Part 103

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Golden summer days lasted into October in Athens, but we were far too busy making our military arrangements to notice the swirling leaves or stroll among the b.u.t.terflies, dancing their last. Soon each contingent would depart to take up its watch in different parts of Greece. Antony and I spent many hours perfecting the plans before we were ready to unveil them.

For almost the first time, a major campaign would rely equally on sea and land power. Since neither army would be on its home ground, and Greece had scant food, that meant food supplies must be transported by sea. Theirs would come from Italy, and ours from Egypt. Obviously, whoever could manage to cut the other's lines would starve the enemy army out. So the ships were crucial, and we were proud of ours. Not only did we have more than five hundred warships with every size well represented, but our rowers were expert Greeks and Egyptians. It did little good to have fine ships if the oarsmen were inept. In addition, our admirals Ahen.o.barbus and Sosius were seasoned commanders.

As for the army, we still had the core of Roman legionaries, some of whom were veterans of Parthia and even Philippi, as well as newer recruits. The legionaries numbered some sixty thousand, the light infantry and client kings' soldiers another twenty-five thousand. Amyntas of Galatia had contributed two thousand of the world's best cavalry to the ten thousand we already had. That gave us land forces of almost a hundred thousand men. Antony would lead the troops, with Canidius and Dellius under him, in addition to the kings of Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, Thrace, Cilicia, and Commagene commanding their own forces.

I wished to command my squadron of Egyptian ships, but Antony was hesitant. In the first place, he did not like the idea that we would be separated in battle--one on land, one at sea--but he also worried that Ahen.o.barbus would balk at it. And we needed Ahen.o.barbus's expertise against Agrippa. I held my peace, sensing that things might well be different later. One thing I knew: I would not sit on the sidelines. I would be fighting somewhere.

I also wondered if Caesarion ought to be involved. He was old enough to begin training as a soldier. But Antony was insistent that Antyllus leave and go to the safety of Alexandria, and he urged that Caesarion remain where he was.

"Full-scale war is not the place for boys to learn soldiering," he said. "Especially if one is also the heir. The stakes are too high, the chances of an accident too great." He was so adamant that I bowed to his wishes.

"What you mean is, you don't want them in the way," I said.

"Exactly," he said. "I will have enough to worry about, without them underfoot. And what hostages they would make!"

Still, I wondered if they would not feel cheated afterward. How could a son of Caesar's sit by while a war was fought in his name?

At length, all the details having been perfected, we held a council of war in the enormous Stoa of Attalos near the agora. We needed all that s.p.a.ce to accommodate our men, and to display the maps and make our presentations. It was the last time we would all be together under one roof.

As if to emphasize his Romanness, Antony was wearing his general's costume: buckled bra.s.s and silver cuira.s.s with relief ornamentation, a string of military awards across his chest, a sweeping purple cloak, heavy nailed sandals.

I had been careful to avoid all ornamentation, attiring myself in a plain gown and cloak, and wearing the ancient Egyptian award for military valor, stylized golden flies, which I had earned in raising my army in Ashkelon against my usurping brother, as well as taking my fleet to sea to be used against the a.s.sa.s.sins. I wanted them to realize that one side of me was of a warrior.

Behind us a gigantic map had been fixed to a frame; Antony was standing beside it, spear in hand. Looking straight at us were the faces of all our chief officers and the ten kings. Behind them were the senators. Legates, tribunes, and centurions filled the rest of the hall.

"We have feasted and celebrated, my friends," Antony began. "Now it is time to dedicate ourselves to the coming test. May all the G.o.ds look with favor on us, and give us the victory."

He pointed at the map, tapping the peninsula of Italy to the left with his spear. "Octavian must cross the sea to get here," he said. He gave a laugh, meant to be disarming. "Depending on where he ferries his troops across, the journey may be either long or short. If he departs from here"--he thumped the site of Brundisium--"he will have only about seventy miles to sail to reach Greece. If he chooses Tarentum"--another thump--"and heads south, it will be closer to two hundred miles. What we must do is be prepared to intercept him at either end. Therefore I propose a chain of nine naval stations on sheltered islands just off the coast of Greece, stretching from Corcyra in the north to Crete in the south."

There was a slight murmur; the men were nodding, looking impressed.

"Above Corcyra the coast of Greece is difficult to land on, so we need not worry that Octavian will try that. So we will guard Corcyra, then have a major naval station south of that, at the Gulf of Ambracia. The gulf is ten miles deep and provides safe anchorage from winter storms. The main fleet will winter there."

He looked around for questions. There being none, he continued. "Just off off the Gulf of Ambracia is the island of Leucas, and we will put our third naval station there. Then, proceeding south, almost in the middle of the chain, there will be another at Patrae, on the Gulf of Corinth. There the main army will winter, and I will have my headquarters. Guarding it will be two more stations, at Cephallenia and Ithaca, home of Odysseus. A little farther south, on the island of Zacynthus, Sosius will command his fleet. He has long experience at Zacynthus, having served there for seven years already." the Gulf of Ambracia is the island of Leucas, and we will put our third naval station there. Then, proceeding south, almost in the middle of the chain, there will be another at Patrae, on the Gulf of Corinth. There the main army will winter, and I will have my headquarters. Guarding it will be two more stations, at Cephallenia and Ithaca, home of Odysseus. A little farther south, on the island of Zacynthus, Sosius will command his fleet. He has long experience at Zacynthus, having served there for seven years already."

Sosius stood up and nodded.

"A major station under the command of Bogud of Mauretania will be situated at Methone, in southern Greece. Then, the last one on Greek soil, at Cape Taenarum, will serve to protect our food supply coming from Egypt. Below lies Crete, where our ninth station will be. So you can see, it is a shield stretching down the entire western flank of Greece."

"But what about the Via Egnatia, in northern Greece.7" said Dellius. "Why just abandon it? I don't like it."

"We have no need of it," said Antony. "We cannot receive supplies that way."

"But the enemy can," insisted Dellius.

"No, the enemy will find it of little use if we are south. It only goes east-west, and cannot help them transport supplies over the mountains in our direction. It is a wonderful road, but of no use at all to us in this contest." Antony looked absolutely certain of this.

"Why station the army near the Gulf of Corinth?" asked Ahen.o.barbus.

"If the enemy comes by sea from the west, then we will be ready, and easily deployed toward the coast. If, however, he should make the long overland march through Illyria and come down from the north, we can block him. We will be prepared no matter which direction he comes in." He added, "But I doubt very much he will make an overland march. For one thing, it is almost a thousand miles."

"Better a thousand on land than seventy on the sea!" cried Canidius, playfully.

"Landlubber!" yelled Ahen.o.barbus.

"Keep in mind that this will be a difficult undertaking for Octavian," said Antony. "Time, money, and supplies are on our side. All we have to do is maintain ourselves in Greece, and wait. He He has to get here, keep his troops paid, and transport all supplies. We have had the opportunity to a.s.semble and bring in anything we wish, at our own pace--a great advantage." has to get here, keep his troops paid, and transport all supplies. We have had the opportunity to a.s.semble and bring in anything we wish, at our own pace--a great advantage."

"And where will she she be?" asked Ahen.o.barbus suddenly. be?" asked Ahen.o.barbus suddenly.

I rose. I certainly could speak for myself. "As commander of the Egyptian ships, I shall be with my fleet," I said.

"You own the ships, but do you command them?" Ahen.o.barbus said. "You must have an admiral."

"That is to be settled later," said Antony quickly. " "The Queen will be in Patrae with me for the winter."

I could see this was going to be a bone of contention between us. Well, he was right--it would be settled later.

"Perhaps the Queen should return to Egypt," said Ahen.o.barbus.

Not this again!

Before I could answer, he offered his clever argument. "If she would allow her son to take her place, the troops would perhaps be less confused. After all, he is Caesar's son, and a king in his own right. It would remove the source of Octavian's lurid gossip and put more heart into the soldiers."

Having considered it myself, I had to admit that he raised a good point. Ahen.o.barbus looked surprised, and Antony glared at me.

"It will be settled later," Antony repeated. "In the meantime you will have much to do to set up your stations before winter. We must be securely positioned when the weather turns. And do not forget that I am to be Consul next year--serving along with Octavian. I look forward to January first, when I will a.s.sume the office. I do not plan to relinquish it again!"

But Octavian outmaneuvered us. He had two more tricks in his hand, and in November he pulled both out. He declared Antony's Consulship void, and stripped him of his imperium. imperium. Antony was no longer in his right mind, Octavian declared, and thereby not fit for public office. "He is either heedless or mad--for, indeed, I have heard and believed that he has been bewitched by that accursed woman; her slave, he undertakes a war and its self-chosen dangers on her behalf against us and against his country. Therefore let no one count him a Roman, but rather an Egyptian, nor call him Antony, but rather Serapis. Let no one think he was ever Consul or Imperator, but only gymnasiarch. For he has himself, of his own free will, chosen the latter names instead of the former, and, casting aside all the august t.i.tles of his own land, has become one of the cymbal-players from Canopus. It is impossible for one who leads a life of royal luxury, and coddles himself like a woman, to have a manly thought or do a manly deed." Antony was no longer in his right mind, Octavian declared, and thereby not fit for public office. "He is either heedless or mad--for, indeed, I have heard and believed that he has been bewitched by that accursed woman; her slave, he undertakes a war and its self-chosen dangers on her behalf against us and against his country. Therefore let no one count him a Roman, but rather an Egyptian, nor call him Antony, but rather Serapis. Let no one think he was ever Consul or Imperator, but only gymnasiarch. For he has himself, of his own free will, chosen the latter names instead of the former, and, casting aside all the august t.i.tles of his own land, has become one of the cymbal-players from Canopus. It is impossible for one who leads a life of royal luxury, and coddles himself like a woman, to have a manly thought or do a manly deed."

But did he declare war on him? No, he was far too clever for that. There was still enough sympathy for Antony in Rome to make that too dangerous. Instead he marched to the Temple of Bellona in the Field of Mars and enacted an ancient ceremony.

Leading a solemn procession to the doors of the war G.o.ddess's shrine as festialis festialis priest, followed by men in military cloaks, he dipped a lance in fresh blood and hurled it in the direction of Egypt. priest, followed by men in military cloaks, he dipped a lance in fresh blood and hurled it in the direction of Egypt.

"This foreign queen, who has set her sights on Rome, and wants to rule us, dispensing judgment from the Capitoline hill, as her oaths have revealed--we solemnly declare her our enemy. The Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra of the house of Ptolemy, who has trodden our general underfoot and made him her slave, this Egyptian who worships reptiles and beasts as G.o.ds, feeble in courage, must be vanquished!" he cried, brandishing the lance before throwing it. "We declare a just and righteous war--justum helium--against this foreign sovereign who threatens our state. We must allow no woman to make herself equal to a man!"

All these words, written and witnessed, were delivered into our hands at Patrae. I could almost hear them, could hear Octavian's shrill voice crying them aloud to the crowds and the sky.

HERE ENDS THE SEVENTH SCROLL.

Chapter 72.

THE EIGHTH SCROLL.

"The most blessed New Year to you." I raised my goblet and hailed Antony. Dining with us were our intimates, who followed suit. "Ja.n.u.s, the G.o.d who looks both ways, open this year to us and shower his blessings on us."

Antony allowed himself to be saluted, then announced that he had small gifts for everyone. Boxes were distributed; each contained thirty gold coins, the magnificent issue he had struck to honor each of his thirty legions, as well as his praetorian bodyguard and corps of scouts. Each displayed the eagle and standards on one side, and a warship of our fleet on the other. They were worth a fortune, and our friends were stunned. It seemed that Antony's generosity was something one never grew used to.

"Hail, Consul!" one said, since our Senate--the legal one--had duly declared Octavian's action in appointing Messalla Corvinus as his replacement invalid. But all this was just a game. The legality of our actions, or Octavian's, could be ratified only one way now: by arms.

While we waited in Patrae, winter storms lashed the seas. But we were secure, tucked away in the protecting Gulf of Corinth. It was an interesting part of Greece--or would be, in better weather. We were not far from Olympia, where the Games were held, and its world-famous statue of Zeus. But this was not the time for sightseeing. In the other direction lay the ruins of old Corinth and the new colony set up by Caesar. The city itself lay on the sh.o.r.e just beyond a fertile area of orchards and vineyards.

Antyllus had been dispatched to Alexandria, there to make himself a home with his half brothers and sister; I hoped they would welcome him warmly. It could not be easy for him to be uprooted from the only home he had ever known and sent to a new one, with neither father nor mother to ease the shock. I had written letters exhorting the twins and Caesarion to be friendly.

Before leaving Athens, the client kings had all sworn allegiance to Antony, in a pale imitation of the oaths Octavian had extracted in Italy. And Antony had in turn sworn to them that he would fight on without reconciliation. While in Athens, Herod had whispered what he thought was astute advice into Antony's ear: kill me and annex Egypt. He said it made perfect sense, and would solve the problem of the contention in our camp.

So. Herod could not be allowed to partic.i.p.ate directly in our campaign. But he could still be used; I tied him up in his own country, fighting the Nabataean king, who had been tardy in paying his rent for the bitumen.

With our large reserves of money, and our ability to mint coins--Antony still possessed a mint in Italy itself--we distributed bribes to key people in Rome, in order to contrast ourselves against Octavian's extractions and taxes. This made us, for a time at least, very popular.

Yes, everything looked favorable. On January first, the new year, Ja.n.u.s seemed to be facing ahead with a boundless future for us. We had mountains of money, an enormous fleet and army, unlimited food supplies from Egypt, and the best general in the world leading us.

Was that when I was the happiest? Are we happiest when we are holding everything that is dear to us, or when we are reaching out, in all confidence and hope, to grasp it? I think for me it was when it was there, nearby, almost there, within sight, and the waiting was only a delicious sauce poured over the days, drenching them with sweet antic.i.p.ation.

When I think of that winter, for some reason the color red seems to permeate the days and nights. Both our dining chamber and our sleeping quarters were painted deep, brooding red, and the floor of the council chamber was of purple-red porphyry; the chill rain and wind meant that coals were always glowing red-eyed in braziers, and torches flaming. I had several warm wool gowns dyed the most striking scarlet, and I always felt felt warmer when I had them on. Antony, too, had tunics of that shade, as well as thick mantles in a duller rust color. Even the sun--on the days that it shone--slanted into the windows in rays dipped in rubies, pooling on the floor. We had discovered an exquisite local wine, so dark its depths only gave off glints of red, but red it was nonetheless. We drank it some nights until our heads barely started to spin, and then we set the goblets carefully on the small table and retired to our bed, there to experience the heightened feelings that a small amount of wine can induce. warmer when I had them on. Antony, too, had tunics of that shade, as well as thick mantles in a duller rust color. Even the sun--on the days that it shone--slanted into the windows in rays dipped in rubies, pooling on the floor. We had discovered an exquisite local wine, so dark its depths only gave off glints of red, but red it was nonetheless. We drank it some nights until our heads barely started to spin, and then we set the goblets carefully on the small table and retired to our bed, there to experience the heightened feelings that a small amount of wine can induce.

And, oh! how I loved to hold him, touch him, those long nights in Patrae. Since Pergamon, he had forsaken his former careless eating and drinking, and now he was again the Antony of years ago. Exercise had burned off the flesh of ease and excess, leaving his arms and shoulders hard, his belly flat, his thighs lean and strong. The young Antony had returned, the soldier who had shone bright for Caesar. This was the Antony I had first loved at Tarsus, now come back to me in glory.

Lying in bed, half-covered by the blankets, I would drowsily ask why he had come to my door that night long ago. It had become a ritual for us, as it does for all lovers: where, when, why? remember. where, when, why? remember. ... ... I understand even old people rehea.r.s.e their private religion of how they first loved, most guarded of secrets. And he would answer, sleep blurring his words, "Because I had to." The question and the answer were always the same. I understand even old people rehea.r.s.e their private religion of how they first loved, most guarded of secrets. And he would answer, sleep blurring his words, "Because I had to." The question and the answer were always the same. Why? Because I had to. Why? Because I had to.

And I would lean down and kiss his lips, holding his face in my hands, feeling his cheekbones under my fingers, tracing the round rim of his eye sockets, kissing his closed eyes. He would murmur and reach up, slowly, to put one hand in my hair, first caressing it and then clutching my head in his strong fingers. His kiss would change, and sleep would slide away, replaced by the urgency of desire and the loosening of restraints that the magic of wine conferred. Soon we would be lost in the thickets of body-madness, seeking to reach one another in a way we never had before. We never did, and it was good we did not, because then it would have become the past rather than the future.

I never grew tired of him, of the physical essence of him. We are more than our bodies, it is true; but we cannot be divorced from them. They are are us, and the only way in which we can see one another. Perhaps the G.o.ds are above this, but in their mercy, they have given us the guide of bodies. We cannot go too far astray that way. And I loved Antony in his bodily form-- Isis help me, how I loved it! us, and the only way in which we can see one another. Perhaps the G.o.ds are above this, but in their mercy, they have given us the guide of bodies. We cannot go too far astray that way. And I loved Antony in his bodily form-- Isis help me, how I loved it!

The days pa.s.sed--days in waiting, in the luxury of breathing slowly, enjoying our food, our long-neglected interests, and each other. In some ways it was like regressing in time, back to when we had simpler lives. Our children were not with us, nor were our ministers and officers, and we were not in our home countries. The obligatory formal daily audiences were gone. In place of them we could read, exercise, write, daydream. All of them were necessary to nurture what we were, to make us truly Antony and Cleopatra, the selves beyond the public persons--the selves that had originally given rise to the public persons.

"I wonder," I said idly to Antony, one midnight as we lay in one another's arms, "what we would have been without one another?" My head was resting on his chest, and I was savoring the warmth of it, soothed by the barely felt heartbeat under my ear.

"You would have been the great widowed Queen of Egypt, and I a partner with Octavian, shouldering what Caesar had left behind . . . perhaps always yearning for what was lost, but knowing that it was gone. No man is his equal; no man can duplicate what he would have done. It would have been, by the world's judgment, a worthwhile life."

"But lacking."

He kissed the top of my head. "Oh yes. Very lacking. Strange how what is worthwhile can be so lacking."

"And now ... we are trying to forge a new world. Would Caesar approve, do you think?"

He paused a long time. I wondered if he had gone to sleep. Finally he said, "Even Caesar was bound by his time. Time has now gone past him left him behind."

How that hurt! To think of Caesar as finite, finished, over, a prisoner of time.

"He would say to us," Antony continued, " 'Pursue your dream. Only take care of the details. Dreams without details cannot come true.' Just as I cannot make love to you without a body"--he pulled me against him--"soldiers cannot march without boots. Remember the boots; remember the details."

"Yes. The boots--" But he was pressing up against me in a way that told me he was not ready for sleep. Neither was I.

"I feel guilty," I murmured, "since I am enjoying this time so much. I should be anguished and tortured with the waiting, and instead it has been a gift. A gift of time, a gift of thought, a gift of one another." I ran my hand through his hair, his hair that was still thick and felt springy and healthy.

He loosened the front of my gown, and slowly kissed the hollow of my throat and my shoulders, then the tops of my b.r.e.a.s.t.s. "Then open the gift," he said, "and stop talking."

The G.o.ds s.n.a.t.c.hed away the respite, our little island of time. January spun away, then half of February. And in spite of the seas, reports from Rome struggled through. Octavian's forces were still being readied, and he was putting the final touches on his campaign to win the hearts and minds of the Romans.

As I said earlier, we still had many favorable to us in Rome. Antony's family, his long-standing aristocratic ties, his service to his country, had not been forgotten. Then, our monetary bribes had done much to remind people that there were powers other than Octavian and his lot. So, before he could leave the capital, Octavian still had much work to do.

One bl.u.s.tery day in February, Aulus Cossus arrived on a ship, bearing copies of Octavian's speeches. Protocol demanded that we receive him graciously, and that we did, although his arrival was an unwelcome jolt and return to the ugly world outside awaiting us.

We received him informally, hoping to put him at his ease. He was an old friend of Antony's mother, and had abstained from the tumult of choosing sides in Rome.

"I'm too old," he said, "and no one is interested in me. A blessing." He was a spindly man, and so dried up it was no wonder no one was interested in him. "I still miss your mother," he said simply.

"As do I," said Antony. She had died while he was in Parthia. At least she had been spared knowing--for Antony would have had to have told her her the truth--of the disaster there. Now all Antony's family was dead: his father, two brothers, and mother. As were mine. We had only each other. the truth--of the disaster there. Now all Antony's family was dead: his father, two brothers, and mother. As were mine. We had only each other.

"I must tell you," he said, "that Octavian's speeches and doings have been well received. Here." He thrust a copy of the speech Octavian had given on the steps of the Senate house into our hands.

Antony took it and read it, slowly. His smile faded as he went along, and then, wordlessly, he handed it to me. He stood up, and, arm around Cossus's shoulders, walked toward the covered portico where we showed guests the artworks as a diversion.

I read it. Octavian had opened all gates in this one. He left no abuse unuttered. After reviewing his mighty military resources, he began blasting me.

For us, Romans and lords of the greatest and best portion of the world, to be trodden underfoot by an Egyptian woman is unworthy of our fathers; it is unworthy also of ourselves. Should we not be acting most disgracefully if we should meekly bear the insults of her throng, who, oh heavens! are Alexandrians and Egyptians (what worse or what truer name could one apply to them?), who are slaves to a woman and not to a man? Who would not lament at seeing Roman soldiers acting as bodyguards of this Queen? Who would not groan at hearing that Roman knights and senators fawn upon her like eunuchs? Who would not weep when he both hears and sees Antony himself, the man twice Consul, often Imperator--when he sees this man has now abandoned all his ancestors' habits of life, has emulated all alien and barbaric customs, that he pays no honor to us or to the laws of his father s G.o.ds, but pays homage to that wench as if she were some Isis or Selene--calling her children Helios and Selene, and finally taking for himself the t.i.tle of Osiris or Dionysus, and, after this, making presents of whole islands and parts of the continents, as though he were master of the whole earth and the sea? us, Romans and lords of the greatest and best portion of the world, to be trodden underfoot by an Egyptian woman is unworthy of our fathers; it is unworthy also of ourselves. Should we not be acting most disgracefully if we should meekly bear the insults of her throng, who, oh heavens! are Alexandrians and Egyptians (what worse or what truer name could one apply to them?), who are slaves to a woman and not to a man? Who would not lament at seeing Roman soldiers acting as bodyguards of this Queen? Who would not groan at hearing that Roman knights and senators fawn upon her like eunuchs? Who would not weep when he both hears and sees Antony himself, the man twice Consul, often Imperator--when he sees this man has now abandoned all his ancestors' habits of life, has emulated all alien and barbaric customs, that he pays no honor to us or to the laws of his father s G.o.ds, but pays homage to that wench as if she were some Isis or Selene--calling her children Helios and Selene, and finally taking for himself the t.i.tle of Osiris or Dionysus, and, after this, making presents of whole islands and parts of the continents, as though he were master of the whole earth and the sea?

I shut my eyes a moment. I could see it all from the Romans' point of view, knew that if only Antony were able to return and show himself to them . . . But the animosity stirred up by Octavian made that impossible. Oh, he had been so thorough in his plans and his malice!

I forced myself to continue reading. I had to see it all.

Yet I myself was so devoted to him that I gave him a share in our command, married my sister to him, and granted him legions.

As if it were all in Octavian's gift! A if it were all in Octavian's gift! A share . . . granted him . . . share . . . granted him . . .

After that I felt so kindly, so affectionately, toward him, that I was unwilling to wage war on him merely because he had insulted my sister, or because he neglected the children she had borne him, or because he preferred the Egyptian woman to her, or because he bestowed upon that woman's children practically all your possessions, or for any other cause. I did not think it proper to a.s.sume the same att.i.tude toward Antony Antony as toward Cleopatra; for I adjudged her, if only on account of her foreign birth, to be an enemy by reason of her very conduct, but I believed that he, as a citizen, might still be brought to reason. as toward Cleopatra; for I adjudged her, if only on account of her foreign birth, to be an enemy by reason of her very conduct, but I believed that he, as a citizen, might still be brought to reason.

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