Page images

view, and a garden, where his band were struggling with Matchiche, when I went to see it.

The guide was very funny. He pointed out a sort of guard-room occupied by custom-house officials. “Contraband people live here," he said, and with another wave of his hand he indicated a boat-house belonging to the rowing enthusiasts of Alexandria. “Club for small boats," he said. . The new Pharos of Alexandria stands here. When I pointed out to Miss Norma Lorimer that the same wild, mauveblossomed geranium was growing up it as we saw on the lighthouse of Carthage, he said : “Yes, nicey view." But his English was better than his French, because I do not to this day know what he meant by “ Hey chassent dix huit good for manger."

Close to the Khedive's Palace are the forts of Alexandria, which stood a short bombardment from the British fleet during the rebellion of Arabi Pasha. The clearing up after the battle is not finished yet ; there are still remains of pounded bastions and English shells half buried in the sand. The fortifications have not been kept up at all.

To turn from Arabi Bey, who is living in Egypt now, an unconsidered nonentity, to Alexander the Great, you get a rude shock when you find that the place where the greatest of all the Greeks, the world's chief conqueror, was buried, has had to sacrifice its site to a mosque where the ladies of the Khedivial family are entombed. It is a poor little new thing called Nebi Danil, a sort of shoddy Brighton Pavilion. Our guide-book informed us that no Christians were admitted, but the custodian let us in glibly; he did not even trouble us to put on overshoes to walk into the two rooms where tall plaster tombs-two or three deckers in the Turkish style, with pillars at head and foot, covered with Arabic writing, gilt and bright blue-marked the substitution of Khedivial lady corpses for that of the invincible Alexander.

There is a glorious sarcophagus, discovered, I think, at Sidon, and now in the museum at Constantinople, which the Turkish officials describe as the tomb of Alexander the Great, though archæologists consider it certain that it was the tomb, not of Alexander, but of one of his generals. It possesses inestimable value of a twofold kind. For not only is it the finest sarcophagus in the world in the point of sculpture, worthy of comparison with the frieze of the Parthenon, but it contains a portrait of Alexander executed by a sculptor who was his contemporary.

It is mortifying to admit the contention of the archæologists. It would be so infinitely interesting to think that the world still possessed, and had before its eyes, the very tomb in which the greatest of all its rulers was laid to rest.


Some Reflections on the Forgotten Cleopatra


VEN Cleopatra was a fly on the wheel. For if one

regards her as an instrument of Providence, sent to deliver the world from the prodigal and profligate hands of Antony into the strong, well-ordered, temperate grasp of Augustus, one has to remember that Augustus bound the world hand and foot for Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero, to say nothing of the later monsters, who made it their sport, like evil gods, from the throne of the Cæsars.

If Antony had conquered Octavian, would there have been any Roman Empire ?

And what would Cæsarion have done, when he grew to manhood, if Octavian had spared him, Cæsarion, the son of one who disputes with Alexander and Napoleon the honour of being the greatest man who ever lived-Caius Julius Cæsar--and the woman whom history has taken as its type of physical splendour.

As Professor Mahaffy says:“History preserves an obstinate silence about Cæsarion. It is a case like that of the son of Alexander the Great and Roxane, whose life is hidden from us, though his titles to fame are not only his superb origin, but the gigantic heritage of which he was defrauded, and the captivity and early death to which his bitterest foe consigned him. Yet, who had better claims to be known of all men than the young Alexander ? So it is with Cæsarion. He had reached an age when several of his dynasty had not only sat upon the throne, but led armies, begotten children, and engaged in councils of state. Yet not one word of his appearance, of his habits, of his betrothal in marriage to any

[ocr errors]

princess, is recorded. We are only told by Dion that, upon their final return to Alexandria, Antony and Cleopatra had his eldest son Antyllus (Antonius), and her eldest, Cæsarion, declared ephebi, that the populace might regard them as men, fit to rule if any casualty removed their parents. This, he adds, was the cause of both their deaths at Octavian's hands."

In the same way, modern Egypt knows nothing of Cleopatra. The traveller on the Nile never hears of her except when he is at Denderah, looking at the conventionalised relief, which stands for her portrait, on the back wall of the beautiful temple founded or restored by her liberality, of which Mahaffy sarcastically remarks:“The artist had probably never seen the queen, and, if he had, it would not have produced the slightest alteration in his drawing.”

But to picture to ourselves one of the acknowledged beauties of the world and of all time, we have to rely on the Denderah relief and on her coins.

While agreeing with Professor Mahaffy on the shortcomings of the Denderah relief as a portrait, it is worth while to analyse its features, which are those of the voluptuous, Semitic women who please the Arabs as courtesans, with long eyes, a well-formed hawk nose, and a curved smile.

The coin is more likely to be truthful because it is not beautiful, and the daughter of the Ptolemies would not have been lenient to an artist who exaggerated her defects. Here the head is of a masculine, athletic type, with a straight, rather turned-up nose, a large mouth with a confi. dent smile, and a very firm chin.

Mahaffy considers that Shakespeare is responsible for our stereotyped idea of Cleopatra, and that, although the derivation was before the poet's mind, and he may simply have meant Egyptian when he wrote gipsy-still, the gipsy type must also have been before his mind, and made him write : “. His goodly eyes now turn the office and devotion of their view upon a tawny front'; and again, ‘To cool a gipsy's lust'; and again, IV., xii., 28, Like a right gipsy.'”

"The Egyptian portrait,” says Mahaffy, “is likely to confirm in the spectator's mind the impression derived from Shakespeare's play, that Cleopatra was a swarthy Egyptian, in strong contrast to the fair Roman ladies, and suggesting a wide difference of race. She was no more an Egyptian than she was an Indian, but a pure Macedonian, of a race akin to, and perhaps fairer than, the Greeks.” And he reminds us that Plutarch expressly says “ that it was not in peerless beauty that her fascination lay, but in the combination of more than average beauty with many other personal attractions."

In the Denderah portrait Cleopatra is represented as Isis. She has a slender figure, though this is conventionalised, and we should consider the way, in which it is displayed, wanting in all decency. The figure of Cæsarion hardly comes up to his mother's thigh.

It should be observed that the absence of beauty in Cleopatra's face is not due to any inability in the sculptor to express beauty; for, though the reliefs of Denderah belong to a late period, there is hardly any temple where the faces in the sculpture are more charming,

Who was Cleopatra ? She was Cleopatra VI., for she had five predecessors of the same name who shared the throne of Egypt. She was the daughter of Ptolemy Auletes, and born about 68 B.C. She married both her brothers, Ptolemy XIV., who was older, and Ptolemy XV., who was younger than herself. Ptolemy XIV. was drowned in an attack upon Julius Cæsar. She had her younger brother and her beautiful sister Arsinoe (whom she had already sent to Rome fettered, to grace Cæsar's triumph in her chains) put to death by Antony. All the world knows that she was the mistress of Mark Antony, but not every one remembers that she lived with Julius Cæsar as his mistress almost from the day that he landed in Egypt to the day of his death three years afterwards, and that she aspired to be the mistress of Octavian when he conquered Antony at Actium. She was taken prisoner by all three, and she had been the ward of Pompey; and, if fame be true, the mistress of his son.

« PreviousContinue »