F Heritage History | Story of Rome by Mary Macgregor
Contents 
Front Matter The Lady Roma The She-Wolf The Twin Boys Numitor's Grandson The Sacred Birds The Founding of Rome The Sabine Maidens The Tarpeian Rock The Mysterious Gate The King Disappears The Peace-Loving King Horatius Slays His Sister Pride of Tullus Hostilius King Who Fought and Prayed The Faithless Friend A Slave Becomes a King Cruel Deed of Tullia Fate of the Town of Gabii Books of the Sibyl Industry of Lucretia Death of Lucretia Sons of Brutus Horatius Cocles Mucius Burns Right Hand The Divine Twins The Tribunes Coriolanus and His Mother The Roman Army in a Trap The Hated Decemvirs The Death of Verginia The Friend of the People Camillus Captures Veii The Statue of the Goddess Schoolmaster Traitor Battle of Allia The Sacred Geese The City Is Rebuilt Volscians on Fire Battle on the Anio The Curtian Lake Dream of the Two Consuls The Caudine Forks Caudine Forks Avenged Fabius among the Hills Battle of Sentinum Son of Fabius Loses Battle Pyrrhus King of the Epirots Elephants at Heraclea Pyrrthus and Fabricius Pyrrhus is Defeated Romans Build a Fleet Battle of Ecnomus Roman Legions in Africa Regulus Taken Prisoner Romans Conquer the Gauls The Boy Hannibal Hannibal Invades Italy Hannibal Crosses the Alps Battle of Trebia Battle of Lake Trasimenus Hannibal Outwits Fabius Fabius Wins Two Victories Battle of Cannae Despair of Rome Defeat of Hasdrubal Claudius Enjoy a Triumph Capture of New Carthage Scipio Sails to Africa Romans Set Fire to Camp Hannibal Leaves Italy The Battle of Zama Scipio Receives a Triumph Flamininus in Garlands Death of Hannibal Hatred of Cato for Carthage The Stern Decree Carthaginians Defend City Destruction of Carthage Cornelia, Mother of Gracchi Tiberius and Octavius Death of Tiberius Gracchus Death of Gaius Gracchus The Gold of Jugurtha Marius Wins Notice of Scipio Marius Becomes Commander Capture of Treasure Towns Capture of Jugurtha Jugurtha Brought to Rome Marius Conquers Teutones Marius Mocks the Ambassadors Metellus Driven from Rome Sulla Enters Rome The Flight of Marius Gaul Dares Not Kill Marius Marius Returns to Rome The Orator Aristion Sulla Besieges Athens Sulla Fights the Samnites The Proscriptions of Sulla The Gladiators' Revolt The Pirates Pompey Defeats Mithridates Cicero Discovers Conspiracy Death of the Conspirators Caesar Captured by Pirates Caesar Gives up Triumph Caesar Praises Tenth Legion Caesar Wins a Great Victory Caesar Invades Britain Caesar Crosses Rubicon Caesar and the Pilot The Flight of Pompey Cato Dies Rather than Yieldr Caesar is Loaded with Honours Nobles Plot against Caesar The Assassination of Caesar Brutus Speaks to Citizens Antony Speaks to Citizens The Second Triumvirate Battle of Philippi Death of Brutus Antony and Cleopatra Battle of Actium Antony and Cleopatra Die Emperor Augustus

Story of Rome - Mary Macgregor




Antony and Cleopatra Die

When Cæsar at length came to Egypt with his army, he landed at Pelusium. Before the soldiers had rested after the fatigue of their journey, Antony fell upon them and won a slight victory, which encouraged him to face a general battle.

The night before the battle, he feasted with his friends, in gayer mood than since his flight from Actium, for now he hoped to conquer or to die honourably on the battlefield.

Early in the morning he led his infantry to a position from which he could see his fleet, for he believed that two battles would be fought that day, one on sea and one on land.

But to his dismay, as his fleet drew near to Cæsar's vessels, he saw that his men saluted the enemy and then joined it. A moment later his cavalry also went over to Cæsar's army, while his infantry was soon after utterly beaten.

Crushed and humiliated, Antony tried to escape on board a vessel, but finding that he was watched by the enemy he stabbed himself to death. Such, say the history books, was the sad end of Mark Antony, but Plutarch, who writes his life, tells us of his last days in another way.

After his defeat, Plutarch says that Antony went back to Alexandria, complaining that he had been betrayed by Cleopatra into the hands of Cæsar.

His anger against the queen was so fierce that she was afraid and hastened to shut herself into the mausoleum or tomb which she had built in preparation for her death.

She then bade servants go tell Antony that she was dead. Such tidings would, she knew, speedily change his anger into sorrow.

But she had not stayed to think to what desperate step his grief might drive Antony. He no sooner believed that she was dead, than he determined that he too would die.

'I am not troubled, Cleopatra,' he said, 'to be at present bereaved of you, for I shall soon be with you, but it distresses me that so great a general should be found of a tardier courage than a woman.' Then he called his servant Eros, who had sworn to put him to death when he should demand it, and bade him now fulfil his promise. Silently the faithful servant drew his sword, not to kill his master—that he found he could not do—but to slay himself.

When Antony saw that his servant was dead, he cried, 'It is well done, Eros; you show your master how to do what you had not the heart to do yourself.' He then threw himself upon his sword, but the wound did not at once cause his death.

As Antony lay dying upon his couch, a messenger came from Cleopatra to tell him that she was not dead, but alive and in the mausoleum.

The dying man begged to be taken to her, and his servants carried him to the door of the tomb.

Then the queen, looking out of her window, saw him lying below wounded and near to death.

She had only her two women Iras and Charmian with her, and so, instead of tarrying to open the heavy door with its numerous bolts, she let down cords from the window.

When these had been fastened round Antony, Cleopatra and her two women, slowly and painfully pulled up the wounded man and dragged him through the window into the mausoleum.

Gently the queen laid Antony on her bed and wept over him, calling him her Emperor and her Lord.

But Antony, after drinking a little wine, bade her not to mourn for him, for he had 'fallen not ignobly, a Roman by a Roman overcome.' With these words upon his lips he died.

When Cæsar heard of the death of Antony, he wept, for he thought of the many dangers that they had shared together, and of the friendship that Octavia had tried to foster between them.

Then he quickly sent one of his officers named Proculeius to Cleopatra, bidding him see that she was safe, for he still cherished the wish to take her alive to Rome, that she might adorn his triumph.

When he reached the door of the mausoleum Proculeius found that it was barred, so he took a ladder, fixed it on to the window and climbed up, and entered the room before the queen was aware.

'Miserable Cleopatra, you are taken prisoner,' cried one of her women.

Then quick as lightning the queen drew a dagger which she had hidden in her dress, and would have stabbed herself had not Proculeius seized her hands, at the same time reproaching her for not trusting Cæsar to prove a generous foe.

He then took away the dagger, and shook her clothes lest she had hidden poison in them.

A few days later, Cæsar himself came to see the queen. She, grown wise since the visit of Proculeius, deceived him, making him believe that she had now no desire save to live. So artful was she that she told Cæsar that she had kept some of her treasures that she might have gifts to bestow on Livia his wife and on Octavia his sister, when she went to Rome. Then Cæsar left her, satisfied that she would yet adorn his triumph.

Now by the queen's desire, a basket of figs was brought to her from the country.

The guards stopped the countryman who brought it to the gate of the mausoleum, asking to see the contents of his basket.

He, pushing aside the leaves that lay on the top, showed them the figs. The men admired their size, and bade him take them to the queen.

But at the foot of the basket, although the guards did not suspect it, there lay concealed under the fruit, an asp, whose bite was deadly poison.

When Cleopatra had the basket safe in her possession, she wrote to Cæsar to beg that she might be buried beside Antony. Then she bade her women array her in her royal robes and set her diadems upon her head.

And when this was done she lifted the asp from the basket and placed it upon her arm.

No sooner did the queen's letter reach Cæsar, than he sent in great haste to the mausoleum, for he feared that Cleopatra had found a way to die, although she had neither poison nor a dagger in her possession.

When Cæsar's messengers reached the guards, they asked if all was well. 'All is well,' answered the soldiers, but 'when they had opened the door they found Cleopatra stark-dead, laid upon a bed of gold, attired and arrayed in her royal robes, and one of her women, called Iras, dead at her feet, but her other woman, called Charmian, half dead and trembling, trimming the diadem which Cleopatra wore upon her head.

One of the soldiers seeing her, angrily said unto her, 'Is this well done, Charmian?'

'Very well,' she said again, 'meet for a princess descended from the race of so many noble kings.' She said no more, but fell down dead, hard by the bed.

The queen's last request was granted, for she was buried with royal splendour by the side of Antony.