonstrated, he said to them, that they who lived at other people's cost had no right to complain of their fare. He caused wooden and earthen vessels to be used in the palace, and said, in explanation, that he had been compelled to sell all the gold and silver plate of the royal household to meet the exactions of Caesar. He busied himself, too, about the city, in endeavoring to excite odium against Caesar's proposal to hear and decide the question at issue between Cleopatra and Ptolemy. Ptolemy was a sovereign, he said, and was not amenable to any foreign power whatever. Thus, without the courage or the energy to attempt any open, manly, and effectual system of hostility, he contented himself with making all the difficulty in his power, by urging an incessant pressure of petty, vexatious, and provoking, but useless annoyances. Caesar's demands may have been unjust, but they were bold, manly, and undisguised. The eunuch may have been right in resisting them; but the mode was so mean and contemptible, that mankind have always taken part with Caesar in the sentiments which they have formed as spectators of the contest.
With the very small force which Caesar had at his command, and shut up as he was in the midst of a very great and powerful city, in which both the garrison and the population were growing more and more hostile to him every day, he soon found his situation was beginning to be attended with very serious danger. He could not retire from the scene. He probably would not have retired if he could have done so. He remained, therefore, in the city, conducting himself all the time with prudence and circumspection, but yet maintaining, as at first, the same air of confident self-possession and superiority which always characterized his demeanor. He, however, dispatched a messenger forthwith into Syria, the nearest country under the Roman sway, with orders that several legions which were posted there should be embarked and forwarded to Alexandria with the utmost possible celerity.
CLEOPATRA AND Caesar.
Cleopatra's perplexity.—She resolves To go to Alexandria.—Cleopatra's message to Caesar.—Caesar's reply.—Apollodorus's stratagem.—Cleopatra and Caesar—First impressions.—Caesar's attachment.—Caesar's wife.—His fondness for Cleopatra.—Cleopatra's foes.—She commits her cause to Caesar.—Caesar's pretensions.—He sends for Ptolemy.—Ptolemy's indignation.—His complaints against Caesar.—Great tumult in the city.—Excitement of the populace.—Caesar's forces—Ptolemy made prisoner.—Caesar's address to the people.—Its effects.—The mob dispersed.—Caesar convenes an assembly.—Caesar's decision. —Satisfaction of the assembly.—Festivals and rejoicings. —Pothinus and Achillas.—Plot of Pothinus and Achillas.—Escape of Achillas.—March of the Egyptian army.—Measures of Caesar. —Murder of the messengers.—Intentions of Achillas—Cold-blooded assassination.—Advance of Achillas—Caesar's arrangements for defense.—Cleopatra and Ptolemy.—Double dealing of Pothinus.—He is detected.—Pothinus beheaded—Arsinoe and Ganymede—Flight of Arsinoe—She is proclaimed queen by the army.—Perplexity of the young Ptolemy.
In the mean time, while the events related in the last chapter were taking place at Alexandria, Cleopatra remained anxious and uneasy in her camp, quite uncertain, for a time, what it was best for her to do. She wished to be at Alexandria. She knew very well that Caesar's power in controlling the course of affairs in Egypt would necessarily be supreme. She was, of course, very earnest in her desire to be able to present her cause before him. As it was, Ptolemy and Pothinus were in communication with the arbiter, and, for aught she knew, assiduously cultivating his favor, while she was far away, her cause unheard, her wrongs unknown, and perhaps even her existence forgotten. Of course, under such circumstances, she was very earnest to get to Alexandria.
But how to accomplish this purpose was a source of great perplexity. She could not march thither at the head of an army, for the army of the king was strongly intrenched at Pelusium, and effectually barred the way. She could not attempt to pass alone, or with few attendants, through the country, for every town and village was occupied with garrisons and officers under the orders of Pothinus, and she would be certainly intercepted. She had no fleet, and could not, therefore, make the passage by sea. Besides, even if she could by any means reach the gates of Alexandria, how was she to pass safely through the streets of the city to the palace where Caesar resided, since the city, except in Caesar's quarters, was wholly in the hands of Pothinus's government? The difficulties in the way of accomplishing her object seemed thus almost insurmountable.
She was, however, resolved to make the attempt. She sent a message to Caesar, asking permission to appear before him and plead her own cause. Caesar replied, urging her by all means to come. She took a single boat, and with the smallest number of attendants possible, made her way along the coast to Alexandria. The man on whom she principally relied in this hazardous expedition was a domestic named Apollodorus. She had, however, some other attendants besides. When the party reached Alexandria, they waited until night, and then advanced to the foot of the walls of the citadel. Here Apollodorus rolled the queen up in a piece of carpeting, and, covering the whole package with a cloth, he tied it with a thong, so as to give it the appearance of a bale of ordinary merchandise, and then throwing the load across his shoulder, he advanced into the city. Cleopatra was at this time about twenty-one years of age, but she was of a slender and graceful form, and the burden was, consequently, not very heavy. Apollodorus came to the gates of the palace where Caesar was residing. The guards at the gates asked him what it was that he was carrying. He said that it was a present for Caesar. So they allowed him to pass, and the pretended porter carried his package safely in.
When it was unrolled, and Cleopatra came out to view, Caesar was perfectly charmed with the spectacle. In fact, the various conflicting emotions which she could not but feel under such circumstances as these, imparted a double interest to her beautiful and expressive face, and to her naturally bewitching manners. She was excited by the adventure through which she had passed, and yet pleased with her narrow escape from its dangers. The curiosity and interest which she felt on the one hand, in respect to the great personage into whose presence she had been thus strangely ushered, was very strong; but then, on the other hand, it was chastened and subdued by that feeling of timidity which, in new and unexpected situations like these, and under a consciousness of being the object of eager observation to the other sex, is inseparable from the nature of woman.
The conversation which Caesar held with Cleopatra deepened the impression which her first appearance had made upon him. Her intelligence and animation, the originality of her ideas, and the point and pertinency of her mode of expressing them, made her, independently of her personal charms, an exceedingly entertaining and agreeable companion. She, in fact, completely won the great conqueror's heart; and, through the strong attachment to her which he immediately formed, he became wholly disqualified to act impartially between her and her brother in regard to their respective rights to the crown. We call Ptolemy Cleopatra's brother; for, though he was also, in fact, her husband, still, as he was only ten or twelve years of age at the time of Cleopatra's expulsion from Alexandria, the marriage had been probably regarded, thus far, only as a mere matter of form. Caesar was now about fifty-two. He had a wife, named Calpurnia, to whom he had been married about ten years. She was living, at this time in an unostentatious and quiet manner at Rome. She was a lady of an amiable and gentle character, devotedly attached to her husband, patient and forbearing in respect to his faults, and often anxious and unhappy at the thought of the difficulties and dangers in which his ardent and unbounded ambition so often involved him.
Caesar immediately began to take a very strong interest in Cleopatra's cause. He treated her personally with the fondest attention, and it was impossible for her not to reciprocate in some degree the kind feeling with which he regarded her. It was, in fact, something altogether new to her to have a warm and devoted friend, espousing her cause, tendering her protection, and seeking in every way to promote her happiness. Her father had all his life neglected her. Her brother, of years and understanding totally inferior to hers, whom she had been compelled to make her husband, had become her mortal enemy. It is true that, in depriving her of her inheritance and expelling her from her native land, he had been only the tool and instrument of more designing men. This, however, far from improving the point of view from which she regarded him, made him appear not only hateful, but contemptible too. All the officers of government, also, in the Alexandrian court had turned against her, because they had supposed that they could control her brother more easily if she were away. Thus she had always been surrounded by selfish, mercenary, and implacable foes. Now, for the first time, she seemed to have a friend. A protector had suddenly arisen to support and defend her,—a man of very alluring person and manners, of a very noble and generous spirit, and of the very highest station. He loved her, and she could not refrain from loving him in return. She committed her cause entirely into his hands, confided to him all her interests, and gave herself up wholly into his power.
Nor was the unbounded confidence which she reposed in him undeserved, so far as related to his efforts to restore her to her throne. The legions which Caesar had sent for into Syria had not yet arrived, and his situation in Alexandria was still very defenseless and very precarious. He did not, however, on this account, abate in the least degree the loftiness and self confidence of the position which he had assumed, but he commenced immediately the work of securing Cleopatra's restoration. This quiet assumption of the right and power to arbitrate and decide such a question as that of the claim to the throne, in a country where he had accidentally landed and found rival claimants disputing for the succession, while he was still wholly destitute of the means of enforcing the superiority which he so coolly assumed, marks the immense ascendency which the Roman power had attained at this time in the estimation of mankind, and is, besides, specially characteristic of the genius and disposition of Caesar.
Very soon after Cleopatra had come to him, Caesar sent for the young Ptolemy, and urged upon him the duty and expediency of restoring Cleopatra. Ptolemy was beginning now to attain an age at which he might be supposed to have some opinion of his own on such a question. He declared himself utterly opposed to any such design. In the course of the conversation he learned that Cleopatra had arrived at Alexandria, and that she was then concealed in Caesar's palace. This intelligence awakened in his mind the greatest excitement and indignation. He went away from Caesar's presence in a rage. He tore the diadem which he was accustomed to wear in the streets, from his head, threw it down, and trampled it under his feet. He declared to the people that he was betrayed, and displayed the most violent indications of vexation and chagrin. The chief subject of his complaint, in the attempts which he made to awaken the popular indignation against Caesar and the Romans, was the disgraceful impropriety of the position which his sister had assumed in surrendering herself as she had done to Caesar. It is most probable, however, unless his character was very different from that of every other Ptolemy in the line, that what really awakened his jealousy and anger was fear of the commanding influence and power to which Cleopatra was likely to attain through the agency of so distinguished a protector, rather than any other consequences of his friendship, or any real considerations of delicacy in respect to his sister's good name or his own martial honor.
However this may be, Ptolemy, together with Pothinus and Achillas, and all his other friends and adherents, who joined him in the terrible outcry that he made against the coalition which he had discovered between Cleopatra and Caesar, succeeded in producing a very general and violent tumult throughout the city. The populace were aroused, and began to assemble in great crowds, and full of indignation and anger. Some knew the facts, and acted under something like an understanding of the cause of their anger. Others only knew that the aim of this sudden outbreak was to assault the Romans, and were ready, on any pretext, known or unknown, to join in any deeds of violence directed against these foreign intruders. There were others still, and these, probably, far the larger portion, who knew nothing and understood nothing but that there was to be tumult and a riot in and around the palaces, and were, accordingly, eager to be there.
Ptolemy and his officers had no large body of troops in Alexandria; for the events which had thus far occurred since Caesar's arrival had succeeded each other so rapidly, that a very short time had yet elapsed, and the main army remained still at Pelusium. The main force, therefore, by which Caesar was now attacked, consisted of the population of the city, headed, perhaps, by the few guards which the young king had at his command.
Caesar, on his part, had but a small portion of his forces at the palace where he was attacked. The rest were scattered about the city. He, however, seems to have felt no alarm. He did not even confine himself to acting on the defensive. He sent out a detachment of his soldiers with orders to seize Ptolemy and bring him in a prisoner. Soldiers trained, disciplined, and armed as the Roman veterans were, and nerved by the ardor and enthusiasm which seemed always to animate troops which were under Caesar's personal command, could accomplish almost any undertaking against a mere populace, however numerous or however furiously excited they might be. The soldiers sallied out, seized Ptolemy, and brought him in.
The populace were at first astounded at the daring presumption of this deed, and then exasperated at the indignity of it, considered as a violation of the person of their sovereign. The tumult would have greatly increased, had it not been that Caesar,—who had now attained all his ends in thus having brought Cleopatra and Ptolemy both within his power,—thought it most expedient to allay it. He accordingly ascended to the window of a tower, or of some other elevated portion of his palace, so high that missiles from the mob below could not reach him, and began to make signals expressive of his wish to address them.
When silence was obtained, he made them a speech well calculated to quiet the excitement. He told them that he did not pretend to any right to judge between Cleopatra and Ptolemy as their superior, but only in the performance of the duty solemnly assigned by Ptolemy Auletes, the father, to the Roman people, whose representative he was. Other than this he claimed no jurisdiction in the case; and his only wish, in the discharge of the duty which devolved upon him to consider the cause, was to settle the question in a manner just and equitable to all the parties concerned, and thus arrest the progress of the civil war, which, if not arrested, threatened to involve the country in the most terrible calamities. He counseled them, therefore, to disperse, and no longer disturb the peace of the city. He would immediately take measures for trying the question between Cleopatra and Ptolemy, and he did not doubt, but that they would all be satisfied with his decision.
This speech, made, as it was, in the eloquent and persuasive, and yet dignified and imposing manner for which Caesar's harangues to turbulent assemblies like these were so famed, produced a great effect. Some were convinced, others were silenced; and those whose resentment and anger were not appeased, found themselves deprived of their power by the pacification of the rest. The mob was dispersed, and Ptolemy remained with Cleopatra in Caesar's custody.
The next day, Caesar, according to his promise, convened an assembly of the principal people of Alexandria and officers of state, and then brought out Ptolemy and Cleopatra, that he might decide their cause. The original will which Ptolemy Auletes had executed had been deposited in the public archives of Alexandria, and carefully preserved there. An authentic copy of it had been sent to Rome. Caesar caused the original will to be brought out and read to the assembly. The provisions of it were perfectly explicit and clear. It required that Cleopatra and Ptolemy should be married, and then settled the sovereign power upon them jointly, as king and queen. It recognized the Roman commonwealth as the ally of Egypt, and constituted the Roman government the executor of the will, and the guardian of the king and queen. In fact, so clear and explicit was this document, that the simple reading of it seemed to be of itself a decision of the question. When, therefore, Caesar announced that, in his judgment, Cleopatra was entitled to share the supreme power with Ptolemy, and that it was his duty, as the representative of the Roman power and the executor of the will, to protect both the king and the queen in their respective rights, there seemed to be nothing that could be said against his decision.
Besides Cleopatra and Ptolemy, there were two other children of Ptolemy Auletes in the royal family at this time. One was a girl, named Arsinoe. The other, a boy, was, singularly enough, named, like his brother, Ptolemy. These children were quite young, but Caesar thought that it would perhaps gratify the Alexandrians, and lead them to acquiesce more readily in his decision, if he were to make some royal provision for them. He accordingly proposed to assign the island of Cyprus as a realm for them. This was literally a gift, for Cyprus was at this time a Roman possession.
The whole assembly seemed satisfied with this decision except Pothinus. He had been so determined and inveterate an enemy to Cleopatra, that, as he was well aware, her restoration must end in his downfall and ruin. He went away from the assembly moodily determining that he would not submit to the decision, but would immediately adopt efficient measures to prevent its being carried into effect.
Caesar made arrangements for a series of festivals and celebrations, to commemorate and confirm the reestablishment of a good understanding between the king and the queen, and the consequent termination of the war. Such celebrations, he judged, would have great influence in removing any remaining animosities from the minds of the people, and restore the dominion of a kind and friendly feeling throughout the city.
The people fell in with these measures, and cordially co-operated to give them effect; but Pothinus and Achillas, though they suppressed all outward expressions of discontent, made incessant efforts in secret to organize a party, and to form plans for overthrowing the influence of Caesar, and making Ptolemy again the sole and exclusive sovereign.
Pothinus represented to all whom he could induce to listen to him that Caesar's real design was to make Cleopatra queen alone, and to depose Ptolemy, and urged them to combine with him to resist a policy which would end in bringing Egypt under the dominion of a woman. He also formed a plan, in connection with Achillas, for ordering the army back from Pelusium. The army consisted of thirty thousand men. If that army could be brought to Alexandria and kept under Pothinus's orders, Caesar and his three thousand Roman soldiers would be, they thought, wholly at their mercy.
There was, however, one danger to be guarded against in ordering the army to march toward the capital, and that was, that Ptolemy, while under Caesar's influence, might open communication with the officers, and so obtain command of its movements, and thwart all the conspirators' designs. To prevent this, it was arranged between Pothinus and Achillas that the latter should make his escape from Alexandria, proceed immediately to the camp at Pelusium, resume the command of the troops there, and conduct them himself to the capital; and that in all these operations, and also subsequently on his arrival, he should obey no orders unless they came to him through Pothinus himself.
Although sentinels and guards were probably stationed at the gates and avenues leading from the city Achillas contrived to effect his escape and to join the army. He placed himself at the head of the forces, and commenced his march toward the capital. Pothinus remained all the time within the city as a spy, pretending to acquiesce in Caesar's decision, and to be on friendly terms with him, but really plotting for his overthrow, and obtaining all the information which his position enabled him to command, in order that he might co-operate with the army and Achillas when they should arrive.
All these things were done with the utmost secrecy, and so cunning and adroit were the conspirators in forming and executing their plots, that Caesar seems to have had no knowledge of the measures which his enemies were taking, until he suddenly heard that the main body of Ptolemy's army was approaching the city, at least twenty thousand strong. In the mean time, however, the forces which he had sent for from Syria had not arrived, and no alternative was left but to defend the capital and himself as well as he could with the very small force which he had at his disposal.
He determined, however, first, to try the effect of orders sent out in Ptolemy's name to forbid the approach of the army to the city. Two officers were accordingly intrusted with these orders, and sent out to communicate them to Achillas. The names of these officers were Dioscorides and Serapion.
It shows in a very striking point of view to what an incredible exaltation the authority and consequence of a sovereign king rose in those ancient days, in the minds of men, that Achillas, at the moment when these men made their appearance in the camp, bearing evidently some command from Ptolemy in the city, considered it more prudent to kill them at once, without hearing their message, rather than to allow the orders to be delivered and then take the responsibility of disobeying them. If he could succeed in marching to Alexandria and in taking possession of the city, and then in expelling Caesar and Cleopatra and restoring Ptolemy to the exclusive possession of the throne, he knew very well that the king would rejoice in the result, and would overlook all irregularities on his part in the means by which he had accomplished it, short of absolute disobedience of a known command. Whatever might be the commands that these messengers were bringing him, he supposed that they doubtless originated, not in Ptolemy's own free will, but that they were dictated by the authority of Caesar. Still, they would be commands coming in Ptolemy's name, and the universal experience of officers serving under the military despots of those ancient days showed that, rather than to take the responsibility of directly disobeying a royal order once received, it was safer to avoid receiving it by murdering the messengers.
Achillas therefore directed the officers to be seized and slain. They were accordingly taken off and speared by the soldiers, and then the bodies were borne away. The soldiers, however, it was found, had not done their work effectually. There was no interest for them in such a cold-blooded assassination, and perhaps something like a sentiment of compassion restrained their hands. At any rate, though both the men were desperately wounded, one only died. The other lived and recovered.
Achillas continued to advance toward the city. Caesar, finding that the crisis which was approaching was becoming very serious in its character, took, himself, the whole command within the capital, and began to make the best arrangements possible under the circumstances of the case to defend himself there. His numbers were altogether too small to defend the whole city against the overwhelming force which was advancing to assail it. He accordingly intrenched his troops in the palaces and in the citadel, and in such other parts of the city as it seemed practicable to defend. He barricaded all the streets and avenues leading to these points, and fortified the gates. Nor did he, while thus doing all in his power to employ the insufficient means of defense already in his hands to the best advantage, neglect the proper exertions for obtaining succor from abroad. He sent off galleys to Syria, to Cyprus, to Rhodes, and to every other point accessible from Alexandria where Roman troops might be expected to be found, urging the authorities there to forward re-enforcements to him with the utmost possible dispatch.
During all this time Cleopatra and Ptolemy remained in the palace with Caesar, both ostensibly co-operating with him in his councils and measures for defending the city from Achillas. Cleopatra, of course, was sincere and in earnest in this co-operation; but Ptolemy's adhesion to the common cause was very little to be relied upon. Although, situated as he was, he was compelled to seem to be on Caesar's side, he must have secretly desired that Achillas should succeed and Caesar's plans be overthrown. Pothinus was more active, though not less cautious in his hostility to them. He opened secret communication with Achillas, sending him information, from time to time, of what took place within the walls, and of the arrangements made there for the defense of the city against him, and gave him also directions how to proceed. He was very wary and sagacious in all these movements, feigning all the time to be on Caesar's side. He pretended to be very zealously employed in aiding Caesar to secure more effectually the various points where attacks were to be expected, and in maturing and completing the arrangements for defense.
But, notwithstanding all his cunning, he was detected in his double dealing, and his career was suddenly brought to a close, before the great final conflict came on. There was a barber in Caesar's household, who, for some cause or other, began to suspect Pothinus; and, having little else to do, he employed himself in watching the eunuch's movements and reporting them to Caesar. Caesar directed the barber to continue his observations. He did so; his suspicions were soon confirmed, and at length a letter, which Pothinus had written to Achillas, was intercepted and brought to Caesar. This furnished the necessary proof of what they called his guilt, and Caesar ordered him to be beheaded.
This circumstance produced, of course, a great excitement within the palace, for Pothinus had been for many years the great ruling minister of state,—the king, in fact, in all but in name. His execution alarmed a great many others, who, though in Caesar's power, were secretly wishing that Achillas might prevail. Among those most disturbed by these fears was a man named Ganymede. He was the officer who had charge of Arsinoe, Cleopatra's sister. The arrangement which Caesar had proposed for establishing her in conjunction with her brother Ptolemy over the island of Cyprus had not gone into effect; for, immediately after the decision of Caesar, the attention of all concerned had been wholly engrossed by the tidings of the advance of the army, and by the busy preparations which were required on all hands for the impending contest. Arsinoe, therefore, with her governor Ganymede, remained in the palace. Ganymede had joined Pothinus in his plots; and when Pothinus was beheaded, he concluded that it would be safest for him to fly.
He accordingly resolved to make his escape from the city, taking Arsinoe with him. It was a very hazardous attempt but he succeeded in accomplishing it. Arsinoe was very willing to go, for she was now beginning to be old enough to feel the impulse of that insatiable and reckless ambition which seemed to form such an essential element in the character of every son and daughter in the whole Ptolemaic line. She was insignificant and powerless where she was, but at the head of the army she might become immediately a queen.
It resulted, in the first instance, as she had anticipated. Achillas and his army received her with acclamations. Under Ganymede's influence they decided that, as all the other members of the royal family were in durance, being held captive by a foreign general, who had by chance obtained possession of the capital, and were thus incapacitated for exercising the royal power, the crown devolved upon Arsinoe; and they accordingly proclaimed her queen.
Every thing was now prepared for a desperate and determined contest for the crown between Cleopatra, with Caesar for her minister and general, on the one side, and Arsinoe, with Ganymede and Achillas for her chief officers on the other. The young Ptolemy in the mean time, remained Caesar's prisoner, confused with the intricacies in which the quarrel had become involved, and scarcely knowing now what to wish in respect to the issue of the contest. It was very difficult to foresee whether it would be best for him that Cleopatra or that Arsinoe should succeed.
THE ALEXANDRINE WAR.
The Alexandrine war.—Forces of Caesar.—The Egyptian army.—Fugitive slaves.—Dangerous situation of Caesar.—Presence of Caesar.—Influence of Cleopatra.—First measures of Caesar.—Caesar's stores.—Military engines.—The mole.—View of Alexandria.—Necessity of taking possession of the mole.—Egyptian fleet.—Caesar burns the shipping.—The fort taken.—Burning of Alexandria.—Achillas beheaded.—Plans of Ganymede.—His vigorous measures.—Messengers of Ganymede.—Their instructions.—Ganymede cuts off Caesar's supply of water.—Panic of the soldiers.—Caesar's wells.—Arrival of the transports.—The transports in distress.—Lowness of the coast.—A combat.—Caesar successful. —Ganymede equips a fleet.—A naval conflict.—Caesar in danger. —Another victory.—The Egyptians discouraged.—Secret messengers. —Dissimulation of Ptolemy—Arrival of Mithradates.—Defeat of Ptolemy. —Terror and confusion.—Death of Ptolemy.—Cleopatra queen.—General disapprobation of Caesar's course.—Cleopatra's son Caesarion.—Public opinion of her conduct.—Caesar departs for Rome.—He takes Arsinoe with him.
The war which ensued as the result of the intrigues and maneuvers described in the last chapter is known in the history of Rome and Julius Caesar as the Alexandrine war. The events which occurred during the progress of it, and its termination at last in the triumph of Caesar and Cleopatra, will form the subject of this chapter.
Achillas had greatly the advantage over Caesar at the outset of the contest, in respect to the strength of the forces under his command. Caesar, in fact, had with him only a detachment of three or four thousand men, a small body of troops which he had hastily put on board a little squadron of Rhodian galleys for pursuing Pompey across the Mediterranean. When he set sail from the European shores with this inconsiderable fleet, it is probable that he had no expectation even of landing in Egypt at all, and much less of being involved in great military undertakings there. Achillas, on the other hand, was at the head of a force of twenty-thousand effective men. His troops were, it is true, of a somewhat miscellaneous character, but they were all veteran soldiers, inured to the climate of Egypt, and skilled in all the modes of warfare which were suited to the character of the country. Some of them were Roman soldiers, men who had come with the army of Mark Antony from Syria when Ptolemy Auletes, Cleopatra's father, was reinstated on the throne, and had been left in Egypt, in Ptolemy's service, when Antony returned to Rome. Some were native Egyptians. There was also in the army of Achillas a large number of fugitive slaves,—refugees who had made their escape from various points along the shores of the Mediterranean, at different periods, and had been from time to time incorporated into the Egyptian army. These fugitives were all men of the most determined and desperate character.
Achillas had also in his command a force of two thousand horse. Such a body of cavalry made him, of course, perfect master of all the open country outside the city walls. At the head of these troops Achillas gradually advanced to the very gates of Alexandria, invested the city on every side, and shut Caesar closely in.
The danger of the situation in which Caesar was placed was extreme; but he had been so accustomed to succeed in extricating himself from the most imminent perils, that neither he himself nor his army seem to have experienced any concern in respect to the result. Caesar personally felt a special pride and pleasure in encountering the difficulties and dangers which now beset him, because Cleopatra was with him to witness his demeanor, to admire his energy and courage, and to reward by her love the efforts and sacrifices which he was making in espousing her cause. She confided every thing to him, but she watched all the proceedings with the most eager interest, elated with hope in respect to the result, and proud of the champion who had thus volunteered to defend her. In a word, her heart was full of gratitude, admiration, and love.
The immediate effect, too, of the emotions which she felt so strongly was greatly to heighten her natural charms. The native force and energy of her character were softened and subdued. Her voice, which always possessed a certain inexpressible charm, was endued with new sweetness through the influence of affection. Her countenance beamed with fresh animation and beauty, and the sprightliness and vivacity of her character, which became at later periods of her life boldness and eccentricity, now being softened and restrained within proper limits by the respectful regard with which she looked upon Caesar, made her an enchanting companion. Caesar was, in fact, entirely intoxicated with the fascinations which she unconsciously displayed.
Under other circumstances than these, a personal attachment so strong, formed by a military commander while engaged in active service, might have been expected to interfere in some degree with the discharge of his duties; but in this case, since it was for Cleopatra's sake and her behalf that the operations which Caesar had undertaken were to be prosecuted, his love for her only stimulated the spirit and energy with which he engaged in them.
The first measure to be adopted was, as Caesar plainly perceived, to concentrate and strengthen his position in the city, so that he might be able to defend himself there against Achillas until he should receive re-enforcements from abroad. For this purpose he selected a certain group of palaces and citadels which lay together near the head of the long pier of cause way which led to the Pharos, and, withdrawing his troops from all other parts of the city, established them there. The quarter which he thus occupied contained the great city arsenals and public granaries. Caesar brought together all the arms and munitions of war which he could find in other parts of the city, and also all the corn and other provisions which were contained either in the public depots or in private warehouses, and stored the whole within his lines. He then inclosed the whole quarter with strong defenses. The avenues leading to it were barricaded with walls of stone. Houses in the vicinity, which might have afforded shelter to an enemy, were demolished and the materials used in constructing walls wherever they were needed, or in strengthening the barricades. Prodigious military engines, made to throw heavy stones, and beams of wood, and other ponderous missiles, were set up within his lines, and openings were made in the walls and other defenses of the citadel, wherever necessary, to facilitate the action of these machines.
There was a strong fortress situated at the head of the pier or mole leading to the island of Pharos, which was without Caesar's lines, and still in the hands of the Egyptian authorities. The Egyptians thus commanded the entrance to the mole. The island itself, also, with the fortress at the other end of the pier, was still in the possession of the Egyptian authorities, who seemed disposed to hold it for Achillas. The mole was very long, as the island was nearly a mile from the shore. There was quite a little town upon the island itself, besides the fortress or castle built there to defend the place. The garrison of this castle was strong, and the inhabitants of the town, too, constituted a somewhat formidable population, as they consisted of fishermen, sailors, wreckers, and such other desperate characters, as usually congregate about such a spot. Cleopatra and Caesar, from the windows of their palace within the city, looked out upon this island, with the tall light house rising in the center of it and the castle at its base, and upon the long and narrow isthmus connecting it with the main land, and concluded that it was very essential that they should get possession of the post, commanding, as it did, the entrance to the harbor.
In the harbor, which was on the south side of the mole, and, consequently, on the side opposite to that from which Achillas was advancing toward the city, there were lying a large number of Egyptian vessels, some dismantled, and others manned and armed more or less effectively. These vessels had not yet come into Achillas's hands, but it would be certain that he would take possession of them as soon as he should gain admittance to those parts of the city which Caesar had abandoned. This it was extremely important to prevent; for, if Achillas held this fleet, especially if he continued to command the island of Pharos, he would be perfect master of all the approaches to the city on the side of the sea. He could then not only receive re-enforcements and supplies himself from that quarter, but he could also effectually cut off the Roman army from all possibility of receiving any. It became, therefore, as Caesar thought, imperiously necessary that he should protect himself from this danger. This he did by sending out an expedition to burn all the shipping in the harbor, and, at the same time, to take possession of a certain fort upon the island of Pharos which commanded the entrance to the port. This undertaking was abundantly successful. The troops burned the shipping, took the fort, expelled the Egyptian soldiers from it, and put a Roman garrison into it instead, and then returned in safety within Caesar's lines. Cleopatra witnessed these exploits from her palace windows with feelings of the highest admiration for the energy and valor which her Roman protectors displayed.
The burning of the Egyptian ships in this action, however fortunate for Cleopatra and Caesar, was attended with a catastrophe which has ever since been lamented by the whole civilized world. Some of the burning ships were driven by the wind to the shore, where they set fire to the buildings which were contiguous to the water. The flames spread and produced an extensive conflagration, in the course of which the largest part of the great library was destroyed. This library was the only general collection of the ancient writings that ever had been made, and the loss of it was never repaired.
The destruction of the Egyptian fleet resulted also in the downfall and ruin of Achillas. From the time of Arsinoe's arrival in the camp there had been a constant rivalry and jealousy between himself and Ganymede, the eunuch who had accompanied Arsinoe in her flight. Two parties had been formed in the army, some declaring for Achillas and some for Ganymede. Arsinoe advocated Ganymede's interests, and when, at length, the fleet was burned, she charged Achillas with having been, by his neglect or incapacity, the cause of the loss. Achillas was tried, condemned, and beheaded. From that time Ganymede assumed the administration of Arsinoe's government as her minister of state and the commander-in-chief of her armies.
About the time that these occurrences took place, the Egyptian army advanced into those parts of the city from which Caesar had withdrawn, producing those terrible scenes of panic and confusion which always attend a sudden and violent change of military possession within the precincts of a city. Ganymede brought up his troops on every side to the walls of Caesar's citadels and intrenchments, and hemmed him closely in. He cut off all avenues of approach to Caesar's lines by land, and commenced vigorous preparations for an assault. He constructed engines for battering down the walls. He opened shops and established forges in every part of the city for the manufacture of darts, spears, pikes, and all kinds of military machinery. He built towers supported upon huge wheels, with the design of filling them with armed men when finally ready to make his assault upon Caesar's lines, and moving them up to the walls of the citadels and palaces, so as to give to his soldiers the advantage of a lofty elevation in making their attacks. He levied contributions on the rich citizens for the necessary funds, and provided himself with men by pressing all the artisans, laborers, and men capable of bearing arms into his service. He sent messengers back into the interior of the country, in every direction, summoning the people to arms, and calling for contributions of money and military stores.
These messengers were instructed to urge upon the people that, unless Caesar and his army were at once expelled from Alexandria, there was imminent danger that the national independence of Egypt would be forever destroyed. The Romans, they were to say, had extended their conquests over almost all the rest of the world. They had sent one army into Egypt before, under the command of Mark Antony, under the pretense of restoring Ptolemy Auletes to the throne. Now another commander, with another force, had come, offering some other pretexts for interfering in their affairs. These Roman encroachments, the messengers were to say, would end in the complete subjugation of Egypt to a foreign power, unless the people of the country aroused themselves to meet the danger manfully, and to expel the intruders.
As Caesar had possession of the island of Pharos and of the harbor, Ganymede could not cut him off from receiving such re-enforcements of men and arms as he might make arrangements for obtaining beyond the sea; nor could he curtail his supply of food, as the granaries and magazines within Caesar's quarter of the city contained almost inexhaustible stores of corn. There was one remaining point essential to the subsistence of an army besieged, and that was an abundant supply of water. The palaces and citadels which Caesar occupied were supplied with water by means of numerous subterranean aqueducts, which conveyed the water from the Nile to vast cisterns built under ground, whence it was raised by buckets and hydraulic engines for use. In reflecting upon this circumstance, Ganymede conceived the design of secretly digging a canal, so as to turn the waters of the sea by means of it into these aqueducts. This plan he carried into effect. The consequence was, that the water in the cisterns was gradually changed. It became first brackish, then more and more salt and bitter, until, at length, it was wholly impossible to use it. For some time the army within could not understand these changes; and when, at length, they discovered the cause the soldiers were panic-stricken at the thought, that they were now apparently wholly at the mercy of their enemies, since, without supplies of water, they must all immediately perish. They considered it hopeless to attempt any longer to hold out, and urged Caesar to evacuate the city, embark on board his galleys, and proceed to sea.
Instead of doing this, however, Caesar, ordering all other operations to be suspended, employed the whole laboring force of his command, under the direction of the captains of the several companies, in digging wells in every part of his quarter of the city. Fresh water, he said, was almost invariably found, at a moderate depth, upon sea-coasts, even upon ground lying in very close proximity to the sea. The digging was successful. Fresh water, in great abundance, was found. Thus this danger was passed, and the men's fears effectually relieved.
A short time after these transactions occurred, there came into the harbor one day, from along the shore west of the city, a small sloop, bringing the intelligence that a squadron of transports had arrived upon the coast to the westward of Alexandria, and had anchored there, being unable to come up to the city on account of an easterly wind which prevailed at that season of the year. This squadron was one which had been sent across the Mediterranean with arms, ammunition, and military stores for Caesar, in answer to requisitions which he had made immediately after he had landed. The transports being thus windbound on the coast, and having nearly exhausted their supplies of water, were in distress; and they accordingly sent forward the sloop, which was probably propelled by oars, to make known their situation to Caesar, and to ask for succor. Caesar immediately went, himself, on board of one of his galleys, and ordering the remainder of his little fleet to follow him, he set sail out of the harbor, and then turned to the westward, with a view of proceeding along the coast to the place where the transports were lying.
All this was done secretly. The land is so low in the vicinity of Alexandria that boats or galleys are out of sight from it at a very short distance from the shore. In fact, travelers say that, in coming upon the coast, the illusion produced by the spherical form of the surface of the water and the low and level character of the coast is such that one seems actually to descend from the sea to the land. Caesar might therefore have easily kept his expedition a secret, had it not been that, in order to be provided with a supply of water for the transports immediately on reaching them, he stopped at a solitary part of the coast, at some distance from Alexandria, and sent a party a little way into the interior in search for water. This party were discovered by the country people, and were intercepted by a troop of horse and made prisoners. From these prisoners the Egyptians learned that Caesar himself was on the coast with a small squadron of galleys. The tidings spread in all directions. The people flocked together from every quarter. They hastily collected all the boats and vessels which could be obtained at the villages in that region and from the various branches of the Nile. In the mean time, Caesar had gone on to the anchorage ground of the squadron, and had taken the transports in tow to bring them to the city; for the galleys, being propelled by oars, were in a measure independent of the wind. On his return, he found quite a formidable naval armament assembled to dispute the passage.