History of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt
History of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt
CHAPTER I. THE VALLEY OF THE NILE
The parentage and birth of Cleopatra.-Cleopatra's residence in Egypt.-Physical aspect of Egypt.-The eagle's wings and science.-Physical peculiarities of Egypt connected with the laws of rain.-General laws of rain.-Causes which modify the quantity of rain.-Striking contrasts.-Rainless regions.-Great rainless region of Asia and Africa.-The Andes.-Map of the rainless region.-Valley of the Nile.-The Red Sea.-The oases.-Siweh.-Mountains of the Moon.-The River Nile.-Incessant rains.-Inundation of the Nile.-Course of the river.-Subsidence of the waters.-Luxuriant vegetation.-Absence of forests.-Great antiquity of Egypt.-Her monuments.-The Delta of the Nile.-The Delta as seen from the sea.-Pelusiac mouth of the Nile.-The Canopic mouth.-Ancient Egypt.-The Pyramids.-Conquests of the Persians and Macedonians.-The Ptolemies.-Founding of Alexandria.-The Pharos.
THE story of Cleopatra is a story of crime. It is a narrative of the course and the consequences of unlawful love. In her strange and romantic history we see this passion portrayed with the most complete and graphic fidelity in all its influences and effects; its uncontrollable impulses, its intoxicating joys, its reckless and mad career, and the dreadful remorse and ultimate despair and ruin in which it always and inevitably ends.
Cleopatra was by birth an Egyptian; by ancestry and descent she was a Greek. Thus, while Alexandria and the delta of the Nile formed the scene of the most important events and incidents of her history, it was the blood of Macedon which flowed in her veins. Her character and action are marked by the genius, the courage, the originality, and the impulsiveness pertaining to the stock from which she sprung. The events of her history, on the other hand, and the peculiar character of her adventures, her sufferings, and her sins, were determined by the circumstances with which she was surrounded, and the influences which were brought to bear upon her in the soft and voluptuous clime where the scenes of her early life were laid.
Egypt has always been considered as physically the most remarkable country on the globe. It is a long and narrow valley of verdure and fruitfulness, completely insulated from the rest of the habitable world. It is more completely insulated, in fact, than any literal island could be, inasmuch as deserts are more impassable than seas. The very existence of Egypt is a most extraordinary phenomenon. If we could but soar with the wings of an eagle into the air, and look down upon the scene, so as to observe the operation of that grand and yet simple process by which this long and wonderful valley, teeming so profusely with animal and vegetable life, has been formed, and is annually revivified and renewed, in the midst of surrounding wastes of silence, desolation, and death, we should gaze upon it with never-ceasing admiration and pleasure. We have not the wings of the eagle, but the generalizations of science furnish us with a sort of substitute for them. The long series of patient, careful, and sagacious observations, which have been continued now for two thousand years, bring us results, by means of which, through our powers of mental conception, we may take a comprehensive survey of the whole scene, analogous, in some respects, to that which direct and actual vision would afford us, if we could look down upon it from the eagle's point of view. It is, however, somewhat humiliating to our pride of intellect to reflect that long-continued philosophical investigations and learned scientific research are, in such a case as this, after all, in some sense, only a sort of substitute for wings. A human mind connected with a pair of eagle's wings would have solved the mystery of Egypt in a week; whereas science, philosophy, and research, confined to the surface of the ground, h