Many people know the history surrounding the relationship between Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Not as much is known about the child that they had together. Born in 47BCE, the son, named Ptolemy Caesar and called Caesarion actually reigned along with his mother. But who was he really?
Caesar stayed in Egypt for two years and it was known that during this time, Cleopatra and Caesar had been involved. Cleopatra bore the son although he was never acknowledged by Caesar. Even though he was not officially acknowledged by Julius Caesar, he did permit the boy to carry a part of his name. The mother and son also spent two years in Rome where they were Caesar’s guests. Caesarion was Cleopatra’s eldest son although she did go on to bear other children to Mark Antony. If it is true that he was Caesar’s son, he was the only son that Julius Caesar fathered.
It is widely known how things unfolded. Caesar was assassinated in Rome in 44BCE. Cleopatra took her son back to Egypt and they began to rule there as co-rulers. It was known that while Cleopatra wanted her son to rule the country with her she did not give up any of her authority. This was not surprising since the boy was only three years of age when he was proclaimed King of Egypt.
Mark Antony and Cleopatra went on to form a relationship and she bore him three children. Antony was busy ruling Rome along with Octavian and Lepidus but this dissolved several years later. This was the beginning of the end. Finally, Antony was killed and Octavian became the sole ruler of Rome. He set about to destroy his rivals, one of whom was Caesarion.
Octavian invaded the capital of Egypt in 30BCE. By the time he gained entry to the capital Mark Antony had already killed himself. Cleopatra lasted approximately twelve days after Octavian’s arrival but she too eventually committed suicide. Caesarion’s safety was left in the hands of people who were more worried about their own safety than the boy’s and they allowed Octavian to learn about Caesarion’s whereabouts.
Here is where documented history gets a bit fuzzy. Some reports say that although Caesarion was sent away, he was tracked down and executed in Alexandria. Other reports and rumors suggest that he was actually sent to India by his mother. Regardless of whether he was sent to India or found in Alexandria the fact is that he was eventually found and assassinated. Popular historical accounts claim that he was strangled although it is not known whether this is true or not.
Caesarion is a fascinating character simply because we don’t know that much about him. He appears in many of the different stories about Cleopatra and Caesar although his age and the role he played in the politics of the time are normally glossed over. Regardless of how he is portrayed in film and on television he is remembered as a successor to Cleopatra as Pharaoh of Egypt.