Caesarion

Caesarion

Caesarion was the son of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra VIII. His formal name was Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar. He was born June 23, 47 BC and was murdered August 23, 30 BC). His name Caesarion literally “little Caesar” (Latin: Caesariō).He was officially the last king of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, who reigned jointly with his mother Cleopatra VII of Egypt, from September 2, 44 BC. Between the death of Cleopatra, on August 12, 30 BC, up to his own death on August 23, 30 BC, he was nominally the sole pharaoh. He was killed on the orders of Octavian, who would become the Roman emperor Augustus. He was the probably the only heir and son of Cleopatra VII, and he appears to be the only son of Julius Caesar, after whom he was named.

Caesarion was said to have inherited Caesar’s looks and manner, but Caesar apparently did not officially acknowledge him. Nevertheless Caesar appears to have allowed him to use his name. Whether Caesar would have allowed him to be his formal heir is debatable since he did not officially marry Cleopatra. Cleopatra also compared her relationship to her son with the Egyptian goddess Isis and her divine child Horus. The matter of Caesarion became contentious when Caesar’s adopted son Octavian came into conflict with Cleopatra. There was even propaganda waged at that time where Octavian’s supporter, Gaius Oppius, wrote a pamphlet which attempted to prove that Caesar could not have fathered Caesarion. Naturally, Caesarion would have perhaps had a stronger claim to any dynasty ambitions in Rome.

Caesarion actually spent two of his early years, from 46 to 44 BC, in Rome, where he and his mother were Caesar’s guests. Cleopatra hoped that her son would eventually succeed his father as the head of the Roman Republic as well as Egypt. After Caesar’s assassination on March 15, 44 BC, Cleopatra and Caesarion returned to Egypt quickly for the threat against their lives became apparent. Cleopatra then named Caesarion co-ruler with his mother on September 2, 44 BC at the age of three for political reasons.

Cleopatra turned her attention to Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius) and won him over. Antony granted various eastern lands and titles to Caesarion and to his own three children with Cleopatra. The elevation of Caesarion was the real tension threatening Octavian whose claim to power was based on his status as Julius Caesar’s grandnephew and adopted son. Antony declared Caesarion to be Caesar’s true son and heir. These proclamations, known as the Donations of Alexandria, caused a fatal breach in Antony’s relations with Octavian, who used Roman resentment over the Donations to gain support for war against Antony and Cleopatra.

After the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium, Cleopatra seems to have groomed Caesarion to take over Egypt as “sole ruler without his mother.” She may have intended to go into exile, perhaps with Antony, who was hoping he would be allowed to retire, as Lepidus had. When Octavian invaded Egypt in 30 BC, Cleopatra sent Caesarion, at the time 17 years old, to the Red Sea port of Berenice for safety, with possible plans of an escape to India. Octavian captured the city of Alexandria on August 1, 30 BC, the date that marks the official annexation of Egypt to the Roman Republic. Mark Antony had committed suicide prior to Octavian’s entry into the capital; Cleopatra followed his example by committing suicide on August 12, 30 BC. Caesarion’s guardians, including his tutor, either were themselves lured by false promises of mercy into returning the boy to Alexandria or perhaps even betrayed him; the records are unclear. Plutarch says that Caesarion had actually escaped to India, but was falsely promised the kingdom of Egypt:

Augustus-DefeatsEgypt

Octavian is supposed to have had Caesarion executed in Alexandria, following the advice of Arius Didymus, who said “Too many Caesars is not good” (a pun on a line in Homer). The exact circumstances of his death have not been documented; it is popularly thought that he was strangled. Octavian then assumed absolute control of Egypt. The year 30 BC was considered the first year of the new ruler’s reign according to the traditional chronological system of Egypt.