Cleopatra eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 219 pages of information about Cleopatra.

The taxes laid upon the people of Egypt to supply the Ptolemies with funds were, in fact, so heavy, that only the bare means of subsistence were left to the mass of the agricultural population.  In admiring the greatness and glory of the city, therefore, we must remember that there was a gloomy counterpart to its splendor in the very extended destitution and poverty to which the mass of the people were everywhere doomed.  They lived in hamlets of wretched huts along the banks of the river, in order that the capital might be splendidly adorned with temples and palaces.  They passed their lives in darkness and ignorance, that seven hundred thousand volumes of expensive manuscripts might be enrolled at the Museum for the use of foreign philosophers and scholars.  The policy of the Ptolemies was, perhaps, on the whole, the best, for the general advancement and ultimate welfare of mankind, which could have been pursued in the age in which they lived and acted; but, in applauding the results which they attained, we must not wholly forget the cost which they incurred in attaining them.  At the same cost, we could, at the present day, far surpass them.  If the people of the United States will surrender the comforts and conveniences which they individually enjoy—­if the farmers scattered in their comfortable homes on the hill-sides and plains throughout the land will give up their houses, their furniture, their carpets, their books, and the privileges of their children, and then—­withholding from the produce of their annual toil only a sufficient reservation to sustain them and their families through the year, in a life like that of a beast of burden, spent in some miserable and naked hovel—­send the rest to some hereditary sovereign residing upon the Atlantic sea-board, that he may build with the proceeds a splendid capital, they may have an Alexandria now that will infinitely exceed the ancient city of the Ptolemies in splendor and renown.  The nation, too, would, in such a case, pay for its metropolis the same price, precisely, that the ancient Egyptians paid for theirs.

The Ptolemies expended the revenues which they raised by this taxation mainly in a very liberal and enlightened manner, for the accomplishment of the purposes which they had in view.  The building of the Pharos, the removal of the statue of Serapis, and the endowment of the Museum and the library were great conceptions, and they were carried into effect in the most complete and perfect manner.  All the other operations which they devised and executed for the extension and aggrandizement of the city were conceived and executed in the same spirit of scientific and enlightened liberality.  Streets were opened; the most splendid palaces were built; docks, piers and breakwaters were constructed, and fortresses and towers were armed and garrisoned.  Then every means was employed to attract to the city a great concourse from all the most highly-civilized nations then existing.  The highest inducements

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Cleopatra from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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