This story of Cleopatra starts with a brief history of Egypt and the illustrious Ptolemies. By the time Cleopatra came of age, her life was already full of danger and intrigue, even before her romantic encounter with Julius Caesar. Under the protection of Caesar she enjoyed a few years of security on the throne of Egypt, but the death of Caesar led her to seek protection from his successor, Mark Antony. Their tragic story is one of the most dramatic liaisons in history.
In selecting the subjects for the successive volumes of this series it has been the object of the author to look for the names of those great personages whose histories constitute useful, and not merely entertaining, knowledge. There are certain names which are familiar, as names, to all mankind; and every person who seeks for any degree of mental cultivation feels desirous of informing himself of the leading outlines of their history, that he may know, in brief, what it was in their characters or their doings which has given them so widely-extended a fame. This knowledge, which it seems incumbent on every one to obtain in respect to such personages as Hannibal, Alexander, Cæsar, Cleopatra, Darius, Xerxes, Alfred, William the Conqueror, Queen Elizabeth, and Mary, queen of Scots, it is the design and object of these volumes to communicate, in a faithful, and, at the same time, if possible, in an attractive manner. Consequently, great historical names alone are selected; and it has been the writer's aim to present the prominent and leading traits in their characters, and all the important events in their lives, in a bold and free manner, and yet in the plain and simple language which is so obviously required in works which aim at permanent and practical usefulness.