More than 2,000 years after her death, Cleopatra, the last Ptolemaic queen of Egypt, remains one of the most famous and fabled women in history. Almost forgotten, however, is Ptolemy XV Caesar, AKA Caesarion, her son fathered by Julius Caesar, who was groomed for greatness that was never to be. Caesarion, whose name means “little Caesar,” was the last Pharaoh of the Ptolemaic dynasty, and an heir and potential successor to his father in Rome as well. Instead, he apparently met a brutal, ignominious end at age 17, gasping futilely for his last breath as he was strangled by a Roman captor.

The strange, sad saga of Cleopatra’s and Julius Caesar’s male offspring–and probably, the Roman leader’s only son–began in 47 BC, when he was born in Egypt out of wedlock. As a young child, he and his mother spent two years in Rome as Caesar’s guests. The Roman historian Suetonius notes that by some accounts, “the boy closely resembled Caesar in features as well as in gait.”  Cleopatra had ambitions that Caesarion would someday inherit his father’s place as leader of Rome and Egypt as well, but those ambitions were dashed by Julius Caesar’s murder in 44 B.C. Instead, Caesarion and his mother returned to Alexandria, where she installed him as her co-ruler–in name only, of course– at the age of 3. 

As the son of Caesar and Cleopatra grew into a teenager, he became a pawn of sorts in the Roman power struggle between his mother’s new lover, Marc Antony, and his father’s nephew Octavian. As co-rulers of Rome, Antony and Octavian each sought to undermine the other and grab sole power. One of Antony’s strategies was to promote Caesarion as being a closer and more worthy heir to Julius Caesar and his authority than Octavian. Antony showed land claims and lofty titles upon Caesarion, and even proclaimed him to be divine. Unfortunately for Antony, those ploys known as the Donations of Alexandria, turned out to be his undoing. Octavian successfully portrayed Antony as a traitor who was out to subordinate Rome to Egypt, and exploited the resulting resentment to rally support for a war against Antony and Cleopatra.

In 30 BC, after Octavian’s forces defeated Antony’s and Cleopatra’s defenders in the battle of Actium, they invaded Egypt. Antony and Cleopatra both committed suicide, rather than submit to Octavian. But before her death, Cleopatra apparently laid out an escape route for Caesarion.

What happened after that is murky. According to the Roman historian Cassius Dio’s account, Octavian’s forces captured Caesarion on the road to Ethiopia and murdered him, and Suetonious gives a similar report. Other sources have Caesarion being tricked into coming out of hiding at the port of Bernenice, on Egypt’s Red Sea coast. Another Roman historian, Plutarch, tells a different story

Cleopatra had him sent unto the Indians through Ethiopia, with a great sum of money. But one of the governors also called Rhodon, even such another as Theodorus, persuaded him to return into his country, and told him that Caesar [Octavian] sent for him to give him his mother’s kingdom. 

Instead, however, Octavian listened to his confidant, the philosopher Arius Didymus, who advised that “too many Caesars is not good,” which Plutarch informs us is a pun based on a line from Homer’s Odyssey, “Too many lords doth not well.” (In Robert Fagles’  modern translation of Homer, the line becomes, “If you serve too many masters, you’ll soon suffer.”)

Octavian then ordered Caesarion’s murder. There is no definitive account, but the most popular version seems to be that he was strangled by his captors. Octavian then declared himself ruler of Egypt, and went on to become the first Roman emperor, under the name of Augustus. 

Be sure to tune in to The Real Cleopatra on Friday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m.

Comments

  1. l.shawn
    November 11, 2012, 9:15 am

    Cleopatra said Ceasarion isthe king of king when he was 3yrs old… Ceasarion in India is the Jesus in India during that same time. the whole roman empire and the pope is lying to us for years. they brain washing us about who these peoples was. JAH see & know.

  2. ethan lopetrone
    west virginia
    January 24, 2013, 1:58 pm

    cleopatra is sexy

  3. Nkulee
    South Africa
    March 28, 2013, 6:30 pm

    I find this very intriguing, there’s a lot to learn from Cleopatra’s and Anthony’s mistakes. I recently saw the film and loved it.

  4. Christa Sloan
    April 3, 2013, 6:05 am

    @i.shawn. I agree, Julius Ceasar = jc born 0bc?? A little too much of a coincidence to be believable

  5. vjeshkumar
    chennai
    May 8, 2013, 12:11 pm

    @ l.shawn where did you get those info….

  6. Hugo Danner
    Wisonsin, USA
    September 12, 2013, 10:11 pm

    I think JFK was the US’s ceasar. Assassinated ny his own military & titally power hungry corrupt politicans. All to make $$ off the war in Viet Nam .

  7. Amy Wright
    Marksville la
    October 16, 2013, 4:57 pm

    Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior …Julius Ceasar And Cleopatras bastard was not and will never be Our Jesus Christ !!!!

  8. Jesus
    Bethlehem
    November 24, 2013, 4:06 pm

    Shut up Amy wright

  9. Iulius
    Augusta, Australia
    December 7, 2013, 4:18 am

    Hugo Danner, I wonder how one could make money off a war when the president is assassinated. Also, Julius Caesar wasn’t assassinated by his own military. Just say’in.

  10. Jesus Christ
    israel
    December 10, 2013, 3:55 pm

    Amy Wright! I command you to shut up and follow Julius Caesar instead. Also, I find Cleopatra extremely hot and sexy…

  11. MadHatter
    U.S.
    December 29, 2013, 3:35 pm

    Claiming to be the Christ. Seriously not funny, and in fact rather dangerous for one’s soul. I would pray for those who do such things, if I didn’t already know they’re given to a reprobate spirit. God Bless Amy Wright, keep on proclaiming the word and who the Lord of Lords and King of Kings really is. :)

  12. SOHT
    January 11, 7:34 pm

    Is it really that hard to believe in Jesus? I wonder if He ever feels any sadness after loving us so much and not receiving it back. What an evil guy right? Love your neighbors as yourself and treat people with love no matter where their from. What a terrible lesson right? Don’t murder anyone cause is not your life to take. Don’t steal because is not yours to take. Treat your parents with love and respect. What a terrible idea right? What do you have to loose in loving Jesus? For ideas sake let’s say there is no Jesus, which there is, but if there wasn’t when all this is over, you neither lose nor gained anything. But if this world ended today and Jesus descended from heaven you lose more than you could ever replace. Live a good life, have fun, be healthy, always love, give it some thought. Ultimately the choice is yours. Whatever the choice, I hope you have a good life ;-)

  13. El Bearsidente
    July 29, 7:07 pm

    Essentially Jesus stole all his ideas from Buddha, a classic monotheist move. They like to steal everything. Ideas, lands, people. The past 2,000 years are full of monotheists stealing everything. But this dates back even farther to the Jews, who, because they were envious of the true high cultures in the area, cooked up fairy tales and lies about things like the tower of Babylon. Heck, they even stole monotheism from the Egyptians!

    There is also no factual evidence that proves Cleopatra’s claim to be truthful. For all we know she lied, in order to try and get her Egypt back to old glories.