On her arrival, Antony sent to invite her to supper. She thought it fitter he should come to her.
Continuing Cleopatra, Caesar and Antony,
our selection from The Empire of the Ptolemies by John P. Mahaffy published in 1895. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Cleopatra, Caesar and Antony
Time: 51-30 BC
Reaching Cilicia, he  sent an order to the queen of Egypt to come before him and explain her conduct during the late war, for she was reported to have sent aid to Cassius. The sequel may be told in Plutarch’s famous narrative:
Dellius, who was sent on this message, had no sooner seen her face, and remarked her adroitness and subtlety in speech, than he felt convinced that Antony would not so much as think of giving any molestation to a woman like this. On the contrary, she would be the first in favor with him. So he set himself at once to pay his court to the Egyptian, and gave her his advice, ‘to go,’ in the Homeric style, to Cilicia, ‘in her best attire,’ and bade her fear nothing from Antony, the gentlest and kindest of soldiers. She had some faith in the words of Dellius, but more in her own attractions, which, having formerly recommended her to Caesar and the young Cnaeus Pompey, she did not doubt might yet prove more successful with Antony. Their acquaintance was with her when a girl, young, and ignorant of the world, but she was to meet Antony in the time of life when women’s beauty is most splendid and their intellects are in full maturity. She made great preparation for her journey, of money, gifts, and ornaments of value, such as so wealthy a kingdom might afford, but she brought with her her surest hopes in her own magic arts and charms.
She received several letters, both from Antony and from his friends, to summon her, but she took no account of these orders; and at last, as if in mockery of them, she came sailing up the river Cydnus, in a barge with gilded stern and outspread sails of purple, while oars of silver beat time to the music of flutes and fifes and harps. She herself lay all along, under a canopy of cloth of gold, dressed as Venus in a picture, and beautiful young boys, like painted cupids, stood on each side to fan her. Her maids were dressed like sea nymphs and graces, some steering at the rudder, some working at the ropes. The perfumes diffused themselves from the vessel to the shore, which was covered with multitudes, part following the galley up the river on either bank, part running out of the city to see the sight. The market-place was quite emptied, and Antony at last was left alone sitting upon the tribunal, while the word went through all the multitude that Venus was come to feast with Bacchus, for the common good of Asia. On her arrival, Antony sent to invite her to supper. She thought it fitter he should come to her; so, willing to show his good humor and courtesy, he complied, and went. He found the preparations to receive him magnificent beyond expression, but nothing so admirable as the great number of lights, for on a sudden there was let down altogether so great a number of branches with lights in them so ingeniously disposed, some in squares and some in circles, that the whole thing was a spectacle that has seldom been equaled for beauty.”
[2: There was no Egyptian feature in this show, which was purely Hellenistic.]
[3: How easily such a belief started up in the minds of a crowd in the Asia Minor of that day appears from Acts xiv. 11 seq., where the crowd at Iconium, on seeing a cripple cured, at once exclaim that the gods are come down to them in the likeness of men, and call Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker, bringing sacrifices to offer to the apostles.]
The next day Antony invited her to supper, and was very desirous to outdo her as well in magnificence as contrivance; but he found he was altogether beaten in both, and was so well convinced of it that he was himself the first to jest and mock at his poverty of wit and his rustic awkwardness. She, perceiving that his raillery was broad and gross and savored more of the soldier than the courtier, rejoined in the same taste, and fell into it at once, without any sort of reluctance or reserve, for her actual beauty, it is said, was not in itself so remarkable that none could be compared with her, or that no one could see her without being struck by it, but the contact of her presence, if you lived with her, was irresistible; the attraction of her person, joining with the charm of her conversation and the character that attended all she said or did, was something bewitching. It was a pleasure merely to hear the sound of her voice, with which, like an instrument of many strings, she could pass from one language to another; so that there were few of the barbarian nations that she answered by an interpreter. To most of them she spoke herself, as to the Ethiopians, troglodytes, Hebrews, Arabians, Syrians, Medes, Parthians, and many others, whose language she had learned; which was all the more surprising, because most of the kings her predecessors scarcely gave themselves the trouble to acquire the Egyptian tongue, and several of them quite abandoned the Macedonian.”
[4: We have here the usual lies of courtiers.]
Antony was so captivated by her that, while Fulvia, his wife, maintained his quarrels in Rome against Caesar by actual force of arms, and the Parthian troops, commanded by Labienus — the King’s generals having made him commander-in-chief — were assembled in Mesopotamia, and ready to enter Syria, he could yet suffer himself to be carried away by her to Alexandria, there to keep holiday, like a boy, in play and diversion, squandering and fooling away in enjoyments that most costly, as Antiphon says, of all valuables, time. They had a sort of company, to which they gave a particular name, calling it that of the ‘Inimitable Livers.’
To be continued.
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