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not see any argument against this in her subsequent fidelity to Antony as a lover, explaining that as a strong blast of passion, which warped her judgment.
The death of Cleopatra has been so immortally described by Plutarch and Shakespeare, and so gorgeously and faithfully presented to the public by Sir H. Beerbohm Tree, that I need say little about it. Mr. Sergeant's account of it, the most up-to-date which we have, practically bears out the actor's presentation of it. The temple of Isis Lochias, near which Cleopatra built her tomb, was at the eastern end of the eastern harbour, where Fort Silsileh stands to-day.
Antony, when he first returned to Alexandria after his unsuccessful attempt to win back the fidelity of the four legions he had left in the province of Cyrenaica, the modern Tripoli, at first shut himself up on an island in the harbour, living like a hermit, and upbraiding the treachery of friends and the ingratitude of the world. He called the island the Timonium, and compared himself to the Timon of Athens who furnished the subject of Shakespeare's play.
At last Cleopatra persuaded him to come and spend the last few days of his life with her in the old debauchery and splendour. They founded a sort of club called the Synapothanoumenoi-the people who are about to die together, and Cleopatra began her famous experiments in poisons upon her slaves to find out the easiest way of dying. She decided in favour of snake-bite, with the results which the world knows.
Antony's last hope lay in his garrison's holding out in the strong fortress of Pelusium, the key of Egypt, against a force advancing from the east, not very far from the modern Port Said. But the garrison, whether because they thought his cause hopeless, or for another reason, made terms with the enemy. The end came on much the same battle-ground as Abercromby fought on when he sealed the fate of France in Egypt on the second day of Aboukir, three years after that first great day at Aboukir, on which Nelson destroyed the fleets of France, and withered Napoleon's hope of ever reaching India. It is noteworthy that though one is reckoning
the calendar in the old style and the other in the new, the final battle between Antony and Octavian was, like the battle of the Nile, fought on August 1.
On this last day Antony showed his old courage and dash, as he had in the victorious cavalry action on the night before ; but his soldiers and sailors had nothing to fight for. It was civil war; Octavian was a Roman as much as he; and nothing could prevent the final success of Octavian. But Antony fought well, and went from the battle to death by his own hand, because he had heard that Cleopatra was already dead. From this point forward there is nothing to add to the splendid picture which the dramatist and the actor (Sir H. B. Tree) have given us.
But I must say a few words about the asp story, which Mr. Sergeant has not attempted to explain more than earlier writers, though it really has such a simple explanation, based on natural-history facts.
The asp has been identified by most writers with the Egyptian cobra. But the Egyptian cobra is a large snake: a full-grown one is a couple of yards in length, and could not therefore be introduced in a basket of figs, even if a boy could be found brave enough to carry it about. But I do not see any insuperable natural-history difficulty in the story. I see in it rather the stupidity of commentators. There was no scientific nomenclature for serpents in the days of Plutarch; so there is on the one hand no proof that the Egyptian cobra was the asp of the tradition, while, on the other hand, modern investigations have a tendency to prove that obstinate traditions generally have a basis in fact. Common sense suggests that the asp should have been identified, not with the cobra, but with the highly venomous little Cerastes, or horned viper of Egypt, which when fullgrown is only between a foot and two feet in length. All the descriptions, all the pictures, all the statues of the death of Cleopatra suggest the Cerastes, and if the Cerastes had been put in a bag, it could have been carried in the basket of figs, without any danger to any one, except the person who was rash enough to put it into the bag. I am convinced that it
was the desert-coloured Cerastes that killed Cleopatra and Charmian.
The time may come when history will have more to say about this historical Sphinx, for singularly few papyri of the period have yet been discovered and deciphered. Till then it is satisfactory to note that the first great temple one sees in Upper Egypt, the temple whose bas-reliefs impress the traveller most, by the human beauty of their faces, is Cleopatra's Temple of Denderah, of which she was the founder or restorer, and which bears, still perfect, upon its exterior her image and that of her child, Cæsarion. Historians and Egyptologists are at one in saying that we must not take this as the true image of the marvellous Egyptian queen, that even if the sculptor had known her in the flesh he would not have portrayed her as she was, but in accordance with some convention. That may be as it is. But there are many, besides myself, who cannot look on the lineaments of Cleopatra, traced by a contemporary upon the walls of her favourite temple, without a thrill which all the Colossi of Rameses fail to excite.
There is no book on Cleopatra in the classified catalogue just issued by the London Library. But one has recently been published, “Cleopatra of Egypt,” by Mr. Philip W. Sergeant, B.A., former Scholar of Trinity College, Oxford (Hutchinson, 16s.), which is just what such a book ought to be. It is not unreasonably long; it is not overladen with notes or scholarship, but it is the work of a scholar. To write a good book about Cleopatra a man must be sound in his classics ; and to write a readable book he ought not to be a don or a schoolmaster. The view Mr. Sergeant takes of Cleopatra is much the same as Professor Mahaffy and Professor Petrie take. He gives us the benefit of later research, and of course devotes much more space to Cleopatra than they do. Mr. Sergeant is also more human. They aimed at history only; he at biography—a biography of Cleopatra. That is what he has given us, and he brings out the complexity of her character very well.
Her ruling passion was to be a monarch of a greater
Egypt. The resources of her country were still unimpaired ; she was as rich as the Pharaohs had been, and cast her eyes back to the time when Thothmes III., Rameses II., and Rameses III. were the greatest monarchs of the world. But she recognised the fact that in the interval an omnipotent power had arisen on the Mediterranean, and that it was only by the grace of Rome that Egypt could be a power at all or she remain upon its throne. To obtain what she wanted, she was willing to be the mistress of any Roman leader who could help her. She seems to have yielded to Cneius Pompey, when he went to Egypt for his father, the great Pompey, preparing for his conflict with Cæsar. If Pompey had not been murdered directly he landed in Egypt, she would probably have made him her lover and placed the resources of her kingdom at his disposal to create a new army, with gratitude for favours to come. When Julius Cæsar came to Egypt she became his mistress and the mother of his child, Cæsarion. And finally, when Mark Antony became the autocrat of the East, she became his mistress and mother of three children by him. The odd feature was that this ambitious and calculating woman was also capable of blind devotion, as her adherence to Antony in his last days proved. Mr. Sergeant points out that it is not clear that she meant to die for him ; she liked life too well. She killed herself because she found out that Octavian was playing her ¡false, and meant to put her in chains and take her to Rome. She was determined not to walk in chains in his triumph at Rome, like her sister Arsinoe in Cæsar's triumph.
Mr. Sergeant is a very impartial writer ; he does not make her appear any blacker than before for treachery, cruelty, or general Oriental wickedness, and on the other hand he does not whitewash her as Lucrezia Borgia has been whitewashed by recent writers. He has made good use of his materials ; he presents a very vivid picture derived from Plutarch, and less known classical writers, of her extravagances and splendour. His chapters on the Inimitables and the Dietogethers may be particularly commended in this context.
The most valuable part of the book is, I think, the last; I have never seen the Battle of Actium and the brief cam. paign which followed it made so lucid. There has been a good deal of confusion on this subject. Actium was one of the most astonishing battles in history. Antony, who had a much more seasoned army, and a numerically superior fleet, sacrificed his chances by following Cleopatra in her flight. One cannot say that, demoralised as he was by his reckless decadence, he would have won. But if he could have pulled himself together and shown his old genius and resolution, he should have won. For even when he had fled his fleet went on fighting, and remained unconquered. One of the pleasantest reminiscences of history is that the brave Antonians were not massacred on account of the loss of their leader, but were able to make their own terms. They went over to Octavian because they recognised that there was only one man left in the Roman world, and that being in his service was equivalent to being in the service of the Republic that was so soon to die.
It is said that history never repeats itself; it came near it, at Alexandria, in those latter days before the birth of Christ. For when the first Triumvirate had narrowed itself down to a duel, with the whole forces of the Roman Empire, between its two chief members, the end came with the death of Pompey on the seashore at Alexandria. And, but a few years later, when the second Triumvirate had narrowed itself down to a duel, with the whole forces of East and West, between its two chief members, the end came with the death of Mark Antony on that same seashore of Alexandria. Egypt sent Octavian, as it had sent his uncle Julius, to rule the world from Rome.
THE END OF CLEOPATRA
The Daily Telegraph of Tuesday, November 30, had in its Paris letter a couple of paragraphs neaded“ Cleopatra's Grave," which ran as follows:
“ Mark Antony's 'Serpent of Old Nile' lies buried in