In the meantime, Octavianus and Lepidus together had put down Decimus, and Lepidus had then tried to overcome Octavianus, but was himself conquered and banished; for Octavianus, was a kindly man, who never shed blood if he could help it, and, now that he was alone at Rome, won every one’s heart by his gracious ways, while Antonius’ riots in Egypt were a scandal to all who loved virtue and nobleness. So far was the Roman fallen that he even promised Cleopatra to conquer Italy and make Alexandria the capital of the world. Octavia tried to win him back, but she was a grave, virtuous Roman matron, and coarse, dissipated Antonius did not care for her compared with the enticing Egyptian queen. It was needful at last for Octavianus to destroy this dangerous power, and he mustered a fleet and army, while Antonius and Cleopatra sailed out of Alexandria with their ships and gave battle off the Cape of Actium. In the midst, either fright or treachery made Cleopatra sail away, and all the Egyptian ships with her, so that Antonius turned at once and fled with her. They tried to raise the East in their favor, but all their allies deserted them, and their soldiers went over to Alexandria, where Octavianus followed them. Then Cleopatra betrayed her lover, and put into the hands of Octavianus the ships in which he might have fled. He killed himself, and Cleopatra surrendered, hoping to charm young Octavianus as she had done Julius and Antonius, but when she saw him grave and unmoved, and found he meant to exhibit her in his triumph, she went to the tomb of Antonius and crowned it with flowers. The next day she was found on her couch, in her royal robes, dead, and her two maids dying too. “Is this well?” asked the man who found her. “It is well for the daughter of kings,” said her maid with her last breath. Cleopatra had long made experiments on easy ways of death, and it was believed that an asp was brought to her in a basket of figs as the means of her death.
[Illustration: CAIUS OCTAVIUS.]
B.C. 33—A.D. 14.
The death of Antonius ended the fierce struggles which had torn Rome so long. Octavianus was left alone; all the men who had striven for the old government were dead, and those who were left were worn out and only longed for rest. They had found that he was kind and friendly, and trusted to him thankfully, nay, were ready to treat him as a kind of god. The old frame of constitution went on as usual; there was still a Senate, still consuls, and all the other magistrates, but Caesar Octavianus had the power belonging to each gathered in one. He was prince of the Senate, which gave him rule in the city; praetor, which made him judge, and gave him a special guard of soldiers called the Praetorian Guard to execute justice; and tribune of the people, which made him their voice; and even after his triumph he was still imperator, or general of the army. This word becomes in English, emperor, but it meant at this time merely commander-in-chief. He was also Pontifex Maximus, as Julius Caesar had been; and there was a general feeling that he was something sacred and set apart as the ruler and peace-maker; and, as he shared this feeling himself, he took the name of Augustus, which is the one by which he is always known.