Second half (with some judicious cuts) of Plutarch’s Life of Marcus Antonius, translated by Thomas North

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Second half (with some judicious cuts) of Plutarch’s Life of Marcus Antonius, translated by Thomas North

Antony commands the death of Cicero

So, when the murtherers brought him Cicero's head and hand cut off, he beheld them a long time with great joy, and laughed heartily, and that oftentimes, for the great joy he felt. Then, when he had taken his pleasure of the sight of them, he caused them to be set up in an open place, over the pulpit for Orations (where when he was alive he had often spoken to the people) as if he had done the dead man hurt, and not blemished his own fortune, shewing himself (to his great shame and infamy) a cruel man, and unworthy the office and authority he bare. His uncle Lucius Caesar also, as they sought for him to kill him, and followed him hard, fled unto his sister. The murtherers coming thither, forcing to break into her chamber, she stood at her door with her arms abroad, crying out still: ‘You shall not kill Lucius Caesar, before you first kill me, that bare your Captain in my womb. By this means she saved her brother's life.

Now the government of these Triumviri grew odious and hateful to the Romans, for divers respects: but they most blamed Antonius, because he being elder than Caesar, and of more power and force than Lepidus, gave himself again to his former riot and excess, when he left to deal in the affairs of the commonwealth. But, setting aside the ill name he had for his insolency, he was yet much more hated in respect of the house he dwelt in, the which was the house of Pompey the great: a man as famous for his temperance, modesty, and civil life, as for his three triumphs. For it grieved them to see the gates commonly shut against the Captains, Magistrates of the city, and also Ambassadors of strange nations, which were sometimes thrust from the gate with violence: and that the house within was full of tumblers, antic dancers, jugglers, players, jesters, and drunkards, quaffing and guzzling, and that on them he spent and bestowed the most part of his money he got by all kind of possible extortions, bribery and policy. For they did not only sell by the crier the goods of those whom they had outlawed and appointed to murther, slanderously deceived the poor widows and young orphans, and also raised all kind of imposts, subsidies, and taxes: but understanding also that the holy vestal Nuns had certain goods and money put in their custody to keep, both of men's in the city, and those also that were abroad, they went thither, and took them away by force.

…[Story of Brutus and Cassius told in Julius Caesar]

After that Caesar was conveyed to Rome, and it was thought he would not live long, nor scape the sickness he had. Antonius on th'other side went towards the East provinces and regions, to levy money: and first of all he went into Greece, and carried an infinite number of soldiers with him. Now, because every soldier was promised five thousand silver Drachmas, he was driven of necessity to impose extreme tallages and taxations. At his first coming into Greece, he was not hard nor bitter unto the Grecians, but gave himself only to hear wise men dispute, to see plays, and also to note the ceremonies and sacrifices of Greece, ….But when he was once come into Asia, having left Lucius Censorinus Governor in Greece, and that he had felt the riches and pleasures of the East parts, and that Princes, great Lords, and Kings came to wait at his gate for his coming out, and that Queens and Princesses to excel one another gave him very rich presents, and came to see him, curiously setting forth themselves, and using all art that might be to shew their beauty, to win his favour the more, (Caesar in the mean space turmoiling his wits and body in civil wars at home, Antonius living merrily and quietly abroad), he easily fell again to his old licentious life. For straight one Anaxenor a player of the cithern, Xouthus a player of the flutes, Metrodorus a tumbler, and such a rabble of minstrels and fit ministers for the pleasures of Asia, (who in finenessThe plagues of Italy in riot and flattery passed all the other plagues he brought with him out of Italy) all these flocked in his court, and bare the whole sway: and, after that, all went awry. For every one gave themselves to riot and excess, when they saw he delighted in it: and all Asia was like to the city Sophocles speaketh of in one of his tragedies:

Was full of sweet perfumes, and pleasant songs,
With woeful weeping mingled there amongs.

For in the city of Ephesus, women attired as they go in the feasts and sacrifice of Bacchus came out to meet him with such solemnities and ceremonies as are then used, with men and children disguised like Fauns and Satyrs. More-over, the city was full of Ivy, and darts wreathed about with Ivy, psalterions, flutes, and hautboys, and in their songs they called him Bacchus, father of mirth, courteous, and gentle: and so was he unto some, but, to the most part of men, cruel and extreme. For he robbed noblemen and gentlemen of their goods, to give it unto vile cruelty flatterers, who oftentimes begged men's goods living, as though they had been dead, and would enter their houses by force. As he gave a citizen's house of Magnesia unto a cook, because (as it is reported) he dressed him a fine supper. In the end he doubled the taxation, and imposed a second upon Asia.

But then Hybreas the Orator, sent from the estates of Asia to tell him the state of their country, boldly said unto him: ‘If thou wilt have power to lay two tributes in one year upon us, thou shouldst also have power to give us two summers, two autumns, and two harvests. ‘This was gallantly and pleasantly spoken unto Antonius by the Orator, and it pleased him well to hear it: but afterwards, amplifying his speech, he spake more boldly, and to better purpose: ‘Asia hath paid the two hundred thousand talents. If all this money be not come to thy coffers, then ask accompt of them that levied it: but if thou have received it, and nothing be left of it, then are we utterly undone.’ Hybreas' words nettled Antonius roundly. For he understood not many of the thefts and robberies his officers committed by his authority in his treasure and affairs: not so much because he was careless, as for that he over simply trusted his men in all things. For he was a plain man without subtilty, and therefore over late found out the foul faults they committed against him: but when he heard of them he was much offended, and would plainly confess it unto them whom his officers had done injury unto by countenance of his authority. He had a noble mind, as well to punish offenders, as to reward well-doers: and yet he did exceed more in giving, than in punishing. Now for his outrageous manner of railing he commonly used, mocking and flouting of every man, that was remedied by itself. For a man might as boldly exchange a mock with him, and he was as well contented to be mocked, as to mock others. But yet it oftentimes marred all. For he thought that those which told him so plainly and truly in mirth, would never flatter him in good earnest in any matter of weight. But thus he was easily abused by the praises they gave him


Antonius being thus inclined, the last and extremest mischief of all other (to wit, the love of Cleopatra) lighted on him, who did waken and stir up many vices yet hidden in him, and were never seen to any: and if any spark of goodness or hope of rising were left him, Cleopatra quenched it straight, and made it worse than before. The manner how he fell in love with her was this. Antonius, going to make war with the Parthians, sent to command Cleopatra to appear personally before him, when he came into Cilicia, to answer unto such accusations as were laid against her, being this: that she had aided Cassius and Brutus in their war against him. The messenger sent unto Cleopatra to make this summons unto her was called Dellius: who when he had throughly considered her beauty, the excellent grace and sweetness of her tongue, he nothing mistrusted that Antonius would do any hurt to so noble a Lady, but rather assured himself that within few days she should be in great favour with him. Thereupon he did her great honour, and persuaded her to come into Cilicia as honourably furnished, as she could possible, and bade her not to be afraid at all of Antonius, for he was a more courteous Lord than any that she had ever seen.

Cleopatra, on th’ other side, believing Dellius' words, and guessing by the former access and credit she had with Julius Caesar and Cneius Pompey (the son of Pompey the great) only for her beauty: she began to have good hope that she might more easily win Antonius. For Caesar and Pompey knew her when she was but a young thing, and knew not then what the world meant: but now she went to Antonius at the age when a woman's beauty is at the prime, and she also of best judgement. So, she furnished herself with a world of gifts, store of gold and silver, and of riches and other sumptuous ornaments as is credible enough she might bring from so great a house, and from so wealthy and rich a realm as Egypt was. But yet she carried nothing with her wherein she trusted more than in herself, and in the charms and enchantment of her passing beauty and grace. Therefore when she was sent unto by divers letters, both from Antonius himself, and also from his friends, she made so light of it and mocked Antonius so much, that she disdained to set forward otherwise, but to take her barge in the river of Cydnus, the poop whereof was of gold, the sails of purple, and the oars of silver, which kept stroke in rowing after the sound of the music of flutes, hautboys, citherns, viols, and such other instruments as they played upon in the barge. And now for the person of herself: she was laid under a pavilion of cloth of gold of tissue, apparelled and attired like the goddess Venus commonly drawn in picture: and hard by her, on either hand of her, pretty fair boys apparelled as painters do set forth god Cupid, with little fans in their hands, with the which they fanned wind upon her. Her Ladies and gentlewomen also, the fairest of them were apparelled like the nymphs Nereides (which are the mermaids of the waters) and like the Graces, some steering the helm, others tending the tackle and ropes of the barge, out of the which there came a wonderful passing sweet savour of perfumes, that perfumed the wharf's side, pestered with innumerable multitudes of people. Some of them followed the barge tall alongst the river's side: others also ran out of the city to see her coming in.

So that in th’ end, there ran such multitudes of people one after another to see her, that Antonius was left post alone in the market place in his lmperial seat to give audience: and there went a rumour in the people's mouths, that the goddess Venus was come to play with the god Bacchus, for the general good of all Asia. When Cleopatra landed, Antonius sent to invite her to supper to him. But she sent him word again, he should do better rather to come and sup with her. Antonius therefore, to shew himself courteous unto her at her arrival, was contented to obey her, and went to supper to her: where he found such passing sumptuous fare, that no tongue can express it. But amongst all other things, he most wondered at the infinite number of lights and torches hanged on the top of the house, giving light in every place, so artificially set and ordered by devices, some round, some square, that it was the rarest thing to behold that eye could discern, or that ever books could mention.

The next night, Antonius feasting her contended to pass her in magnificence and fineness: but she overcame him in both. So that he himself began to scorn the gross service of his house, in respect of Cleopatra's sumptuousness and fineness. And, when Cleopatra found Antonius' jests and slants to be but gross and soldier like in plain manner, she gave it him Cleopatra's finely, and without fear taunted him thoroughly.

Cleopatra's beauty

Now her beauty (as it is reported) was not so passing, as unmatchable of other women, nor yet such as upon present view did enamour men with her: but so sweet was her company and conversation, that a man could not possibly but be taken. And besides her beauty, the good grace she had to talk and discourse, her courteous nature that tempered her words and deeds, was a spur that pricked to the quick. Furthermore, besides all these, her voice and words were marvellous pleasant: for her tongue was an instrument of music to divers sports and pastimes, the which she easily turned to any language that pleased her. She spake unto few barbarous people by interpreter, but made them answer herself, or at least the most part of them: as the Ethiopians, the Arabians, the Troglodytes, the Hebrews, the Syrians, the Medes, and the Parthians, and to many others also, whose languages she had learned. Whereas divers of her progenitors, the kings of Egypt, could scarce learn the Egyptian tongue only, and many of them forgot to speak the Macedonian.

Now Antonius was so ravished with the love of Cleopatra, that though his wife Fulvia had great wars, and much ado with Caesar for his affairs, and that the army of the Parthians (the which the king's Lieutenants had given to the only leading of Labienus) was now assembled in Mesopotamia ready to invade Syria: yet, as though all this had nothing touched him, he yielded himself to go with Cleopatra into Alexandria, where he spent and lost in childish sports (as a man might say) and idle pastimes the most precious thing a man can spend, as Antiphon saith: and that is, time. they made an order between them, which they called Amimetobion (as much to say, no life comparable and matchable with it) one feasting each other by turns, and in cost exceeding all measure and reason. And for proof hereof, I have heard my grandfather Lamprias report, that one Philotas a Physician, born in the city of Amphissa, told him that he was at that present time in Alexandria, and studied Physic: and that, having acquaintance with one of Antonius' cooks, he took him with him to Antonius' house, (being a young man desirous to see things) to shew him the wonderful sumptuous charge and preparation of one only supper. When he was in the kitchen, and saw a world of diversities of meats, and amongst others, eight wild boars roasted whole: he began to wonder at it, and said,’ Sure you have a great number of guests to supper. 'Eight wild boars roasted whole. The cook fell a-laughing, and answered him,’ No ‘(quoth he) ‘not many guests, nor above him, twelve in all:but yet all that is boiled or roasted must be served in whole, or else it would be marred straight. For Antonius peradventure will sup presently, or it may be a pretty while hence, or likely enough he will defer it longer, for that he hath drunk well to-day, or else hath had some other great matters in hand: and therefore we do not dress one supper only, but many suppers, because we are uncertain of the hour he will sup in. . . .

Cleopatra, Queen of All Flatterers

But now again to Cleopatra. Plato writeth of four kind of flattery. Plato writeth that there are four kinds of flattery: but Cleopatra divided it into many kinds. For she, were it in sport or in matter of earnest, still devised sundry new delights to have Antonius at commandment, never leaving him night nor day, nor once letting him go out of her sight. For she would play at dice with him, drink with him, and hunt commonly with him, and also be with him when he went to any exercise or activity of body. And sometime also, when he would go up and down the city disguised like a slave in the night, and would peer into poor men's windows and their shops, and scold and brawl with them within the house: Cleopatra would be also in a chambermaid's array, and amble up and down the streets with him, so that oftentimes Antonius bare away both mocks and blows.Now, though most men misliked this manner, yet the Alexandrians were commonly glad of this jollity, and liked it well, saying very gallantly and wisely, that Antonius shewed them a comical face, to wit, a merry countenance: and the Romans a tragical face, to say, a grim look. But to reckon up all the foolish sports they made, revelling in this sort, it were too fond a part of me, and therefore I will only tell you one among the rest. On a time he went to angle for fish, and when he could take none he was as angry as could be, because Cleopatra stood by. Wherefore he secretly commanded the fishermen, that when he cast in his line, they should straight dive under the water, and put a fish on his hook which they had taken before: and so snatched up his angling rod, and brought up fish twice or thrice. Cleopatra found it straight, yet she seemed not to see it, but wondered at his excellent fishing: but, when she was alone by herself among her own people, she told them how it was, and bade them the next morning to be on the water to see the fishing. A number of people came to the haven, and got into the fisher-boats to see this fishing. Antonius then threw in his line, and Cleopatra straight commanded one of her men to dive under water before Antonius' men, and to put some old salt fish upon his bait, like unto those that are brought out of the country of Pont. When he had hung the fish on his hook, Antonius, thinking he had taken a fish indeed, snatched up his line presently. Then they all fell a-laughing. Cleopatra laughing also, said unto him: ‘Leave …your angling rod: this is not thy profession: thou must hunt after conquering of realms and countries.’

Conflict and Triumvirs: Antony marries Octavia

Now Antonius delighting in these fond and childish pastimes, very ill news were brought him from two places. The first from Rome, that his brother Lucius and Fulvia his wife fell out first between themselves, and afterwards fell to open war with Caesar, and had brought all to nought, that they were both driven to fly out of Italy.The second news, as bad as the first: that Labienus conquered all Asia with the army of the Parthians, from the river of Euphrates, and from Syria, unto the countries of Lydia and Ionia.Then began Antonius with much ado, a little to rouse himself, as if he had been wakened out of a deep sleep, and as a man may say, coming out of a great drunkenness, So, first of all he bent himself against the Parthians, and went as far as the country of Phoenicia: but there he received lamentable letters from his wife Fulvia. Whereupon he straight returned towards Italy with two hundred sail: and as he went, took up his friends by the way that fled out of Italy to come to him. By them he was informed, that his wife Fulvia was the only cause of this war: who, being of a peevish, crooked, and troublesome nature, had purposely raised this uproar in Italy, in hope thereby to withdraw him from Cleopatra. But by good fortune his wife Fulvia, going to meet with Antonius, sickened by the way, and died in the city of Sicyon:and therefore Octavius Caesar and he were the easilier made friends together. For when Antonius landed in Italy, and that men saw Caesar asked nothing of him, and that Antonius on the other side laid all the fault and burden on his wife Fulvia: the friends of both parties would not suffer them to unrip any old matters, and to prove or defend who had the wrong or right, and who was first procurer of this war, fearing to make matters Empire of worse between them: but they made them divided friends together, and divided the Empire of Rome between them, making the sea Ionlium the bounds of their division. For they gave all the provinces Eastward unto Antonius: and the countries Westward unto Caesar: and left Africk unto Lepidus: and made a law, that they three one after another should make their friends Consuls, when they would not be themselves. This seemed to be a sound counsel, but yet it was to be confirmed with a straiter bond, which fortune offered thus. There was Octavia the half sister of Octavius Caesar, and daughter of Ancharia which was not Caesar's mother sister of Caesar, not by one mother, for she came of Aneharia, and Caesar himself afterwards of Accia. It is reported that he dearly loved his sister Octavia, for indeed she was a noble Lady, and left the widow of her first husband Caius Marcellus, who died not long before: and it seemed also that Antonius had been widower ever since the death of his wife Fulvia. For he denied not that he kept Cleopatra, but so did he not confess that he had her as his wife: and so with reason he did defend the love he bare unto this Egyptian Cleopatra. Thereupon every man did set forward this marriage, hoping thereby that this Lady Octavia, having an excellent grace, wisdom, and honesty, joined unto so rare a beauty, that when she were with Antonius (he loving her as so worthy a Lady deserveth) she should be a good mean to keep good love and amity betwixt her brother and him.

Dinner with Pompey

So he cast anchors enow into the sea to make his galley fast, and then built a bridge of wood to convey them to his galley from the head of mount Misenum: and there he welcomed them, and made them great cheer. Now in the midst of the feast, when they fell to be merry with Antonius' love unto Cleopatra, Menas the pirate came to Pompey, and, whispering in his ear, said unto him: ‘Shall I cut the cables of the anchors, and make thee lord not only of Sicile and Sardinia, but of the whole Empire of Rome besides?’. Pompey, having paused awhile upon it, at length answered him: ‘Thou shouldst have done it, and never have told it me, but now we must content us with that we have. As for myself, I was never taught to break my faith, nor to be counted a traitor The other two also did likewise feast him in their camp, and then he returned into Sicile.

In the shadow of Octavius Caesar

….But in all other manner of sports and exercises, wherein they passed the time away the one with the other, Antonius was ever inferior unto Caesar, and always lost, which grieved him much. With Antonius there was a soothsayer or astronomer of Egypt, that could cast a figure, and judge of men's nativities, to tell them what should happen to them He, either to please Cleopatra, or else for that he found it so by his art, told Antonius plainly, that his fortune (which of itself was excellent good, and very great,) was altogether blemished and obscured by Caesar's fortune: and therefore he counselled him utterly to leave his company, and to get him as far from him as he could. ‘For thy Demon,’ said he, ‘(that is to say, the good angel and spirit that keepeth thee) ‘is afraid of his: and being courageous and high when he is alone, becometh fearful and timorous when he cometh near unto the other.’1 Howsoever it was, the events ensuing proved the Egyptian's words true. For it is said that as often as they two drew cuts for pastime, who should have anything, or whether they played at dice, Antonius alway lost. Often-times, when they were disposed to see cock-fight, or quails that were taught to fight one with another, Caesar's cocks or quails did ever overcome The which spited Antonius in his mind, although he made no outward shew of it

[Antony and Octavia have a child, and more fighting happens]

Octavia’s speech to Antony and Caesar

By these conquests the fame of Antonius' power increased more and more, and grew dreadful unto all the barbarous nations. But Antonius, notwithstanding, grew to be marvellously offended with Caesar, upon certain reports that had been brought unto him:and so took sea to go towards Italy with three hundred sail. And, because those of Brundusium would not receive his army into their haven, he went further unto Tarentum. There his wife Octavia, that came out of Greece with him, besought him to send her unto her brother: the which he did. Octavia at that time was great with child, and moreover had a second daughter by him, and yet she put herself in journey, and met with her brother Octavius Caesar by the way, who brought his two chief friends, Maecenas and Agrippa, with him. She took them aside, and with all the instance she could possible, entreated them they would not suffer her, that was the happiest woman of the world, to become now the most wretched and unfortunatest creature of all other. ‘For now,’ said she, ‘every man's eyes do gaze on me, that am the sister of one of the Emperors and wife of the other. And if the worst counsel take place (which the gods forbid) and that they grow to wars: for yourselves, it is uncertain to which of them two the gods have assigned the victory, or overthrow. But for me, on which side soever victory fall, my state can be but most miserable still.’

These words of Octavia so softened Caesar's heart, that he went quickly unto Tarentum. But it was a noble sight for them that were present, to see so great an army by land not to stir, and so many ships afloat in the road quietly and safe: and, furthermore, the meeting and kindness of friends, lovingly embracing one another. First, Antonius feasted Caesar, which he granted unto for his sister's sake. Afterwards they agreed together, that Caesar should give Antonius two legions to go against the Parthians: and that Antonius should let Caesar have a hundred galleys armed with brazen spurs at the prows. Besides all this, Octavia obtained of her husband twenty brigantines for her brother: and of her brother for her husband, a thousand armed men. After they had taken leave of each other, Caesar went immediately to make war with Sextus Pompeius, to get Sicilia into his hands.

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