Page images

her partner in the government. To the two children, which he had by her himself

, he gave the title of King of Kings, with very extenfive dominions; and, to crown his abfurdities, he next fent a minute account of his proceedings to the two consuls at Rome,

One folly is generally the parent of many more. As he became a God it was now necessary to act up to his imaginary dignity; new luxuries and pageantries were therefore ftudied, and new modes of profufion found out. fum than fixty thousand pounds of our money was lavished upon one single entertainment. It is said, upon this occasion that Cleopatra diffolved a pearl of great value into vinegar, and drank it off. Yet, however high wrought their entertainments might be, they wanted that delicacy which gives the fineft relish to all sensual happiness. Antony, as we are told, was but a course and inelegant soldier, who mistook obscenity for wit, and profufion for magnificence. Cleopatra who was naturally more refined, was yet obliged to comply with his difpofition, and to bear with his debaucheries, rather than share them. But we are told of one circumstance that might well repress their delights, and teach mankind to relish the beverage of virtue, however fimple, above their most zefted enjoyments. He was suspicious of being poisoned in every meal; he feared Cleopatra whom he so much loved, and would eat nothing, without having it previously tasted by one of his attendants.

The behaviour of Antony to the sister of Octavius, broke off all appearance of agreement between them, Antony complained that his colleague had seized upon Sicily, without affording him a share; and that he had divided all Italy among his own soldiers, leaving nothing to recompence those in Asia. To this complaint Oétavius was contented to make a sarcastic answer, implying, that it was abfurd to complain of his diftribution of a few triling distrids in Italy; when Antony, having conquered Parthia, might now reward his soldiers with cities and provinces. This sarcasm upon Antony's misfortunes in Parthing so provoked him, that he ordered Canidius, who commanded his army, to march without delay into Europe, while he and Cleopatra followed to Samos, in order to prepare for carrying on the war with vigour. When arrived there it was ridiculous enough to behold the odd mixture of preparations for pleasure and for war. On one side, all the kings and princes from Egypt to the Euxine sea had orders to fend him thither supplies both of men, provisions, and arms; on the other side, all the comedians, dancers, buf


P 3

[blocks in formation]

foons, and musicians of Greece, were ordered to attend him, Thus, frequently, when a fhip was thought to arrive laden with soldiers, arms, and ammunition, it was found only filled with players and theatrical machinery. When news was expected of the approach of an army, mesfengers only arrived with tidings of a fresh quantity of venison. In this manner he laboured to unite incompatible pursuits. The kings who attends ed him endeavoured to gain his favour more by their entertainments than their warlike preparations. The provinces Itrove rather to please him by facrificing to his divinity, than by their alacrity in his defence ; so that some were heard to fay, “ What rejoicings would not this man make for a vic

tory, when he thus triumphs at the eve of a dangerous “ war!” In short, his best friends now began to forsake his interests, which is generally the case with all those who first forsake themselves.

His delay at Samos, and afterwards at Athens, where he carried Cleopatra, to receive new honours, was extremely favourable to the arms of Augustus. At length the war was begun, and the armies of each general were suitable to the greatness of the empire they contended for. The one was followed by all the forces of the East; the other drew after him all the strength of the West to support his pretentions. Antony's force composed a body of an hundred thousand foot, and twelve thousand horse ; while his feet amounted to five hundred ships of war. The army of Augustus muftered but eighty thousand foot, but equalled his adversary's in number of cavalry. His fleet was but half as numerous as Antony's; his ships, however, were better built, and manned with better foldiers.

Such forces on both sides may excite our wonder, but not qur interest and approbation. Neither of them had a good cause to fupport. The contention of both was only like that of two robbers, who quarrel in the division of their plunder.

The great decisive engagement, which was a naval one, was fought near Actium, a city of Epirus, at the entrance of the gulf of Ambracia. Oétavius was triumphant, and Antony retired into Egypt, where he killed himself

. Cleopatra a so soon after put an end to her life, and Egypt became a new addition to the empire of Rome.

The manner of Cleopatra's death was as follows: Being informed, that Oétavius, intended hes as an ornament in his triumph, she entreated permission to pay her last oblations at Antony's tomb. This request being granted her, she was carried, with her two fernale attendants, to the stately monu


ment where he was laid. There she threw herself upon

his coffin, bewailed her captivity, and renewed her protestations not to survive him. She then crowned the tomb with garlands of flowers; and having kissed the coffin a thousand times, the returned home, to execute her fatal resolution. Having bathed, and ordered a sumptuous banquet, the attired herself in the most splendid manner; and after the feast, ordered all but her two attendants, Charmion and Iris, to leave the room. Having previously ordered an asp to be fecretly conveyed to her in a basket of fruit, she fent a letter to O&tavius, informing him of her fatal purpose, and desiring to be buried in the fame tomb with Antony. O&avius, upon receiving this letter, instantly dispatched messengers to stop her intentions, but they arrived too late. Upon entering the chamber they beheld Cleopatra lying dead upon a gilded couch, arrayed in her royal robes. Near her, Iris,one of her faithful attendants, was stretched lifeless at the feet of her mistress; and Charmion herself alınost expiring, was settling the diadem upon Cleopatra's head. “ Alas!" cried one of the messengers, « was this well done, Charmion?” -“ Yes,” replied the, « it is well done, such a death becomes a queen, descended s from a race of glorious ancestors.” On pronouncing thefe words she fell down, and died with her much-loved mistress.

There are some circumstances in the death of this celebrated woman, which interest our affections, contrary to the dietates of our reason. Though with scarce any valuable talent but that of cunning, and scarce any other ornament but that of heauty, yet we pity her fate, and sympathise with her diftrefses. She died at the age of thirty-nine, after having reigned twenty-two years. Her death put an end to the monarchy in Egypt, which had flourished there for immemorial ages.


[blocks in formation]

[ 216 ]



Augustus Cæfar.Reasons why Julius Cæfar failed in his at

tempt to make a Revolution in the Government, whilft Augustus succeededModeration of Augustus-His Death.

HE battle of Actium decided the fate of liberty and of

Rome. Octavius, who now assumed the title of Auguitus, was become compleat master of the Roman world, and at the head of the most extensive empire that mankind had ever beheld. By the advice of Agrippa and Mæcenas, he new-modelled the form of government, and declined the title of king. . After securing, by his mild and prudent behaviour, the adherents of Antony, he gained the affections of the senators and chief magistrates, by the most fumptuous entertainments, and a promise to resign the sovereign power at the end of five years, or as soon as he had restored peace, and quiet to the state. He exhibited public shows, and, by an artful conduct, quieted the minds of the people, who with joy faw the gates of the temple of Janus shut, after they had been open two hundred and seventeen years.

It is very remarkable, that during the long contentions of the Romans among themselves, and the horrid devastations by civil war, the state was daily growing formidable and powerful, and completed the destruction of all the kings who presumed to oppose it. A modern politician* pretends to prove, upon principle, that this must be the case in every state long harrafled by civil war. “ In such a season,” says he, " the nobility, the citizens, the artizans, the peasants, in « short, the whole body of the people, become soldiers; and “ when peace has united all the contending parties, this “ state enjoys great advantages over others, whose subjects “ are generally citizens. Belides civil wars always produce

great men; as then is the season when merit is fought for, « and talents became conspicuous.”

However this may be, there never was a time when Rome was so magnificent, populous, and refined.

The revenues of the empire, have been computed to be about forty millions of our money. The number of citizens amounted to four millions and sixty-three men, women, and children; a number more than double that of London, at present the most populous city in the world. Rome and its suburbs, historians tell us, were, at this time, fifty miles in compass. * Montesquieu.


The greatest events in history proceed from a mixture of design and accident, and partly arise from the character of individuals, partly from the situation in which they are placed. When Cæsar attempted to make a revolution in the government, the Romans had not forgot their ancient freedom. Sentiments of liberty were so universal as to pervade even the army, who were the engines of its destruction. The great men who had beheld the republic, and felt their consequence under the old constitution, refused to descend from the rank of equals to Cæsar, to be the subjects of the dictator.

When Auguftus began his reign, a different situation of affairs took place. After long and bloody wars, peace was proclaimed; and the people, entertained at feasts, and with Thews, forgot their ancient freedom, or never remembered it without the concomitant ideas of civil wars, profcriptions, and massacres. Many of the most noble families were extinct; and the republicans of spirit and zeal had perished by the sword.

When Cæfar became mafter of the republic, he displayed that ambition which he was formerly careful to conceal. He fought the oftentation as well as the possession of power. He despised established forms, and could not conceal his contempt of the fenate, and of the people. His virtues too, his magnanimity, and his clemency, tended to accelerate his fate.

The death of Cæsar was a warning to his successor. He respected, or seemed to respect the senate ; preferved the ancient forms of the commonwealth ; refused the dictatorship and the title of Lord, and endeavoured to persuade the people that they were free. His vices concurred with his good fortune in raising him to greatness. The adoption of Cæfar had inspired him with ambition, the name of Cæsar had given him the legions; his cunning and Aattery, unsuspected in youth, procured him the influence and eloquence of Cicero; his cruelty and avarice consented to the horrible proscriptions which exterminated the most eminent or formidable Romans. We must add, however, in justice to his fame, that, though fceble in the field, he was hardy in the cabinet; that he took advantage of all those circumstances which fortune presented; that he made a wise choice of his ministers, and governed the Ronan empire with prudence and moderation *.

The Romaps became fond of his government, and in full fenate gave him the title of Father of his country. Several very wholesome edicts were passed by his command, tending

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »