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present, sent in at that time by some friend in honor of the occasion. 

The curiosity of the queen was excited to know what the mysterious 

coffer might contain. She ordered it to be opened; and the guests 

gathered around, each eager to obtain the first glimpse of the contents. 

The lid was removed, and a cloth beneath it was raised, when, to the 

unutterable horror of all who witnessed the spectacle, there was seen 

the head and hands of Cleopatra's beautiful boy, lying among masses of 

human flesh, which consisted of the rest of his body cut into pieces. 

The head had been left entire, that the wretched mother might recognize 

in the pale and lifeless features the countenance of her son. Physcon 

had sent the box to Alexandria, with orders that it should be retained 

until the evening of the birth-day, and then presented publicly to 

Cleopatra in the midst of the festivities of the scene. The shrieks and 

cries with which she filled the apartments of the palace at the first 

sight of the dreadful spectacle, and the agony of long-continued and 

inconsolable grief which followed, showed how well the cruel contrivance 

of the tyrant was fitted to accomplish its end. 


It gives us no pleasure to write, and we are sure it can give our 

readers no pleasure to peruse, such shocking stories of bloody cruelty 

as these. It is necessary, however, to a just appreciation of the 

character of the great subject of this history, that we should 

understand the nature of the domestic influences that reigned in the 

family from which she sprung. In fact, it is due, as a matter of simple 

justice to her, that we should know what these influences were, and what 

were the examples set before her in her early life; since the privileges 

and advantages which the young enjoy in their early years, and, on the 

other hand, the evil influences under which they suffer, are to be taken 

very seriously into the account when we are passing judgment upon the 

follies and sins into which they subsequently fall. 


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 

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