[Sidenote: The Alexandrian library.] [Sidenote: Burning of the Alexandrian library.]
During the progress of this Alexandrine war one great disaster occurred, which has given to the contest a most melancholy celebrity in all subsequent ages: this disaster was the destruction of the Alexandrian library. The Egyptians were celebrated for their learning, and, under the munificent patronage of some of their kings, the learned men of Alexandria had made an enormous collection of writings, which were inscribed, as was the custom in those days, on parchment rolls. The number of the rolls or volumes was said to be seven hundred thousand; and when we consider that each one was written with great care, in beautiful characters, with a pen, and at a vast expense, it is not surprising that the collection was the admiration of the world. In fact, the whole body of ancient literature was there recorded. Caesar set fire to some Egyptian galleys, which lay so near the shore that the wind blew the sparks and flames upon the buildings on the quay. The fire spread among the palaces and other magnificent edifices of that part of the city, and one of the great buildings in which the library was stored was reached and destroyed. There was no other such collection in the world; and the consequence of this calamity has been, that it is only detached and insulated fragments of ancient literature and science that have come down to our times. The world will never cease to mourn the irreparable loss.
[Sidenote: Caesar returns to Rome.]
Notwithstanding the various untoward incidents which attended the war in Alexandria during its progress, Caesar, as usual, conquered in the end. The young king Ptolemy was defeated, and, in attempting to make his escape across a branch of the Nile, he was drowned. Caesar then finally settled the kingdom upon Cleopatra and a younger brother, and, after remaining for some time longer in Egypt, he set out on his return to Rome.
[Illustration: Cleopatra’s Barge]
[Sidenote: Subsequent adventures of Cleopatra.]
The subsequent adventures of Cleopatra were as romantic as to have given her name a very wide celebrity. The lives of the virtuous pass smoothly and happily away, but the tale, when told to others, possesses but little interest or attraction; while those of the wicked, whose days are spent in wretchedness and despair, and are thus full of misery to the actors themselves, afford to the rest of mankind a high degree of pleasure, from the dramatic interest of the story.
[Sidenote: Her splendid barge.] [Sidenote: Anthony and Octavius.] [Sidenote: Death of Cleopatra.]