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Organización Interna de las Ciudades Hispanas


Con el término oficial de ordo decurionum se designaba al consejo ciudadano que aseguraba la autonomía interna de las colonias, de los municipios y de las ciudades libres y federadas, en algunos lugares se emplea el término senatus, el numero de los miembros del consejo dependía del numero de habitantes, lo más normal es que fuesen unos 100, los miembros del consejo posiblemente fueran elegidos según las normas establecidas por César en su lex Iulia Municipalis, por lo tanto elegidos por los quinquenales cada cinco años, pero en algunos lugares fueron elegidos por los decuriones anteriores o por el pueblo, los elegidos eran las personas más destacadas de la ciudad, uno de los requisitos para ser elegidos era ser libres, aunque en Urso se admite a los libertos, no podían haber sufrido condena por calumnias, hurto, engaños, infamias, infidelidad o corrupción de menores, se exigía como mínimo tener 30 años, cuando se convirtió en un cargo hereditario la edad se redujo a los 18, se requería también que el domicilio estuviera en la ciudad en un área de 100 pasos a la redonda y tenía que tener un censo apropiado, este cargo era vitalicio aunque podían ser expulsados, eran el estrato más elevado de la ciudad, se distinguían por sus vestidos y calzados, tenían puestos de honor en los espectáculos públicos y uso gratuito del servicio de aguas municipales, en algunas ciudades algunas personas destacadas podían llegar a obtener este cargo de forma honorífica.
Las magistraturas más importantes de las ciudades eran las de duoviri (autoridad suprema de la ciudad, tenían intercessio frente a los otros magistrados, cada cinco años elaboraban un censo de los ciudadanos, por lo que recibían el nombre de quinquenales, se encargan de la administración de los ingresos de la ciudad, presiden las sesiones del senado, las elecciones y proclamación de magistrados, la administración de justicia y pueden borrar de la lista a los decuriones considerados indignos), sacerdotes (constituían dos colegios, el de los pontífices y el de augures), aediles (vigilaban los mercados con funciones de policía, visten toga praetexta, no cobran y tienen que dar fiestas poniendo una cantidad de dinero, tenían derecho a veto entre ellos y podían poner multas, pueden participar en las reuniones del senado pero no tienen derecho a voto), quaestores (era el escalón más bajo, eran generalmente dos, aunque podían ser más, se limitaban a custodiar el tesoro público, no tienen jurisdicción), quatoviri (cuando los duoviris forman un colegio con los ediles).
En los municipios existe un culto oficial al frente del cual tenemos a 3 pontífices y 3 augures que forman un colegio, los pontífices se encargan de los hospicios. Otro aspecto de la  religiosidad es el desarrollo al culto imperial,  para ello existe los flamines y flaminicas, es un culto que se fomenta para vincular estas ciudades con el emperador, las personas elegidas para ello eran cuasi sacerdotes y cuasi magistrados, son los seviri augustales, normalmente son libertos que así se promocionan socialmente, los libertos con mayor poder económico intentan ser escogidos, los serviri además de cuidar el culto hacen concesiones a la ciudad, costean  fiestas, monumentos, etc. para olvidar su origen de esclavo.  Todas la ciudades tienen un alto nivel monumental que sobrepasa el número y capacidad de sus habitantes,  desde que finalizan las guerras civiles con la Paz augusta, se inició una fiebre constructiva que dura hasta el siglo II, se levantan foros, Capitolios, basílicas, termas, acueductos, teatros, anfiteatros, se construyen casas lujosas, vías, puentes, etcétera. Este dinero sale de los curiales, de los patronos y a veces de la beneficencia imperial caso excepcional de Italia, esta actitud da prestigio, la gente que viene a las colonias quieren formar fortuna para acceder al orden decurional, el orden decurional está formado por hombres ricos que ganan fortuna en el comercio y lo invierten en tierras que es lo que les da prestigio, son importantes propietarios rurales que viven en la ciudad con un nivel de vida ostentoso, estas propiedades sirven de garantía ante una posible malversación de fondos públicos y ante el honor de ser descubierto pagan una suma honoraria, está actitud se llama evegertismo, que es favorecer a la comunidad porque se piensa que la única forma de vida digna en la ciudad, aunque les cueste dinero les gusta figurar. La clase decurional desde un punto de vista intelectual es mediocre, son el soporte vital de la cultura antigua y por ello el soporte del imperio, cuando esta clase desaparezca en el bajo imperio, la vida urbana decaerá porque ellos eran los que hacían que la vida urbana fuera atractiva, cuando una ciudad ya no es atractiva, la plebe se adscribe a la vida rústica, y cuando decae la vida urbana decae el imperio. Este panorama de alguna forma perdura hoy.
La administración fiscal municipal:
La gestión de los municipios o colonias, vienen del disfrute de patrimonios adscritos que son rentas públicas, esto libera al estado de cargas financieras que no puede soportar, de esta manera los municipios tienen libertad para recaudar tributos y libertad para manejar estos fondos, que no quiere decir que no hubiera intervención del estado que también necesita estos fondos.
Los municipios tienen el disfrute del patrimonio inmobiliario con los cuales hace frente a sus gastos, los propios municipios se autofinanciación, la capacidad para imponer las munemas es lo que magnífica una ciudad. Los municipios tienen unos gastos fijos que tienen que atender con sus propios recursos, algunos de estos gastos son aportados por personajes importantes de la ciudad, entre los gastos fijos tenemos el pago de personal subalterno que atiende a los magistrados, sufragar las fiestas, los cultos, las embajadas y mantener los edificios, además tienen que hacer frente a las retribuciones extraordinarias que les exige el estado de Roma, como el correo, mantener las redes pequeñas de comunicación, el ejército, etc. para hacer frente a estos gastos las ciudades se aprovechan de los recursos de las propiedades públicas, una parte del suelo público es inalienable, no se puede vender, pero sí arrendar, los arrendamientos de más de cinco años  derivan en perpetuos, de esta manera se prohibió arrendarlos por más de cinco años, aunque estos contratos se podían renovar, algunas propiedades puede estar muy lejos incluso en los territorios de otras ciudades, pueden ser canteras, bosques, minas, etc. las propiedades de los municipios pueden ser de tres tipos:
Tenemos los bienes dentro del territorio donde el titular es el populus, son los del pueblo vicus y pagus, otros bienes que también se encuentran dentro del territorio son llamados la rex públicas son terrenos del municipio y por último otros bienes que corresponden al emperador son los llamados Imperator.  las tierras con pascua son reservadas para los pastos comunales, éstos son necesarios para el ganado trashumante, el ager compascuas pertenece a la comunidad. Los agrimensores atestiguan que en los territorios se respetaban ciertos aspectos de la configuración preromana, Roma para no alterar esta situación aprovecha estas fórmulas de las que se benefician varias comunidades, esto es odioso para los romanos ya que a ellos les gusta marcar bien los límites territoriales. Las tierras municipales son muy pequeñas, por eso necesitan de estos terrenos comunales, éstos ager compascuas son tierras abiertas, pero dentro de ella tenemos tres categorías, la compacua que pertenece a la ciudad como ente jurídico diferente al ciudadano, son tierras destinadas al uso de la utilidad pública son inalienables, se inscriben en el catastro como Silvae y pascua, el propietario es la rex pública, el segundo tipo de tierras es de la ciudad pero no como ente jurídico, sino de todos los individuos, propiedad del populus, abierto al uso de todos los colonos mediante un canon, estas se pueden vender, pero por decisión de la curia municipal, y la tercera compascua son las propiedades particulares de uso colectivo, a partir de esto se evoluciona a la propiedades legales, proceso de privatización donde desaparece todo lo público, algunas fuentes dicen que en el suelo de la Bética había muchas tierras destinadas a este uso colectivo, Estrabón habla de los pastos de Gades, Columela habla de Córdoba donde se crían ovejas, etcétera. Esto no indica que hay un aprovechamiento ganadero grande que exige muchas tierras comunales ager compascuas. Junto a estas tierras también son importantes los suelos municipales de bosques públicos e inalienables, son comunitarias pero ocurre como en el caso anterior que poco a poco se privatizan, muchas comunidades tuvieron muchos de estos suelos sobre todo en las sierras, además las comunidades pueden ser dueños de canteras, minas, Salinas, etc. apenas tenemos datos de esto, pero por las fuentes sabemos que el emperador quitó muchas de estas propiedades a las comunidades, sobre todo minas o canteras, por eso sabemos que pertenecían a las comunidades.
Lo que determina la vida cotidiana es la administración municipal. Aunque es difícil saber los límites del municipio, estos existen. Dentro de la frontera municipal se establecen otras líneas para definir distintas categorías de suelos, estas diferencian las propiedades particulares de las públicas, son límites importantes y para controlarlos existe un personal especializado llamado agrimensor, tenemos información que procede de Osuna que nos dice que cuenta con más límites internos llamados fosos limítales, la ley prohibe obstaculizar estos fosos de agua que delimitan las zonas, pero esto ocurre y se habla de litigios entre municipios vecinos, o de poseedores que tienen sus terrenos en los límites del territorio y se apropian de tierra que no les pertenecen, cuando ocurría esto se llevaba ante el gobernador o ante el emperador, un juez era el encargado, se comprobaba el catastro por el agrimensor, en el catastro aparecían los límites de los terrenos y eran depositados todos los datos en el tabularium que se encontraba en la capital de la provincia.
Dentro del municipio hay entidades administrativas menores, estos a veces proceden de las comunidades antiguas y sobre ellos se establecen las nuevas practicas, existen hábitat de campesinos que mantienen sus instituciones tradicionales, estos sobreviven en el entorno rural de una manera ancestral, son núcleos pequeños y mal conocidos ya que excavarlos es casi imposible por que estos asentamientos son muy perecederos, a pesar de ello en cualquier excavación realizada en el valle del Guadalquivir aparecen restos de estos asentamientos, pero nos proporcionan pocos datos, los criterios para estos asentamientos son variados, se suelen situar cerca de fuentes termales, vías de comunicación, junto a centros de peregrinación, etc. la diferencia con las aglomeraciones urbanas no son muchas en cuanto a su economía ya que ambas son agrarias, en lo cultural si existirá esta diferencia, toda comunidad colonial o municipal se gobierna desde la ciudad y existen asentamientos subordinados, el primer nivel en estos asentamientos esta formado por el pagus, suele haber varios pagus en el territorio, estos hacen referencia a tierras comunales, bosques, pastos, etc. pero en el caso de Hispania tendrá otra definición, será una creación nueva de la administración romana para explotar el territorio, hablamos de un distrito rural delimitado con vistas a la recaudación de impuestos, una vez creados pueden funcionar con una personalidad jurídica propia que se proyecta al plano religioso como todo en la antigüedad y se consagra a una divinidad o espíritu particular.
Dentro de un pagus puede o no puede haber aldeas, es ante todo un concepto territorial, sus fronteras pueden ser artificiales o naturales, cada pagus tiene un núcleo central donde se realiza el mercado, es un espacio abierto y despejado llamado forum, es donde se producen las ferias, el intercambio de productos, como en todo lo sagrado esta relacionado con este mercado y es una fiesta, el pagus tiene sus propios magistrados que tiene  que saber de los habitantes del mismo, las propiedades que poseen, sus límites, ejecutan los sacrificios, cobran impuestos, etc.. puede darse algún caso de alguna comunidad tan pequeña que no se dividía en pagus, pero no era lo normal, donde más referencias encontramos de estos pagus es en la epigrafía, se suelen denominar pagus de seguido del nombre de un accidente geográfico que le haga conocido o por un nombre honorífico como el pagus de Augusto, etc. dentro de estos pagus podemos tener los vicus, estos vicus son asentamientos rurales de dimensiones variables, se localizan en el territorio municipal que depende de la ciudad a la que esta inscrita el vicus, puede tener personalidad jurídica ya que reciben subvenciones, pueden contener santuarios locales y eligen a sus propios magistrados anuales, pueden tener más o menos importancia pero con la misma funcionalidad agrícola y comercial, en el vicus se realizan las ferias ya que se encuentran en el paso de los caminos y es utilizado para el control de la recaudación fiscal, en Hispania los vicus suelen tener tipología indígena, pero estos vicus suelen encontrarse más en las zonas menos romanizadas, en las zonas como la Bética que están más romanizadas estos vicus acaban convirtiéndose en municipios, al haber más ciudades y menos espacios entre ellas, las propiedades rurales son muy accesibles desde la ciudad y no hace falta el vicus.
Otra entidad es el fundus, los pagus estan subdivididos en fundus, el fundus es una granja familiar, son construcciones muy modestas, no hablamos de villaes, sabemos muchos nombres de los fundus de la Bética, pueden terminar en S o ense, también pueden hacer referencia a la geografía del terreno, muchas de estas tipografías las encontramos en las ánforas, en ellas se marca el origen del producto, fundus de tal o cual, a partir de Cesar y Augusto es cuando más se desarrollan estos fundus, algunos se pueden convertir en villaes, pero no es lo normal ya que estan muy cerca de las ciudades y el propietario vive en la ciudad desplazándose de vez en cuando para ver su propiedad, por eso son muy humildes y alberga a la familia que lo trabaja, encontramos muchos de estos fundus en el valle del Guadalquivir y no son entidades administrativas, sino privadas. También nos encontramos dentro del territorio del municipio a los saltus, son lugares públicos donde se expande la ganadería, son lugares boscosos o de pastos, sobre todo los encontramos en las sierras. Otro termino es la contributio, en los municipios que no existen grandes ciudades para ejercer la capitalidad, se designan dos o más poblados que juntos obtienen esta capitalidad del municipio, son fusionados y no subordinados unos a otros, son todos iguales y juntos se encargan de llevar el municipio, esta práctica se utiliza mucho en época imperial, aunque procede de época republicana, si bien en sus funciones conservan ciertas autonomías en la administración ordinaria y cotidiana.
A partir de lo dicho podemos hablar de los modelos de convivencia cívica en las ciudades romanas, lo más característico es la diversidad estatutaria, esta hace que se aprecien bien las diferencias étnicas, jurídicas, etc. pero de que manera se integran en la estructura de la ciudad los diferentes grupos, esto será esencial para saber como se pasa de una entidad indígena a una ciudad romana, el primer punto a saber es como son las relaciones de los centros rurales con la ciudad, para esta gente la ciudad es un mundo de privilegios y de desarrollo económico, dentro de este recinto la población tiende a diluirse desapareciendo lo no romano, esto ocurre en Hispania desde la época de Cesar y Augusto. El componente básico de una ciudad es el disfrute de unos derechos para todos, donde más se viven estos derechos es en las colonias, esta palabra deriva del verbo cultivar, en sentido estricto sería una colonia agrícola, en principio el municipio es más autónomo que la colonia ya que tienen más libertades, pero esto cambia en época imperial y se valora más a la colonia que al municipio, en Itálica se pide el cambio de municipio a colonia ya que aunque el municipio tenga más libertades, la colonia tiene más prestigio, más tarde será lo mismo una que otra.
Las Fuentes nos dicen que en ocasiones surgía litigios entre comunidades y particulares que usaban tierras públicas  y por ese motivo existe una intervención imperial, Frontino dice que los particulares se apropiaban parte de las tierras públicas, también mucho arrendatarios de las tierras públicas en la práctica se convertirían en propiedades privadas porque se renovaban continuamente, con objeto de evitar esta intromisión en las tierras públicas, las comunidades efectúan un peritaje del terreno realizado por los agrimensores, la explotación de los terrenos públicos del municipio se hacía de dos formas: directamente o indirectamente, de una forma u otra está explotación era una fuente de ingreso para los municipios, muchas veces se arriendan las propiedades públicas, esto es lo que se llama una locatio, el procedimiento para efectuar las locationes esta recogido en las leyes municipales de Málaga, los duoviri son los facultados para realizar estos contratos que tienen que dar a conocer,  estos contratos se registran en el archivo municipal, eran de carácter personal, los bienes hipotecados por este procedimiento se llaman praedia. Los duoviri se encargan también de recibir las tazas de arrendamiento o arrendaban el cobro a particulares. Las locationes se refieren también a cualquier servicio público, se puede arrendar el cobro de la renta de una venta pública, esto lleva a una privatización continua por eso hace falta mucha administración, el importe de esa renta varía en función de la ciudad, las personas que contrataban una de estas casas se llaman conductores y están obligados a garantizar personalmente e inmobiliariamente el contrato y tienen que presentar avalistas que respondían con sus bienes incluso futuros.

El capítulo de ingresos municipales se completa con la suma honoraria, multas y explotación de aduanas locales excepcionalmente. Las leyes municipales son precisas en la gestión de los fondos comunales, la curia ejerce un control permanente sobre esta cuestión, los que efectuaban la gestión tenían que rendir cuentas, las comunidades tomaban precauciones por si había irregularidades, la ley de Osuna establece que los decuriones tenían que vivir en la ciudad o a cien pasos alrededor, y así la comunidad podría ejercer un control sobre sus propiedades. Cuando había comicios, los magistrados exigían a los candidatos la presentación de garantías para mantener intactas las finanzas comunitarias, para eso los candidatos tenían que ofrecer una garantía de carácter personal, podía exigírsele una garantía hipotecaria sobre sus bienes inmuebles, algo que tienen pocos, bienes sobretodo rústicos lo confirma que la oligarquía territorial es de carácter terratenientes. La garantía puede ser también de carácter urbano, porque el suelo urbano también era bueno para negociar, las comunidades también alquilan las propiedades urbanas igual que los particulares. La fortuna personal es requisito para ser candidato a magistrado, por eso los decuriones evalúan  previamente al candidato desde el punto de vista económico ya que tienen que impedir que los pobres accedan al ordo local, continuamente se revisaba la situación de los decuriones  para mantener el grado de dignidad de la curia, o sea su fortuna, cada cinco años los duoviri  revisaban la lista viendo cómo había evolucionado la fortuna de esas personas. Entre periodo y periodo a veces se producirán bajas en la curia que eran cubiertas por elección interna. Todos los magistrados son miembros del ordo decurional y los que no son miembros de ese ordo por falta de fortuna no pueden ser magistrados, para saber si la persona tiene dignidad, fortuna, existía un censo,  puede darse el caso de que ningún candidato se presente a una candidatura y se efectúa una nominatio, pero no de alguien sin capacidad económica, el mínimo exigido  varía según la ciudad, también hay que tener en cuenta el factor de la dispersión de la propiedad que explica que haya personas que desempeñan funciones públicas en diferente municipios. ¿Hasta qué punto los gobiernos municipales actuaban con sentido de responsabilidad?.  Después del II, el imperio tiene que designar curatores para que supervisen la gestión municipal, está nos indica que existe la corrupción, la ley de Osuna establece que los magistrados están vetados para recibir gratificaciones de los conductores esta prohibición se extendía a sus familiares más próximos, también al personal subalterno, tampoco se podían asociar a esos arrendatarios, si lo hacían la ley establecía sanciones graves, sabemos que la corrupción ocurría porque de lo contrario el imperio no tendría que designar curatores. Las responsabilidades financieras podían tener interés puramente municipal o estatal (cobro del tributos), se gravan los productos o trabajo pero quienes lo tienen que adelantar son los duoviri que después se resarcen, por eso quieren obtener ventajas compensatorias del municipio al que consideran patrimonio propio de su estamento. Desde el siglo III cuando la presión fiscal es tan insoportable que ya no les queda margen, será cuando decae la vida urbana, así funcionaba la vida municipal, de forma muy parecida la de hoy ya que tenemos el modelo romano. 

Fuente: Universidad de Sevilla, Apuntes de J. Ossorio

La Realidad: Los Grandes Problemas de la Metafísica



Concepto de Metafísica: Etimológicamante después de la Física. Disciplina filosófica que trata de la esencia de la realidad total y entraña una concepción total de la vida y del universo.
         Metafísica General u Ontología: la que trata de la naturaleza del ser en sí mismo, independientemente de sus distintas manifestaciones o fenómenos.
         Metafísica Especial: la que trata de algún ser en especial, como la cosmológia, la teología natural, la psicología.

 Introducción. "Lo que hay".

La filosofía de hace unos años aspiraba a ser un complemento de las ciencias particulares (recordar lo visto en el tema 2 "El conocimiento"). Cuando las ciencias (física, química,  matemáticas, etc ...) no podían avanzar más en la busqueda de verdades claras, se encargaba a la filosofía que completase las cuestiones que quedaron sin respuesta científica. Podemos decir por ello que las ciencias se ocupan de realidades parciales, mientras que la filosofía se ocupa de la realidad total, en palabras de Ortega y Gasset:

"Ensayábamos definir la filosofía como conocimiento del universo ... (...) Universo es el nombre del asunto para cuya investigación ha nacido la filosofía. (...) Entiendo por universo 'todo cuanto hay'."

-Lo que hay- Si nos preguntamos por "lo que hay" podemos pretender dos cosas:

a)     hacer un inventario del conjunto de cosas que hay, que existen,
b)    indagar en lo que las cosas son en realidad, es decir, en qué consiste el ser de las cosas que hay.
        
La filosófía se ocupa de lo sengundo, interroga por lo que las cosas son, con independencia de cuales sean las cosas que existen., Ahora bien, al preguntar "por lo que hay" en el mencionado sentido, nos encontramos a nosotros mismos formando parte de ese "lo que hay", cuya consecuencia insalvable es que la realidad (lo que hay) puede ser entendida de diferente forma por cada uno de nosotros. Dicho de otra manera, el significado o significados de  "realidad" dependerán del modo en que "lo que hay" es preguntado, investigado y, finalmente, buscado por cada uno. Por ejemplo decía Zubiri, que para la física, la libertad no tenía sentido, no porque no fuera real, sino porque carecía de sentido físico, es decir, para la física la libertad no estaría dentro de la realidad.

    Realidad, vida y mundo.

 Vida y realidad:

Nuestra vida es una de las cosa que hay. La vida es una realidad entre realidades y tiene una doble peculiaridad:

a)     en primer lugar es la realidad radical: esto no significa que la sea la realidad primera, ni la más real, sino que significa que a ella se tienen que referir las demás realidades en el sentido de que cualquier realidad, para que nos sea tal, ha de aparecernos.

b)    en segundo lugar, "no se puede vivir sin una interpretación de la vida", lo que supone, a su vez, no solo hay que tener una interpretación de la vida y de la totalidad de lo que hay, sino que la vida misma es interpretación de ella y de lo que hay.

Si volvemos a la pregunta "qué es lo que hay" responderemos que lo que hay de modo más inmediato es la relación inseparable en la que están enlazadas mi vida y las diferentes realidades que me son dadas, me aparecen y que son interpretadas. Y lo que en cada caso haya de enteder como realidad dependerá al mismo tiempo de la cosa o realidad que nos aparece y del sentido que nuestra vida revela y se manifesta en ella.


        Realidad y apariencia:

Una de las cuestiones más polémicas de la filosofía, o lo que es lo mismo, en la interpretación que en nuestro vivir hacemos de lo que hay, es la diferencia entre "realidad" y "aparecer", o si se quiere, entre "ser" y "aparecer", entre "lo que es" y "lo que parece ser".

No todo lo que aparece y parece ser, lo es de verdad; ni todo lo que se supone o se dice que es, aparece o se manifiesta, por lo que resolvemos racionalmente que en realidad no es; finalmente, algo que hay (que es) se nos aparece, si bien no nos manifiesta realmente lo que es, sino que algo de sí queda velado.Dilucidar qué es en verdad real y qué apariencia no es una cuestióin fácil.

Por otro lado, no todo lo que es real lo es de la misma manera. En efecto, algo que es real, por ejemplo mi vida en este instante, puede dejar, razonablemente, de ser real en el instante siguiente, es decir, que la realidad de ese algo es contigente (recordar a Aristóteles potencia-acto) que significa que puede ser o no. Por ello diremos que algo (mi vida por ejemplo) en cualquier momento puede dejar de ser, como igualmente pudo no haber sido lo que ahora es.  También podemos realizar ciertas obras que "produzcan", esto es, que hagan real algo que antes no lo era, sino que como mucho sólo era posible que llegara a serlo.

De esta situación sometida al azar de las realidades contingentes, escaparían aquellas otras realidades que llamaremos necesarias (que no están sujetas a posibilidad o cambio), pero ello si existiera alguna de verdad (ejemplos ideas, dios, alma, etc...) cosa que es objeto primordial de la filosofía y de los filósofos a lo largo de la historia.

     Vida y mundo:

Para referirnos a "lo que hay" no sólo hablamos de realidad, sino que también usamos el término "mundo". ¿Qué significa mundo? Podemos decir en seguida que mundo es "todo lo que hay". ¿Y qué es lo que hay? Responderíamos de nuevo: el mundo. De esta forma parece que estamos dando vueltas sin ningún sentido. Sin embargo, al decir que el mundo es "todo lo que hay", hemos dicho algo más que simplemente "lo que hay", pues hemos añadido el término "todo", que puede signifiar un "todo colectivo" (inventario de todas las cosas que existen, lo que ya hemos dicho que no nos interesa desde el punto de vista filósófico) y también  puede significar que "lo que hay", sea lo que fuere, "constituye un todo" en el sentido de que funciona como un orden arquitectónicamente estructurado, y no una mera aglomeración (suma) de cosas, integrado a su vez quizás por diferentes "mundos" particulares.

Al hilo de lo anterior surgen una serie de cuestiones importantísimas en torno al lo que sea el mundo desde el punto de vista ontológico, a saber:

a) ¿Constituye todo lo que hay (en sentido colectivo) un "mundo", es decir, un todo arquitectónicamente estructurado?
b) ¿Hay en el mundo, como todo estructurado, diferentes mundos como, por ejemplo, el mundo físico, el cultural o espiritual o incluso el mundo imaginario?


c) Cómo o cuál es la arquitectura del mundo, desde dónde establecer su principio y qué papel juega en esto la vida de cada uno?

THE PTOLEMIES, By Jacob Abbott "Cleopatra" inglés


THE PTOLEMIES.

The dynasty of the Ptolemies.--The founder.--Philip of Macedon.--Alexander.--The intrigue discovered.—Ptolemy banished.--Accession of Alexander.--Ptolemy's elevation.--Death of Alexander.--Ptolemy becomes King of Egypt.--Character of Ptolemy's reign.--The Alexandrian library.--Abdication of Ptolemy.—Ptolemy Philadelphus.--Death of Ptolemy.--Subsequent degeneracy of the Ptolemies.--Incestuous marriages of the Ptolemy family.—Ptolemy Physcon.--Origin of his name.--Circumstances of Physcon's accession.--Cleopatra.--Physcon's brutal perfidity.--He marries his wife's daughter.--Atrocities of Physcon.--His flight.--Cleopatra assumes the government.--Her birth-day.--Barbarity of Physcon.--Grief of Cleopatra.--General character of the Ptolemy family.--Lathyrus. --Terrible quarrels with his mother.--Cruelties of Cleopatra. --Alexander kills her.--Cleopatra a type of the family.--Her two daughters.--Unnatural war.--Tryphena's hatred of her sister.--Taking of Antioch.--Cleopatra flees to a temple.--Jealousy of Tryphena.--Her resentment increases.--Cruel and sacrilegious murder.--The moral condition of mankind not degenerating.

The founder of the dynasty of the Ptolemies--the ruler into whose hands the kingdom of Egypt fell, as has already been stated, at the death of Alexander the Great--was a Macedonian general in Alexander's army. The circumstances of his birth, and the events which led to his entering into the service of Alexander, were somewhat peculiar. His mother, whose name was Arsinoë, was a personal favorite and companion of Philip, king of Macedon, the father of Alexander. Philip at length gave Arsinoë in
marriage to a certain man of his court named Lagus. A very short time after the marriage, Ptolemy was born. Philip treated the child with the same consideration and favor that he had evinced toward the mother. The boy was called the son of Lagus, but his position in the royal court of Macedon was as high and honorable, and the attentions which he received were as great, as he could have expected to enjoy if he had been in reality a son of the king. As he grew up, he attained to official stations of considerable responsibility and power.

In the course of time, a certain transaction occurred by means of which Ptolemy involved himself in serious difficulty with Philip, though by the same means he made Alexander very strongly his friend. There was a province of the Persian empire called Caria, situated in the southwestern part of Asia Minor. The governor of this province had offered his daughter to Philip as the wife of one of his sons named Aridaeus, the half brother of Alexander. Alexander's mother, who was not the mother of Aridaeus, was jealous of this proposed marriage. She thought that it was part of a scheme for bringing Aridaeus forward into public notice, and finally making him the heir to Philip's throne; whereas she was very earnest that this splendid inheritance should be reserved for her own son. Accordingly, she proposed to Alexander that they should send a secret embassage to the Persian governor, and represent to him that it would be much better, both for him and for his daughter, that she should have Alexander instead of Aridaeus for a husband, and induce him, if possible, to demand of Philip that he should make the change.

Alexander entered readily into this scheme, and various courtiers, Ptolemy among the rest, undertook to aid him in the accomplishment of it. The embassy was sent. The governor of Caria was very much pleased with the change which they proposed to him. In fact, the whole plan seemed to be going on very successfully toward its accomplishment, when, by some means or other, Philip discovered the intrigue. He went immediately into Alexander's apartment, highly excited with resentment and anger. He had never intended to make Aridaeus, whose birth on the mother's side was obscure and ignoble, the heir to his throne, and he reproached Alexander in the bitterest terms for being of so debased and degenerate a spirit as to desire to marry the daughter of a Persian governor; a man who was, in fact, the mere slave, as he said, of a barbarian king.

Alexander's scheme was thus totally defeated; and so displeased was his father with the officers who had undertaken to aid him in the execution of it, that he banished them all from the kingdom. Ptolemy, in consequence of this decree, wandered about an exile from his country for some years, until at length the death of Philip enabled Alexander to recall him. Alexander succeeded his father as King of Macedon, and immediately made Ptolemy one of his principal generals. Ptolemy rose, in fact, to a very high command in the Macedonian army, and distinguished himself very greatly in all the celebrated conqueror's subsequent campaigns. In the Persian invasion, Ptolemy commanded one of the three grand divisions of the army, and he rendered repeatedly the most signal services to the cause of his master. He was employed on the most distant and dangerous enterprises, and was often intrusted with the management of affairs of the utmost importance. He was very successful in all his undertakings. He conquered armies, reduced fortresses, negotiated treaties, and evinced, in a word, the highest degree of military energy and skill. He once saved Alexander's life by discovering and revealing a dangerous conspiracy which had been formed against the king. Alexander had the opportunity to requite this favor, through a divine interposition vouchsafed to him, it was said, for the express purpose of enabling him to evince his gratitude. Ptolemy had been wounded by a poisoned arrow, and when all the remedies and antidotes of the physicians had failed, and the patient was apparently about to die, an effectual means of cure was revealed to Alexander in a dream, and Ptolemy, in his turn, was saved.

At the great rejoicings at Susa, when Alexander's conquests were completed, Ptolemy was honored with a golden crown, and he was married, with great pomp and ceremony, to Artacama, the daughter of one of the most distinguished Persian generals.

At length Alexander died suddenly, after a night of drinking and carousal at Babylon. He had no son old enough to succeed him, and his immense empire was divided among his generals. Ptolemy obtained Egypt for his share. He repaired immediately to Alexandria, with a great army, and a great number of Greek attendants and followers, and there commenced a reign which continued, in great prosperity and splendor, for forty years. The native Egyptians were reduced, of course, to subjection
and bondage. All the offices in the army, and all stations of trust and responsibility in civil life, were filled by Greeks. Alexandria was a Greek city, and it became at once one of the most important commercial centers in all those seas. Greek and Roman travelers found now a language spoken in Egypt which they could understand, and philosophers and scholars could gratify the curiosity which they had so long felt, in respect to the institutions, and monuments, and wonderful physical characteristics of the country, with safety and pleasure. In a word, the organization of a Greek government over the ancient kingdom, and the establishment of the great commercial relations of the city of Alexandria, conspired to bring Egypt out from its concealment and seclusion, and to open it in some measure to the intercourse, as well as to bring it more fully under the observation, of the rest of mankind.

Ptolemy, in fact, made it a special object of his policy to accomplish these ends. He invited Greek scholars, philosophers, poets, and artists, in great numbers, to come to Alexandria, and to make his capital their abode. He collected an immense library, which subsequently, under the name of the Alexandrian library, became one of the most celebrated collections of books and manuscripts that was ever made. We shall have occasion to refer more particularly to this library in the next chapter.

Besides prosecuting these splendid schemes for the aggrandizement of Egypt, King Ptolemy was engaged, during almost the whole period of his reign, in waging incessant wars with the surrounding nations. He engaged in these wars, in part, for the purpose of extending the boundaries of his empire, and in part for self-defense against the aggressions and encroachments of other powers. He finally succeeded in establishing his kingdom on the most stable and permanent basis, and then, when he was
drawing toward the close of his life, being in fact over eighty years of age, he abdicated his throne in favor of his youngest son, whose name was also Ptolemy, Ptolemy the father, the founder of the dynasty, is known commonly in history by the name of Ptolemy Soter. His son is called Ptolemy Philadelphia. This son, though the youngest, was preferred to his brothers as heir to the throne on account of his being the son of the most favored and beloved of the monarch's wives. The determination of Soter to abdicate the throne himself arose from his wish to put this favorite son in secure possession of it before his death, in order to prevent the older brothers from disputing the succession. The coronation of Philadelphus was made one of the most magnificent and imposing ceremonies that royal pomp and parade ever arranged. Two years afterward Ptolemy the father died, and was buried by his son with a magnificence almost equal to that of his own coronation. His body was deposited in a splendid mausoleum, which had been built for the remains of Alexander; and so high was the veneration which was felt by mankind for the greatness of his exploits and the splendor of his reign, that divine honors were paid to his memory. Such was the origin of the great dynasty of the Ptolemies.

Some of the early sovereigns of the line followed in some degree the honorable example set them by the distinguished founder of it; but this example was soon lost, and was succeeded by the most extreme degeneracy and debasement. The successive sovereigns began soon to live and to reign solely for the gratification of their own sensual propensities and passions. Sensuality begins sometimes with kindness, but it ends always in the most reckless and intolerable cruelty. The Ptolemies became, in the end, the most abominable and terrible tyrants that the principle of absolute and irresponsible power ever produced. There was one vice in particular, a vice which they seem to have adopted from the Asiatic nations of the Persian empire, that resulted in the most awful consequences. This vice was incest.

The law of God, proclaimed not only in the Scriptures, but in the native instincts of the human soul, forbids intermarriages among those connected by close ties of consanguinity. The necessity for such a law rests on considerations which can not here be fully explained. They are considerations, however, which arise from causes inherent in the very nature of man as a social being, and which are of universal, perpetual, and insurmountable force. To guard his creatures against the deplorable consequences, both physical and moral, which result from the practice of such marriages, the great Author of Nature has implanted in every mind an instinctive sense of their criminality, powerful enough to give effectual warning of the danger, and so universal as to cause a distinct condemnation of them to be recorded in almost every code of written law that has ever been promulgated among mankind. The Persian sovereigns were, however, above all law, and every species of incestuous marriage was practiced by them without shame. The Ptolemies followed their example.

One of the most striking exhibitions of the nature of incestuous domestic life which is afforded by the whole dismal panorama of pagan vice and crime, is presented in the history of the great-grandfather of the Cleopatra who is the principal subject of this narrative. He was Ptolemy Physcon, the seventh in the line. It is necessary to give some particulars of his history and that of his family, in order to explain the circumstances under which Cleopatra herself came upon the stage. The name Physcon, which afterward became his historical designation, was originally given him in contempt and derision. He was very small of stature in respect to height, but his gluttony and sensuality had made him immensely corpulent in body, so that he looked more like a monster than a man. The term Physcon was a Greek word, which denoted opprobriously the ridiculous figure that he made.

The circumstances of Ptolemy Physcon's accession to the throne afford not only a striking illustration of his character, but a very faithful though terrible picture of the manners and morals of the times. He had been engaged in a long and cruel war with his brother, who was king before him, in which war he had perpetrated all imaginable atrocities, when at length his brother died, leaving as his survivors his wife, who was also his sister, and a son who was yet a child. This son was properly the heir to the crown. Physcon himself, being a brother, had no claim, as against a son. The name of the queen was Cleopatra. This was, in fact, a very common name among the princesses of the Ptolemaic line. Cleopatra, besides her son, had a daughter, who was at this time a young and beautiful girl. Her name was also Cleopatra. She was, of course, the niece, as her mother was the sister, of Physcon.

The plan of Cleopatra the mother, after her husband's death, was to make her son the king of Egypt, and to govern herself, as regent, until he should become of age. The friends and adherents of Physcon, however, formed a strong party in _his_ favor. They sent for him to come to Alexandria to assert his claims to the throne. He came, and a new civil war was on the point of breaking out between the brother and sister, when at length the dispute was settled by a treaty, in which it was stipulated that Physcon should marry Cleopatra, and be king; but that he should make the son of Cleopatra by her former husband his heir. This treaty was carried into effect so far as the celebration of the marriage with the mother was concerned, and the establishment of Physcon upon the throne. But the perfidious monster, instead of keeping his faith in respect to the boy, determined to murder him; and so open and brutal were his habits of violence and cruelty, that he undertook to perpetrate the deed himself, in open day. The boy fled shrieking to the mother's arms for protection, and Physcon stabbed and killed him there, exhibiting the spectacle of a newly-married husband murdering the son of his wife in her very arms!

It is easy to conceive what sort of affection would exist between a husband and a wife after such transactions as these. In fact, there had been no love between them from the beginning. The marriage had been solely a political arrangement. Physcon hated his wife, and had murdered her son, and then, as if to complete the exhibition of the brutal lawlessness and capriciousness of his passions, he ended with falling in love with her daughter. The beautiful girl looked upon this heartless monster, as ugly and deformed in body as he was in mind, with absolute horror. But she was wholly in his power. He compelled her, by violence, to submit to his will. He repudiated the mother, and forced the daughter to become his wife.

Physcon displayed the same qualities of brutal tyranny and cruelty in the treatment of his subjects that he manifested in his own domestic relations. The particulars we can not here give, but can only say that his atrocities became at length absolutely intolerable, and a revolt so formidable broke out, that he fled from the country. In fact he barely escaped with his life, as the mob had surrounded the palace and were setting it on fire, intending to burn the tyrant himself and all the accomplices of his crimes together. Physcon, however, contrived to make his escape. He fled to the island of Cyprus, taking with him a certain beautiful boy, his son by the Cleopatra whom he had divorced; for they had been married long enough before the divorce, to have a son. The name of this boy was Memphitis. His mother was very tenderly attached to him, and Physcon took him away on this very account, to keep him as a hostage for his mother's good behavior. He fancied that, when he was gone, she might possibly attempt to resume possession of the throne.

His expectations in this respect were realized. The people of Alexandria rallied around Cleopatra, and called upon her to take the crown. She did so, feeling, perhaps, some misgivings in respect to the danger which such a step might possibly bring upon her absent boy. She quieted herself, however, by the thought that he was in the hands of his own father, and that he could not possibly come to harm.

After some little time had elapsed, and Cleopatra was beginning to be well established in her possession of the supreme power at Alexandria, her birth-day approached, and arrangements were made for celebrating it in the most magnificent manner. When the day arrived, the whole city was given up to festivities and rejoicing. Grand entertainments were given in the palace, and games, spectacles, and plays in every variety, were exhibited and performed in all quarters of the city. Cleopatra herself was enjoying a magnificent entertainment, given to the lords and ladies of the court and the officers of her army, in one of the royal palaces.

In the midst of this scene of festivity and pleasure, it was announced to the queen that a large box had arrived for her. The box was brought into the apartment. It had the appearance of containing some magnificent 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 thecourse of which each party perpetrated against the other almost everyimaginable 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.

We can not soften the picture which is exhibited to our view in the history of this celebrated family, by regarding the mother of Auletes, in the masculine and merciless trails and principles which she displayed so energetically throughout her terrible career, as an exception to the general character of the princesses who appeared from time to time in the line. In ambition, selfishness, unnatural and reckless cruelty, and utter disregard of every virtuous principle and of every domestic tie, she was but the type and representative of all the rest.

She had two daughters, for example, who were the consistent and worthy followers of such a mother. A passage in the lives of these sisters illustrates very forcibly the kind of sisterly affection which prevailed in the family of the Ptolemies. The case was this:

There were two princes of Syria, a country lying northeast of the Mediterranean Sea, and so not very far from Egypt, who, though they were brothers, were in a state of most deadly hostility to each other. One had attempted to poison the other, and afterward a war had broken out between them, and all Syria was suffering from the ravages of their armies. One of the sisters, of whom we have been speaking, married one of these princes. Her name was Tryphena. After some time, but yet while the unnatural war was still raging between the two brothers, Cleopatra, the other sister--the same Cleopatra, in fact, that had been divorced from Lathyrus at the instance of his mother--espoused the other brother. Tryphena was exceedingly incensed against Cleopatra for marrying her husband's mortal foe, and the implacable hostility and hate of the sisters was thenceforth added to that which the brothers had before exhibited, to complete the display of unnatural and parricidal passion which this shameful contest presented to the world.

In fact, Tryphena from this time seemed to feel a new and highly-excited interest in the contest, from her eager desire to revenge herself on her sister. She watched the progress of it, and took an active part in pressing forward the active prosecution of the war. The party of her husband, either from this or some other causes, seemed to be gaining the day. The husband of Cleopatra was driven from one part of the country to another, and at length, in order to provide for the security of his wife, he left her in Antioch, a large and strongly-fortified city, where he supposed that she would be safe, while he himself was engaged in prosecuting the war in other quarters where his presence seemed to be required.

On learning that her sister was at Antioch, Tryphena urged her husband to attack the place. He accordingly advanced with a strong detachment of the army, and besieged and took the city. Cleopatra would, of course, have fallen into his hands as a captive; but, to escape this fate, she fled to a temple for refuge. A temple was considered, in those days, an inviolable sanctuary. The soldiers accordingly left her there. Tryphena, however, made a request that her husband would deliver the unhappy fugitive into her hands. She was determined, she said, to kill her. Her husband remonstrated with her against this atrocious proposal. "It would be a wholly useless act of cruelty," said he, "to destroy her life. She can do us no possible harm in the future progress of the war, while to murder her under these circumstances will only exasperate her husband and her friends, and nerve them with new strength for the remainder of the contest. And then, besides, she has taken refuge in a temple; and if we violate that sanctuary, we shall incur, by such an act of sacrilege, the implacable displeasure of Heaven. Consider, too, that she is your sister, and for you to kill her would be to commit an unnatural and wholly inexcusable crime."

So saying, he commanded Tryphena to say no more upon the subject, for he would on no account consent that Cleopatra should suffer any injury whatever.

This refusal on the part of her husband to comply with her request only inflamed Tryphena's insane resentment and anger the more. In fact, the earnestness with which he espoused her sister's cause, and the interest which he seemed to feel in her fate, aroused Tryphena's jealousy. She believed, or pretended to believe, that her husband was influenced by a sentiment of love in so warmly defending her. The object of her hate, from being simply an enemy, became now, in her view, a rival, and she resolved that, at all hazards, she should be destroyed. She accordingly ordered a body of desperate soldiers to break into the temple and seize her. Cleopatra fled in terror to the altar, and clung to it with such convulsive force that the soldiers cut her hands off before they could tear her away, and then, maddened by her resistance and the sight of blood, they stabbed her again and again upon the floor of the temple, where she fell. The appalling shrieks with which the wretched victim filled the air in the first moments of her flight and her terror, subsided, as her life ebbed away, into the most awful imprecations of the judgments of Heaven upon the head of the unnatural sister whose implacable hate had destroyed her.

Notwithstanding the specimens that we have thus given of the character and action of this extraordinary family, the government of this dynasty, extending, as it did, through the reigns of thirteen sovereigns and over a period of nearly three hundred years, has always been considered one of the most liberal, enlightened, and prosperous of all the governments of ancient times. We shall have something to say in the next chapter in respect to the internal condition of the country while these violent men were upon the throne. In the mean time, we will here only add, that whoever is inclined, in observing the ambition, the selfishness, the party spirit, the unworthy intrigues, and the irregularities of moral conduct, which modern rulers and statesmen sometimes exhibit to mankind in their personal and political career, to believe in a retrogression and degeneracy of national character as the world advances in age, will be very effectually undeceived by reading attentively a full history of this celebrated dynasty, and reflecting, as he reads, that the narrative presents, on the whole, a fair and honest exhibition of the general character of the men by whom, in ancient times, the world was governed.In the course of time, a certain transaction occurred by means of which Ptolemy involved himself in serious difficulty with Philip, though by the same means he made Alexander very strongly his friend. There was a province of the Persian empire called Caria, situated in the southwestern part of Asia Minor. The governor of this province had offered his daughter to Philip as the wife of one of his sons named Aridaeus, the half brother of Alexander. Alexander's mother, who was not the mother of Aridaeus, was jealous of this proposed marriage. She thought that it was part of a scheme for bringing Aridaeus forward into public notice, and finally making him the heir to Philip's throne; whereas she was very earnest that this splendid inheritance should be reserved for her own son. Accordingly, she proposed to Alexander that they should send a secret embassage to the Persian governor, and represent to him that it would be much better, both for him and for his daughter, that she should have Alexander instead of Aridaeus for a husband, and induce him, if possible, to demand of Philip that he should make the change.

Alexander entered readily into this scheme, and various courtiers, Ptolemy among the rest, undertook to aid him in the accomplishment of it. The embassy was sent. The governor of Caria was very much pleased with the change which they proposed to him. In fact, the whole plan seemed to be going on very successfully toward its accomplishment, when, by some means or other, Philip discovered the intrigue. He went immediately into Alexander's apartment, highly excited with resentment and anger. He had never intended to make Aridaeus, whose birth on the mother's side was obscure and ignoble, the heir to his throne, and he reproached Alexander in the bitterest terms for being of so debased and degenerate a spirit as to desire to marry the daughter of a Persian governor; a man who was, in fact, the mere slave, as he said, of a barbarian king.

Alexander's scheme was thus totally defeated; and so displeased was his father with the officers who had undertaken to aid him in the execution of it, that he banished them all from the kingdom. Ptolemy, in consequence of this decree, wandered about an exile from his country for some years, until at length the death of Philip enabled Alexander to recall him. Alexander succeeded his father as King of Macedon, and immediately made Ptolemy one of his principal generals. Ptolemy rose, in fact, to a very high command in the Macedonian army, and distinguished himself very greatly in all the celebrated conqueror's subsequent campaigns. In the Persian invasion, Ptolemy commanded one of the three grand divisions of the army, and he rendered repeatedly the most signal services to the cause of his master. He was employed on the most distant and dangerous enterprises, and was often intrusted with the management of affairs of the utmost importance. He was very successful in all his undertakings. He conquered armies, reduced fortresses, negotiated treaties, and evinced, in a word, the highest degree of military energy and skill. He once saved Alexander's life by discovering and revealing a dangerous conspiracy which had been formed against the king. Alexander had the opportunity to requite this favor, through a divine interposition vouchsafed to him, it was said, for the express purpose of enabling him to evince his gratitude. Ptolemy had been wounded by a poisoned arrow, and when all the remedies and antidotes of the physicians had failed, and the patient was apparently about to die, an effectual means of cure was revealed to Alexander in a dream, and Ptolemy, in his turn, was saved.

At the great rejoicings at Susa, when Alexander's conquests were completed, Ptolemy was honored with a golden crown, and he was married, with great pomp and ceremony, to Artacama, the daughter of one of the most distinguished Persian generals.

At length Alexander died suddenly, after a night of drinking and carousal at Babylon. He had no son old enough to succeed him, and his immense empire was divided among his generals. Ptolemy obtained Egypt for his share. He repaired immediately to Alexandria, with a great army, and a great number of Greek attendants and followers, and there commenced a reign which continued, in great prosperity and splendor, for forty years. The native Egyptians were reduced, of course, to subjection and bondage. All the offices in the army, and all stations of trust and responsibility in civil life, were filled by Greeks. Alexandria was a Greek city, and it became at once one of the most important commercial centers in all those seas. Greek and Roman travelers found now a language spoken in Egypt which they could understand, and philosophers and scholars could gratify the curiosity which they had so long felt, in respect to the institutions, and monuments, and wonderful physical characteristics of the country, with safety and pleasure. In a word, the organization of a Greek government over the ancient kingdom, and the establishment of the great commercial relations of the city of Alexandria, conspired to bring Egypt out from its concealment and seclusion, and to open it in some measure to the intercourse, as well as to bring it more fully under the observation, of the rest of mankind.

Ptolemy, in fact, made it a special object of his policy to accomplish these ends. He invited Greek scholars, philosophers, poets, and artists, in great numbers, to come to Alexandria, and to make his capital their abode. He collected an immense library, which subsequently, under the name of the Alexandrian library, became one of the most celebrated collections of books and manuscripts that was ever made. We shall have occasion to refer more particularly to this library in the next chapter.

Besides prosecuting these splendid schemes for the aggrandizement of Egypt, King Ptolemy was engaged, during almost the whole period of his reign, in waging incessant wars with the surrounding nations. He engaged in these wars, in part, for the purpose of extending the boundaries of his empire, and in part for self-defense against the aggressions and encroachments of other powers. He finally succeeded in establishing his kingdom on the most stable and permanent basis, and then, when he was drawing toward the close of his life, being in fact over eighty years of age, he abdicated his throne in favor of his youngest son, whose name was also Ptolemy, Ptolemy the father, the founder of the dynasty, is known commonly in history by the name of Ptolemy Soter. His son is called Ptolemy Philadelphia. This son, though the youngest, was preferred to his brothers as heir to the throne on account of his being the son of the most favored and beloved of the monarch's wives. The determination of Soter to abdicate the throne himself arose from his wish to put this favorite son in secure possession of it before his death, in order to prevent the older brothers from disputing the succession. The coronation of Philadelphus was made one of the most magnificent and imposing ceremonies that royal pomp and parade ever arranged. Two years afterward Ptolemy the father died, and was buried by his son with a magnificence almost equal to that of his own coronation. His body was deposited in a splendid mausoleum, which had been built for the remains of Alexander; and so high was the veneration which was felt by mankind for the greatness of his exploits and the splendor of his reign, that divine honors were paid to his memory. Such was the origin of the great dynasty of the Ptolemies.

Some of the early sovereigns of the line followed in some degree the honorable example set them by the distinguished founder of it; but this example was soon lost, and was succeeded by the most extreme degeneracy and debasement. The successive sovereigns began soon to live and to reign solely for the gratification of their own sensual propensities and passions. Sensuality begins sometimes with kindness, but it ends always in the most reckless and intolerable cruelty. The Ptolemies became, in the end, the most abominable and terrible tyrants that the principle of absolute and irresponsible power ever produced. There was one vice in particular, a vice which they seem to have adopted from the Asiatic nations of the Persian empire, that resulted in the most awful consequences. This vice was incest.

The law of God, proclaimed not only in the Scriptures, but in the native instincts of the human soul, forbids intermarriages among those connected by close ties of consanguinity. The necessity for such a law rests on considerations which can not here be fully explained. They are considerations, however, which arise from causes inherent in the very nature of man as a social being, and which are of universal, perpetual, and insurmountable force. To guard his creatures against the deplorable consequences, both physical and moral, which result from the practice of such marriages, the great Author of Nature has implanted in every mind an instinctive sense of their criminality, powerful enough to give effectual warning of the danger, and so universal as to cause a distinct condemnation of them to be recorded in almost every code of written law that has ever been promulgated among mankind. The Persian sovereigns were, however, above all law, and every species of incestuous marriage was practiced by them without shame. The Ptolemies followed their example.

One of the most striking exhibitions of the nature of incestuous domestic life which is afforded by the whole dismal panorama of pagan vice and crime, is presented in the history of the great-grandfather of the Cleopatra who is the principal subject of this narrative. He was Ptolemy Physcon, the seventh in the line. It is necessary to give some particulars of his history and that of his family, in order to explain the circumstances under which Cleopatra herself came upon the stage. The name Physcon, which afterward became his historical designation, was originally given him in contempt and derision. He was very small of stature in respect to height, but his gluttony and sensuality had made him immensely corpulent in body, so that he looked more like a monster than a man. The term Physcon was a Greek word, which denoted opprobriously the ridiculous figure that he made.

The circumstances of Ptolemy Physcon's accession to the throne afford not only a striking illustration of his character, but a very faithful though terrible picture of the manners and morals of the times. He had been engaged in a long and cruel war with his brother, who was king before him, in which war he had perpetrated all imaginable atrocities, when at length his brother died, leaving as his survivors his wife, who was also his sister, and a son who was yet a child. This son was properly the heir to the crown. Physcon himself, being a brother, had no claim, as against a son. The name of the queen was Cleopatra. This was, in fact, a very common name among the princesses of the Ptolemaic line. Cleopatra, besides her son, had a daughter, who was at this time a young and beautiful girl. Her name was also Cleopatra. She was, of course, the niece, as her mother was the sister, of Physcon.

The plan of Cleopatra the mother, after her husband's death, was to make her son the king of Egypt, and to govern herself, as regent, until he should become of age. The friends and adherents of Physcon, however, formed a strong party in _his_ favor. They sent for him to come to Alexandria to assert his claims to the throne. He came, and a new civil war was on the point of breaking out between the brother and sister, when at length the dispute was settled by a treaty, in which it was stipulated that Physcon should marry Cleopatra, and be king; but that he should make the son of Cleopatra by her former husband his heir. This treaty was carried into effect so far as the celebration of the marriage with the mother was concerned, and the establishment of Physcon upon the throne. But the perfidious monster, instead of keeping his faith in respect to the boy, determined to murder him; and so open and brutal were his habits of violence and cruelty, that he undertook to perpetrate the deed himself, in open day. The boy fled shrieking to the mother's arms for protection, and Physcon stabbed and killed him there, exhibiting the spectacle of a newly-married husband murdering the son of his wife in her very arms!

It is easy to conceive what sort of affection would exist between a husband and a wife after such transactions as these. In fact, there had been no love between them from the beginning. The marriage had been solely a political arrangement. Physcon hated his wife, and had murdered her son, and then, as if to complete the exhibition of the brutal lawlessness and capriciousness of his passions, he ended with falling in love with her daughter. The beautiful girl looked upon this heartless monster, as ugly and deformed in body as he was in mind, with absolute horror. But she was wholly in his power. He compelled her, by violence, to submit to his will. He repudiated the mother, and forced the daughter to become his wife.

Physcon displayed the same qualities of brutal tyranny and cruelty in the treatment of his subjects that he manifested in his own domestic relations. The particulars we can not here give, but can only say that his atrocities became at length absolutely intolerable, and a revolt so formidable broke out, that he fled from the country. In fact he barely escaped with his life, as the mob had surrounded the palace and were setting it on fire, intending to burn the tyrant himself and all the accomplices of his crimes together. Physcon, however, contrived to make his escape. He fled to the island of Cyprus, taking with him a certain beautiful boy, his son by the Cleopatra whom he had divorced; for they had been married long enough before the divorce, to have a son. The name of this boy was Memphitis. His mother was very tenderly attached to him, and Physcon took him away on this very account, to keep him as a hostage for his mother's good behavior. He fancied that, when he was gone, she might possibly attempt to resume possession of the throne.

His expectations in this respect were realized. The people of Alexandria rallied around Cleopatra, and called upon her to take the crown. She did so, feeling, perhaps, some misgivings in respect to the danger which such a step might possibly bring upon her absent boy. She quieted herself, however, by the thought that he was in the hands of his own father, and that he could not possibly come to harm.

After some little time had elapsed, and Cleopatra was beginning to be well established in her possession of the supreme power at Alexandria, her birth-day approached, and arrangements were made for celebrating it in the most magnificent manner. When the day arrived, the whole city was given up to festivities and rejoicing. Grand entertainments were given in the palace, and games, spectacles, and plays in every variety, were exhibited and performed in all quarters of the city. Cleopatra herself was enjoying a magnificent entertainment, given to the lords and ladies of the court and the officers of her army, in one of the royal palaces.

In the midst of this scene of festivity and pleasure, it was announced to the queen that a large box had arrived for her. The box was brought into the apartment. It had the appearance of containing some magnificent 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 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.

We can not soften the picture which is exhibited to our view in the history of this celebrated family, by regarding the mother of Auletes, in the masculine and merciless trails and principles which she displayed so energetically throughout her terrible career, as an exception to the general character of the princesses who appeared from time to time in the line. In ambition, selfishness, unnatural and reckless cruelty, and utter disregard of every virtuous principle and of every domestic tie, she was but the type and representative of all the rest.

She had two daughters, for example, who were the consistent and worthy followers of such a mother. A passage in the lives of these sisters illustrates very forcibly the kind of sisterly affection which prevailed in the family of the Ptolemies. The case was this:

There were two princes of Syria, a country lying northeast of the Mediterranean Sea, and so not very far from Egypt, who, though they were brothers, were in a state of most deadly hostility to each other. One had attempted to poison the other, and afterward a war had broken out between them, and all Syria was suffering from the ravages of their armies. One of the sisters, of whom we have been speaking, married one of these princes. Her name was Tryphena. After some time, but yet while the unnatural war was still raging between the two brothers, Cleopatra, the other sister--the same Cleopatra, in fact, that had been divorced from Lathyrus at the instance of his mother--espoused the other brother. Tryphena was exceedingly incensed against Cleopatra for marrying her husband's mortal foe, and the implacable hostility and hate of the sisters was thenceforth added to that which the brothers had before exhibited, to complete the display of unnatural and parricidal passion which this shameful contest presented to the world.

In fact, Tryphena from this time seemed to feel a new and highly-excited interest in the contest, from her eager desire to revenge herself on her sister. She watched the progress of it, and took an active part in pressing forward the active prosecution of the war. The party of her husband, either from this or some other causes, seemed to be gaining the day. The husband of Cleopatra was driven from one part of the country to another, and at length, in order to provide for the security of his wife, he left her in Antioch, a large and strongly-fortified city, where he supposed that she would be safe, while he himself was engaged in prosecuting the war in other quarters where his presence seemed to be required.

On learning that her sister was at Antioch, Tryphena urged her husband to attack the place. He accordingly advanced with a strong detachment of the army, and besieged and took the city. Cleopatra would, of course, have fallen into his hands as a captive; but, to escape this fate, she fled to a temple for refuge. A temple was considered, in those days, an inviolable sanctuary. The soldiers accordingly left her there. Tryphena, however, made a request that her husband would deliver the unhappy fugitive into her hands. She was determined, she said, to kill her. Her husband remonstrated with her against this atrocious proposal. "It would be a wholly useless act of cruelty," said he, "to destroy her life. She can do us no possible harm in the future progress of the war, while to murder her under these circumstances will only exasperate her husband and her friends, and nerve them with new strength for the remainder of the contest. And then, besides, she has taken refuge in a temple; and if we violate that sanctuary, we shall incur, by such an act of sacrilege, the implacable displeasure of Heaven. Consider, too, that she is your sister, and for you to kill her would be to commit an unnatural and wholly inexcusable crime."

So saying, he commanded Tryphena to say no more upon the subject, for he would on no account consent that Cleopatra should suffer any injury whatever.

This refusal on the part of her husband to comply with her request only inflamed Tryphena's insane resentment and anger the more. In fact, the earnestness with which he espoused her sister's cause, and the interest which he seemed to feel in her fate, aroused Tryphena's jealousy. She believed, or pretended to believe, that her husband was influenced by a sentiment of love in so warmly defending her. The object of her hate, from being simply an enemy, became now, in her view, a rival, and she resolved that, at all hazards, she should be destroyed. She accordingly ordered a body of desperate soldiers to break into the temple and seize her. Cleopatra fled in terror to the altar, and clung to it with such convulsive force that the soldiers cut her hands off before they could tear her away, and then, maddened by her resistance and the sight of blood, they stabbed her again and again upon the floor of the temple, where she fell. The appalling shrieks with which the wretched victim filled the air in the first moments of her flight and her terror, subsided, as her life ebbed away, into the most awful imprecations of the judgments of Heaven upon the head of the unnatural sister whose implacable hate had destroyed her.

Notwithstanding the specimens that we have thus given of the character and action of this extraordinary family, the government of this dynasty, extending, as it did, through the reigns of thirteen sovereigns and over a period of nearly three hundred years, has always been considered one of the most liberal, enlightened, and prosperous of all the governments of ancient times. We shall have something to say in the next chapter in respect to the internal condition of the country while these violent men were upon the throne. In the mean time, we will here only add, that whoever is inclined, in observing the ambition, the selfishness, the party spirit, the unworthy intrigues, and the irregularities of moral conduct, which modern rulers and statesmen sometimes exhibit to mankind in their personal and political career, to believe in a retrogression and degeneracy of national character as the world advances in age, will be very effectually undeceived by reading attentively a full history of this celebrated dynasty, and reflecting, as he reads, that the narrative presents, on the whole, a fair and honest exhibition of the general character of the men by whom, in ancient times, the world was governed.


Fuente: Proyecto gutenberg
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