The Greek Plutarch, who lived much nearer the period of our heroine than Dio, estimated her more justly than most of the Roman historians. His grandfather had heard many tales of both Cleopatra and Antony from his countryman Philotas, who, during the brilliant days when they revelled in Alexandria, had lived there as a student. Of all the writers who describe the Queen, Plutarch is the most trustworthy, but even his narrative must be used with caution. We have closely followed the clear and comprehensive description given by Plutarch of the last days of our heroine. It bears the impress of truth, and to deviate widely from it would be arbitrary.
Unluckily, Egyptian records contain nothing which could have much weight in estimating the character of Cleopatra, though we have likenesses representing the Queen alone, or with her son Caesarion. Very recently (in 1892) the fragment of a colossal double statue was found in Alexandria, which can scarcely be intended for any persons except Cleopatra and Antony hand in hand. The upper part of the female figure is in a state of tolerable preservation, and shows a young and attractive face. The male figure was doubtless sacrificed to Octavianus’s command to destroy Antony’s statues. We are indebted to Herr Dr. Walther, in Alexandria, for an excellent photograph of this remarkable piece of sculpture. Comparatively few other works of plastic art, in which we here include coins, that could render us familiar with our heroine’s appearance, have been preserved.
Though the author must especially desire to render his creation a work of art, it is also requisite to strive for fidelity. As the heroine’s portrait must reveal her true character, so the life represented here must correspond in every line with the civilization of the period described. For this purpose we placed Cleopatra in the centre of a larger group of people, whom she influences, and who enable her personality to be displayed in the various relations of life.
Should the author succeed in making the picture of the remarkable woman, who was so differently judged, as “lifelike” and vivid as it stamped itself upon his own imagination, he might remember with pleasure the hours which he devoted to this book.
TUTZING on the STARNBERGER see, October 5, 1893.
Gorgias, the architect, had learned to bear the scorching sunbeams of the Egyptian noonday. Though not yet thirty, he had directed—first as his late father’s assistant and afterwards as his successor—the construction of the huge buildings erected by Cleopatra in Alexandria.
Now he was overwhelmed with commissions; yet he had come hither ere the hours of work were over, merely to oblige a youth who had barely passed the confines of boyhood.
True, the person for whom he made this sacrifice was Caesarion, the son whom Cleopatra had given to Julius Caesar. Antony had honoured him with the proud title of “King of kings”; yet he was permitted neither to rule nor even to issue orders, for his mother kept him aloof from affairs of state, and he himself had no desire to hold the sceptre.