A severe conflict ensued, but Caesar was victorious. The navy which the Egyptians had so suddenly got together was as suddenly destroyed. Some of the vessels were burned, others sunk, and others captured; and Caesar returned in triumph to the port with his transports and stores. He was welcomed with the acclamations of his soldiers, and, still more warmly, by the joy and gratitude of Cleopatra, who had been waiting during his absence in great anxiety and suspense to know the result of the expedition, aware as she was that her hero was exposing himself in it to the most imminent personal danger.
The arrival of these re-enforcements greatly improved Caesar's condition, and the circumstance of their coming forced upon the mind of Ganymede a sense of the absolute necessity that he should gain possession of the harbor if he intended to keep Caesar in check. He accordingly determined to take immediate measures for forming a naval force. He sent along the coast, and ordered every ship and galley that could be found in all the ports to be sent immediately to Alexandria. He employed as many men as possible in and around the city in building more. He unroofed some of the most magnificent edifices to procure timber as a material for making benches and oars. When all was ready, he made a grand attack upon Caesar in the port, and a terrible contest ensued for the possession of the harbor, the mole, the island, and the citadels and fortresses commanding the entrances from the sea. Caesar well knew this contest would be a decisive one in respect to the final result of the war, and he accordingly went forth himself to take an active and personal part in the conflict. He felt doubtless, too, a strong emotion of pride and pleasure in exhibiting his prowess in the sight of Cleopatra, who could watch the progress of the battle from the palace windows, full of excitement at the dangers which he incurred, and of admiration at the feats of strength and valor which he performed. During this battle the life of the great conqueror was several times in the most imminent danger. He wore a habit or mantle of the imperial purple, which made him a conspicuous mark for his enemies; and, of course, wherever he went, in that place was the hottest of the fight. Once, in the midst of a scene of most dreadful confusion and din, he leaped from an overloaded boat into the water and swam for his life, holding his cloak between his teeth and drawing it through the water after him, that it might not fall into the hands of his enemies. He carried, at the same time, as he swam, certain valuable papers which he wished to save, holding them above his head with one hand, while he propelled himself through the water with the other.
The result of this contest was another decisive victory for Caesar. Not only were the ships which the Egyptians had collected defeated and destroyed, but the mole, with the fortresses at each extremity of it, and the island, with the light house and the town of Pharos, all fell into Caesar's hands.
The Egyptians now began to be discouraged. The army and the people, judging, as mankind always do, of the virtue of their military commanders solely by the criterion of success, began to be tired of the rule of Ganymede and Arsinoe. They sent secret messengers to Caesar avowing their discontent, and saying that, if he would liberate Ptolemy—who, it will be recollected, had been all this time held as a sort of prisoner of state in Caesar's palaces—they thought that the people generally would receive him as their sovereign, and that then an arrangement might easily be made for an amicable adjustment of the whole controversy. Caesar was strongly inclined to accede to this proposal.
He accordingly called Ptolemy into his presence and, taking him kindly by the hand, informed him of the wishes of the people of Egypt, and gave him permission to go. Ptolemy, however, begged not to be sent away. He professed the strongest attachment to Caesar, and the utmost confidence in him, and he very much preferred, he said, to remain under his protection. Caesar replied that, if those were his sentiments, the separation would not be a lasting one. "If we part as friends," he said, "we shall soon meet again." By these and similar assurances he endeavored to encourage the young prince, and then sent him away. Ptolemy was received by the Egyptians with great joy, and was immediately placed at the head of the government. Instead, however, of endeavoring to promote a settlement of the quarrel with Caesar, he seemed to enter into it now himself, personally, with the utmost ardor, and began at once to make the most extensive preparations both by sea and land for a vigorous prosecution of the war. What the result of these operations would have been can now not be known, for the general aspect of affairs was, soon after these transactions, totally changed by the occurrence of a new and very important event which suddenly intervened, and which turned the attention of all parties, both Egyptians and Romans, to the eastern quarter of the kingdom. The tidings arrived that a large army under the command of a general named Mithradates, whom Caesar had dispatched into Asia for this purpose, had suddenly appeared at Pelusium, had captured that city and were now ready to march to Alexandria.
The Egyptian army immediately broke up its encampments in the neighborhood of Alexandria, and marched to the eastward to meet these new invaders, Caesar followed them with all the forces that he could safely take away from the city. He left the city in the night, and unobserved, and moved across the country with such celerity that he joined Mithradates before the forces of Ptolemy had arrived. After various marches and maneuvers, the armies met, and a great battle was fought. The Egyptians were defeated. Ptolemy's camp was taken. As the Roman army burst in upon one side of it, the guards and attendants of Ptolemy fled upon the other, clambering over the ramparts in the utmost terror and confusion. The foremost fell headlong into the ditch below, which was thus soon filled to the brim with the dead and the dying; while those who came behind pressed on over the bridge thus formed, trampling remorselessly, as they fled, on the bodies of their comrades, who lay writhing, struggling, and shrieking beneath their feet. Those who escaped reached the river. They crowded together into a boat which lay at the bank and pushed off from the shore. The boat was overloaded, and it sank as soon as it left the land. The Romans drew the bodies which floated to the shore upon the bank again, and they found among them one, which, by the royal cuirass which was upon it, the customary badge and armor of the Egyptian kings, they knew to be the body of Ptolemy.
The victory which Caesar obtained in this battle and the death of Ptolemy ended the war. Nothing now remained but for him to place himself at the head of the combined forces and march back to Alexandria. The Egyptian forces which had been left there made no resistance, and he entered the city in triumph. He took Arsinoe prisoner. He decreed that Cleopatra should reign as queen, and that she should marry her youngest brother, the other Ptolemy,—a boy at this time about eleven years of age. A marriage with one so young was, of course, a mere form. Cleopatra remained, as before, the companion of Caesar.
Caesar had, in the mean time, incurred great censure at Rome, and throughout the whole Roman world, for having thus turned aside from his own proper duties as the Roman consul, and the commander-in-chief of the armies of the empire, to embroil himself in the quarrels of a remote and secluded kingdom with which the interests of the Roman commonwealth were so little connected. His friends and the authorities at Rome were continually urging him to return. They were especially indignant at his protracted neglect of his own proper duties, from knowing that he was held in Egypt by a guilty attachment to the queen,—thus not only violating his obligations to the state, but likewise inflicting upon his wife Calpurnia, and his family at Rome, an intolerable wrong. But Caesar was so fascinated by Cleopatra's charms, and by the mysterious and unaccountable influence which she exercised over him, that he paid no heed to any of these remonstrances. Even after the war was ended he remained some months in Egypt to enjoy his favorite's society. He would spend whole nights in her company, in feasting and revelry. He made a splendid royal progress with her through Egypt after the war was over, attended by a numerous train of Roman guards. He formed a plan for taking her to Rome, and marrying her there; and he took measures for having the laws of the city altered so as to enable him to do so, though he was already married.
All these things produced great discontent and disaffection among Caesar's friends and throughout the Roman army. The Egyptians, too, strongly censured the conduct of Cleopatra. A son was born to her about this time, whom the Alexandrians named, from his father, Caesarion. Cleopatra was regarded in the new relation of mother, which she now sustained, not with interest and sympathy, but with feelings of reproach and condemnation.
Cleopatra was all this time growing more and more accomplished, and more and more beautiful; but her vivacity and spirit, which had been so charming while it was simple and childlike, now began to appear more forward and bold. It is the characteristic of pure and lawful love to soften and subdue the heart, and infuse a gentle and quiet spirit into all its action; while that which breaks over the barriers that God and nature have marked out for it, tends to make woman masculine and bold, to indurate all her sensibilities, and to destroy that gentleness and timidity of demeanor which have so great an influence in heightening her charms. Cleopatra was beginning to experience these effects. She was indifferent to the opinions of her subjects, and was only anxious to maintain as long as possible her guilty ascendency over Caesar.
Caesar, however, finally determined to set out on his return to the capital. Leaving Cleopatra, accordingly, a sufficient force to secure the continuance of her power, he embarked the remainder of his forces in his transports and galleys, and sailed away. He took the unhappy Arsinoe with him, intending to exhibit her as a trophy of his Egyptian victories on his arrival at Rome.
CLEOPATRA A QUEEN.
The Alexandrine war very short.—Its extent.—Revenues of Egypt.—The city repaired.—The library rebuilt.—A new collection of manuscripts.— Luxury and splendor.—Deterioration of Cleopatra's character.—The young Ptolemy.—Cleopatra assassinates him.—Career of Caesar.—His rapid course of conquest.—Cleopatra determines to go to Rome.—Feelings of the Romans.—Caesar's four triumphs.—Nature of triumphal processions.—Arsinoe.—Sympathy of the Roman people.—Caesar overacts his part.—Feasts and festivals.—Riot and debauchery.—Public combats.—The artificial lake.—Combat upon it.—Land combats.—The people shocked.—Cleopatra's visit.—Caesar's plans for making himself king.—Conspiracy against Caesar.—He is assassinated.—Arsinoe released.—Calpurnia mourns her husband's death.—Calpurnia looks to Mark Antony as her protector.
The war by which Caesar reinstated Cleopatra upon the throne was not one of very long duration. Caesar arrived in Egypt in pursuit of Pompey about the first of August; the war was ended and Cleopatra established in secure possession by the end of January; so that the conflict, violent as it was while it continued, was very brief, the peaceful and commercial pursuits of the Alexandrians having been interrupted by it only for a few months.
Nor did either the war itself, or the derangements consequent upon it, extend very far into the interior of the country. The city of Alexandria itself and the neighboring coasts were the chief scenes of the contest until Mithradates arrived at Pelusium. He, it is true, marched across the Delta, and the final battle was fought in the interior of the country. It was, however, after all, but a very small portion of the Egyptian territory that was directly affected by the war. The great mass of the people, occupying the rich and fertile tracts which bordered the various branches of the Nile, and the long and verdant valley which extended so far into the heart of the continent, knew nothing of the conflict but by vague and distant rumors. The pursuits of the agricultural population went on, all the time, as steadily and prosperously as ever; so that when the conflict was ended, and Cleopatra entered upon the quiet and peaceful possession of her power, she found that the resources of her empire were very little impaired.
She availed herself, accordingly, of the revenues which poured in very abundantly upon her, to enter upon a career of the greatest luxury, magnificence, and splendor. The injuries which had been done to the palaces and other public edifices of Alexandria the fire, and by the military operations of the siege, were repaired. The bridges which had been down were rebuilt. The canals which had been obstructed were opened again. The sea-water was shut off from the palace cisterns; the rubbish of demolished houses was removed; the barricades were cleared from the streets; and the injuries which the palaces had suffered either from the violence of military engines or the rough occupation of the Roman soldiery, were repaired. In a word, the city was speedily restored once more, so far as was possible, to its former order and beauty. The five hundred, thousand manuscripts of the Alexandrian library, which had been burned, could not, indeed, be restored; but, in all other respects, the city soon resumed in appearance all its former splendor. Even in respect to the library, Cleopatra made an effort to retrieve the loss. She repaired the ruined buildings, and afterward, in the course of her life, she brought together, it was said, in a manner hereafter to be described, one or two hundred thousand rolls of manuscripts, as the commencement of a new collection. The new library, however, never acquired the fame and distinction that had pertained to the old.
The former sovereigns of Egypt, Cleopatra's ancestors, had generally, as has already been shown, devoted the immense revenues which they extorted from the agriculturalists of the valley of the Nile to purposes of ambition. Cleopatra seemed now disposed to expend them in luxury and pleasure. They, the Ptolemies, had employed their resources in erecting vast structures, or founding magnificent institutions at Alexandria, to add to the glory of the city, and to widen and extend their own fame. Cleopatra, on the other hand, as was, perhaps, naturally to be expected of a young, beautiful, and impulsive woman suddenly raised to so conspicuous a position, and to the possession of such unbounded wealth and power, expended her royal revenues in plans of personal display, and in scenes of festivity, gayety, and enjoyment. She adorned her palaces, built magnificent barges for pleasure excursions on the Nile, and expended enormous sums for dress, for equipages, and for sumptuous entertainments. In fact, so lavish were her expenditures for these and similar purposes during the early years of her reign, that she is considered as having carried the extravagance of sensual luxury, and personal display, and splendor, beyond the limits that had ever before or have ever since been attained.
Whatever of simplicity of character, and of gentleness and kindness of spirit she might have possessed in her earlier years, of course gradually disappeared under the influences of such a course of life as she now was leading. She was beautiful and fascinating still, but she began to grow selfish, heartless, and designing. Her little brother,—he was but eleven years of age, it will be recollected, when Caesar arranged the marriage between them,—was an object of jealousy to her. He was now, of course, too young to take any actual share in the exercise of the royal power, or to interfere at all in his sister's plans or pleasures. But then he was growing older. In a few years he would be fifteen,—which was the period of life fixed upon by Caesar's arrangements, and, in fact, by the laws and usages of the Egyptian kingdom,—when he was to come into possession of power as king, and as the husband of Cleopatra. Cleopatra was extremely unwilling that the change in her relations to him and to the government, which this period was to bring, should take place. Accordingly, just before the time arrived, she caused him to be poisoned. His death released her, as she had intended, from all restraints, and thereafter she continued to reign alone. During the remainder of her life, so far as the enjoyment of wealth and power, and of all other elements of external prosperity could go, Cleopatra's career was one of uninterrupted success. She had no conscientious scruples to interfere with the most full and unrestrained indulgence of every propensity of her heart, and the means of indulgence were before her in the most unlimited profusion. The only bar to her happiness was the impossibility of satisfying the impulses and passions of the human soul, when they once break over the bounds which the laws both of God and of nature ordain for restraining them.
In the mean time, while Cleopatra was spending the early years of her reign in all this luxury and splendor, Caesar was pursuing his career, as the conqueror of the world, in the most successful manner. On the death of Pompey, he would naturally have succeeded at once to the enjoyment of the supreme power; but his delay in Egypt, and the extent to which it was known that he was entangled with Cleopatra, encouraged and strengthened his enemies in various parts of the world. In fact, a revolt which broke out in Asia Minor, and which it was absolutely necessary that he should proceed at once to quell, was the immediate cause of his leaving Egypt at last. Other plans for making head against Caesar's power were formed in Spain, in Africa, and in Italy. His military skill and energy, however, were so great, and the ascendency which he exercised over the minds of men by his personal presence was so unbounded, and so astonishing, moreover, was the celerity with which he moved from continent to continent, and from kingdom to kingdom, that in a very short period from the time of his leaving Egypt, he had conducted most brilliant and successful campaigns in all the three quarters of the world then known, had put down effectually all opposition to his power, and then had returned to Rome the acknowledged master of the world. Cleopatra, who had, of course, watched his career during all this time with great pride and pleasure, concluded, at last, to go to Rome and make a visit to him there.
The people of Rome were, however, not prepared to receive her very cordially. It was an age in which vice of every kind was regarded with great indulgence, but the moral instincts of mankind were too strong to be wholly blinded to the true character of so conspicuous an example of wickedness as this. Arsinoe was at Rome, too, during this period of Caesar's life. He had brought her there, it will be recollected, on his return from Egypt, as a prisoner, and as a trophy of his victory. His design was, in fact, to reserve her as a captive to grace his triumph.
A triumph, according to the usages of the ancient Romans, was a grand celebration decreed by the Senate to great military commanders of the highest rank, when they returned from distant campaigns in which they had made great conquests or gained extraordinary victories. Caesar concentrated all his triumphs into one. They were celebrated on his return to Rome for the last time, after having completed the conquest of the world. The processions of this triumph occupied four days. In fact, there were four triumphs, one on each day for the four days. The wars and conquests which these ovations were intended to celebrate were those of Gaul, of Egypt, of Asia, and of Africa; and the processions on the several days consisted of endless trains of prisoners, trophies, arms, banners, pictures, images, convoys of wagons loaded with plunder, captive princes and princesses, animals wild and tame, and every thing else which the conqueror had been able to bring home with him from his campaigns, to excite the curiosity or the admiration of the people of the city and illustrate the magnitude of his exploits. Of course, the Roman generals, when engaged in distant foreign wars, were ambitious of bringing back as many distinguished captives and as much public plunder as they were able to obtain, in order to add to the variety and splendor of the triumphal procession by which their victories were to be honored on their return. It was with this view that Caesar brought Arsinoe from Egypt; and he had retained her as his captive at Rome until his conquests were completed and the time for his triumph arrived. She, of course, formed a part of the triumphal train on the Egyptian day. She walked immediately before the chariot in which Caesar rode. She was in chains, like any other captive, though her chains in honor of her lofty rank, were made of gold.
The effect, however, upon the Roman population of seeing the unhappy princess, overwhelmed as she was with sorrow and chagrin, as she moved slowly along in the train, among the other emblems and trophies of violence and plunder, proved to be by no means favorable to Caesar. The population were inclined to pity her, and to sympathize with her in her sufferings. The sight of her distress recalled too, to their minds, the dereliction from duty which Caesar had been guilty of in his yielding to the enticements of Cleopatra, and remaining so long in Egypt to the neglect of his proper duties as a Roman minister of state. In a word, the tide of admiration for Caesar's military exploits which had been setting so strongly in his favor, seemed inclined to turn, and the city was filled with murmurs against him even in the midst of his triumphs.
In fact, the pride and vainglory which led Caesar to make his triumphs more splendid and imposing than any former conqueror had ever enjoyed, caused him to overact his part so as to produce effects the reverse of his intentions. The case of Arsinoe was one example of this. Instead of impressing the people with a sense of the greatness of his exploits in Egypt, in deposing one queen and bringing her captive to Rome, in order that he might place another upon the throne in her stead, it only reproduced anew the censures and criminations which he had deserved by his actions there, but which, had it not been for the pitiable spectacle of Arsinoe in the train, might have been forgotten.
There were other examples of a similar character. There were the feasts, for instance. From the plunder which Caesar had obtained in his various campaigns, he expended the most enormous sums in making feasts and spectacles for the populace at the time of his triumph. A large portion of the populace was pleased, it is true, with the boundless indulgences thus offered to them; but the better part of the Roman people were indignant at the waste and extravagance which were every where displayed. For many days the whole city of Rome presented to the view nothing but one wide-spread scene of riot and debauchery. The people, instead of being pleased with this abundance, said that Caesar must have practiced the most extreme and lawless extortion to have obtained the vast amount of money necessary to enable him to supply such unbounded and reckless waste.
There was another way, too, by which Caesar turned public opinion strongly against himself, by the very means which he adopted for creating a sentiment in his favor. The Romans, among the other barbarous amusements which were practiced in the city, were specially fond of combats. These combats were of various kinds. They were fought sometimes between ferocious beasts of the same or of different species, as dogs against each other, or against bulls, lions, or tigers. Any animals, in fact, were employed for this purpose, that could be teased or goaded into anger and ferocity in a fight. Sometimes men were employed in these combats,—captive soldiers, that had been taken in war, and brought to Rome to fight in the amphitheaters there as gladiators. These men were compelled to contend sometimes with wild beasts, and sometimes with one another. Caesar, knowing how highly the Roman assemblies enjoyed such scenes, determined to afford them the indulgence on a most magnificent scale, supposing, of course, that the greater and the more dreadful the fight, the higher would be the pleasure which the spectators would enjoy in witnessing it. Accordingly, in making preparations for the festivities attending his triumph, he caused a large artificial lake to be formed at a convenient place in the vicinity of Rome, where it could be surrounded by the populace of the city, and there he made arrangements for a naval battle. A great number of galleys were introduced into the lake. They were of the usual size employed in war. These galleys were manned with numerous soldiers. Tyrian captives were put upon one side, and Egyptian upon the other; and when all was ready, the two squadrons were ordered to approach and fight a real battle for the amusement of the enormous throngs of spectators that were assembled around. As the nations from which the combatants in this conflict were respectively taken were hostile to each other, and as the men fought, of course, for their lives, the engagement was attended with the usual horrors of a desperate naval encounter. Hundreds were slain. The dead bodies of the combatants fell from the galleys into the lake and the waters of it were dyed with their blood.
There were land combats, too, on the same grand scale. In one of them five hundred foot soldiers, twenty elephants, and a troop of thirty horse were engaged on each side. This combat, therefore, was an action greater, in respect to the number of the combatants, than the famous battle of Lexington, which marked the commencement of the American war; and in respect to the slaughter which took place, it was very probably ten times greater. The horror of these scenes proved to be too much even for the populace, fierce and merciless as it was, which they were intended to amuse. Caesar, in his eagerness to outdo all former exhibitions and shows, went beyond the limits within which the seeing of men butchered in bloody combats and dying in agony and despair would serve for a pleasure and a pastime. The people were shocked; and condemnations of Caesar's cruelty were added to the other suppressed reproaches and criminations which every where arose.
Cleopatra, during her visit to Rome, lived openly with Caesar at his residence, and this excited very general displeasure. In fact, while the people pitied Arsinoe, Cleopatra, notwithstanding her beauty and her thousand personal accomplishments and charms, was an object of general displeasure, so far as public attention, was turned toward her at all. The public mind was, however, much engrossed by the great political movements made by Caesar and the ends toward which he seemed to be aiming. Men accused him of designing to be made a king. Parties were formed for and against him; and though men did not dare openly to utter their sentiments, their passions became the more violent in proportion to the external force by which they were suppressed. Mark Antony was at Rome at this time. He warmly espoused Caesar's cause, and encouraged his design of making himself king. He once, in fact, offered to place a royal diadem upon Caesar's head at some public celebration; but the marks of public disapprobation which the act elicited caused him to desist.
At length, however, the time arrived when Caesar determined to cause himself to be proclaimed king. He took advantage of a certain remarkable conjuncture of public affairs, which can not here be particularly described, but which seemed to him specially to favor his designs, and arrangements were made for having him invested with the regal power by the Senate. The murmurs and the discontent of the people at the indications that the time for the realization of their fears was drawing nigh, became more and more audible, and at length a conspiracy was formed to put an end to the danger by destroying the ambitious aspirant's life. Two stern and determined men, Brutus and Cassius, were the leaders of this conspiracy. They matured their plans, organized their band of associates, provided themselves secretly with arms, and when the Senate convened, on the day in which the decisive vote was to have been passed, Caesar himself presiding, they came up boldly around him in his presidential chair, and murdered him with their daggers.
Antony, from whom the plans of the conspirators had been kept profoundly secret, stood by, looking on stupefied and confounded while the deed was done, but utterly unable to render his friend any protection.
Cleopatra immediately fled from the city and returned to Egypt.
Arsinoe had gone away before. Caesar, either taking pity on her misfortunes, or impelled, perhaps, by the force of public sentiment, which seemed inclined to take part with her against him, set her at liberty immediately after the ceremonies of his triumph were over. He would not, however, allow her to return into Egypt, for fear, probably, that she might in some way or other be the means of disturbing the government of Cleopatra. She proceeded, accordingly, into Syria, no longer as a captive, but still as an exile from her native land. We shall hereafter learn what became of her there.
Calpurnia mourned the death of her husband with sincere and unaffected grief. She bore the wrongs which she suffered as a wife with a very patient and unrepining spirit, and loved her husband with the most devoted attachment to the end. Nothing can be more affecting than the proofs of her tender and anxious regard on the night immediately preceding the assassination. There were certain slight and obscure indications of danger which her watchful devotion to her husband led her to observe, though they eluded the notice of all Caesar's other friends, and they filled her with apprehension and anxiety; and when at length the bloody body was brought home to her from the senate-house, she was overwhelmed with grief and despair.
She had no children. She accordingly looked upon Mark Antony as her nearest friend and protector, and in the confusion and terror which prevailed the next day in the city, she hastily packed together the money and other valuables contained in the house, and all her husband's books and papers, and sent them to Antony for safe keeping.
THE BATTLE OF PHILIPPI.
Consternation at Rome.—Caesar's will.—Brutus and Cassius.—Parties formed.—Octavius and Lepidus.—Character of Octavius.—Octavius proceeds to Rome.—He claims his rights as heir.—Lepidus takes command of the army.—The triumvirate.—Conference between Octavius, Lepidus, and Antony.—Embassage to Cleopatra.—Her decision.—Cassius abandons his designs.—Approach of the triumvirs.—The armies meet at Philippi. —Sickness of Octavius.—Difference of opinion between Brutus and Cassius.—Council of war.—Decision of the council.—Brutus greatly elated.—Despondency of Cassius.—Preparations for battle.—Resolution of Brutus to die.—Similar resolve of Cassius.—Omens.—Their influence upon Cassius.—The swarms of bees.—Warnings received by Brutus.—The spirit seen by Brutus.—His conversation with it.—Battle of Philippi.—Defeat of Octavius.—Defeat of Cassius.—Brutus goes to his aid—Death of Cassius.—Grief of Brutus.—Defeat of Brutus.—His retreat.—Situation of Brutus in the glen.—The helmet of water.—Brutus surrounded.—Proposal of Statilius.—Anxiety and suspense.—Resolution of Brutus.—Brutus's farewell to his friends.—The last duty.—Death of Brutus.—Situation of Antony.
When the tidings of the assassination of Caesar were first announced to the people of Rome, all ranks and classes of men were struck with amazement and consternation. No one knew what to say or do. A very large and influential portion of the community had been Caesar's friends. It was equally certain that there was a very powerful interest opposed to him. No one could foresee which of these two parties would now carry the day, and, of course, for a time, all was uncertainty and indecision.
Mark Antony came forward at once, and assumed the position of Caesar's representative and the leader of the party on that side. A will was found among Caesar's effects, and when the will was opened it appeared that large sums of money were left to the Roman people, and other large amounts to a nephew of the deceased, named Octavius, who will be more particularly spoken of hereafter. Antony was named in the will is the executor of it. This and other circumstances seemed to authorize him to come forward as the head and the leader of the Caesar party. Brutus and Cassius, who remained openly in the city after their desperate deed had been performed, were the acknowledged leaders of the other party; while the mass of the people were at first so astounded at the magnitude and suddenness of the revolution which the open and public assassination of a Roman emperor by a Roman Senate denoted, that they knew not what to say or do. In fact, the killing of Julius Caesar, considering the exalted position which he occupied, the rank and station of the men who perpetrated the deed, and the very extraordinary publicity of the scene in which the act was performed, was, doubtless, the most conspicuous and most appalling case of assassination that has ever occurred. The whole population of Rome seemed for some days to be amazed and stupefied by the tidings. At length, however, parties began to be more distinctly formed. The lines of demarkation between them were gradually drawn, and men began to arrange themselves more and more unequivocally on the opposite sides.
For a short time the supremacy of Antony over the Caesar party was readily acquiesced in and allowed. At length, however, and before his arrangements were finally matured, he found that he had two formidable competitors upon his own side. These were Octavius and Lepidus.
Octavius, who was the nephew of Caesar, already alluded to, was a very accomplished and elegant young man, now about nineteen years of age. He was the son of Julius Caesar's niece.
[Footnote 1: This Octavius on his subsequent elevation to imperial power, received the name of Augustus Caesar, and it is by this name that he is generally known in history. He was, however, called Octavius at the commencement of his career, and, to avoid confusion, we shall continue to designate him by this name to the end of our narrative.]
He had always been a great favorite with his uncle. Every possible attention had been paid to his education, and he had been advanced by Caesar, already, to positions of high importance in public life. Caesar, in fact, adopted him as his son, and made him his heir. At the time of Caesar's death he was at Apollonia, a city of Illyricum, north of Greece. The troops under his command there offered to march at once with him, if he wished it, to Rome, and avenge his uncle's death. Octavius, after some hesitation, concluded that it would be most prudent for him to proceed thither first himself, alone, as a private person, and demand his rights as his uncle's heir, according to the provisions of the will. He accordingly did so. He found, on his arrival, that the will, the property, the books and parchments, and the substantial power of the government, were all in Antony's hands. Antony, instead of putting Octavius into possession of his property and rights, found various pretexts for evasion and delay. Octavius was too young yet, he said, to assume such weighty responsibilities. He was himself also too much pressed with the urgency of public affairs to attend to the business of the will. With these and similar excuses as his justification, Antony seemed inclined to pay no regard whatever to Octavius's claims.
Octavius, young as he was, possessed a character that was marked with great intelligence, spirit, and resolution. He soon made many powerful friends in the city of Rome and among the Roman Senate. It became a serious question whether he or Antony would gain the greatest ascendency in the party of Caesar's friends. The contest for this ascendency was, in fact, protracted for two or three years, and led to a vast complication of intrigues, and maneuvers, and civil wars, which can not, however, be here particularly detailed.
The other competitor which Antony had to contend with was a distinguished Roman general named Lepidus. Lepidus was an officer of the army, in very high command at the time of Caesar's death. He was present in the senate-chamber on the day of the assassination. He stole secretly away when he saw that the deed was done, and repaired to the camp of the army without the city and immediately assumed the command of the forces. This gave him great power, and in the course of the contests which subsequently ensued between Antony and Octavius, he took an active part, and held in some measure the balance between them. At length the contest was finally closed by a coalition of the three rivals. Finding that they could not either of them gain a decided victory over the others, they combined together, and formed the celebrated triumvirate, which continued afterward for some time to wield the supreme command in the Roman world. In forming this league of reconciliation, the three rivals held their conference on an island situated in one of the branches of the Po, in the north of Italy. They manifested extreme jealousy and suspicion of each other in coming to this interview. Two bridges were built leading to the island, one from each bank of the stream. The army of Antony was drawn up upon one side of the river, and that of Octavius upon the other. Lepidus went first to the island by one of the bridges. After examining the ground carefully, to make himself sure that it contained no ambuscade, he made a signal to the other generals, who then came over, each advancing by his own bridge, and accompanied by three hundred guards, who remained upon the bridge to secure a retreat for their masters in case of treachery. The conference lasted three days, at the expiration of which time the articles were all agreed upon and signed.
This league being formed, the three confederates turned their united force against the party of the conspirators. Of this party Brutus and Cassius were still at the head.
The scene of the contests between Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus had been chiefly Italy and the other central countries of Europe. Brutus and Cassius, on the other hand, had gone across the Adriatic Sea into the East immediately after Caesar's assassination. They were now in Asia Minor, and were employed in concentrating their forces, forming alliances with the various Eastern powers, raising troops, bringing over to their side the Roman legions which were stationed in that quarter of the world, seizing magazines, and exacting contributions from all who could be induced to favor their cause. Among other embassages which they sent, one went to Egypt to demand aid from Cleopatra. Cleopatra, however, was resolved to join the other side in the contest. It was natural that she should feel grateful to Caesar for his efforts and sacrifices in her behalf, and that she should be inclined to favor the cause of his friends. Accordingly, instead of sending troops to aid Brutus and Cassius, as they had desired her to do, she immediately fitted out an expedition to proceed to the coast of Asia, with a view of rendering all the aid in her power to Antony's cause.
Cassius, on his part, finding that Cleopatra was determined on joining his enemies, immediately resolved on proceeding at once to Egypt and taking possession of the country. He also stationed a military force at Taenarus, the southern promontory of Greece, to watch for and intercept the fleet of Cleopatra as soon as it should appear on the European shores. All these plans, however—both those which Cleopatra formed against Cassius, and those which Cassius formed against her—failed of accomplishment. Cleopatra's fleet encountered a terrible storm, which dispersed and destroyed it. A small remnant was driven upon the coast of Africa, but nothing could be saved which could be made available for the purpose intended. As for Cassius's intended expedition to Egypt, it was not carried into effect. The dangers which began now to threaten him from the direction of Italy and Rome were so imminent, that, at Brutus's urgent request, he gave up the Egyptian plan, and the two generals concentrated their forces to meet the armies of the triumvirate which were now rapidly advancing to attack them. They passed for this purpose across the Hellespont from Sestos to Abydos, and entered Thrace.
After various marches and countermarches, and a long succession of those maneuvers by which two powerful armies, approaching a contest, endeavor each to gain some position of advantage against the other, the various bodies of troops belonging, respectively, to the two powers, came into the vicinity of each other near Philippi. Brutus and Cassius arrived here first. There was a plain in the neighborhood of the city, with a rising ground in a certain portion of it. Brutus took possession of this elevation, and intrenched himself there. Cassius posted his forces about three miles distant, near the sea. There was a line of intrenchments between the two camps, which formed a chain of communication by which the positions of the two commanders were connected. The armies were thus very advantageously posted. They had the River Strymon and a marsh on the left of the ground that they occupied, while the plain was before them, and the sea behind. Here they awaited the arrival of their foes.
Antony, who was at this time at Amphipolis, a city not far distant from Philippi, learning that Brutus and Cassius had taken their positions in anticipation of an attack, advanced immediately and encamped upon the plain. Octavius was detained by sickness at the city of Dyrrachium, not very far distant. Antony waited for him. It was ten days before he came. At length he arrived, though in coming he had to be borne upon a litter, being still too sick to travel in any other way. Antony approached, and established his camp opposite to that of Cassius, near the sea, while Octavius took post opposite to Brutus. The four armies then paused, contemplating the probable results of the engagement that was about to ensue.
The forces on the two sides were nearly equal; but on the Republican side, that is, on the part of Brutus and Cassius, there was great inconvenience and suffering for want of a sufficient supply of provisions and stores. There was some difference of opinion between Brutus and Cassius in respect to what it was best for them to do. Brutus was inclined to give the enemy battle. Cassius was reluctant to do so, since, under the circumstances in which they were placed, he considered it unwise to hazard, as they necessarily must do, the whole success of their cause to the chances of a single battle. A council of war was convened, and the various officers were asked to give their opinions. In this conference, one of the officers having recommended to postpone the conflict to the next winter, Brutus asked him what advantage he hoped to attain by such delay. "If I gain nothing else," replied the officer, "I shall live so much the longer." This answer touched Cassius's pride and military sense of honor. Rather than concur in a counsel which was thus, on the part of one of its advocates at least, dictated by what he considered an inglorious love of life, he preferred to retract his opinion. It was agreed by the council that the army should maintain its ground and give the enemy battle. The officers then repaired to their respective camps.
Brutus was greatly pleased at this decision. To fight the battle had been his original desire, and as his counsels had prevailed, he was, of course, gratified with the prospect for the morrow. He arranged a sumptuous entertainment in his tent, and invited all the officers of his division of the army to sup with him. The party spent the night in convivial pleasures, and in mutual congratulations at the prospect of the victory which, as they believed, awaited them on the morrow. Brutus entertained his guests with brilliant conversation all the evening, and inspired them with his own confident anticipations of success in the conflict which was to ensue.
Cassius, on the other hand, in his camp by the sea, was silent and desponding. He supped privately with a few intimate friends. On rising from the table, he took one of his officers aside, and, pressing his hand, said to him that he felt great misgivings in respect to the result of the contest. "It is against my judgment," said he, "that we thus hazard the liberty of Rome on the event of one battle, fought under such circumstances as these. Whatever is the result, I wish you to bear me witness hereafter that I was forced into this measure by circumstances that I could not control. I suppose, however, that I ought to take courage, notwithstanding the reasons that I have for these gloomy forebodings. Let us, therefore, hope for the best; and come and sup with me again to-morrow night. To-morrow is my birth-day."
The next morning, the scarlet mantle—the customary signal displayed in Roman camps on the morning of a day of battle—was seen at the tops of the tents of the two commanding generals, waving there in the air like a banner. While the troops, in obedience to this signal, were preparing themselves for the conflict, the two generals went to meet each other at a point midway between their two encampments, for a final consultation and agreement in respect to the arrangements of the day. When this business was concluded, and they were about to separate, in order to proceed each to his own sphere of duty, Cassius asked Brutus what he intended to do in case the day should go against them. "We hope for the best," said he, "and pray that the gods may grant us the victory in this most momentous crisis. But we must remember that it is the greatest and the most momentous of human affairs that are always the most uncertain, and we can not foresee what is to-day to be the result of the battle. If it goes against us, what do you intend to do? Do you intend to escape, or to die?"
"When I was a young man," said Brutus, in reply, "and looked at this subject only as a question of theory, I thought it wrong for a man ever to take his own life. However great the evils that threatened him, and however desperate his condition, I considered it his duty to live, and to wait patiently for better times. But now, placed in the position in which I am, I see the subject in a different light. If we do not gain the battle this day, I shall consider all hope and possibility of saving our country forever gone, and I shall not leave the field of battle alive."
Cassius, in his despondency, had made the same resolution for himself before, and he was rejoiced to hear Brutus utter these sentiments. He grasped his colleague's hand with a countenance expressive of the greatest animation and pleasure, and bade him farewell, saying, "We will go out boldly to face the enemy. For we are certain either that we shall conquer them, or that we shall have nothing to fear from their victory over us."
Cassius's dejection, and the tendency of his mind to take a despairing view of the prospects of the cause in which he was engaged, were owing, in some measure, to certain unfavorable omens which he had observed. These omens, though really frivolous and wholly unworthy of attention, seem to have had great influence upon him, notwithstanding his general intelligence, and the remarkable strength and energy of his character. They were as follows:
In offering certain sacrifices, he was to wear, according to the usage prescribed on such occasions, a garland of flowers, and it happened that the officer who brought the garland, by mistake or accident, presented it wrong side before. Again, in some procession which was formed, and in which a certain image of gold, made in honor of him, was borne, the bearer of it stumbled and fell, and the image was thrown upon the ground. This was a very dark presage of impending calamity. Then a great number of vultures and other birds of prey were seen for a number of days before the battle, hovering over the Roman army; and several swarms of bees were found within the precincts of the camp. So alarming was this last indication, that the officers altered the line of the intrenchments so as to shut out the ill-omened spot from the camp. These and other such things had great influence upon the mind of Cassius, in convincing him that some great disaster was impending over him.
Nor was Brutus himself without warnings of this character, though they seem to have had less power to produce any serious impression upon his mind than in the case of Cassius. The most extraordinary warning which Brutus received, according to the story of his ancient historians, was by a supernatural apparition which he saw, some time before, while he was in Asia Minor. He was encamped near the city of Sardis at that time. He was always accustomed to sleep very little, and would often, it was said, when all his officers had retired, and the camp was still, sit alone in his tent, sometimes reading, and sometimes revolving the anxious cares which were always pressing upon his mind. One night he was thus alone in his tent, with a small lamp burning before him, sitting lost in thought, when he suddenly heard a movement as of some one entering the tent. He looked up, and saw a strange, unearthly, and monstrous shape, which appeared to have just entered the door and was coming toward him. The spirit gazed upon him as it advanced, but it did not speak.
Brutus, who was not much accustomed to fear, boldly demanded of the apparition who and what it was, and what had brought it there. "I am your evil spirit," said the apparition. "I shall meet you at Philippi." "Then, it seems," said Brutus, "that, at any rate, I shall see you again." The spirit made no reply to this, but immediately vanished.
Brutus arose, went to the door of his tent, summoned the sentinels, and awakened the soldiers that were sleeping near. The sentinels had seen nothing; and, after the most diligent search, no trace of the mysterious visitor could be found.
The next morning Brutus related to Cassius the occurrence which he had witnessed. Cassius, though very sensitive, it seems, to the influence of omens affecting himself, was quite philosophical in his views in respect to those of other men. He argued very rationally with Brutus to convince him that the vision which he had seen was only a phantom of sleep, taking its form and character from the ideas and images which the situation in which Brutus was then placed, and the fatigue and anxiety which he had endured, would naturally impress upon his mind.
But to return to the battle. Brutus fought against Octavius; while Cassius, two or three miles distant, encountered Antony, that having been, as will be recollected, the disposition of the respective armies and their encampments upon the plain. Brutus was triumphantly successful in his part of the field. His troops defeated the army of Octavius, and got possession of his camp. The men forced their way into Octavius's tent, and pierced the litter in which they supposed that the sick general was lying through and through with their spears. But the object of their desperate hostility was not there. He had been borne away by his guards a few minutes before, and no one knew what had become of him.
The result of the battle was, however, unfortunately for those whose adventures we are now more particularly following, very different in Cassius's part of the field. When Brutus, after completing the conquest of his own immediate foes, returned to his elevated camp, he looked toward the camp of Cassius, and was surprised to find that the tents had disappeared. Some of the officers around perceived weapons glancing and glittering in the sun in the place where Cassius's tents ought to appear. Brutus now suspected the truth, which was, that Cassius had been defeated, and his camp had fallen into the hands of the enemy. He immediately collected together as large a force as he could command, and marched to the relief of his colleague. He found him, at last, posted with a small body of guards and attendants upon the top of a small elevation to which he had fled for safety. Cassius saw the troop of horsemen which Brutus sent forward coming toward him, and supposed that it was a detachment from Antony's army advancing to capture him. He, however, sent a messenger forward to meet them, and ascertain whether they were friends or foes. The messenger, whose name was Titinius, rode down. The horsemen recognized Titinius, and, riding up eagerly around him, they dismounted from their horses to congratulate him on his safety, and to press him with inquiries in respect to the result of the battle and the fate of his master.
Cassius, seeing all this, but not seeing it very distinctly, supposed that the troop of horsemen were enemies, and that they had surrounded Titinius, and had cut him down or made him prisoner. He considered it certain, therefore, that all was now finally lost. Accordingly, in execution of a plan which he had previously formed, he called a servant, named Pindarus, whom he directed to follow him, and went into a tent which was near. When Brutus and his horsemen came up, they entered the tent. They found no living person within; but the dead body of Cassius was there, the head being totally dissevered from it. Pindarus was never afterward to be found.
Brutus was overwhelmed with grief at the death of his colleague; he was also oppressed by it with a double burden of responsibility and care, since now the whole conduct of affairs devolved upon him alone. He found himself surrounded with difficulties which became more and more embarrassing every day. At length he was compelled to fight a second battle. The details of the contest itself we can not give, but the result of it was, that, notwithstanding the most unparalleled and desperate exertions made by Brutus to keep his men to the work, and to maintain his ground, his troops were borne down and overwhelmed by the irresistible onsets of his enemies, and his cause was irretrievably and hopelessly ruined.
When Brutus found that all was lost, he allowed himself to be conducted off the field by a small body of guards, who, in their retreat, broke through the ranks of the enemy on a side where they saw that they should meet with the least resistance. They were, however, pursued by a squadron of horse, the horsemen being eager to make Brutus a prisoner. In this emergency, one of Brutus's friends, named Lucilius, conceived the design of pretending to be Brutus, and, as such, surrendering himself a prisoner. This plan he carried into effect. When the troop came up, he called out for quarter, said that he was Brutus, and begged them to spare his life, and to take him to Antony. The men did so, rejoiced at having, as they imagined, secured so invaluable a prize.
In the mean time, the real Brutus pressed on to make his escape. He crossed a brook which came in his way, and entered into a little dell, which promised to afford a hiding-place, since it was encumbered with precipitous rocks and shaded with trees. A few friends and officers accompanied Brutus in his flight. Night soon came on, and he lay down in a little recess under a shelving rock, exhausted with fatigue and suffering. Then, raising his eyes to heaven, he imprecated, in lines quoted from a Greek poet, the just judgment of God upon the foes who were at that hour triumphing in what he considered the ruin of his country.
He then, in his anguish and despair, enumerated by name the several friends and companions whom he had seen fall that day in battle, mourning the loss of each with bitter grief. In the mean time, night was coming on, and the party, concealed thus in the wild dell, were destitute and unsheltered. Hungry and thirsty, and spent with fatigue as they were, there seemed to be no prospect for them of either rest or refreshment. Finally they sent one of their number to steal softly back to the rivulet which they had crossed in their retreat, to bring them some water. The soldier took his helmet to bring the water in for want of any other vessel. While Brutus was drinking the water which they brought, a noise was heard in the opposite direction. Two of the officers were sent to ascertain the cause. They came back soon, reporting that there was a party of the enemy in that quarter. They asked where the water was which had been brought. Brutus told them that it had all been drunk, but that he would send immediately for more. The messenger went accordingly to the brook again, but he came back very soon, wounded and bleeding, and reported that the enemy was close upon them on that side too, and that he had narrowly escaped with his life. The apprehensions of Brutus's party were greatly increased by these tidings; it was evident that all hope of being able to remain long concealed where they were must fast disappear.
One of the officers, named Statilius, then proposed to make the attempt to find his way out of the snare in which they had become involved. He would go, he said, as cautiously as possible, avoiding all parties of the enemy, and being favored by the darkness of the night, he hoped to find some way of retreat. If he succeeded, he would display a torch on a distant elevation which he designated, so that the party in the glen, on seeing the light, might be assured of his safety. He would then return and guide them all through the danger, by the way which he should have discovered.
This plan was approved, and Statilius accordingly departed. In due time the light was seen burning at the place which had been pointed out, and indicating that Statilius had accomplished his undertaking. Brutus and his party were greatly cheered by the new hope which this result awakened. They began to watch and listen for their messenger's return. They watched and waited long, but he did not come. On the way back he was intercepted and slain.
When at length all hope that he would return was finally abandoned, some of the party, in the course of the despairing consultations which the unhappy fugitives held with one another, said that they must not remain any longer where they were, but must make their escape from that spot at all hazards. "Yes," said Brutus, "we must indeed make our escape from our present situation, but we must do it with our hands, and not with our feet." He meant by this that the only means now left to them to evade their enemies was self-destruction. When his friends understood that this was his meaning, and that he was resolved to put this design into execution in his own case, they were overwhelmed with sorrow. Brutus took them, one by one, by the hand and bade them farewell. He thanked them for their fidelity in adhering to his cause to the last, and said that it was a source of great comfort and satisfaction to him that all his friends had proved so faithful and true. "I do not complain of my hard fate," he added, "so far as I myself am concerned. I mourn only for my unhappy country. As to myself, I think that my condition even now is better than that of my enemies; for though I die, posterity will do me justice, and I shall enjoy forever the honor which virtue and integrity deserve; while they, though they live, live only to reap the bitter fruits of injustice and of tyranny.
"After I am gone," he continued, addressing his friends, as before, "think no longer of me, but take care of yourselves. Antony, I am sure, will be satisfied with Cassius's death and mine. He will not be disposed to pursue you vindictively any longer. Make peace with him on the best terms that you can."
Brutus then asked first one and then another of his friends to aid him in the last duty, as he seems to have considered it, of destroying his life; but one after another declared that they could not do any thing to assist him in carrying into effect so dreadful a determination. Finally, he took with him an old and long-tried friend named Strato, and went away a little, apart from the rest. Here he solicited once more the favor which had been refused him before,—begging that Strato would hold out his sword. Strato still refused. Brutus then called one of his slaves. Upon this Strato declared that he would do any thing rather than that Brutus should die by the hand of a slave. He took the sword, and. with his right hand held it extended in the air. With the left hand he covered his eyes, that he might not witness the horrible spectacle. Brutus, rushed upon the point of the weapon with such fatal force that he fell and immediately expired.
Thus ended the great and famous battle of Philippi, celebrated in history as marking the termination of the great conflict between the friends and the enemies of Caesar, which agitated the world so deeply after the conqueror's death. This battle established the ascendency of Antony, and made him for a time the most conspicuous man, as Cleopatra was, the most conspicuous woman, in the world.
CLEOPATRA AND ANTONY.
Cleopatra espouses Antony's cause.—Her motives.—Antony's early life.—His character.—Personal habits of Antony.—His dress and manners.—Vicious indulgences of Antony.—Public condemnation.—Vices of the great.—Candidates for office.—Antony's excesses.—His luxury and extravagance.—Antony's energy.—His powers of endurance.—Antony's vicissitudes.—He inveighs away the troops of Lepidus.—Antony's marriage.—Fulvia's character.—Fulvia's influence over Antony.—The sudden return.—Change in Antony's character.—His generosity.—Funeral ceremonies of Brutus.—Antony's movements.—Antony's summons to Cleopatra.—The messenger Dellius.—Cleopatra resolves to go to Antony.—Her preparations.—Cleopatra enters the Cydnus.—Her splendid barge.—A scene of enchantment.—Antony's invitation refused. —Cleopatra's reception of Antony.—Antony outdone.—Murder of Arsinoe.—Cleopatra's manner of life at Tarsus.—Cleopatra's munificence.—Story of the pearls.—Position of Fulvia.—Her anxiety and distress.—Antony proposes to go to Rome.—His plans frustrated by Cleopatra.—Antony's infatuation.—Feasting and revelry.—Philotas.—The story of the eight boats.—Antony's son.—The garrulous guest.—The puzzle.—The gold and silver plate returned.—Debasing pleasures. —Antony and Cleopatra in disguise.—Fishing excursions.—Stratagems. —Fulvia's plans for compelling Antony to return.—Departure of Antony.—Chagrin of Cleopatra.
How far Cleopatra was influenced, in her determination to espouse the cause of Antony rather than that of Brutus and Cassius, in the civil war described in the last chapter, by gratitude to Caesar, and how far, on the other hand, by personal interest in Antony, the reader must judge. Cleopatra had seen Antony, it will be recollected, some years before, during his visit to Egypt, when she was a young girl. She was doubtless well acquainted with his character. It was a character peculiarly fitted, in some respects, to captivate the imagination of a woman so ardent, and impulsive, and bold as Cleopatra was fast becoming.
Antony had, in fact, made himself an object of universal interest throughout the world, by his wild and eccentric manners and reckless conduct, and by the very extraordinary vicissitudes which had marked his career. In moral character he was as utterly abandoned and depraved as it was possible to be. In early life, as has already been stated, he plunged into such a course of dissipation and extravagance that he became utterly and hopelessly ruined; or, rather, he would have been so, had he not, by the influence of that magic power of fascination which such characters often possess, succeeded in gaining a great ascendency over a young man of immense fortune, named Curio, who for a time upheld him by becoming surety for his debts. This resource, however, soon failed, and Antony was compelled to abandon Rome, and to live for some years as a fugitive and exile, in dissolute wretchedness and want. During all the subsequent vicissitudes through which he passed in the course of his career, the same habits of lavish expenditure continued, whenever he had funds at his command. This trait of character took the form sometimes of a noble generosity. In his campaigns, the plunder which he acquired he usually divided among his soldiers, reserving nothing for himself. This made his men enthusiastically devoted to him, and led them to consider his prodigality as a virtue, even when they did not themselves derive any direct advantage from it. A thousand stories were always in circulation in camp of acts on his part illustrating his reckless disregard of the value of money, some ludicrous, and all eccentric and strange.
In his personal habits, too, he was as different as possible from other men. He prided himself on being descended from Hercules, and he affected a style of dress and a general air and manner in accordance with the savage character of this his pretended ancestor. His features were sharp, his nose was arched and prominent, and he wore his hair and beard very long—as long, in fact, as he could make them grow. These peculiarities imparted to his countenance a very wild and ferocious expression. He adopted a style of dress, too, which, judged of with reference to the prevailing fashions of the time, gave to his whole appearance a rough, savage, and reckless air. His manner and demeanor corresponded with his dress and appearance. He lived in habits of the most unreserved familiarity with his soldiers. He associated freely with them, ate and drank with them in the open air, and joined in their noisy mirth and rude and boisterous hilarity. His commanding powers of mind, and the desperate recklessness of his courage, enabled him to do all this without danger. These qualities inspired in the minds of the soldiers a feeling of profound respect for their commander; and this good opinion he was enabled to retain, notwithstanding such habits of familiarity with his inferiors as would have been fatal to the influence of an ordinary man.
In the most prosperous portion of Antony's career—for example, during the period immediately preceding the death of Caesar—he addicted himself to vicious indulgences of the most open, public, and shameless character. He had around him a sort of court, formed of jesters, tumblers, mountebanks, play-actors, and other similar characters of the lowest and most disreputable class. Many of these companions were singing and dancing girls, very beautiful, and very highly accomplished in the arts of their respective professions, but all totally corrupt and depraved. Public sentiment, even in that age and nation, strongly condemned this conduct. The people were pagans, it is true, but it is a mistake to suppose that the formation of a moral sentiment in the community against such vices as these is a work which Christianity alone can perform. There is a law of nature, in the form of an instinct universal in the race, imperiously enjoining that the connection of the sexes shall consist of the union of one man with one woman, and that woman his wife, and very sternly prohibiting every other. So that there has probably never been a community in the world so corrupt, that a man could practice in it such vices as those of Antony, without not only violating his own sense of right and wrong, but also bringing upon himself the general condemnation of those around him.
Still, the world is prone to be very tolerant in respect to the vices of the great. Such exalted personages as Antony seem to be judged by a different standard from common men. Even in the countries where those who occupy high stations of trust or of power are actually selected, for the purpose of being placed there, by the voices of their fellow-men, all inquiry into the personal character of a candidate is often suppressed, such inquiry being condemned as wholly irrelevant and improper, and they who succeed in attaining to power enjoy immunities in their elevation which are denied to common men.
But, notwithstanding the influence of Antony's rank and power in shielding him from public censure, he carried his excesses to such an extreme that his conduct was very loudly and very generally condemned. He would spend all the night in carousals, and then, the next day, would appear in public, staggering in the streets. Sometimes he would enter the tribunals for the transaction of business when he was so intoxicated that it would be necessary for friends to come to his assistance to conduct him away. In some of his journeys in the neighborhood of Rome, he would take a troop of companions with him of the worst possible character, and travel with them openly and without shame. There was a certain actress, named Cytheride, whom he made his companion on one such occasion. She was borne upon a litter in his train, and he carried about with him a vast collection of gold and silver plate, and of splendid table furniture, together with an endless supply of luxurious articles of food and of wine, to provide for the entertainments and banquets which he was to celebrate with her on the journey. He would sometimes stop by the road side, pitch his tents, establish his kitchens, set his cooks at work to prepare a feast, spread his tables, and make a sumptuous banquet of the most costly, complete, and ceremonious character—all to make men wonder at the abundance and perfection of the means of luxury which he could carry with him wherever he might go. In fact, he always seemed to feel a special pleasure in doing strange and extraordinary things in order to excite surprise. Once on a journey he had lions harnessed to his carts to draw his baggage, in order to create a sensation.
Notwithstanding the heedlessness with which Antony abandoned himself to these luxurious pleasures when at Rome, no man could endure exposure and hardship better when in camp or on the field. In fact, he rushed with as much headlong precipitation into difficulty and danger when abroad, as into expense and dissipation when at home. During his contests with Octavius and Lepidus, after Caesar's death, he once had occasion to pass the Alps, which, with his customary recklessness, he attempted to traverse without any proper supplies of stores or means of transportation. He was reduced, on the passage, together with the troops under his command, to the most extreme destitution and distress. They had to feed on roots and herbs, and finally on the bark of trees; and they barely preserved themselves, by these means, from actual starvation. Antony seemed, however, to care nothing for all this, but pressed on through the difficulty and danger, manifesting the same daring and determined unconcern to the end. In the same campaign he found himself at one time reduced to extreme destitution in respect to men. His troops had been gradually wasted away until his situation had become very desperate. He conceived, under these circumstances, the most extraordinary idea of going over alone to the camp of Lepidus and enticing away his rival's troops from under the very eyes of their commander. This bold design was successfully executed. Antony advanced alone, clothed in wretched garments, and with his matted hair and beard hanging about his breast and shoulders, up to Lepidus's lines. The men, who knew him well, received him with acclamations; and pitying the sad condition to which they saw that he was reduced, began to listen to what he had to say. Lepidus, who could not attack him, since he and Antony were not at that time in open hostility to each other, but were only rival commanders in the same army, ordered the trumpeters to sound in order to make a noise which should prevent the words of Antony from being heard. This interrupted the negotiation; but the men immediately disguised two of their number in female apparel, and sent them to Antony to make arrangements with him for putting themselves under his command, and offering, at the same time, to murder Lepidus, if he would but speak the word. Antony charged them to do Lepidus no injury. He, however, went over and took possession of the camp, and assumed the command of the army. He treated Lepidus himself, personally, with extreme politeness, and retained him as a subordinate under his command.
Not far from the time of Caesar's death, Antony was married. The name of the lady was Fulvia. She was a widow at the time of her marriage with Antony, and was a woman of very marked and decided character. She had led a wild and irregular life previous to that time, but she conceived a very strong attachment to her new husband and devoted herself to him from the time of her marriage with the most constant fidelity. She soon acquired a very great ascendency over him, and was the means of effecting a very considerable reform in his conduct and character. She was an ambitious and aspiring woman, and made many very efficient and successful efforts to promote the elevation and aggrandizement of her husband. She appeared, also, to take a great pride and pleasure in exercising over him, herself, a great personal control. She succeeded in these attempts in a manner that surprised every body. It seemed astonishing to all mankind that such a tiger as he had been could be subdued by any human power. Nor was it by gentleness and mildness that Fulvia gained such power over her husband. She was of a very stern and masculine character, and she seems to have mastered Antony by surpassing him in the use of his own weapons. In fact, instead of attempting to soothe and mollify him, she reduced him, it seems, to the necessity of resorting to various contrivances to soften and propitiate her. Once, for example, on his return from a campaign in which he had been exposed to great dangers, he disguised himself and came home at night in the garb of a courier bearing dispatches. He caused himself to be ushered, muffled and disguised as he was, into Fulvia's apartments, where he handed her some pretended letters, which, he said, were from her husband; and while Fulvia was opening them in great excitement and trepidation, he threw off his disguise, and revealed himself to her by clasping her in his arms and kissing her in the midst of her amazement.
Antony's marriage with Fulvia, besides being the means of reforming his morals in some degree, softened and civilized him in respect to his manners. His dress and appearance now assumed a different character. In fact, his political elevation after Caesar's death soon became very exalted, and the various democratic arts by which he had sought to raise himself to it, being now no longer necessary, were, as usual in such cases, gradually discarded. He lived in great style and splendor when at Rome, and when absent from home, on his military campaigns, he began to exhibit the same pomp and parade in his equipage and in his arrangements as were usual in the camps of other Roman generals.
After the battle of Philippi, described in the last chapter, Antony—who, with all his faults, was sometimes a very generous foe—as soon as the tidings of Brutus's death were brought to him, repaired immediately to the spot, and appeared to be quite shocked and concerned at the sight of the body. He took off his own military cloak or mantle—which was a very magnificent and costly garment, being enriched with many expensive ornaments—and spread it over the corpse. He then gave directions to one of the officers of his household to make arrangements for funeral ceremonies of a very imposing character, as a testimony of his respect for the memory of the deceased. In these ceremonies it was the duty of the officer to have burned the military cloak which Antony had appropriated to the purpose of a pall, with the body. He did not, however, do so. The cloak being very valuable, he reserved it; and he withheld, also, a considerable part of the money which had been given him for the expenses of the funeral. He supposed that Antony would probably not inquire very closely into the details of the arrangements made for the funeral of his most inveterate enemy. Antony, however, did inquire into them, and when he learned what the officer had done, he ordered him to be killed.
The various political changes which occurred, and the movements which took place among the several armies after the battle of Philippi, can not be here detailed. It is sufficient to say that Antony proceeded to the eastward through Asia Minor, and in the course of the following year came into Cilicia. From this place he sent a messenger to Egypt to Cleopatra, summoning her to appear before him. There were charges, he said, against her of having aided Cassius and Brutus in the late war instead of rendering assistance to him. Whether there really were any such charges, or whether they were only fabricated by Antony as pretexts for seeing Cleopatra, the fame of whose beauty was very widely extended, does not certainly appear. However this may be, he sent to summon the queen to come to him. The name of the messenger whom Antony dispatched on this errand was Dellius. Fulvia, Antony's wife, was not with him at this time. She had been left behind at Rome.
Dellius proceeded to Egypt and appeared at Cleopatra's court. The queen was at this time about twenty-eight, but more beautiful, as was said, than ever before. Dellius was very much struck with her beauty and with a certain fascination in her voice and conversation, of which her ancient biographers often speak as one of the most irresistible of her charms. He told her that she need have no fear of Antony. It was of no consequence, he said, what charges there might be against her. She would find that, in a very few days after she had entered into Antony's presence, she would be in great favor. She might rely, in fact, he said, on gaining, very speedily, an unbounded ascendency over the general. He advised her, therefore, to proceed to Cilicia without fear; and to present herself before Antony in as much pomp and magnificence as she could command. He would answer, he said, for the result.
Cleopatra determined to follow this advice. In fact, her ardent and impulsive imagination was fired with the idea of making, a second time, the conquest of the greatest general and highest potentate in the world. She began immediately to make provision for the voyage. She employed all the resources of her kingdom in procuring for herself the most magnificent means of display, such as expensive and splendid dresses, rich services of plate, ornaments of precious stones and of gold, and presents in great variety and of the most costly description for Antony. She appointed, also, a numerous retinue of attendants to accompany her, and, in a word, made all the arrangements complete for an expedition of the most imposing and magnificent character. While these preparations were going forward, she received new and frequent communications from Antony, urging her to hasten her departure; but she paid very little attention to them. It was evident that she felt quite independent, and was intending to take her own time.
At length, however, all was ready, and Cleopatra set sail. She crossed the Mediterranean Sea, and entered the mouth of the River Cydnus. Antony was at Tarsus, a city upon the Cydnus, a small distance above its mouth. When Cleopatra's fleet had entered the river, she embarked on board a most magnificent barge which she had constructed for the occasion, and had brought with her across the sea. This barge was the most magnificent and highly-ornamented vessel that had ever been built. It was adorned with carvings and decorations of the finest workmanship, and elaborately gilded. The sails were of purple, and the oars were inlaid and tipped with silver. Upon the deck of this barge Queen Cleopatra appeared, under a canopy of cloth of gold. She was dressed very magnificently in the costume in which Venus, the goddess of Beauty, was then generally represented. She was surrounded by a company of beautiful boys, who attended upon her in the form of Cupids, and fanned her with their wings, and by a group of young girls representing the Nymphs and the Graces. There was a band of musicians stationed upon the deck. This music guided the oarsmen, as they kept time to it in their rowing; and, soft as the melody was, the strains were heard far and wide over the water and along the shores, as the beautiful vessel advanced on its way. The performers were provided with flutes, lyres, viols, and all the other instruments customarily used in those times to produce music of a gentle and voluptuous kind.
In fact, the whole spectacle seemed like a vision of enchantment. Tidings of the approach of the barge spread rapidly around, and the people of the country came down in crowds to the shores of the river to gaze upon it in admiration as it glided slowly along. At the time of its arrival at Tarsus, Antony was engaged in giving a public audience at some tribunal in his palace, but everybody ran to see Cleopatra and the barge, and the great triumvir was left consequently alone, or, at least, with only a few official attendants near him. Cleopatra, on arriving at the city, landed, and began to pitch her tents on the shores. Antony sent a messenger to bid her welcome, and to invite her to come and sup with him. She declined the invitation, saying that it was more proper that he should come and sup with her. She would accordingly expect him to come, she said, and her tents would be ready at the proper hour. Antony complied with her proposal, and came to her entertainment. He was received with a magnificence and splendor which amazed him. The tents and pavilions where the entertainment was made were illuminated with an immense number of lamps. These lamps were arranged in a very ingenious and beautiful manner, so as to produce an illumination of the most surprising brilliancy and beauty. The immense number and variety, too, of the meats and wines, and of the vessels of gold and silver, with which the tables were loaded, and the magnificence and splendor of the dresses worn by Cleopatra and her attendants, combined to render the whole scene one of bewildering enchantment.
The next day, Antony invited Cleopatra to come and return his visit; but, though he made every possible effort to provide a banquet as sumptuous and as sumptuously served as hers, he failed entirely in this attempt, and acknowledged himself completely outdone. Antony was, moreover, at these interviews, perfectly fascinated with Cleopatra's charms. Her beauty, her wit, her thousand accomplishments, and, above all, the tact, and adroitness, and self-possession which she displayed in assuming at once so boldly, and carrying out so adroitly, the idea of her social superiority over him, that he yielded his heart almost immediately to her undisputed sway.
The first use which Cleopatra made of her power was to ask Antony, for her sake, to order her sister Arsinoe to be slain. Arsinoe had gone, it will be recollected, to Rome, to grace Caesar's triumph there, and had afterward retired to Asia, where she was now living an exile. Cleopatra, either from a sentiment of past revenge, or else from some apprehensions of future danger, now desired that her sister should die. Antony readily acceded to her request. He sent an officer in search of the unhappy princess. The officer slew her where he found her, within the precincts of a temple to which she had fled, supposing it a sanctuary which no degree of hostility, however extreme, would have dared to violate.
Cleopatra remained at Tarsus for some time, revolving in an incessant round of gayety and pleasure, and living in habits of unrestrained intimacy with Antony. She was accustomed to spend whole days and nights with him in feasting and revelry. The immense magnificence of these entertainments, especially on Cleopatra's part, were the wonder of the world. She seems to have taken special pleasure in exciting Antony's surprise by the display of her wealth and the boundless extravagance in which she indulged. At one of her banquets, Antony was expressing his astonishment at the vast number of gold cups, enriched with jewels, that were displayed on all sides. "Oh," said she, "they are nothing; if you like them, you shall have them all." So saying, she ordered her servants to carry them to Antony's house. The next day she invited Antony again, with a large number of the chief officers of his army and court. The table was spread with a new service of gold and silver vessels, more extensive and splendid than that of the preceding day; and at the close of the supper, when the company was about to depart, Cleopatra distributed all these treasures among the guests that had been present at the entertainment. At another of these feasts, she carried her ostentation and display to the astonishing extreme of taking off from one of her ear-rings a pearl of immense value and dissolving it in a cup of vinegar, which she afterward made into a drink, such as was customarily used in those days, and then drank it. She was proceeding to do the same with the other pearl, when some of the company arrested the proceeding, and took the remaining pearl away.
[Footnote 1: Pearls, being of the nature of shell in their composition and structure, are soluble in certain acids.]
In the mean time, while Antony was thus wasting his time in luxury and pleasure with Cleopatra, his public duties were neglected, and every thing was getting into confusion. Fulvia remained in Italy. Her position and her character gave her a commanding political influence, and she exerted herself in a very energetic manner to sustain, in that quarter of the world, the interests of her husband's cause. She was surrounded with difficulties and dangers, the details of which can not, however, be here particularly described. She wrote continually to Antony, urgently entreating him to come to Rome, and displaying in her letters all those marks of agitation and distress which a wife would naturally feel under the circumstances in which she was placed. The thought that her husband had been so completely drawn away from her by the guilty arts of such a woman, and led by her to abandon his wife and his family, and leave in neglect and confusion concerns of such momentous magnitude as those which demanded his attention at home, produced an excitement in her mind bordering upon frensy. Antony was at length so far influenced by the urgency of the case that he determined to return. He broke up his quarters at Tarsus and moved south toward Tyre, which was a great naval port and station in those days. Cleopatra went with him. They were to separate at Tyre. She was to embark there for Egypt, and he for Rome.
At least that was Antony's plan, but it was not Cleopatra's. She had determined that Antony should go with her to Alexandria. As might have been expected, when the time came for the decision, the woman gained the day. Her flatteries, her arts, her caresses, her tears, prevailed. After a brief struggle between the sentiment of love on the one hand and those of ambition and of duty combined on the other, Antony gave up the contest. Abandoning every thing else, he surrendered himself wholly to Cleopatra's control, and went with her to Alexandria. He spent the winter there, giving himself up with her to every species of sensual indulgence that the most remorseless license could tolerate, and the most unbounded wealth procure.
There seemed, in fact, to be no bounds to the extravagance and infatuation which Antony displayed during the winter in Alexandria. Cleopatra devoted herself to him incessantly, day and night, filling up every moment of time with some new form of pleasure, in order that he might have no time to think of his absent wife, or to listen to the reproaches of his conscience. Antony, on his part, surrendered himself a willing victim to these wiles, and entered with all his heart into the thousand plans of gayety and merry-making which Cleopatra devised. They had each a separate establishment in the city, which was maintained at an enormous cost, and they made a arrangement by which each was the guest of the other on alternate days. These visits were spent in games, sports, spectacles, feasting, drinking, and in every species of riot, irregularity, and excess.
A curious instance is afforded of the accidental manner in which intelligence in respect to the scenes and incidents of private life in those ancient days is sometimes obtained, in a circumstance which occurred at this time at Antony's court. It seems that there was a young medical student at Alexandria that winter, named Philotas, who happened, in some way or other, to have formed an acquaintance with one of Antony's domestics, a cook. Under the guidance of this cook, Philotas went one day into the palace to see what was to be seen. The cook took his friend into the kitchens, where, to Philotas's great surprise, he saw, among an infinite number and variety of other preparations, eight wild boars roasting before the fires, some being more and some less advanced in the process. Philotas asked what great company was to dine there that day. The cook smiled at this question, and replied that there was to be no company at all, other than Antony's ordinary party. "But," said the cook, in explanation, "we are obliged always to prepare several suppers, and to have them ready in succession at different hours, for no one can tell at what time they will order the entertainment to be served. Sometimes, when the supper has been actually carried in, Antony and Cleopatra will get engaged in some new turn of their diversions, and conclude not to sit down just then to the table, and so we have to take the supper away, and presently bring in another."
Antony had a son with him at Alexandria at this time, the child of his wife Fulvia. The name of the son, as well as that of the father, was Antony. He was old enough to feel some sense of shame at his father's dereliction from duty, and to manifest some respectful regard for the rights and the honor of his mother. Instead of this, however, he imitated his father's example, and, in his own way, was as reckless and extravagant as he. The same Philotas who is above referred to was, after a time, appointed to some office or other in the young Antony's household, so that he was accustomed to sit at his table and share in his convivial enjoyments. He relates that once, while they were feasting together, there was a guest present, a physician, who was a very vain and conceited man, and so talkative that no one else had any opportunity to speak. All the pleasure of conversation was spoiled by his excessive garrulity. Philotas, however, at length puzzled him so completely with a question of logic,—of a kind similar to those often discussed with great interest in ancient days,—as to silence him for a time; and young Antony was so much delighted with this feat, that he gave Philotas all the gold and silver plate that there was upon the table, and sent all the articles home to him, after the entertainment was over, telling him. to put his mark and stamp upon them, and lock them up.
The question with which Philotas puzzled the self-conceited physician was this. It must be premised, however, that in those days it was considered that cold water in an intermittent fever was extremely dangerous, except in some peculiar cases, and in those the effect was good. Philotas then argued as follows: "In cases of a certain kind it is best to give water to a patient in an ague. All cases of ague are cases of a certain kind. Therefore it is best in all cases to give the patient water." Philotas having propounded his argument in this way, challenged the physician to point out the fallacy of it; and while the physician sat perplexed and puzzled in his attempts to unravel the intricacy of it, the company enjoyed a temporary respite from his excessive loquacity.
Philotas adds, in his account of this affair, that he sent the gold and silver plate back to young Antony again, being afraid to keep them. Antony said that perhaps it was as well that this should be done, since many of the vessels were of great value on account of their rare and antique workmanship, and his father might possibly miss them and wish to know what had become of them.
As there were no limits, on the one hand, to the loftiness and grandeur of the pleasures to which Antony and Cleopatra addicted themselves, so there were none to the low and debasing tendencies which characterized them on the other. Sometimes, at midnight, after having been spending many hours in mirth and revelry in the palace, Antony would disguise himself in the dress of a slave, and sally forth into the streets, excited with wine, in search of adventures. In many cases, Cleopatra herself, similarly disguised, would go out with him. On these excursions Antony would take pleasure in involving himself in all sorts of difficulties and dangers—in street riots, drunken brawls, and desperate quarrels with the populace—all for Cleopatra's amusement and his own. Stories of these adventures would circulate afterward among the people, some of whom would admire the free and jovial character of their eccentric visitor, and others would despise him as a prince degrading himself to the level of a brute.