Cleopatra's Death Scene

Topics: Mark Antony, Cleopatra VII, Julius Caesar Pages: 4 (1711 words) Published: May 7, 2013
"...Cleopatra sent to Caesar a letter which she had written and sealed; and, putting everybody out of the monument but her two women, she shut the doors. Caesar, opening her letter, and finding pathetic prayers and entreaties that she might be buried in the same tomb with Antony, soon guessed what was doing. At first he was going himself in all haste, but, changing his mind, he sent others to see. The thing had been quickly done. The messengers came at full speed, and found the guards apprehensive of nothing; but on opening the doors, they saw her stone-dead, lying upon a bed of gold, set out in all her royal ornaments. Iras, one of her women, lay dying at her feet, and Charmion, just ready to fall, scarce able to hold up her head, was adjusting her mistress's diadem. And when one that came in said angrily, 'Was this well done of your lady, Charmion?' 'Extremely well,' she answered, 'and as became the descendant of so many kings'; and as she said this, she fell down dead by the bedside." Plutarch, Life of Antony (LXXXV.2-3, Dryden trans.)

Cassius Dio relates that, after the naval defeat at Actium (31 BC), Cleopatra hurriedly returned to Egypt to forestall any revolt at home. Once there, she killed those who had rejoiced at her disaster and "proceeded to gather vast wealth from their estates and from various other sources both profane and sacred, sparing not even the most holy shrines" (LI.5.5ff). Her son Caesarion, together with a portion of the royal treasury, was sent up the Nile with the intention that he cross overland by way of Ethiopia and sail on to India. But he was overtaken and executed (LI.15.5; Cleopatra, herself, was to have followed but her ships were burned at the instigation of the Romans). To gain time, emissaries also were sent Caesar with entreaties that her children be allowed to succeed to the throne. Antony himself professed that he was willing to retire to private life or even prepared to kill himself if it would...
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