, the celebrated queen of Egypt, was the daughter of Ptolemy Auletes, king of that country; who, dying in the year 51 B. C. bequeathed his crown to the eldest of his sons and the eldest of his daughters; ordering them to be joined to each other in marriage, according to the usage of their family, and jointly to govern. They were both of them very young, Cleopatra the eldest being only seventeen; and therefore he committed them to the tuition of the Roman senate. They, however, could not agree, either to be married, or to reign together, and Ptolemy, the brother, having deprived Cleopatra of that share in the government which was left her by Auletes’s will, and driven her out of the kingdom, she raised an army in Syria and Palestine, and commenced a war with him. At this time Julius Caesar, who was in pursuit of Pompey, came to Alexandria, and began to arbitrate between Ptolemy and his sister Cleopatra. But Cleopatra, considering that Cossar was extravagantly addicted to women, laid a plot to attach him first to her person, and next to her cause: and requested that she might be peiv mitted to plead her cause in person before him. This being granted, she came secretly into the port of Alexandria in a small skiff towards the dusk of the evening; and contrived to be carried to Caesar’s apartment, who was too sensible of the charms of beauty not to be touched with those of Cleopatra. She was then in the prime of her youth, about the twentieth year of her age; a perfect beauty, with a commanding address, and a voice harmonious and bewitching. All these charms she prostituted immediately to Caesar, who next morning sent for Ptolemy, and pressed him to receive his sister again upon her own terms: but Ptolemy appealed to the people, and a war commenced, in which Ptolemy lost a battle, and his life, in endeavouring to escape. Caesar then settled the kingdom upon Cleopatra, and the surviving Ptolemy, her younger brother, as king and queen. This Ptolemy, however, was at this time only eleven years old, and Cleopatra, when he was grown up, and capable of sharing the royal authority, causeu him to be poisoned, and thus | reigned alone in Egypt. However, she followed Caesar to Rome, and was there when he was killed in the senatehouse; but being terrified by that accident, and the subsequent disorders of the city, she made her escape with great precipitation.

After the battle of Philippi, Cleopatra was accused by Antony of favouring the interest of Cassius. Against this charge, she again depended on her wit and beauty; and approached Antony, who waited for her at Tarsus in Cilicia, in a manner calculated to display her whole charms. At the mouth of the river Cydnus, she embarked in a vessel whose stern was of gold, sails of purple silk, oars of silver, and a concert of several instruments that kept time with the oars. She herself was laid under a canopy of a rich cloth of gold, dressed like Venus rising out of the sea: about her were lovely children like Cupids fanning her: the handsomest of her women, habited like Nereids and Graces, were leaning negligently on the sides and shrouds of the vessel: the sweets that were burning perfumed the banks of the river, which were covered wijh an infinite number of people, who ran thither with such earnestness, that Antony, who was mounted on a throne to make a shew of majesty, was left quite alone; while the multitude at the river shouted for joy, and cried, that “the goddess Venus was come to visit the god Bacchus for the happiness of Asia.” By these arts, and the charms of her person, she drew Antony into those snares which held him enslaved to her as long as he lived, and finally caused his death.

It would not be to our purpose to be particular in relating the war between Antony and Caesar; the battle of Actium, as is well known, determined the victory in favour of the latter, and Cleopatra flying first, Antony hastened after. He conceived however great displeasure against her upon this occasion, and continued three days without seeing her; but afterwards recovered his usual humour, and devoted himself to pleasure. Meanwhile, Cleopatra made trial of all sorts of poisons upon criminals, even to the biting of serpents; and finding, after many experiments, that the sting of an asp gave the quickest and the easiest death, it is believed she made choice of that kind of death, if she should be driven to despair. After they were returned to Egypt, and found themselves abandoned by all their allies, they sent to make proposals to Caesar. Cleopatra asked the kingdom of Egypt for her children; | and Antony desired he might live as a private man at Athens, if Caesar was not willing he should remain in Egypt. Cuesar absolutely rejected Antony’s proposal, and sent to Cleopatra that he would refuse her nothing that was just and reasonable, if she would rid herself of Antony, or drive him out of her kingdom. She refused to act openly against Antony; but betrayed him in every effort that he made, till she obliged him to put an end to his own life, for fear of falling into Crcsar’s hands. When Antony was dead, Cleopatra could not forbear most passionately bemoaning the loss of him: however, upon Caesar’s approach to Alexandria, she began to consult her own security. Near the temple of Isis she had raised a stately building, which she designed for her sepulchre: into this she now retired; and into this was carried by her order all her treasure, as gold, jewels, pearls, ivory, ebony, cinnamon, and other precious woods. It was filled besides with torches, faggots, tow, and other combustible matter: so that Caesar, who had notice of it, was afraid lest out of despair she should burn herself in it, with all those vast riches and therefore contrived to give her hopes from time to time that she might expect all good usage, from the esteem he had for her. It was his secret wish to expose this queen in his triumph to the Romans; and with this view he sent Proculus to employ all his art and address in seizing her, which he at length accomplished, and Cassar, although extremely glad to have her in his possession, commanded her to be served in all respects like a queen. She became, however, inconsolable for the loss of her liberty, and fell into a fever, which gave her hopes that all her sorrows would soon end with her life. She had besides resolved to abstain from eating; but this being known, her children were threatened with death if she persisted in that. Caesar at length resolved to see her, and by his civilities endeavoured to reconcile her to life. He found her upon a low bed; but as soon as she saw Caesar, she rose up in her shift, and threw herself at his feet. Caesar civily raised her up, and sat down at her bed’s head. She began to justify herself; but the proofs against her being too notorious, she turned her justification into prayers, and put into his hand an inventory of all her treasure and jewels. Having private notice soon after, that she was to be carried to Rome within three days, to grace | Caesar’s triumph, she caused herself to be bitten by an asp, which, it is said, was brought to her concealed in a basket of figs; and of this she died. Caesar, deprived as he was of the greatest ornament of his triumph, yet ordered her a very magnificent funeral; and her body, as she desired, was laid by that of Antony.

Thus died this princess, whose wit and beauty made so much noise in the world, after she had reigned from the death of her father twenty-two years, and lived thirty-nine. She was a woman of great parts as well as of great vice and wickedness. She spoke several languages with the utmost readi-i ness; for, being well skilled in Greek and Latin, she could converse with Ethiopians, Troglodites, Jews, Arabians, Syrians, Medes, and Persians, without an interpreter; and always gave to such as were of these nations, as often as they had occasion to address her, an answer in their own language. In her death ended the reign of the family of the Ptolemies in Egypt, after it had continued from the death of Alexander 294 years; for, after this, Egypt was reduced into the form of a Roman province, and so remained 670 years, till it was taken from them by the Saracens in 641. 1


Univ. History.—Plutarch in the Lives of Cæsar and Antony.