Modern men—and it is a revolution greater than that finished in political form in the nineteenth century—have been freed from these bonds, from these obligations. Indeed, modern civilisation has made it a duty for each one to spend, to enjoy, to waste as much as he can, without any disturbing thought as to the ultimate consequences of what he does. The world is so rich, population grows so rapidly, civilisation is armed with so much knowledge in its struggle against the barbarian and against nature, that to-day we are able to laugh at the timid prudence of our forefathers, who had, as it were, a fear of wealth, of pleasure, of love; we can boast in the pride of triumph that we are the first who dare in the midst of a conquered world, to enjoy—enjoy without scruple, without restriction—all the good things life offers to the strong.
But who knows? Perhaps this felicitous moment will not last forever; perhaps one day will see men, grown more numerous, feel the need of the ancient wisdom and prudence. It is at least permitted the philosopher and the historian to ask if this magnificent but unbridled freedom which we enjoy suits all times, and not only those in which nations coming into being can find a small dower in their cradle as you have done—three millions of square miles of land!
In the history of Rome figures of women are rare, because only men dominated there, imposing everywhere the brute force, the roughness, and the egoism that lie at the base of their nature: they honoured the mater familias because she bore children and kept the slaves from stealing the flour from the bin and drinking the wine from the amphore on the sly. They despised the woman who made of her beauty and vivacity an adornment of social life, a prize sought after and disputed by the men. However, in this virile history there does appear, on a sudden, the figure of a woman, strange and wonderful, a kind of living Venus. Plutarch thus describes the arrival of Cleopatra at Tarsus and her first meeting with Antony: