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



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Antony returns to Cleopatra; twins

Antonius also, leaving his wife Octavia and little children begotten of her with Caesar, and his other children which he had by Fulvia, he went directly into Asia. Then began this pestilent plague and mischief of Cleopatra's love (which had slept a long time, and seemed to have been utterly forgotten, and that Antonius had given place to better counsel) again to kindle, and to be in force, so soon as Antonius came near unto Syria. And in the end, the horse of the mind, as Plato termeth it, that is so hard of rein (I mean the unreined lust of concupiscence) did put out of Antonius head all honest and commendable thoughts: for he sent Fonteius Capito to bring Cleopatra into Syria. Unto whom, to welcome her, he gave no trifling things: but unto that she had already he added the provinces of Phoenicia, those of the nethermost Syria, the Isle of Cyprus, and a great part of Cilicia, and that country of Jewry where the true balm is, and that part of Arabia where the Nabathaeans do dwell, which stretcheth out towards the Ocean. These great gifts much misliked the Romans. But now, though Antonius did easily give away great seigniories, realms, and mighty nations unto some private men, and that also he took from other kings their lawful realms, (as from Antigonus king Of the Jews, whom he openly beheaded, where never king before had suffered like death) yet all this did not so much offend the Romans, as the unmeasurable honours which he did unto Cleopatra. But yet he did much more aggravate their malice and ill will towards him, because that Cleopatra having brought him two twins, a son and a daughter, he named his son Alexander, and his daughter Cleopatra, and gave them to their surnames, the Sun to the one, and the Moon to the other. This notwithstanding, he, that could finely cloak his shameful deeds with fine words, said that the greatness and magnificence of the Empire of Rome appeared most, not where the Romans took, but where they gave much: and nobility was multiplied amongst men by the posterity of kings, when they left of their seed in divers places: and that by this means his first ancestor was begotten of Hercules, who had not left the hope and continuance of his line and posterity in the womb of one only woman, fearing Solon's laws, or regarding the ordinances of men touching the procreation of children: but that he gave it unto nature, and established the foundation of many noble races and families in divers places.



Men desert Antony

… This so great and puissant army, which made the Indians quake for fear, dwelling about the country of the Bactrians, and all Asia also to tremble, served him to no purpose, and all for the love he bare to Cleopatra. For the earnest great desire he had to lie all winter with her him begin his war out of due time, and for haste to put all in hazard, being so ravished and enchanted with the sweet poison of her love, that he had no other thought but of her, and how he might quickly return again, more than how he might overcome his enemies. For first of all, where he should have wintered in Armenia to refresh his men, wearied with the long journey they had made, having come eight thousand furlongs, and then at the beginning of the spring to go and invade Media, before the Parthians should stir out of their houses and garrisons: he could tarry no longer, but led them forthwith unto the province of Atropatene, leaving Armenia on the left hand, and foraged all the country. Furthermore, making all the haste he could, he left behind him engines of battery which were carried with him in three hundred carts, (among the which also there was a ram four-score foot long) being things most necessary for him, and the which he could not get again for money, if they were once lost or marred. For the high provinces of Asia have no trees growing of such height and length, neither strong nor straight enough, to make suchlike engines of battery. This notwithstanding, he left them all behind him, as a hindrance to bring his matters and intent speedily to pass: and left a certain number of men to keep them, and gave them in charge unto one Tatianus. Then he went to besiege the city of Phraata, being the chiefest and greatest city the king of Media had, where his wife and children were. Then he straight found his own fault, and the want of his artillery he left behind him, by the work he had in hand: for he was fain, for lack of a breach (where his men might come to the sword with their enemies that defended the wall) to force a mount of earth hard to the walls of the city, the which by little and little with great labour rose to some height. In the meantime, King Phraates came down with a great army: who understanding that Antonius had left his engines of battery behind him, he sent a great number of horsemen before, which environed Tatianus with all his carriage, and slew him, and ten thousand men he had with him.

[some battles and setbacks]

Further more, the obedience and reverence [Antony’s men] shewed their captain, with a marvellous carnest love and good will, was so great, and all were indifferently (as well great as small, the noble men as mean men, the Captains and soldiers) so earnestly bent to esteem Antonius good will and favour above their own life and safety, that in this point of martial discipline, the ancient Romans could not have done any more. But divers things were cause thereof, as we have told you before: Antonius' nobility and ancient house, his eloquence, his plain nature, his liberality and magnificence, and his familiarity to sport and to be merry in company: but specially the care he took at that time to help, visit, and lament those that were sick and wounded, seeing every man to have that which was meet for him: that was of such force and effect, as it made them that were sick and wounded to love him better, and were more desirous to do him service, than those that were whole and sound.



Last Days

… But now to return to Antonius again. Canidius himself came to bring him news, that he had lost all his army by land at Actium. On th' other side he was advertised also, that Herodes king of* Jewry, who had also certain legions and bands with him, was revolted unto Caesar, and all the other kings in like manner: so that, saving those that were about him, he had none left him. All this notwithstanding did nothing trouble him, and it seemed that he was contented to forgo all his hope, and so to be rid of all his care and troubles. Thereupon he left his solitary house he had built in the sea which he called Timoneon, and Cleopatra received him into her royal palace. He was no sooner come thither, but he straight set all the city of rioting and banqueting again, and himself to liberality and gifts. He caused the son of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra to be enrolled (according to the manner of the Romans) amongst the number of young men: and gave Antyllus, his eldest son he had by Fulvia, the man's gown, the which was a plain gown without guard or embroidery of purple. For these things there was kept great feasting, banqueting, and dancing in Alexandria many days together. Indeed they did break their first order they had set down, which they called Amimetobion (as much to say, no life comparable), and did set up another, which Synapothanumenon (signifying the order and agreement of those that will die together), the which in exceeding sumptuousness and cost was not inferior to the first. For their friends made themselves to be enrolled in this order of those that would die together, and so made great feasts one to another: for every, man, when it came to his turn, feasted their whole company and fraternity.

Cleopatra in the meantime was very careful in gathering all sorts of poisons together to destroy men. Now, to make proof of those poisons which made men die with least pain, she tried it upon condemned men in prison. For, when she saw the poisons that were sudden and vehement, and brought speedy death with grievous torments, and, in contrary manner, that such as were more mild and gentle had not that quick speed and force to make one die suddenly: she afterwards went about to prove the stinging of snakes and adders, and made some to be applied unto men in her sight, some in one sort and some in another. So, when she had daily made divers and sundry proofs, she found none of all them she had proved so fit as the biting of an Aspic, the which only causeth a heaviness of the head, without swounding or complaining, and bringeth a great desire also to sleep, with a little sweat in the face, and so by little and little taketh away the senses and vital powers, no living creature perceiving that the patients feel any pain. For they are so sorry when anybody waketh them, and taketh them up, as those that being taken out of a sound sleep are very heavy and desirous to sleep. This notwithstanding, they sent Ambassadors unto Octavius Caesar in Asia, Cleopatra requesting the realm of Egypt for her children, and Antonius praying that he might be suffered to live at Athens like a private man, if Caesar would not let him remain in Egypt. And, because they had no other men of estimation about them, for that some were fled, and those that remained, they did not greatly trust them: they were enforced to send Euphronius the schoolmaster of their children. For Alexas Laodicean, who was brought into Antonius'house and favour by means of Timagenes, and afterwards was in greater credit with him than any other Grecian (for that he had alway been one of Cleopatra's ministers to win Antonius, and to overthrow all his good determinations to use his wife Octavia well) him Antonius had sent unto Herodes king of Jewry, hoping still to keep him his friend, that he should not revolt from him. But he remained there, and betrayed Antonius. For where he should have kept Herodes from revolting from him, he persuaded him to turn to Caesar: and trusting King Herodes, he presumed to come in Caesar's presence. Howbeit Herodes did him no pleasure: for he was presently taken prisoner, and sent in chains to his own country, and there by Caesar's commandment put to death. Thus was Alexas in Antonius' lifetime put to death for betraying of him.

Furthermore, Caesar would not grant unto Antonius' requests: but for Cleopatra, he made her answer, that he would deny her nothing reasonable, so that she would either put Antonius to death, or drive him out of her country. Therewithal he sent Thyreus one of his men unto her, a very wise and discreet man, who, bringing letters of credit from a young Lord unto a noble Lady, and that besides greatly liked her beauty, might easily by his eloquence have persuaded her. He was longer in talk with her than any man else was, and the Queen herself also did him great honour: insomuch as he made Antonius jealous of him. Whereupon Antonius caused him to be taken and well-favouredly whipped, and so sent him unto Caesar: and bade him tell him that he made him angry with him, because he shewed himself proud and disdainful towards him, and now specially when he was easy to be angered, by reason of his present misery. ‘To bc short, if this mislike thee,’ said he, ‘thou hast Hipparchus one of my enfranchised bondmen with thee: hang him if thou wilt, whip him at thy pleasure, that we may cry quittance.’

From thenceforth Cleopatra, to clear herself of the suspicion he had of her, she made more of him than ever she did. For first of all, where she did solemnize the day of her birth very meanly and sparingly, fit for her present misfortune, she now in contrary manner did keep it with such solemnity, that she exceeded all measure of sumptuousness and magnificence: so that the guests that were bidden to the feasts, and came poor, went away rich. 2 Now, things passing thus, Agrippa by divers letters sent one after another unto Caesar, prayed him to return to Rome, because the affairs there did of necessity require his person and presence. Thereupon he did defer the war till the next year following: but when winter was done, he returned again through Syria by the coast of Africk, to make wars against Antonius, and his other Captains. When the city of Pelusium was taken, there ran a rumour in the city, that Seleucus, by Cleopatra's consent, had surrendered the same. But to clear herself that she did not, Cleopatra brought Seleucus' wife and children unto Antonius, to be revenged of them at his pleasure. Furthermore, Cleopatra had long before made many sumptuous tombs and monuments, as well for excellency of workmanship as for height and greatness of building, joining hard to the temple of Isis. Thither she caused to be brought all the treasure and precious things she had of the ancient kings her predecessors: as gold, silver, emeralds, pearls, ebony, ivory, and cinnamon, and besides all that, a marvellous number of torches, faggots, and flax.

So Octavius Caesar being afraid to lose such a treasure and mass of riches, and that this woman for spite would set it afire, and burn it every whit: he always sent some one or other unto her from him, to put her in good comfort, whilst he in the meantime drew near the city with his army. So Caesar came, and pitched his camp hard by the city, in the place where they run and manage their horses. Antonius made a sally upon him, and fought very valiantly, so that he drave Caesar's horsemen back, fighting with his men even into their camp. Then he came again to the palace, greatly boasting of this victory, and sweetly kissed Cleopatra, armed as he was when he came from the fight, recommending one of his men of arms unto her, that had valiantly fought in this skirmish. Cleopatra to reward his manliness gave him an armour and head-piece of clean gold: howbeit the man at arms, when he had received this rich gift, stale away by night, and went to Caesar.

Antonius sent again to challenge Caesar to fight with him hand to hand. Caesar answered him, that he had many other ways to die than so.

Night before final battle: Gods forsake Antony

Then Antonius, seeing there was no way more honourable for him to die than fighting valiantly, he determined to set up his rest, both by sea and land. So, being at supper (as it is reported), he commanded his officers and household servants that waited on him at his board, that they should fill his cups full, and make as much of gim as they could: ‘For,’ said he, ‘you know not whether you 'shall do so much for me tomorrow or not, or whether you 'shall serve another master: and it may be you shall see me ‘o more, but a dead body.’ This notwithstanding, perceiving that his friends and men fell a-weeping to hear him say so: to salve that he had spoken, he added this more unto it, that he would not lead them to battle, where he thought not rather safely to return with victory, than valiantly to die with honour. Furthermore, the self same night within little of midnight, when all the city was quiet, full of fear and sorrow, thinking what would be the issue and end of this war: it is said that suddenly they heard a marvellous sweet harmony of sundry sorts of instruments of music, with the cry of a multitude of people, as they had been dancing, and had sung as they use in Bacchus’ feasts, with movings and turnings after the manner of the Satyrs: and it seemed that this dance went through the city unto the gate that opened to the enemies, and that all the troop that made this noise they heard went out of the city at that gate. Now, such as in reason sought the depth of the interpretation of this wonder, thought that it was the God unto whom Antonius bare singular devotion to counterfeit and resemble him, that did forsake them.

The next morning by break of day, he went to set those few footmen he had in order upon the hills adjoining unto the city: and there he stood to behold his galleys which departed from the haven, and rowed against the galleys of his enemies, and so stood still, looking what exploit his soldiers in them would do. But when by force of rowing they were come near unto them, they first saluted Caesar's men, and then Caesar's men re-saluted them also, and of two armies made but one, and then did all together row toward the city. When Antonius saw that his men did forsake him, and yielded unto Caesar, and that his footmen were broken and overthrown, he then fled into the city, crying out that Cleopatra had betrayed him unto them, with whom he had made war for her sake.

Then she, being afraid of his fury, fled into the tomb which she had caused to be made, and there locked the doors unto her, and shut all the springs of the locks with great bolts, and in the meantime sent unto Antonius to tell him that she was dead.Antonius, believing it, said unto himself: ‘What dost thou look for further, Antonius, sith spiteful fortune hath taken from thee the only joy thou hadst, for whom thou yet reservedst thy life?’ When he had said these words, he went into a chamber and unarmed himself, and being naked said thus: ‘O Cleopatra, it grieveth me not that I have lost thy company, for I will not be long from thee: but I am sorry that, having been so great a Captain and Emperor, I am indeed condemned to be judged of less courage and noble mind than a woman.’

2 Now he had a man of his called Eros, whom he loved and trusted much, and whom he had long before caused to swear unto him, that he should kill him when he did command him: and then he willed him to keep his promise. His man drawing his sword lift it up as though he had meant to have stricken his master: but turning his head at one side he thrust his sword into himself, and fell down dead at his master's foot. Antonius did thrust his sword into himself, but died not presently. Then said Antonius, ‘O noble Eros, I thank thee for this, and it is valiantly done of thee, to shew me what I should do to myself, which thou couldst not do for me.’ Therewithal he took his sword, and thrust it into his belly, and so fell down upon a little bed. The wound he had killed him not presently, for the blood stinted a little when he was laid: and when he came somewhat to himself again, he prayed them that were about him to despatch him. But they all fled out of the chamber, and left him crying out and tormenting himself: until at last there came a secretary unto him called Diomedes, who was commanded to bring him into the tomb or monument where Cleopatra was.

Antony taken to Cleopatra’s monument

When he heard that she was alive, he very earnestly prayed his men to carry his body thither, and so he was carried in his men's arms into the entry of the monument. Notwithstanding, Cleopatra would not open the gates, but came to the high windows, and cast out certain chains and ropes, in the which Antonius was trussed: and Cleopatra her own self, with two women only, which she had suffered to come with her into these monuments, triced Antonius up. They that were present to behold it said they never saw so a sight. For they plucked up poor Antonius all bloody as he was, and drawing on with pangs of death, who holding up his hands to Cleopatra raised up himself as well as he could. It was a hard thing for these women to do, to lift him up: but Cleopatra stooping down with her head, putting to all her strength to her uttermost power, did lift him up with much ado, and never let go her hold, with the help of the women beneath that bade her be of good courage, and were as sorry to see her labour so, as she herself. So when she had gotten him in after that sort, and laid him on a bed, she rent her garments upon him, clapping her breast, and scratching her face and stomach. Then she dried up his blood that had berayed his face, and called him her Lord, her husband, and Emperor, forgetting her own misery and calamity, for the pity and compassion she took of him.

Antonius made her cease her lamenting, and called for wine, either because he was athirst, or else for that he thought thereby to hasten his death.When he had drunk, he earnestly prayed her, and persuaded her, that she would seek to save her life, if she could possible, without reproach and dishonour: and that chiefly she should trust Proculeius above any man else about Caesar. And, as for himself, that she should not lament nor sorrow for the miserable change of his fortune at the end of his days: but rather that she should think him the more fortunate for the former triumphs and honours he had received, considering that while he lived he was the noblest and greatest Prince of the world, and that now he was overcome not cowardly, but valiantly, a Roman by another Roman.

Death of Antony

As Antonius gave the last gasp, Proculeius came that was sent from Caesar. For after Antonius had thrust his sword in himself, as they carried him into the tombs and monuments of Cleopatra, one of his guard called Dercetaeus took his sword with the which he had stricken himself, and hid it: then he secretly stale away, and brought Octavius Caesar the first news of his death, and shewed him his sword that was bloodied,Caesar hearing these news straight withdrew himself into a secret place of his tent, and there burst out with tears, lamenting his hard and mlserable fortune that had been his friend and brother-in- law, his equal in the Empire, and companion with him in sundry great exploits and battles.Then he called for all his friends, and shewed them the letters Antonius had written to him, and his answers also sent him again, during their quarrel and strife: and how fiercely and proudly the other answered him to all just and reasonable matters he wrote unto him.

After this, he sent Proculeius, and commanded him to do what he could possible to to get Cleopatra alive, fearing lest otherwise all the treasure would be lost: and furthermore, he thought that if he could take Cleopatra, and bring her alive to Rome, she would marvellously beautify and set out his triumph. But Cleopatra would never put herself into Proculeius' hands, although they spake together. For Proculeius came to the gates that were very thick and strong, and surely barred, but yet there were some cranews through the which her voice might be heard, and so they without understood, that Cleopatra demanded the kingdom of Egypt for her sons: and that Proculeius answered her, that she should be of good cheer, and not be afraid to refer all unto Caesar.fter he had viewed the place very well, he came and reported her answer unto Caesar. Who immediately sent Gallus to speak once again with her, and bade him purposely hold her with talk, whilst Proculeius did set up a ladder against that high window by the which Antonius was triced up, and came down into the monument with two of his men, hard by the gate where Cleopatra stood to hear what Gallus said unto her.

Cleopatra Taken

One of her women which was shut in her monuments with her saw Proculeius by chance as he came down, and shrieked out: ‘O poor Cleopatra, thou art taken.’ Then, when she saw Proculeius behind her as she came from the gate, she thought to have stabbed herself in with a short dagger she ware of purpose by her side. But Proculeius came suddenly upon her, and taking her by both the hands said unto her: ‘Cleopatra, first thou shalt do thyself great wrong, and secondly unto Caesar, to deprive him of the occasion and opportunity openly to shew his bounty and mercy, and to give his enemies cause to accuse the most courteous and noble Prince that ever was, and to appeach him, as though he were a cruel and merciless man that were not to be trusted.’ So even as he spake the word, he took her dagger from her, and shook her clothes for fear of any poison hidden about her.A fterwards Caesar sent one of his enfranchised men called Epaphroditus, whom he straightly charged to look well unto her, and to beware in any case that she made not herself away: and, for the rest, to use her with all the courtesy possible.

[Caesar pardons rebels]

Now, touching Antonius' sons, Antyllus hisAntyllus, Antonius eldest son by Fulvia slain. eldest son by Fulvia was slain, because his schoolmaster Theodorus did betray him unto the soldiers, who strake off his head. And the villain took a precious stone of great value from his neck, the which he did sew in his girdle, and afterwards denied that he had it: but it was found about him, and so Caesar trussed him up for it. For Cleopatra's children, they were very honourably kept, with their governors and train that waited on them. But for Caesarion, who was said to be Julius Caesar's son, his mother Cleopatra had sent him unto the Indians through Ethiopia, with a great sum of money. But one of his governors also called Rhodon, even such another as Theodorus, persuaded him to return into his country, and told him that Caesar sent for him to give him his mother's kingdom. So, as Caesar was determining with himself what he should do, Arrius said unto him:The saying of Arnus the Philosopher.

‘Too many Caesars is not good,’
alluding unto a certain verse of Homer that saith:
Too many Lords doth not well.

Therefore Caesar did put Caesarion to death, after the death of his mother Cleopatra. Many Princes, great kings, and Captains did crave Antonius' body of Octavius Caesar, to give him honourable burial but Caesar would never take it from Cleopatra, who did sumptuously and royally bury him with her own hands, whom Caesar suffered to take as much as she would to bestow upon his funerals. Now was she altogether overcome with sorrow and passion of mind, for she had knocked her breast so pitifully, that she had martyred it, and in divers places had raised ulcers and inflammations, so that she fell into a fever withal: whereof she was very glad, hoping thereby to have good colour to abstain from meat, and that so she might have died easily without any trouble. She had a Physician called Olympus, whom she made privy of her intent, to th' end he should help her to rid her out of her life:1 as Olympus writeth himself, who wrote a book of all these things. But Caesar mistrusted the matter, by many conjectures he had, and therefore did put her in fear, and threatened her to put her children to shameful death. With these threats Cleopatra for fear yielded straight, as she would have yielded unto strokes, and afterwards suffered herself to be cured and dieted as they listed.

Shortly after, Caesar came himself in person to see her and to comfort her. Cleopatra being laid upon a little low bed in poor estate, when she saw Caesar come into her chamber, she suddenly rose up, naked in her smock, and fell down at his feet marvellously disfigured: both for that she had plucked her hair from her head, as also for that she had martyred all her face with her nails, and besides, her voice was small and trembling, her eyes sunk into her head with continual blubbering: and moreover they might see the most part of her stomach torn in sunder. To be short, her body was not much better than her mind: yet her good grace and comeliness and the force of her beauty was not altogether defaced. But notwithstanding this ugly and pitiful state of hers, yet she showed herself within by her outward looks and countenance. When Caesar had made her lie down again, and sate by her bed's side, Cleopatra began to clear and excuse herself for that she had done, laying all to the fear she had of Antonius: Caesar, in contrary manner, reproved her in every point. Then she suddenly altered her speech, and prayed him to pardon her, as though she were afraid to die, and desirous to live. At length, she gave him a brief and memorial of all the ready money and treasure she had. But by chance there stood Seleucus by, one of her Treasurers, who to seem a good servant, came straight to Caesar to disprove Cleopatra, that she had not set in all, but kept many things back of purpose. Cleopatra was in such a rage with him, that she flew upon him, and took him by the hair of the head, and boxed him well-favouredly. Caesar fell a-laughing, parted the fray.

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