The New Student's Reference Work/Cleopatra
Cleopatra (klē′ṓ-pā′trắ), daughter of the Egyptian king Ptolemy Auletes, was born in 69 B. C. Her father wished her to reign jointly with her brother, who was also, according to the Egyptian custom, to be her husband; but the boy's guardian drove her from the throne. She was just about to return from Syria, backed by an army, when Cæsar reached Egypt in pursuit of Pompey. Her charms won the great soldier to her cause, who placed her again on her throne, this time with a still younger brother as colleague and husband, of whom she quickly rid herself by poison. Soon after she followed her conquering lover to Rome where she was covered with honors. After the battle of Philippi, Mark Antony summoned her to appear before him at Tarsus. The Egyptian queen sailed up the River Cydnus to meet him, in a sumptuous galley, arrayed as Venus rising from the sea. Then under 30 years of age, in the perfection of her Grecian beauty, she fascinated the heart of Antony, who henceforth became her lover and slave. Leaving her to marry Octavia, sister of Octavianus (afterward Emperor Augustus), he hurried back to the arms of Cleopatra, who met him in Syria and proceeded with him on the march to the Euphrates. After this, Antony's time was spent mostly with her at Alexandria, where he loaded her with gifts and honors. It was Cleopatra's counsel that Antony followed in risking the naval battle of Actium; and when she fled with her 60 ships, he forgot everything else, and “flung away half the world to follow her.” When Augustus appeared before Alexandria, the fickle queen at once treated with him for her safety; while Antony, on being told that she had killed herself, fell on his sword. But finding the report was false, he had himself carried into her presence and died in her arms. Cleopatra, now Augustus' prisoner, finding that she could not win him, as she had won Caesar and Antony, from disappointed pride took poison or killed herself by suffering an asp to bite her bosom (30 B. C.). Two women only, Helen of Troy and Mary Stuart, vie with Cleopatra in the fascination which her story exerts over men's minds.