Ptolemy Auletes, Cleopatra’s father, was perhaps, in personal character, the most dissipated, degraded, and corrupt of all the sovereigns in the dynasty. He spent his whole time in vice and debauchery. The only honest accomplishment that he seemed to possess was his skill in playing upon the flute; of this he was very vain. He instituted musical contests, in which the musical performers of Alexandria played for prizes and crowns; and he himself was accustomed to enter the lists with the rest as a competitor. The people of Alexandria, and the world in general, considered such pursuits as these wholly unworthy the attention of the representative of so illustrious a line of sovereigns, and the abhorrence which they felt for the monarch’s vices and crimes was mingled with a feeling of contempt for the meanness of his ambition.
There was a doubt in respect to his title to the crown, for his birth, on the mother’s side, was irregular and ignoble. Instead, however, of attempting to confirm and secure his possession of power by a vigorous and prosperous administration of the government, he wholly abandoned all concern in respect to the course of public affairs; and then, to guard against the danger of being deposed, he conceived the plan of getting himself recognized at Rome as one of the allies of the Roman people. If this were once done, he supposed that the Roman government would feel under an obligation to sustain him on his throne in the event of any threatened danger.
The Roman government was a sort of republic, and the two most powerful men in the state at this time were Pompey and Caesar. Caesar was in the ascendency at Rome at the time that Ptolemy made his application for an alliance. Pompey was absent in Asia Minor, being engaged in prosecuting a war with Mithradates, a very powerful monarch, who was at that time resisting the Roman power. Caesar was very deeply involved in debt, and was, moreover, very much in need of money, not only for relief from existing embarrassments, but as a means of subsequent expenditure, to enable him to accomplish certain great political schemes which he was entertaining. After many negotiations and delays, it was agreed that Caesar would exert his influence to secure an alliance between the Roman people and Ptolemy, on condition that Ptolemy paid him the sum of six thousand talents, equal to about six millions of dollars. A part of the money, Caesar said, was for Pompey.
The title of ally was conferred, and Ptolemy undertook to raise the money which he had promised by increasing the taxes of his kingdom. The measures, however, which he thus adopted for the purpose of making himself the more secure in his possession of the throne, proved to be the means of overthrowing him. The discontent and disaffection of his people, which had been strong and universal before, though suppressed and concealed, broke out now into open violence. That there should be laid upon them, in addition to all their other