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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 campaign 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 Paris, a stone's throw from the Stock Exchange. An anonymous writer makes this strange revelation, and vouches for the truth of it. Every student who has read in the Bibliothèque Nationale knows the melancholy little old bit of garden shut in on three sides by the buildings of the library, and on the fourth by railings along the Rue Vivienne, which is accessible to none save the Keeper of the Printed Books, and in which he has most probably never set foot. There, it seems, are buried the remains of Cleopatra, and they have lain there these forty years. Under a glass case in the cabinet of medals of the Bibliothèque Nationale is an Egyptian sarcophagus, and Egyptologists are positive that the inscriptions upon it prove it to have contained the body of Cleopatra.
“The sarcophagus was brought from Egypt to Paris over forty years ago by a French savant, who placed it in the National Library. After some months it was found impossible to preserve the mummy which it contained, and the question arose as to what should be done with the remains of the Queen of Egypt. It was at last decided to bury her quietly, without pomp or publicity, in the old bit of garden enclosed in the building ; where she was accordingly laid secretly in the earth forty years ago."
One may be allowed to doubt if it was the right Cleopatra. Five queens of Egypt had borne the name before the last Queen ; one may ask why in a place like the Bibliothèque Nationale of France the inscriptions have not been deciphered and printed; for there is no lack of expert Egyptologists in Paris; and one may challenge what the writer of this paragraph means by saying that it was impossible to preserve the mummy which it contained. А mummy which was imperfectly preserved would have gone bad and perished in much less than two thousand years, and, however it was corrupting, it could have been placed in a hermetically sealed glass case with powerful drugs to arrest its further decay. The only excuse for thrusting it into the earth, where it was certain to dissolve, in this ignorant way, would be its being notoriously unfortunate to all who were brought into contact with it. If this was so, and this mummy was really Antony's Cleopatra, there would have been a fitting climax to her extraordinary career.