Monday, 8 February 2016
The tragedy of Calvary. Part 20.
But other troubles now claimed his attention. He heard that Cleopatra wished to get the dominion of all Judea, have Syria attached to her Egyptian kingdom, that Antony under one excuse or another was to dethrone all the rulers in the Orient, that Cleopatra had gotten him to put Lysanias, ruler of the Lebanon mountains, to death, on the ground that he was in league with the Parthians against the Romans, and Herod felt that her influence with Antony would dethrone him. Cleopatra had succeeded in getting dominion over a part of the Nabatean kingdom, forming the whole Judean sea-coast, 1 Tyre and Sidon excepted, and at last Herod had to give up the rich warm oasis of Jericho, with its fertile lands, vast plantations of balsam, palms, and all the lower Jordan valley.
The summons of Antony, asking Herod to come and meet him at Laodicea, the taking away of the sea-coast, and the loss of Jericho made Herod think that his influence with Antony was weakened. He saw that Cleopatra was undermining him; that the members of the Machabean family were turning against him; that the schools of the Rabbis which had flourished since he had taken away their political power were using their influence against him; that Hillei and Shammai, leaders of powerful schools, opposed him; that things were coming to a crisis in the Roman empire; that Antony was spending his time with Cleopatra; that the Caesar had laid his head in the lap of the crafty Egyptian queen, who proposed, through the infatuated emperor, to bring the whole of the vast Roman empire under her sway, by which she would be come the empress of half the known world.
History relates not such a conquest of a ruler as that of Cleopatra over Antony. The latter gave mortal offense at Rome by celebrating the triumphs of Roman arms, not at Rome, as had been the custom since the city began its march of conquest, but he held them at Alexandria. He gave Cleopatra the title of " Queen of kings." He called their two sons, Ptolemy and Alexander, " Kings of kings." He gave Syria, Phenicia and Cilicia to the former, and Armenia, Media and Parthia to the latter. He gave Cyrenaika to their daughter, the younger Cleopatra. He made his mistress Cleopatra Queen of Egypt, Cyprus, Libya and northern Syria, with her son Caesarion sharing the throne with her. He brought it about that he and she would receive divine honors, he as Osiris, she as Isis, like the Pharaohs of former dynasties. He had great statues erected of him and of her as god and goddess. He was so completely under the influence of this crafty debased woman, that he neglected the affairs of the empire, and spent his whole time in feasting and debauchery with her on the banks of the Nile.
The people of Rome became alarmed. The nobles, the patricians, said it was an outrage. Poets sent verses around Rome making Jupiter bark like the dog-headed Egyptian Anubis, holding that the Roman galleys could be outsailed by the boats of the Nile, that Egypt was ruling Rome, etc. Caesar laid the facts before the Roman Senate. Antony made charges against Caesar. Civil war broke out at last, and it was decided at the sea-fight of Actium. For Cleopatra had induced him to risk all on the water that she might fly to Egypt in case of defeat, although Antony had 100,000 men and 12,000 cavalry on land, who could not take part in the battle. Antony was defeated. In the midst of the battle Cleopatra deserted him and fled away, followed by her fleet, leaving him to his fate. Still infatuated with her, later he followed her to Egypt.
1 Josephus, Jewish Wars, I,, 20. 3.; Antiq. xv, 41.