Beacon Lights of History, Volume 03 eBook

John Lord
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 237 pages of information about Beacon Lights of History, Volume 03.

CLEOPATRA.

69-30 B.C.

THE WOMAN OF PAGANISM.

It is my object in this lecture to present the condition of woman under the influences of Paganism, before Christianity enfranchised and elevated her.  As a type of the Pagan woman I select Cleopatra, partly because she was famous, and partly because she possessed traits and accomplishments which made her interesting in spite of the vices which degraded her.  She was a queen, the heir of a long line of kings, and ruled over an ancient and highly civilized country.  She was intellectual, accomplished, beautiful, and fascinating.  She lived in one of the most interesting capitals of the ancient world, and by birth she was more Greek than she was African or Oriental.  She lived, too, in a great age, when Rome had nearly conquered the world; when Roman senators and generals had more power than kings; when Grecian arts and literature were copied by the imperial Romans; when the rich and fortunate were luxurious and ostentatious beyond all precedent; when life had reached the highest point of material splendor, and yet when luxury had not destroyed military virtues or undermined the strength of the empire.  The “eternal city” then numbered millions of people, and was the grandest capital ever seen on this earth, since everything was there concentrated,—­the spoils of the world, riches immeasurable, literature and art, palaces and temples, power unlimited,—­the proudest centre of civilization which then existed, and a civilization which in its material aspects has not since been surpassed.  The civilized world was then most emphatically Pagan, in both spirit and forms.  Religion as a controlling influence was dead.  Only a very few among speculative philosophers believed in any god, except in a degrading sense,—­as a blind inexorable fate, or an impersonation of the powers of Nature.  The future state was a most perplexing uncertainty.  Epicurean self-indulgence and material prosperity were regarded as the greatest good; and as doubt of the darkest kind hung over the future, the body was necessarily regarded as of more value than the soul.  In fact, it was only the body which Paganism recognized as a reality; the soul, God, and immortality were virtually everywhere ignored.

It was in this godless, yet brilliant, age that Cleopatra appears upon the stage, having been born sixty-nine years before Christ,—­about a century before the new revolutionary religion was proclaimed in Judea.  Her father was a Ptolemy, and she succeeded him on the throne of Egypt when quite young,—­the last of a famous dynasty that had reigned nearly three hundred years.  The Ptolemies, descended from one of Alexander’s generals, reigned in great magnificence at Alexandria, which was the commercial centre of the world, whose ships whitened the Mediterranean,—­that great inland lake, as it were, in the centre of the Roman Empire, around whose shores were countless cities

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Beacon Lights of History, Volume 03 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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