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Mary Macgregor

Antony and Cleopatra

Now that Brutus and Cassius were both dead, there was no one to dispute the division of the empire between Cæsar and Antony.

Lepidus, although one of the Triumvirs, was not consulted when the new arrangement was made, for he was suspected of having joined Sextus in a plot to overthrow Cæsar.

If it proved that he had been loyal, Antony agreed to give up Africa to him; if he were proved to have been disloyal he would have no share in the empire.

Six weeks later, in 36 b.c. , Lepidus was accused again of plotting to slay Cæsar, and from that time he no longer belonged to the Triumvirate.

After the second battle of Philippi in 42 b.c. , Cæsar took Spain and Numidia as his share of the empire, Antony Gaul and Africa. Italy was to belong to both, for it was the centre of the kingdom.

When this was settled, Antony went to Asia to put down rebellion in the different provinces, while Cæsar returned to Rome.

Now Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, had sent generals and troops to help Cassius in his war against Cæsar and Antony. One of Antony's duties was to demand an explanation of this act. So when he was in Tarsus in the summer of 41 b.c. , he summoned the queen to come and explain her defiance of Rome.

At first Cleopatra paid no attention to the letter Antony sent to summon her to come to Tarsus. Other letters came and apparently she heeded them not. But all the while she was making great preparations for her journey, and at length "as if in mockery of the orders she had received, she came sailing up the river Cydnus, in a barge with gilded stern and outspread sails of purple, while oars of silver beat time to the music of flutes and pipes and harps. She herself lay all along under a canopy of cloth of gold, dressed as Venus in a picture, and beautiful young boys, like painted Cupids, stood on each side to fan her. Her maids were dressed like sea nymphs and graces, some steering at the rudder, some working at the ropes."

Crowds ran along on either bank of the river to gaze at the magnificent barge. As it drew near to the city, the people left their work and play and ran to the harbour to see the marvellous beauty of the Queen of Egypt.

Antony did not run to the river. He stayed where he was, sitting on the tribunal in the deserted market-place, but when the queen had arrived, he sent a message asking her to supper. But Cleopatra refused, begging him rather to come to the barge to sup with her.

Then Antony, wishing to appear courteous, went to the barge, and Cleopatra began to weave the spell that was to be his undoing. Bewitched by her charm, he forgot Rome, his wife, his duties in the East, and when she went back to Alexandria he followed her.

In Egypt he became her most favoured courtier, while, to please her, he laid aside his Roman garb and dressed as did her people. For a year he lived thus in a mad whirl of gaiety.

And while Antony wasted his time in Egypt, Cæsar grew daily more trusted and more beloved in Rome.

Fulvia, the wife of Antony, saw how Cæsar was winning the hearts of the people, and she determined that she would alienate them from him, if that were possible. For then she thought that the people would turn to Antony again.

So she raised an army, and Cæsar was forced to send his general Agrippa against her.

Fulvia had hoped that Antony, when he heard of her efforts, would hasten to support her, as he would know that it was for his sake she had taken up arms.

But her husband still lingered in Egypt. It was not until the autumn of the year 40 b.c. , that he came to Greece. Even when he did come he showed no gratitude to Fulvia for what she had done; he even reproached her. Nevertheless he determined to carry on the quarrel that she had begun.

Rome was in despair, for it seemed that once again their land would be distracted by civil war.

But Fulvia, whose influence might have kept Antony to his purpose, died, while the soldiers themselves did not wish to fight against their own countrymen. So Antony agreed to make terms with Cæsar. In this way the Peace of Brundisium was arranged, and the empire was once again divided between the Triumvirs.

Antony, to show that he meant to be true to the new agreement, now married Octavia, the sister of Octavius. She was a beautiful woman, and as wise as she was beautiful. Her love for her husband and her brother caused her great suffering in the years to come. For a time, however, her influence helped to strengthen the bonds between the two men.

Soon after the Peace of Brundisium, peace was also made with Sextus, Cæsar and Antony going to meet him on one of his own vessels. On being granted certain privileges, Sextus promised no longer to interfere with the corn trade, and thus Rome was freed from a long-continued evil.

Antony and Octavia then went to Greece, where Antony stayed for two years. He gained little credit in his wars with the Parthians, who had invaded Syria, while he behaved so treacherously in his battles against Armenia, that the people at home said that he had disgraced the Roman name.

But he grew more and more disliked in Rome because of his unkindness to Octavia. For after two years he sent her back to Octavius, pretending that it was not safe for her to stay with him while he was engaged in the Parthian War.

But she had no sooner left him than he went to Alexandria, where he lived as he had done before with Queen Cleopatra.

The Romans were angry with Antony for making Alexandria his headquarters. They began to fear lest he should try to found a new empire in the East, of which this town would be the capital. And then in time to come the greatness of Alexandria might eclipse that of Rome.

Cæsar meanwhile was in Rome, doing all that he could for the welfare of the people. But Sextus had broken his promise, and was interfering again with the corn trade, and so making the price of bread ruinous. Thus, in spite of all Cæsar's efforts, the distress of the people was great.

At length Cæsar determined that Sextus should not be allowed to go on injuring the corn trade, and he sent an army against him. But it was not for three years that Sextus was at last defeated by Agrippa, the general on whom Cæsar relied for his victories. Sextus then fled to Asia, where he was at length captured and put to death.

For this and many other services rendered to the State, Cæsar was loaded with honours by the Senate. One of these honours was, that he was allowed to wear the triumphal robes when he pleased; another that a public residence was set aside for him on the Palatine, while his person was declared sacred.

When Antony heard of all that had been bestowed upon Cæsar, he thought that it was time to bestir himself, unless he wished to be entirely forgotten by Rome.

So he sent to the Senate an account of his Acta, that is, an account of what he had been doing in Egypt. There was indeed little to tell, save that he had been bestowing kingdoms on his and Cleopatra's children. He, however, asked the Senate to confirm his Acta. In his anger and jealousy against Cæsar, he added that when the Triumvirate came to an end in 33 b.c. , he did not wish to renew it.

From this time the quarrel between Antony and Cæsar grew rapidly more acute, and at length it was plain that only war would determine whether Cæsar or Antony was to rule the empire.

Antony now began to gather together an army and a fleet, even preparing to attack the coasts of Italy. But this was more than the Senate would allow, and in 32 b.c. , war was proclaimed against Cleopatra, who was supporting Antony in his preparations, while Antony was now treated as a public enemy.