Rome the rival of Alexandria.—Extent of their rule.—Extension of the Roman empire.—Cleopatra’s father.—Ptolemy’s ignoble birth.—Caesar and Pompey.—Ptolemy purchases the alliance of Rome.—Taxes to raise the money.—Revolt at Alexandria.—Ptolemy’s flight.—Berenice.—Her marriage with Seleucus.—Cleopatra’s early life.—Ptolemy an object of contempt.—Ptolemy’s interview with Cato.—Character of Cato.—Ptolemy’s reception.—Cato’s advice to him.—Ptolemy arrives at Rome.—His application to Pompey.—Action of the Roman senate.—Plans for restoring Ptolemy.—Measures of Berenice.—Her embassage to Rome.—Ptolemy’s treachery.—Its consequences.—Opposition to Ptolemy.—The prophecy.—Attempts to evade the oracle.—Gabinius undertakes the cause.—Mark Antony.—His history and character.—Antony in Greece.—He joins Gabinius.—Danger of crossing the deserts.—Armies destroyed.—Mark Antony’s character.—His personal appearance.—March across the desert.—Pelusium taken.—March across the Delta.—Success of the Romans.—Berenice a prisoner.—Fate of Archelaus.—Grief of Antony.—Unnatural joy of Ptolemy.
When the time was approaching in which Cleopatra appeared upon the stage, Rome was perhaps the only city that could be considered as the rival of Alexandria, in the estimation of mankind, in respect to interest and attractiveness as a capital. In one respect, Rome was vastly superior to the Egyptian metropolis, and that was in the magnitude and extent of the military power which it wielded among the nations of the earth. Alexandria ruled over Egypt, and over a few of the neighboring coasts and islands; but in the course of the three centuries during which she had been acquiring her greatness and fame, the Roman empire had extended itself over almost the whole civilized world. Egypt had been, thus far, too remote to be directly reached; but the affairs of Egypt itself became involved at length with the operations of the Roman power, about the time of Cleopatra’s birth, in a very striking and peculiar manner; and as the consequences of the transaction were the means of turning the whole course of the queen’s subsequent history, a narration of it is necessary to a proper understanding of the circumstances under which she commenced her career. In fact, it was the extension of the Roman empire to the limits of Egypt, and the connections which thence arose between the leading Roman generals and the Egyptian sovereign, which have made the story of this particular queen so much more conspicuous, as an object of interest and attention to mankind, than that of any other one of the ten Cleopatras who rose successively in the same royal line.