Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
 
The Flight of Antony
By Sir Thomas North (1535–1601?)
 
From the Life of Antony

SO when Antonius had determined to fight by sea, he set all the other ships on fire, but threescore ships of Egypt, and reserved only the best and greatest galleys, from three banks unto ten banks of oars. Into them he put two and twenty thousand fighting men, with two thousand darters and slingers. Now as he was setting his men in order of battle, there was a captain, a valiant man, that had served Antonius in many battles and conflicts, and had all his body hacked and cut: who, as Antonius passed by him, cried out unto him, and said: O noble emperor, how cometh it to pass that you trust to these vile brittle ships? What, do you mistrust these wounds of mine, and this sword? let the Egyptians and Phœnicians fight by sea, and set us on the main land, where we use to conquer, or to be slain on our feet. Antonius passed by him and said never a word, but only beckoned to him with his hand and head, as though he willed him to be of good courage, although indeed he had no great courage himself. For when the masters of the galleys and pilots would have let their sails alone, he made them clap them on; saying to colour the matter withal, that not one of his enemies should scape. All that day and the three days following, the sea rose so high, and was so boisterous, that the battle was put off. The fifth day the storm ceased, and the sea calmed again, and then they rowed with force of oars in battle one against the other: Antonius leading the right wing with Publicola, and Cælius the left, and Marcus Octavius and Marcus Fusteius the midst. Octavius Cæsar on the other side had placed Agrippa in the left wing of his army, and had kept the right wing for himself. For the armies by land, Canidius was General of Antonius’ side, and Taurus of Cæsar’s side: who kept their men in battle array, the one before the other, upon the sea side, without stirring one against the other. Further, touching both the chieftains: Antonius being in a swift pinnace, was carried up and down by force of oars through his army, and spake to his people to encourage them to fight valiantly, as if they were on main land, because of the steadiness and heaviness of their ships: and commanded the pilots and masters of the galleys, that they should not stir, none otherwise than if they were at anchor, and so to receive the first charge of their enemies, and that they should not go out of the strait of the gulf. Cæsar betimes in the morning going out of his tent, to see his ships throughout, met a man by chance that drave an ass before him: Cæsar asked the man what his name was. The poor man told him his name was Eutychus, to say Fortunate: and his ass’s name Nicon, to say Conqueror. Therefore Cæsar, after he had won the battle, setting out the market place with the spurs of the galleys he had taken, for a sign of his victory, he caused also the man and his ass to be set up in brass. When he had visited the order of his army throughout, he took a little pinnace, and went to the right wing, and wondered when he saw his enemies lie still in the strait, and stirred not. For discerning them afar off, men would have thought they had been ships riding at anchor: and a good while he was so persuaded. So he kept his galleys eight furlongs from his enemies. About noon there arose a little gale of wind from the sea, and then Antonius’ men waxing angry with tarrying so long, and trusting to the greatness and height of their ships, as if they had been invincible, they began to march forward with their left wing. Cæsar seeing that, was a glad man, and began a little to give back from the right wing, to allure them to come farther out of the strait and gulf, to the end that he might with his light ships well manned with water-men, turn and environ the galleys of the enemies, the which were heavy of yarage, 1 both for their bigness, as also for lack of water-men to row them. When the skirmish began, and that they came to join, there was no great hurt at the first meeting, neither did the ships vehemently hit one against the other, as they do commonly in fight by sea. For on the other side, Antonius’ ships for their heaviness could not have the strength and swiftness to make their blows of any force: and Cæsar’s ships on the other side took great heed not to rush and shock with the fore-castles of Antonius’ ships, whose prows were armed with great brazen spurs. Furthermore, they durst not flank them, because their points were easily broken, which way soever they came to set upon their ships, that were made of great main square pieces of timber, bound together with great iron pins: so that the battle was much like unto a battle by land, or to speak more properly, to the assault of a city. For there were always three or four of Cæsar’s ships about one of Antonius’ ships, and the soldiers fought with their pikes, halbards, and darts, and threw halbards, and darts with fire. Antonius’ ships on the other side bestowed among them, with their crossbows and engines of battery, great store of shot from their high towers of wood that were set upon their ships. Now Publicola seeing Agrippa put forth his left wing of Cæsar’s army, to compass in Antonius’ ships that fought, he was driven also to loose off to have more room, and to go a little at one side, to put those farther off that were afraid, and in the midst of the battle: for they were sore distressed by Arruntius. Howbeit the battle was yet of even hand, and the victory doubtful, being indifferent to both; when suddenly they saw the threescore ships of Cleopatra, busily about their yard-masts, and hoisting sails to fly. So they fled through the midst of them that were in fight, for they had been placed behind the great ships, and did marvellously disorder the other ships. For the enemies themselves wondered much to see them sail in that sort, with full sail towards Peloponnesus. There Antonius shewed plainly, that he had not only lost the courage and heart of an emperor, but also of a valiant man; and that he was not his own man (proving that true which an old man spake in mirth, That the soul of a lover lived in another body, and not in his own) he was so carried away with the vain love of this woman, as if he had been glued unto her, and that she could not have removed without moving of him also. For when he saw Cleopatra’s ship under sail, he forgot, forsook, and betrayed them that fought for him, and embarqued upon a galley with five banks of oars, to follow her that had already begun to overthrow him, and would in the end be his destruction. When she knew his galley afar off, she lift up a sign in the poop of her ship; and so Antonius coming to it, was plucked up where Cleopatra was: howbeit he saw her not at his first coming nor she him, but went and sat down alone in the prow of his ship, and said never a word, clapping his head between both his hands.
  1
 
Note 1. yarage = power of moving and turning (of a ship). Yare was the shout of haste used by sailors. [back]
 
 
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