Jump to content
Invision Community

Clipped chamber


Yuri_Agnew
 Share

Recommended Posts

Cleopatra, on the other hand, was prepared for all eventualities; and, while she hoped somehow to be able to win her way out of her dilemma, she did not fail to make ready for the death which she might have to face. The news of Octavian’s return to Asia Minor was presently received in Alexandria, and she must have felt that her chances of successfully circumventing her difficulties were remote. She therefore busied herself in making a collection of all manner of poisonous drugs, and she often went down to the dungeons to make eager experiments upon the persons of condemned criminals. Anxiously she watched the death-struggles of the prisoners to whom the different poisons had been administered, discarding those drugs which produced pain and convulsions, and continuing her tests and trials with those which appeared to offer an easy liberation from life. She also experimented with venomous snakes, subjecting animals and human beings to their poisonous bites; and Plutarch tells us that “she pretty well satisfied herself that nothing was comparable to the bite of the asp, which, without causing convulsion or groaning, brought on a heavy drowsiness and coma, with a gentle perspiration on the face, the senses being stupefied by degrees, and the victim being apparently sensible of no pain, but only annoyed when disturbed or awakened, like one who is in a profound natural sleep.”[131] If the worst came to the worst, she decided that she would take her life in this manner; and this question being settled, she turned her undivided attention once more to the problems which beset her.

By May Octavian had marched into Syria, where all the garrisons surrendered to him. He sent Cornelius Gallus to take command of the legions which had surrendered to him in North Africa, and this army had now taken possession of Parætonium, where Antony had stayed after his flight from Actium. The news that this frontier fortress had passed into the hands of the enemy had not yet reached Alexandria, but that of Octavian’s advance through Syria was already known in the city, and must have caused the greatest anxiety. Cleopatra thereupon decided upon a bold and dignified course of action. Towards the end of May she sent her son Cæsarion, with his tutor Rhodon, up the Nile to Koptos,[132] and thence across the desert to the port of Berenice, where as many ships as she could collect were ordered to be in waiting for him. The young Cæsar travelled, it would seem, in considerable state, and carried with him a huge sum of money. He was expected to arrive at Berenice by about the end of June; and when, towards the middle of July,[133] the merchants journeying to India began to set out upon their long voyage, it was arranged that he should also set sail for those distant lands, there to make friends with the Kings of Hindustan, and perhaps to organise the great amalgamation of eastern nations of which Cleopatra had so often dreamed. She herself decided to remain at Alexandria, first to negotiate with Octavian for the retention of her throne, and in the event of this proving unsuccessful, to fight him to the death. No thought of flight entered her mind;[134] and though, with a mother’s solicitous care, she made these adventurous arrangements for the safety of her beloved son, it does not seem to have occurred to her to accompany him to the East, where she might have expected at any rate to find a temporary harbour of refuge. Her parting with him must have been one of the most unhappy events of her unfortunate life. For his safety and for his rights she had struggled for seventeen years; and now it was necessary to send him with the Indian merchants across perilous seas to strange lands in order to save him from the clutches of his successful rival Octavian, while she herself remained to face their enemies and to fight for their joint throne. Her thoughts in these days of distress were turning once more to the memory of the boy’s father, the great Julius Cæsar, for often, it would seem, she gazed at his pictures or read over again the letters which he had written to her; and now as she despatched the young Cæsar upon his distant voyage to those lands which had always so keenly interested his father, she must have invoked the aid of that deified spirit which all the Roman world worshipped as Divus Julius, and, in an agony of supplication, must have implored him to come to the assistance of his only earthly son and heir.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When Octavian was preparing in Syria, during the month of June B.C. 30, to invade Egypt, both Cleopatra and Antony attempted to open negotiations with him. They sent a certain Greek named Euphronius, who had been a tutor to one of the young princes, to the enemy bearing messages from them both. Cleopatra asked that, in return for her surrender, her son Cæsarion might be allowed to retain the throne of Egypt; but Antony prayed only that he might be allowed to live the life of a private man, either at Alexandria or else in Athens. With this embassy Cleopatra sent her crown, her sceptre, and her state-chariot, in the hope that Octavian would bestow them again upon her son, if not upon herself. The mission, however, was a partial failure. Octavian would not listen to any proposals in regard to Antony; but to Cleopatra he sent a secret message, conveyed by one of his freedmen, named Thyrsus, indicating that he was well-disposed towards her, and would be inclined to leave her in possession of Egypt, if only she would cause Antony to be put to death. Actually, Octavian had no intention of showing any particular mercy to Cleopatra, and his suggestions were intended to deceive her. He seems to have made up his mind how to act. Antony would have to be murdered or made to take his own life: it would be awkward to have to condemn him to death and formally to execute him. Cæsarion, his rival, would also have to meet with a violent end. Cleopatra ought to be captured alive so that he might display her in his Triumph, after which she would be sent into exile, while her country and its wealth would fall into his hands, the loot serving for the payment of his troops. In all his subsequent dealings with the Queen we shall observe his anxiety to take her alive, while towards Antony he will be seen to show a relentless hostility.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

The next morning, as soon as it was light, Antony marched his troops out of the eastern gates of the city, and formed them up on rising ground between the walls and the Hippodromos, a short distance back from the sea. From this position he watched his fleet sail out from the Great Harbour and make towards Octavian’s ships, which were arrayed near the shore, two or three miles east of the city; but, to his dismay, the Alexandrian vessels made no attempt to deliver an attack upon the enemy as he had ordered them to do. Instead, they saluted Octavian’s fleet with their oars, and, on receiving a similar salutation in response, joined up with the enemy, all sailing thereupon towards the Great Harbour. Meanwhile, from his elevated position Antony saw the whole of his cavalry suddenly gallop over to Octavian’s lines, and he thus found himself left only with his infantry, who, of course, were no match for the enemy. It was useless to struggle further, and, giving up all hope, he fled back into the city, crying out that Cleopatra had betrayed him. As he rushed into the Palace, followed by his distracted officers, smiting his brow and calling down curses on the woman who, he declared, had delivered him into the hands of enemies made for her sake, the Queen fled before him from her apartments, as though she feared that in his fury and despair he might cut her down with his sword. Alone with her two waiting-women, Iras and Charmion, she ran as fast as she could through the empty halls and corridors of the Palace, and at length, crossing the deserted courtyard, she reached the mausoleum adjoining the temple of Isis. The officials, servants, and guards, it would seem, had all fled at the moment when the cry had arisen that the fleet and the cavalry had deserted; and there were probably but a few scared priests in the vicinity of the temple, who could hardly have recognised the Queen as she panted to the open door of the tomb, deserted by the usual custodians. The three women rushed into the dimly-lighted hall, bolting and barring the door behind them, and no doubt barricading it with benches, offering-tables, and other pieces of sacerdotal furniture. They then made their way to the habitable rooms on the upper floor, where they must have flung themselves down upon the rich couches in a sort of delirium of horror and excitement, Cleopatra herself preparing for immediate suicide. From the window they must have seen some of Antony’s staff hastening towards them, for presently they were able to send a message to tell him that the Queen was on the point of killing herself. After a short time, however, when the tumult in her brain had somewhat subsided, Cleopatra made up her mind to wait awhile before taking the final step, so that she might ascertain Octavian’s attitude towards her; and, having determined upon this course of action, she seems to have composed herself as best she could, while through the eastern windows, her eyes staring over the summer sea, she watched the Egyptian ships and those of the enemy rowing side by side into the Great Harbour.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...