The monster Physcon lived, it is true, two or three generations before
the great Cleopatra; but the character of the intermediate generations,
until the time of her birth, continued much the same. In fact, the
cruelty, corruption, and vice which reigned in every branch of the royal
family increased rather than diminished. The beautiful niece of Physcon,
who, at the time of her compulsory marriage with him, evinced such an
aversion to the monster, had become, at the period of her husband's
death, as great a monster of ambition, selfishness, and cruelty as he.
She had two sons, Lathyrus and Alexander. Physcon, when he died, left
the kingdom of Egypt to her by will, authorizing her to associate with
her in the government whichever of these two sons she might choose. The
oldest was best entitled to this privilege, by his priority of birth;
but she preferred the youngest, as she thought that her own power would
be more absolute in reigning in conjunction with him, since he would be
more completely under her control. The leading powers, however, in
Alexandria, resisted this plan, and insisted on Cleopatra's associating
her oldest son, Lathyrus, with her in the government of the realm. They
compelled her to recall Lathyrus from the banishment into which she had
sent him, and to put him nominally upon the throne. Cleopatra yielded to
this necessity, but she forced her son to repudiate his wife, and to
take, instead, another woman, whom she fancied she could make more
subservient to her will. The mother and the son went on together for a
time, Lathyrus being nominally king, though her determination that she
would rule, and his struggles to resist her intolerable tyranny, made
their wretched household the scene of terrible a perpetual quarrels. At
last Cleopatra seized a number of Lathyrus's servants, the eunuchs who
were employed in various offices about the palace, and after wounding
and mutilating them in a horrible manner, she exhibited them to the
populace, saying that it was Lathyrus that had inflicted the cruel
injuries upon the sufferers, and calling upon them to arise and punish
him for his crimes. In this and in other similar ways she awakened among
the people of the court and of the city such an animosity against
Lathyrus, that they expelled him from the country. There followed a long
series of cruel and bloody wars, between the mother and the son in the
course of which each party perpetrated against the other almost every
imaginable deed of atrocity and crime. Alexander, the youngest son was
so afraid of his terrible mother, that he did not dare to remain in
Alexandria with her, but went into a sort of banishment of his own
accord. He, however, finally returned to Egypt. His mother immediately
supposed that he was intending to disturb her possession of power, and
resolved to destroy him. He became acquainted with her designs, and,
grown desperate by the long-continued pressure of her intolerable
tyranny, he resolved to bring the anxiety and terror in which he lived
to an end by killing her. This he did, and then fled the country.
Lathyrus, his brother, then returned, and reigned for the rest of his
days in a tolerable degree of quietness and peace. At length Lathyrus
died, and left the kingdom to his son, Ptolemy Auletes, who was the
great Cleopatra's father.

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