When the time was approaching in which Cleopatra appeared upon the
stage, Rome was perhaps the only city that could be considered as the
rival of Alexandria, in the estimation of mankind, in respect to
interest and attractiveness as a capital. In one respect, Rome was
vastly superior to the Egyptian metropolis, and that was in the
magnitude and extent of the military power which it wielded among the
nations of the earth. Alexandria ruled over Egypt, and over a few of the
neighboring coasts and islands; but in the course of the three centuries
during which she had been acquiring her greatness and fame, the Roman
empire had extended itself over almost the whole civilized world. Egypt
had been, thus far, too remote to be directly reached; but the affairs
of Egypt itself became involved at length with the operations of the
Roman power, about the time of Cleopatra's birth, in a very striking and
peculiar manner; and as the consequences of the transaction were the
means of turning the whole course of the queen's subsequent history, a
narration of it is necessary to a proper understanding of the
circumstances under which she commenced her career. In fact, it was the
extension of the Roman empire to the limits of Egypt, and the
connections which thence arose between the leading Roman generals and
the Egyptian sovereign, which have made the story of this particular
queen so much more conspicuous, as an object of interest and attention
to mankind, than that of any other one of the ten Cleopatras who rose
successively in the same royal line.

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