A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. — Alexander Tytler

Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber




The Poisonous Snake

Octavius followed Antony and Cleopatra to Egypt as soon as he had made his victory sure. Cleopatra tried many times to make peace with him, but he refused to listen to her unless she would give up Mark Antony. Then the fair Egyptian queen tried to soften the stern young conqueror's heart by the sight of her great beauty. But this plan failed also.

All was now at an end, and Cleopatra knew that Octavius would insist upon her going to Rome, where she would have to appear in his triumph. She could not bear this thought, and made up her mind to die rather than suffer such a disgrace.

In the mean while, Mark Antony had heard that she was already dead; so he called his slave Eros, and bade the man kill him. Eros took the sword, as he was told; but, instead of killing his master, he drove it into his own heart, and fell to the earth, dead. Then Mark Antony drew the sword from the slave's breast, and plunged it into his own. Such was his hesitation, however, that the wound did not prove at once fatal; and he lived to hear that the news he had received was false, and that Cleopatra still lived.

To see her once more, Antony had himself carried to the tower in which the Egyptian queen had taken refuge, with her servants and treasures. But the doors were so well barricaded that they could not be opened. He therefore had himself lifted through a window; but he died just as he was laid at Cleopatra's feet.

After obtaining permission to bury Antony, and assuring herself that there was no hope of escape, Cleopatra lay down upon her couch to die. Taking an asp—a very poisonous serpent—from a basket of fruit in which it was hidden, she allowed it to bite her till she died.

Octavius, warned of her danger, sent in haste to save her; but his officer found her already dead, with her favorite attendants dying at her feet. "Is this well?" he asked of one of these women.

"Yes, it is well!" she answered, and died smiling because her beautiful mistress would never be obliged to follow the conqueror's chariot in the streets of Rome.

By the death of his rival, Octavius now found himself sole ruler; and with Antony the old Roman Republic ends, and the story of the Roman Empire begins.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

The First Settlers
Escape from the Burning City
The Clever Trick
The Boards Are Eaten
The Wolf and the Twins
Romulus Builds Rome
The Maidens Carried Off
Union of Sabines and Romans
Death of Romulus
Strange Signs of the Romans
The Quarrel with Alba
The Horatii and Curiatii
Tarquin and the Eagle
The Roman Youths
The King Outwitted
The Murder of Tarquin
The Ungrateful Children
The Mysterious Books
Tarquin's Poppies
The Oracle of Delphi
The Death of Lucretia
The Stern Father
A Roman Triumph
A Roman Triumph (Cont.)
Defense of the Bridge
The Burnt Hand
The Twin Gods
The Wrongs of the Poor
Fable of the Stomach
The Story of Coriolanus
The Farmer Hero
The New Laws
Death of Virginia
Plans of a Traitor
A School-Teacher Punished
Invasion of the Gauls
The Sacred Geese
Two Heroes of Rome
Disaster at Caudine Forks
Pyrrhus and His Elephants
The Elephants Routed
Ancient Ships
Regulus and the Snake
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
The Romans Defeated
The Inventor Archimedes
The Roman Conquests
Destruction of Carthage
Roman Amusements
The Jewels of Cornelia
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Caius Gracchus
Jugurtha, King of Numidia
The Barbarians
The Social War
The Flight of Marius
The Proscription Lists
Sertorius and His Doe
Revolt of the Slaves
Pompey's Conquests
Conspiracy of Catiline
Caesar's Conquests
Crossing of the Rubicon
Battle of Pharsalia
The Death of Caesar
The Second Triumvirate
The Vision of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
The Poisonous Snake
The Augustan Age
Death of Augustus
Varus Avenged
Death of Germanicus
Tiberius Smothered
The Wild Caligula
Wicked Wives of Claudius
Nero's First Crimes
Christians Persecuted
Nero's Cruelty
Two Short Reigns
The Siege of Jerusalem
The Buried Cities
The Terrible Banquet
The Emperor's Tablets
The Good Trajan
Trajan's Column
The Great Wall
Hadrian's Death
Antoninus Pius
The Model Pagan
Another Cruel Emperor
An Unnatural Son
The Senate of Women
The Gigantic Emperor
Invasion of the Goths
Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra
A Prophecy Fulfulled
First Christian Emperor
Roman Empire Divided
An Emperor's Penance
Sieges of Rome
End of the Western Empire