Perplexity of Antony.–His meeting with Fulvia.–Meeting of Antony and Fulvia.–Reconciliation of Antony and Octavius.–Octavia.–Her marriage to Antony.–Octavia’s influence over her husband and her brother.–Octavia pleads for Antony.–Difficulties settled.–Antony tired of his wife.–He goes to Egypt.–Antony again with Cleopatra.–Effect on his character.–The march to Sidon.–Suffering of the troops.–Arrival of Cleopatra.–She brings supplies for the army.–Octavia intercedes for Antony.–She brings him re-enforcements. –Cleopatra’s alarm.–Her arts.–Cleopatra’s secret agents.–Their representations to Antony.–Cleopatra’s success.–Antony’s message to Octavia.–Devotion of Octavia.–Indignation against Antony.–Measures of Antony.–Accusations against him.–Antony’s preparations.–Assistance of Cleopatra.–Canidius bribed.–His advice in regard to Cleopatra.–The fleet at Samos.–Antony’s infatuation.–Riot and revelry.–Antony and Cleopatra at Athens.–Ostentation of Cleopatra.–Honors bestowed on her.–Baseness of Antony.–Approach of Octavius.–Antony’s will.–Charges against him.–Antony’s neglect of his duties.–Meeting of the fleets. –Opinions of the council.–Cleopatra’s wishes.–Battle of Actium.–Flight of Cleopatra.–Antony follows Cleopatra.–He gains her galley.–Antony pursued.–A severe conflict.–The avenger of a father.–Antony’s anguish–Antony and Cleopatra shun each other.–Arrival at Tsenarus.–Antony and Cleopatra fly together to Egypt.
Cleopatra, in parting with Antony as described in the last chapter, lost him for two or three years. During this time Antony himself was involved in a great variety of difficulties and dangers, and passed through many eventful scenes, which, however, can not here be described in detail. His life, during this period, was full of vicissitude and excitement, and was spent probably in alternations of remorse for the past and anxiety for the future. On landing at Tyre, he was at first extremely perplexed whether to go to Asia Minor or to Rome. His presence was imperiously demanded in both places. The war which Fulvia had fomented was caused, in part, by the rivalry of Octavius, and the collision of his interests with those of her husband. Antony was very angry with her for having managed his affairs in such a way as to bring about a war. After a time Antony and Fulvia met at Athens. Fulvia had retreated to that city, and was very seriously sick there, either from bodily disease, or from the influence of long-continued anxiety, vexation, and distress. They had a stormy meeting. Neither party was disposed to exercise any mercy toward the other. Antony left his wife rudely and roughly, after loading her with reproaches. A short time afterward, she sank down in sorrow to the grave.
The death of Fulvia was an event which proved to be of advantage to Antony. It opened the way to a reconciliation between him and Octavius. Fulvia had been extremely active in opposing Octavius’s designs, and in organizing plans for resisting him. He felt, therefore, a special hostility against her, and, through her, against Antony. Now, however, that she was dead, the way seemed to be in some sense opened for a reconciliation.
Octavius had a sister, Octavia, who had been the wife of a Roman general named Marcellus. She was a very beautiful and a very accomplished woman, and of a spirit very different from that of Fulvia. She was gentle, affectionate, and kind, a lover of peace and harmony, and not at all disposed, like Fulvia, to assert and maintain her influence over others by an overbearing and violent demeanor. Octavia’s husband died about this time, and, in the course of the movements and negotiations between Antony and Octavius, the plan was proposed of a marriage between Antony and Octavia, which, it was thought, would ratify and confirm the reconciliation. This proposal was finally agreed upon, Antony was glad to find so easy a mode of settling his difficulties. The people of Rome, too, and the authorities there, knowing that the peace of the world depended upon the terms on which these two men stood with regard to each other, were extremely desirous that this arrangement should be carried into effect. There was a law of the commonwealth forbidding the marriage of a widow within a specified period after the death of her husband. That period had not, in Octavia’s case, yet expired. There was, however, so strong a desire that no obstacle should be allowed to prevent this proposed union, or even to occasion delay, that the law was altered expressly for this case, and Antony and Octavia were married. The empire was divided between Octavius and Antony, Octavius receiving the western portion as his share, while the eastern was assigned to Antony.
It is not probable that Antony felt any very strong affection for his new wife, beautiful and gentle as she was. A man, in fact, who had led such a life as his had been, must have become by this time incapable of any strong and pure attachment. He, however, was pleased with the novelty of his acquisition, and seemed to forget for a time the loss of Cleopatra. He remained with Octavia a year. After that he went away on certain military enterprises which kept him some time from her. He returned again, and again he went away. All this time Octavia’s influence over him and over her brother was of the most salutary and excellent character. She soothed their animosities, quieted their suspicions and jealousies, and at one time, when they were on the brink of open war, she effected a reconciliation between them by the most courageous and energetic, and at the same time, gentle and unassuming efforts. At the time of this danger she was with her husband in Greece; but she persuaded him to send her to her brother at Rome, saying that she was confident that she could arrange a settlement of the difficulties impending. Antony allowed her to go. She proceeded to Rome, and procured an interview with her brother in the presence of his two principal officers of state. Here she pleaded her husband’s cause with tears in her eyes; she defended his conduct, explained what seemed to be against him, and entreated her brother not to take such a course as should cast her down from being the happiest of women to being the most miserable. “Consider the circumstances of my case,” said she. “The eyes of the world are upon me. Of the two most powerful men in the world, I am the wife of one and the sister of another. If you allow rash counsels to go on and war to ensue, I am hopelessly ruined; for, whichever is conquered, my husband or my brother, my own happiness will be for ever gone.”
Octavius sincerely loved his sister, and he was so far softened by her entreaties that he consented to appoint an interview with Antony in order to see if their difficulties could be settled. This interview was accordingly held. The two generals came to a river, where, at the opposite banks, each embarked in a boat, and, being rowed out toward each other, they met in the middle of the stream. A conference ensued, at which all the questions at issue were, for a time at least, very happily arranged.
Antony, however, after a time, began to become tired of his wife, and to sigh for Cleopatra once more. He left Octavia at Rome and proceeded to the eastward, under pretense of attending to the affairs of that portion of the empire; but, instead of doing this, he went to Alexandria, and there renewed again his former intimacy with the Egyptian queen.
Octavius was very indignant at this. His former hostility to Antony, which had been in a measure appeased by the kind influence of Octavia, now broke forth anew, and was heightened by the feeling of resentment naturally awakened by his sister’s wrongs Public sentiment in Rome, too, was setting very strongly against Antony. Lampoons were written, against him to ridicule him and Cleopatra, and the most decided censures were passed upon his conduct. Octavia was universally beloved, and the sympathy which was every where felt for her increased and heightened very much the popular indignation which was felt against the man who could wrong so deeply such sweetness, and gentleness, and affectionate fidelity as hers.
After remaining for some time in Alexandria, and renewing his connection and intimacy with Cleopatra, Antony went away again, crossing the sea into Asia, with the intention of prosecuting certain military undertakings there which imperiously demanded his attention. His plan was to return as soon as possible to Egypt after the object of his expedition should be accomplished. He found, however, that he could not bear even a temporary absence from Cleopatra. His mind dwelled so much upon her, and upon the pleasures which he had enjoyed with her in Egypt, and he longed so much to see her again, that he was wholly unfit for the discharge of his duties in the camp. He became timid, inefficient, and remiss, and almost every thing that he undertook ended disastrously. The army, who understood perfectly well the reason of their commander’s remissness and consequent ill fortune, were extremely indignant at his conduct, and the camp was filled with suppressed murmurs and complaints. Antony, however, like other persons in his situation, was blind to all these indications of dissatisfaction; probably he would have disregarded them if he had observed them. At length, finding that he could bear his absence from his mistress no longer, he set out to march across the country, in the depth of the winter, to the sea-shore, to a point where he had sent for Cleopatra to come to join him. The army endured incredible hardships and exposures in this march. When Antony had once commenced the journey, he was so impatient to get forward that he compelled his troops to advance with a rapidity greater than their strength would bear. They were, besides, not provided with proper tents or with proper supplies of provisions. They were often obliged, therefore, after a long and fatiguing march during the day, to bivouac at night in the open air among the mountains, with scanty means of appeasing their hunger, and very little shelter from the cold rain, or from the storms of driving snow. Eight thousand men died on this march, from cold, fatigue, and exposure; a greater sacrifice, perhaps, than had ever been made before to the mere ardor and impatience of a lover.
When Antony reached the shore, he advanced to a certain sea-port, near Sidon, where Cleopatra was to land. At the time of his arrival but a very small part of his army was left, and the few men that survived were in a miserably destitute condition. Antony’s eagerness to see Cleopatra became more and more excited as the time drew nigh. She did not come so soon as he had expected, and during the delay he seemed to pine away under the influence of love and sorrow. He was silent, absent-minded, and sad. He had no thoughts for any thing but the coming of Cleopatra, and felt no interest in any other plans. He watched for her incessantly, and would sometimes leave his place at the table, in the midst of the supper, and go down alone to the shore, where he would stand gazing out upon the sea, and saying mournfully to himself, “Why does not she come?” The animosity and the ridicule which these things awakened against him, on the part of the army, were extreme; but he was so utterly infatuated that he disregarded all the manifestations of public sentiment around him, and continued to allow his mind to be wholly engrossed with the single idea of Cleopatra’s coming.
She arrived at last. She brought a great supply of clothes and other necessaries for the use of Antony’s army, so that her coming not only gratified his love, but afforded him, also, a very essential relief, in respect to the military difficulties in which he was involved.
After some time spent in the enjoyment of the pleasure which being thus reunited to Cleopatra afforded him, Antony began again to think of the affairs of his government, which every month more and more imperiously demanded his attention. He began to receive urgent calls from various quarters, rousing him to action. In the mean time, Octavia–who had been all this while waiting in distress and anxiety at Rome, hearing continually the most gloomy accounts of her husband’s affairs, and the most humiliating tidings in respect to his infatuated devotion to Cleopatra–resolved to make one more effort to save him. She interceded with her brother to allow her to raise troops and to collect supplies, and then proceed to the eastward to re-enforce him. Octavius consented to this. He, in fact, assisted Octavia in making her preparations. It is said, however, that he was influenced in this plan by his confident belief that this noble attempt of his sister to reclaim her husband would fail, and that, by the failure of it, Antony would be put in the wrong, in the estimation of the Roman people, more absolutely and hopelessly than ever, and that the way would thus be prepared for his complete and final destruction.
Octavia was rejoiced to obtain her brother’s aid to her undertaking, whatever the motive might be which induced him to afford it. She accordingly levied a considerable body of troops, raised a large sum of money, provided clothes, and tents, and military stores for the army; and when all was ready, she left Italy and put to sea, having previously dispatched a messenger to her husband to inform him that she was coming.
Cleopatra began now to be afraid that she was to lose Antony again, and she at once began to resort to the usual artifices employed in such cases, in order to retain her power over him. She said nothing, but assumed the appearance of one pining under the influence of some secret suffering or sorrow. She contrived to be often surprised in tears. In such cases she would hastily brush her tears away, and assume a countenance of smiles and good humor, as if making every effort to be happy, though really oppressed with a heavy burden of anxiety and grief. When Antony was near her she would seem overjoyed at his presence, and gaze upon him with an expression of the most devoted fondness. When absent from him, she spent her time alone, always silent and dejected, and often in tears; and she took care that the secret sorrows and sufferings that she endured should be duly made known to Antony, and that he should understand that they were all occasioned by her love for him, and by the danger which she apprehended that he was about to leave her.
The friends and secret agents of Cleopatra, who reported these things to Antony, made, moreover, direct representations to him, for the purpose of inclining his mind in her favor. They had, in fact, the astonishing audacity to argue that Cleopatra’s claims upon Antony for a continuance of his love were paramount to those of Octavia. She, that is, Octavia, had been his wife, they said, only for a very short time. Cleopatra had been most devotedly attached to him for many years. Octavia was married to him, they alleged, not under the impulse of love, but from political considerations alone, to please her brother, and to ratify and confirm a political league made with him. Cleopatra, on the other hand, had given herself up to him in the most absolute and unconditional manner, under the influence solely of a personal affection which she could not control. She had surrendered and sacrificed every thing to him. For him she had lost her good name, alienated the affections of her subjects, made herself the object of reproach and censure to all mankind, and now she had left her native land to come and join him in his adverse fortunes. Considering how much she had done, and suffered, and sacrificed for his sake, it would be extreme and unjustifiable cruelty in him to forsake her now. She never would survive such an abandonment. Her whole soul was so wrapped up in him, that she would pine away and die if he were now to forsake her.
Antony was distressed and agitated beyond measure by the entanglements in which he found that he was involved. His duty, his inclination perhaps, certainly his ambition, and every dictate of prudence and policy required that he should break away from these snares at once and go to meet Octavia. But the spell that bound him was too mighty to be dissolved. He yielded to Cleopatra’s sorrows and tears. He dispatched a messenger to Octavia, who had by this time reached Athens, in Greece, directing her not to come any farther. Octavia, who seemed incapable of resentment or anger against her husband, sent back to ask what she should do with the troops, and money, and the military stores which she was bringing. Antony directed her to leave them in Greece. Octavia did so, and mournfully returned to her home.
As soon as she arrived at Rome, Octavius, her brother, whose indignation was now thoroughly aroused at the baseness of Antony, sent to his sister to say that she must leave Antony’s house and come to him. A proper self-respect, he said, forbade her remaining any longer under the roof of such a man. Octavia replied that she would not leave her husband’s house. That house was her post of duty, whatever her husband might do, and there she would remain. She accordingly retired within the precincts of her old home, and devoted herself in patient and uncomplaining sorrow to the care of the family and the children. Among these children was one young son of Antony’s, born during his marriage with her predecessor Fulvia. In the mean time, while Octavia was thus faithfully though mournfully fulfilling her duties as wife and mother, in her husband’s house at Rome, Antony himself had gone with Cleopatra to Alexandria, and was abandoning himself once more to a life of guilty pleasure there. The greatness of mind which this beautiful and devoted wife thus displayed, attracted the admiration of all mankind. It produced, however, one other effect, which Octavia must have greatly deprecated. It aroused a strong and universal feeling of indignation against the unworthy object toward whom this extraordinary magnanimity was displayed.
In the mean time, Antony gave himself up wholly to Cleopatra’s influence and control, and managed all the affairs of the Roman empire in the East in the way best fitted to promote her aggrandizement and honor. He made Alexandria his capital, celebrated triumphs there, arranged ostentatious expeditions into Asia and Syria with Cleopatra and her train, gave her whole provinces as presents, and exalted her two sons, Alexander and Ptolemy, children born during the period of his first acquaintance with her, to positions of the highest rank and station, as his own acknowledged sons. The consequences of these and similar measures at Rome were fatal to Antony’s character and standing. Octavius reported every thing to the Roman Senate and people, and made Antony’s misgovernment and his various misdemeanors the ground of the heaviest accusations against him. Antony, hearing of these things, sent his agents to Rome and made accusations against Octavius; but these counter accusations were of no avail. Public sentiment was very strong and decided against him at the capital, and Octavius began to prepare for war.
Antony perceived that he must prepare to defend himself. Cleopatra entered into the plans which he formed for this purpose with great ardor. Antony began to levy troops, and collect and equip galleys and ships of war, and to make requisitions of money and military stores from all the eastern provinces and kingdoms. Cleopatra put all the resources of Egypt at his disposal. She furnished him with immense sums of money, and with an inexhaustible supply of corn, which she procured for this purpose from her dominions in the valley of the Nile. The various divisions of the immense armament which was thus provided for were ordered to rendezvous at Ephesus, where Antony and Cleopatra were awaiting to receive them, having proceeded there when their arrangements in Egypt were completed, and they were ready to commence the campaign.
When all was ready for the expedition to set sail from Ephesus, it was Antony’s judgment that it would be best for Cleopatra to return to Egypt, and leave him to go forth with the fleet to meet Octavius alone. Cleopatra was, however, determined not to go away. She did not dare to leave Antony at all to himself, for fear that in some way or other a peace would be effected between himself and Octavius, which would result in his returning to Octavia and abandoning her. She accordingly contrived to persuade Antony to retain her with him, by bribing his chief counselor to advise him to do so. His counselor’s name was Canidius. Canidius, having received Cleopatra’s money, while yet he pretended to be wholly disinterested in his advice, represented to Antony that it would not be reasonable to send Cleopatra away, and deprive her of all participation in the glory of the war, when she was defraying so large a part of the expense of it. Besides, a large portion of the army consisted of Egyptian troops, who would feel discouraged and disheartened if Cleopatra were to leave them, and would probably act far less efficiently in the conflict than they would do if animated by the presence of their queen. Then, moreover, such a woman as Cleopatra was not to be considered, as many women would be, an embarrassment and a source of care to a military expedition which she might join, but a very efficient counselor and aid to it. She was, he said, a very sagacious, energetic, and powerful queen, accustomed to the command of armies and to the management of affairs of state, and her aid in the conduct of the expedition might be expected to conduce very materially to its success.
Antony was easily won by such persuasions as these, and it was at length decided that Cleopatra should accompany him.
Antony then ordered the fleet to move forward to the island of Samos. Here it was brought to anchor and remained for some time, waiting for the coming in of new re-enforcements, and for the completion of the other arrangements. Antony, as if becoming more and more infatuated as he approached the brink of his ruin, spent his time while the expedition remained at Samos, not in maturing his plans and perfecting his arrangements for the tremendous conflict which was approaching, but in festivities, games, revelings, and every species of riot and dissolute excess. This, however, is not surprising. Men almost always, when in a situation analogous to his, fly to similar means of protecting themselves, in some small degree, from the pangs of remorse, and from the forebodings which stand ready to terrify and torment them at every instant in which these gloomy specters are not driven away by intoxication and revelry. At least Antony found it so. Accordingly, an immense company of players, tumblers, fools, jesters, and mountebanks were ordered to assemble at Samos, and to devote themselves with all zeal to the amusement of Antony’s court. The island was one universal scene of riot and revelry. People were astonished at such celebrations and displays, wholly unsuitable, as they considered them, to the occasion. If such are the rejoicings, said they, which Antony celebrates before going into the battle, what festivities will he contrive on his return, joyous enough to express his pleasure if he shall gain the victory?
After a time, Antony and Cleopatra, with a magnificent train of attendants, left Samos, and, passing across the Aegean Sea, landed in Greece, and advanced to Athens, while the fleet, proceeding westward from Samos, passed around Taenarus, the southern promontory of Greece, and then moved northward along the western coast of the peninsula. Cleopatra wished to go to Athens for a special reason. It was there that Octavia had stopped on her journey toward her husband with re-enforcements and aid; and while she was there, the people of Athens, pitying her sad condition, and admiring the noble spirit of mind which she displayed in her misfortunes, had paid her great attention, and during her stay among them had bestowed upon her many honors. Cleopatra now wished to go to the same place, and to triumph over her rival there, by making so great a display of her wealth and magnificence, and of her ascendency over the mind of Antony, as should entirely transcend and outshine the more unassuming pretensions of Octavia. She was not willing, it seems, to leave to the unhappy wife whom she had so cruelly wronged even the possession of a place in the hearts of the people of this foreign city, but must go and enviously strive to efface the impression which injured innocence had made, by an ostentatious exhibition of the triumphant prosperity of her own shameless wickedness. She succeeded well in her plans. The people of Athens were amazed and bewildered at the immense magnificence that Cleopatra exhibited before them. She distributed vast sums of money among the people. The city, in return, decreed to her the most exalted honors. They sent a solemn embassy to her to present her with these decrees. Antony himself, in the character of a citizen of Athens, was one of the embassadors. Cleopatra received the deputation at her palace. The reception was attended with the most splendid and imposing ceremonies.
One would have supposed that Cleopatra’s cruel and unnatural hostility to Octavia might now have been satisfied; but it was not. Antony, while he was at Athens, and doubtless at Cleopatra’s instigation, sent a messenger to Rome with a notice of divorcement to Octavia, and with an order that she should leave his house. Octavia obeyed. She went forth from her home, taking the children with her, and bitterly lamenting her cruel destiny.
In the mean time, while all these events had been transpiring in the East, Octavius had been making his preparations for the coming crisis, and was now advancing with a powerful fleet across the sea. He was armed with authority from the Roman Senate and people, for he had obtained from them a decree deposing Antony from his power. The charges made against him all related to misdemeanors and offenses arising out of his connection with Cleopatra. Octavius contrived to get possession of a will which Antony had written before leaving Rome, and which he had placed there in what he supposed a very sacred place of deposit. The custodians who had it in charge replied to Octavius, when he demanded it, that they would not give it to him, but if he wished to take it they would not hinder him. Octavius then took the will, and read it to the Roman Senate. It provided, among other things, that at his death, if his death should happen at Rome, his body should be sent to Alexandria to be given to Cleopatra; and it evinced in other ways a degree of subserviency and devotedness to the Egyptian queen which was considered wholly unworthy of a Roman chief magistrate. Antony was accused, too, of having plundered cities and provinces, to make presents to Cleopatra; of having sent a library of two hundred thousand volumes to her from Pergamus, to replace the one which Julius Caesar had accidentally burned; of having raised her sons, ignoble as their birth was, to high places of trust and power in the Roman government, and of having in many ways compromised the dignity of a Roman officer by his unworthy conduct in reference to her. He used, for example, when presiding at a judicial tribunal, to receive love-letters sent him from Cleopatra, and then at once turn off his attention from the proceedings going forward before him to read the letters.
[Footnote 1: These letters, in accordance with the scale of expense and extravagance on which Cleopatra determined that every thing relating to herself and Antony should be done, were engraved on tablets made of onyx, or crystal, or other hard and precious stones.]
Sometimes he did this when sitting in the chair of state, giving audience to embassadors and princes. Cleopatra probably sent these letters in at such times under the influence of a wanton disposition to show her power. At one time, as Octavius said in his arguments before the Roman Senate, Antony was hearing a cause of the greatest importance, and during a time in the progress of the cause when one of the principal orators of the city was addressing him, Cleopatra came passing by, when Antony suddenly arose, and, leaving the court without any ceremony, ran out to follow her. These and a thousand similar tales exhibited Antony in so odious a light, that his friends forsook his cause, and his enemies gained a complete triumph. The decree was passed against him, and Octavius was authorized to carry it into effect; and accordingly, while Antony, with his fleet and army, was moving westward from Samos and the Aegean Sea, Octavius was coming eastward and southward down the Adriatic to meet him.
In process of time, after various maneuvers and delays, the two armaments came into the vicinity of each other at a place called Actium, which will be found upon the map on the western coast of Epirus, north of Greece. Both of the commanders had powerful fleets at sea, and both had great armies upon the land. Antony was strongest in land troops, but his fleet was inferior to that of Octavius, and he was himself inclined to remain on the land and fight the principal battle there. But Cleopatra would not consent to this. She urged him to give Octavius battle at sea. The motive which induced her to do this has been supposed to be her wish to provide a more sure way of escape in case of an unfavorable issue to the conflict. She thought that in her galleys she could make sail at once across the sea to Alexandria in case of defeat, whereas she knew not what would become of her if beaten at the head of an army on the land. The ablest counselors and chief officers in the army urged Antony very strongly not to trust himself to the sea. To all their arguments and remonstrances, however, Antony turned a deaf ear. Cleopatra must be allowed to have her way. On the morning of the battle, when the ships were drawn up in array, Cleopatra held the command of a division of fifty or sixty Egyptian vessels, which were all completely manned, and well equipped with masts and sails. She took good care to have every thing in perfect order for flight, in case flight should prove to be necessary. With these ships she took a station in reserve, and for a time remained there a quiet witness of the battle. The ships of Octavius advanced to the attack of those of Antony, and the men fought from deck to deck with spears, boarding-pikes, flaming darts, and every other destructive missile which the military art had then devised. Antony’s ships had to contend against great disadvantages. They were not only outnumbered by those of Octavius, but were far surpassed by them in the efficiency with which they were manned and armed. Still, it was a very obstinate conflict. Cleopatra, however, did not wait to see how it was to be finally decided. As Antony’s forces did not immediately gain the victory, she soon began to yield to her fears in respect to the result, and, finally, fell into a panic and resolved to fly. She ordered the oars to be manned and the sails to be hoisted, and then forcing her way through a portion of the fleet that was engaged in the contest, and throwing the vessels into confusion as she passed, she succeeded in getting to sea, and then pressed on, under full sail, down the coast to the southward. Antony, as soon as he perceived that she was going, abandoning every other thought, and impelled by his insane devotedness to her, hastily called up a galley of five banks of oarsmen to pull with all their force after Cleopatra’s flying squadron.
Cleopatra, looking back from the deck of her vessel, saw this swift galley pressing on toward her. She raised a signal at the stern of the vessel which she was in, that Antony might know for which of the fifty flying ships he was to steer. Guided by the signal, Antony came up to the vessel, and the sailors hoisted him up the side and helped him in. Cleopatra had, however, disappeared. Overcome with shame and confusion, she did not dare, it seems, to meet the look of the wretched victim of her arts whom she had now irretrievably ruined. Antony did not seek her. He did not speak a word. He went forward to the prow of the ship, and, throwing himself down there alone, pressed his head between his hands, and seemed stunned and stupefied, and utterly overwhelmed with horror and despair.
He was, however, soon aroused from his stupor by an alarm raised on board his galley that they were pursued. He rose from his seat, seized a spear, and, on ascending to the quarter-deck, saw that there were a number of small light boats, full of men and of arms, coming up behind them, and gaining rapidly upon his galley. Antony, now free for a moment from his enchantress’s sway, and acting under the impulse of his own indomitable boldness and decision, instead of urging the oarsmen to press forward more rapidly in order to make good their escape, ordered the helm to be put about, and thus, turning the galley around, he faced his pursuers, and drove his ship into the midst of them. A violent conflict ensued, the din and confusion of which was increased by the shocks and collisions between the boats and the galley. In the end, the boats were beaten off, all excepting one: that one kept still hovering near, and the commander of it, who stood upon the deck, poising his spear with an aim at Antony, and seeking eagerly an opportunity to throw it, seemed by his attitude and the expression of his countenance to be animated by some peculiarly bitter feeling of hostility and hate. Antony asked him who he was, that dared so fiercely to threaten him. The man replied by giving his name, and saying that he came to avenge the death of his father. It proved that he was the son of a man whom Antony had at a previous time, on some account or other, caused to be beheaded.
There followed an obstinate contest between Antony and this fierce assailant, in the end of which the latter was beaten off. The boats then, having succeeded in making some prizes from Antony’s fleet, though they had failed in capturing Antony himself, gave up the pursuit and returned. Antony then went back to his place, sat down in the prow, buried his face in his hands, and sank into the same condition of hopeless distress and anguish as before.
When husband and wife are overwhelmed with misfortune and suffering, each instinctively seeks a refuge in the sympathy and support of the other. It is, however, far otherwise with such connections as that of Antony and Cleopatra. Conscience, which remains calm and quiet in prosperity and sunshine, rises up with sudden and unexpected violence as soon as the hour of calamity comes; and thus, instead of mutual comfort and help, each finds in the thoughts of the other only the means of adding the horrors of remorse to the anguish of disappointment and despair. So extreme was Antony’s distress, that for three days he and Cleopatra neither saw nor spoke to each other. She was overwhelmed with confusion and chagrin, and he was in such a condition of mental excitement that she did not dare to approach him. In a word, reason seemed to have wholly lost its sway–his mind, in the alternations of his insanity, rising sometimes to fearful excitement, in paroxysms of uncontrollable rage, and then sinking again for a time into the stupor of despair.
In the mean time, the ships were passing down as rapidly as possible on the western coast of Greece. When they reached Taenarus, the southern promontory of the peninsula, it was necessary to pause and consider what was to be done. Cleopatra’s women went to Antony and attempted to quiet and calm him. They brought him food. They persuaded him to see Cleopatra. A great number of merchant ships from the ports along the coast gathered around Antony’s little fleet and offered their services. His cause, they said, was by no means desperate. The army on the land had not been beaten. It was not even certain that his fleet had been conquered. They endeavored thus to revive the ruined commander’s sinking courage, and to urge him to make a new effort to retrieve his fortunes. But all was in vain. Antony was sunk in a hopeless despondency. Cleopatra was determined on going to Egypt, and he must go too. He distributed what treasure remained at his disposal among his immediate followers and friends, and gave them advice about the means of concealing themselves until they could make peace with Octavius. Then, giving up all as lost, he followed Cleopatra across the sea to Alexandria.