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



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Cleopatra's words unto Caesar

‘Alas,’ said she, ‘O Caesar, is not this a great shame and reproach, that thou having vouchsafed to take the pains to come unto me, and hast done me this honour, poor wretch and caitiff creature, brought into this pitiful and miserableestate, and that mine own servants should come now to accuse me: though it may be I have reserved some jewels and trifles meet for women, but not for me (poor soul) to set out myself withal, but meaning to give some pretty presents and gifts unto Octavia and Livia, that they, making means and intercession for me to thee, thou mightest yet extend thy favour and mercy upon me?’



Cleopatra finely deceiveth Octavius Caesar, as though she desired to live

Caesar was glad to hear her say so, persuading himself thereby that she had yet a desire to save her life. So he made her answer, that he did not only give her that to dispose of at her pleasure which she had kept back, but further promised to use her more honourably and bountifully than she would think for and so he took his leave of her, supposing he had deceived her, but indeed he was deceived himself. There was a young gentleman Cornelius Dolabella, that was one of Caesar's very great familiars, and besides did bear no evil will unto Cleopatra. He sent her word secretly as she had requested him, that Caesar determined to take his journey through Syria, and that within three days he would send her away before with her children.



Cleopatra’s farewell to “soul of Antony”

When this was told Cleopatra, she requested Caesar that it would please him to suffer her to offer the last oblations of the dead unto the soul of Antonius. This being granted her, she was carried to the place where his tomb was, and there falling down on her knees, embracing the tomb with her women, the tears running down her cheeks, she began to speak in this sort:

‘O my dear Lord Antonius,Cleopatra's lamentation over Antonius' tomb. not long sithence I buried thee here, being a freewoman: and now I offer unto thee the funeral sprinklings and oblations, being a captive and prisoner, and yet I am forbidden and kept from tearing and murdering this captive body of mine with blows, which they carefully guard and keep, only to triumph of thee: look therefore henceforth for no other honours, offerings, nor sacrifices from me, for these are the last which Cleopatra can give thee, sith now they carry her away. Whilst we lived together, nothing could sever our companies: but now at our death I fear me they will make us change our countries. For as thou, being a Roman, hast been buried in Egypt: even so wretched creature I, an Egyptian, shall be buried in Italy, which shall be all the good that I have received by thy country. If therefore the gods where thou art now have any power and authority, sith our gods here have forsaken us, suffer not thy true friend and lover to be carried away alive, that in me they triumph of thee: but receive me with thee, and let me be buried in one self tomb with thee. For though my griefs and miseries be infinite, yet none hath grieved me more, nor that I could less bear withal, than this small time which I have been driven to live alone without thee.’

Then, having ended these doleful plaints, and crowned the tomb with garlands and sundry nosegays, and marvellous lovingly embraced the same, she commanded they should prepare her bath, and when she had bathed and washed herself she fell to her meat, and was sumptuously served. Now whilst she was at dinner, there came a countryman, and brought her a basket. The soldiers that warded at the gates asked him straight what he had in his basket. He opened the basket, and took out the leaves that covered the figs, and shewed them that they were figs he brought. They all of them marvelled to see so goodly figs. The countryman laughed to hear them, and bade them take some if they would. They believed he told them truly, and so bade him carry them in.After Cleopatra had dined, she sent a certain table written and sealed unto Caesar, and commanded them all to go out of the tombs where she was, but the two women: then she shut the doors to her. Caesar, when he received this table, and began to read her lamentation and petition, requesting him that he would let her be buried with Antonius, found straight what she meant, and thought to have gone thither himself: howbeit he sent one before in all haste that might be, to see what it was.



The death of Cleopatra

Her death was very sudden. For those whom Caesar sent unto her ran thither in all haste possible, and found the soldiers standing at the gate, mistrusting nothing, nor understanding of her death. But when they had opened the doors, they found Cleopatra stark dead, laid upon a bed of gold, attired and arrayed in her royal robes, and one of herCleopatra's two waiting women dead with her. Two women, which was called Iras, dead at her feet: and her other woman called Charmion half dead, and trembling, trimming the Diadem which Cleopatra ware upon her head.

One of the soldiers, seeing her, angrily said unto her: ‘Is that well done, Charmion?’ ‘Very well,’ said she again, ‘and meet for a Princess descended from the race of so many noble kings.’ She said no more, but fell down dead hard by the bed.Some report that this Aspic was brought unto her in the basket with figs, and that she had commanded them to hide it under the fig-leaves, that when she should think to take out the figs, the Aspic should bite her before she should see her: howbeit that, when she would have taken away the leaves for the figs, she perceived it, and said, ‘Art thou here then?’ And so, her arm being naked, she put it to the Aspic to be bitten. Other say again, she kept it in a box, and that she did prick and thrust it with a spindle of gold, so that the Aspic being angered withal, leapt out with great fury, and bit her in the arm. Howbeit few can tell the troth. For they report also that she had hidden poison in a hollow razor which she carried in the hair of her head: and yet was there no mark seen of her body, or any sign discerned that she was poisoned, neither also did they find this serpent in her tomb. But it was reported only, that there were seen certain fresh steps or tracks where it had gone, on the tomb side toward the sea, and specially by the door's side. Some say also, that they found two little pretty bitings in her arm, scant to be discerned, the which it seemeth Caesar himself gave credit unto,because in his triumph he carried Cleopatra's image, with an Aspic biting of her arm. And thus goeth the report of her death.

Now Caesar, though he was marvellous sorry for the death of Cleopatra, yet he wondered at her noble mind and courage, and therefore commanded she should be nobly buried, and laid by Antonius: and willed also that her two women should have honourable burial.Cleopatra died being eight-and-thirty year old, after she had reigned two-and-twenty years, and governed above fourteen of them with Antonius. And for Antonius, some say that he lived three-and-fifty years: and others say, six-and-fifty. All his statues, images and metals were plucked down and overthrown, saving those of Cleopatra which stood still in their places, by means of Archibius one of her friends, who gave Caesar a thousand talents that they should not be handled as those of Antonius were.



Of Antonius' issue came Emperors

Antonius left seven children by three wives, of the which Caesar did put Antyllus, the eldest son he had by Fulvia, to death. Octavia his wife took all the rest, and brought them up with hers, and married Cleopatra, Antonius' daughter, unto Juba, a marvellous courteous and goodly. And Antonius, the son of Fulvia, came to be so great, that next unto Agrippa, who was in greatest estimation about Caesar, and next unto the children of Livia, which were the second in estimation, he had the third place. Furthermore, Octavia having had two daughters by her first husband Marcellus, and a son also called Marcellus, Caesar married his daughter unto that Marcellus, and so did adopt him for his son. And Octavia also married one of her daughters unto Agrippa. But when Marcellus was dead, after he had been married a while, Octavia perceiving that her brother Caesar was very busy to choose some one among his friends, whom he trusted best to make his son-in-law: she persuaded him that Agrippa should marry his daughter (Marcellus' widow) and leave her own daughter. Caesar first was contented withal, and then Agrippa: and so she afterwards took away her daughter and married her unto Antonius, and Agrippa married Julia, Caesar's daughter. Now there remained two daughters more of Octavia and Antonius. Domitius ænobarbus married the one: and the other, which was Antonia, so fair and virtuous a young Lady, was married unto Drusus, the son of Livla, and son-in-law of Caesar. Of this marriage came Germanicus and Claudius: of the which, Claudius afterwards came to be Emperor. And of the sons of Germanicus, the one whose name was Caius came also to be Emperor: who, after he had licentiously reigned a time, was slain, with his wife and daughter. Agrippina also, having a son by her first husband ænobarbus called Lucius Domitius, was afterwards married unto Claudius, who adopted her son, and called him Nero Germanicus. This Nero was Emperor in our time, and slew his own mother, and had almost destroyed the Empire of Rome, through his madness and wicked life, being the fift Emperor of Rome after Antonius.
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