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Caesarion

Caesarion

Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar, nicknamed Caesarion (little Caesar)

Greek: 'Πτολεμαίος ΙΕ' 'Φιλοπάτωρ Φιλομήτωρ Καίσαρ, Καισαρίων (June 23, 47 BC – August, 30 BC) was the last king of the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt, who reigned, as a child, jointly with his mother, Cleopatra VII from September 2, 44 BC to August, 30 BC, when he was killed by Octavian, who would become the Roman emperor Augustus.

He was the eldest son of Cleopatra VII. He is considered and it is highly likely given the evidence, that his father was Julius Caesar, for whom he was named. If so, he was Caesar's only known son by blood.

Life

Ptolemy XV, sometimes referred to as "Ptolemy Caesar", most commonly known by his nickname Caesarion, was born in Egypt in 47 BC and spent two of his early years, from 46-44 BC, in Rome, where he and his mother were Caesar's guests. Cleopatra VII hoped that her son would eventually succeed his father as ruler of the Roman Empire as well as Egypt. After Caesar's assassination on March 15, 44 BC, Cleopatra and Caesarion returned to Egypt. Caesarion was named co-ruler by his mother on September 2 44 BC at the age of three, although he was King in name only, with Cleopatra VII keeping actual authority to herself.

During the tense period of time leading up to the final showdown between Mark Antony and Octavian, Antony, who at that time shared control of the Empire in a triumvirate with Octavian and Lepidus, granted various eastern lands and titles to Caesarion and to his own three children with Cleopatra. Caesarion was proclaimed "King of Kings." Most threatening to Octavian (whose claim to power was based on his status as Julius Caesar's great-nephew 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.

When Octavian invaded Egypt in 30 BC, Cleopatra VII sent Caesarion, then seventeen years old, to the Red Sea port of Berenice for safety, with plans of an escape to India; he may have been sent years earlier, but the sources are unclear. Plutarch does say that Caesarion was sent to India, but also that he was lured back by false promises of the kingdom of Egypt:

"Caesarion, who was said to be Cleopatra's son by Julius Caesar, was sent by his mother, with much treasure, into India, by way of Ethiopia. There Rhodon, another tutor like Theodorus, persuaded him to go back, on the ground that [Octavian] Caesar invited him to take the kingdom."[1]
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. Octavian, fearing that "too many Caesars" would threaten his claim to being Caesar's sole heir, had Caesarion murdered.

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. In lists of the time Octavian himself appears as a Pharaoh and the successor to Caesarion.

  • Famous head raised from Alexandria harbour by Franck Goddio in 1997, thought to be Caesarion [1].
  • Portrayed in relief as an adult pharaoh with his mother on her Temple of Hathor at Dendera, above.

Literature

  • Caesarion is the subject of a poem written in 1918 by C. P. Cavafy (English translation).
  • He is also the subject of a novel by Gillian Bradshaw called Cleopatra's Heir.
  • Caesarion appeared as a baby in the graphic novel Asterix and Son.
  • Appeared as a little boy in The October Horse, the last book in the Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough.

TV

  • Caesarion is also the name of an episode of the television show Rome, in which he appears as a new born baby and a fictionalized account of the events surrounding his conception and birth is depicted. (He will probably re-appear as a teenager in the second series.)

Video Games

  • In Rygar: The Legendary Adventure, it is later revealed that a certain central character is an amnesiac Caesarion.

References

  1. Plutarch, Life of Antony


Preceded by:
Ptolemy XIV
Pharaoh of Egypt
Ptolemaic Dynasty
Succeeded by:
Augustus

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