" Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety: other women
Cloy th' appetites they feed; but she makes hungry Where most she satisfies."
At last, however, Caesar awoke and bade the queen farewell; but still her picture lingered in his mind, an adorable vision, and in the summer of B.c. 45 he dared even to invite her to stay with him in Rome. And Cleopatra, hoping . still to override the obstacle of Roman citizenship, to marry Caesar, and, as his queen, to establish a mighty Eastern Empire, set out from Alexandria; accompanied by Caesarion, the son whom she had borne to Caesar, but whom, in order to gratify Egyptian sentiment, was declared to be a child of the sun god, Amon-ra.
"The Ides of March"
That Caesar should have invited the Egyptian queen to Rome, and lodged her in his lovely villa by the Tiber, alone proved the irresistible strength of an insatiate infatuation. To the Roman an Egyptian was anathema; Rome hated Cleopatra, and it was only Rome's fear of Caesar which ensured the safety of her person. "I detest the queen," wrote Cicero, and the chorus of hatred was universal.
Caesar outraged Rome, in the temple which he built to his divine ancestress, Venus. By the side of the statue to the goddess he placed one to Cleopatra, and it was even rumoured that he intended to introduce a law to enable a Roman to marry more than one wife, and to marry a foreigner, in order that he might marry Cleopatra and declare Caesarion his heir.
This was Cleopatra's hope, but the Ides of March brought Caesar's folly to an end, and the story of the Ides of March does not need repetition here. After Caesar's death, Cleopatra fled for safety to her kingdom, and here she remained for three years, until once again a romance of startling brilliance can be seen, shining bright and clearly through the clouds of mysterious obscurity which surround her reign.
To Mark Antony, after his great victory at Philippi in b.c. 42, the vassal rulers of Syria and Asia Minor hastened to pay homage. Among them, Cleopatra alone did not present herself. This piqued the victorious Roman, who forthwith sent a messenger to Alexandria to summon her to meet him in Cilicia. Dellius, the envoy, himself was greatly attracted by Cleopatra, and foresaw that, should the meeting take place, Antony would immediately fall a victim to the woman's charm.
Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema's fascinating picture of Cleopatra, the great Queen of Egypt, who enchanted Julius Caesar and enslaved Mark Antony, wherein is shown the meeting of the latter proud Roman ruler and the vassal queen
By permission of the Berlin Photographic Co.
She was then twenty-eight years old, "at an age when a woman's beauty," declares Plutarch, "is most brilliant, and her intellect at its full maturity." The queen, however, was careful to show no haste in obeying Antony's summons; she was determined to play her cards carefully. In her dealings with Caesar, death at the last moment had robbed her of success. Antony, however, she felt would prove an easier victim. Although he was a brilliant soldier and an administrator of exceptional ability, he lacked that moral ballast which is an essential attribute to greatness; he was the humble slave of his own passions, and his love of luxury and extravagance were both excessive. Renan has described him as a "colossal child capable of conquering the world, incapable of resisting a pleasure," and this is the epitome of his character.
Such was the man whom Cleopatra chose as Caesar's successor, to be the agent of her ambitions. But in her dealings with Antony again Fate intervened. This time, however, it was not Death, but Love who frustrated her intentions. Cleopatra learned to love Antony, and her love for him she placed before everything.
In obedience to his orders, however, the queen set out for Cilicia, but in its execution the journey differed greatly from the commander's expectation. In triumph, not as a suppliant, she sailed up the river Cydnus, and words such as Shakespeare has placed in the mouth of Enobarbus alone can describe the scene. "The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne, Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold; Purple the sails, and so perfum'd that The winds were lovesick with them: the oars were silver, Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made The water which they beat to follow faster, As amorous of their strokes. For her own person It beggar'd all description: she did lie In her pavilion (cloth of gold, of tissue), O'er picturing that Venus, where we see The fancy outwork nature ....
. . . From the barge A strange, invisible perfume hits the sense Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast Her people out upon her; and Antony, Enthroned in the market place, did sit alone, Whistling to the air; which, but for vacancy, Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too, And made a gap in nature."
Antony was astounded, and found himself obliged to ask the queen to dinner. This she declined; it was more fitting, she declared, that he should be her guest.
Again, Antony was astounded, but accepted the invitation. The banquet which was laid before him. moreover, was such as he had never dreamed before, and he blushed to offer Cleopatra in return such hospitality as Rome was able to devise.
At the very outset Antony was captivated by the queen as Caesar never had been; each of her wishes he fulfilled, declared the historian Appian, " regardless of laws human or divine."
Towards the end of the year 41 he abandoned duty altogether, and hastened to Alexandria and to the woman who had bewitched him. Here life to him was a fantastic dream, gorgeous and wonderful.