Cleopatra and Cheraman Perumal AND KERALA


Cleopatra and Cheraman Perumal

Posted in history, india, kerala, mythology & legend, people, places, random with tags , , , , on November 11, 2009 by Manu
Cheraman Perumal was the last King of the Chera dynasty and popular legend tells how he divided his country among his relatives and dependents, converted to Islam and left for Mecca. He is said to have died there. However a story that I heard from Dr. Lakshmi Raghunandan of the Travancore Royal Family merits a mention and finding little online, I decided to post it on my blog.
The story is essentially not really about Cheraman Perumal but about his departure from Kerala which was the result of something hitherto unknown. The general consensus, I understand, is that he left sometime in the 9th or 10th century AD. However the roots of the story go back a millennium into history far away to Egypt to the times of Queen Cleopatra.
Octavius Caesar decided to attack Cleopatra’s kingdom which was defended by the famous Mark Anthony. The reason was that Cleopatra had a son by Julius Caesar, Caesorian, who Octavius feared could claim the throne of Rome as his father’s heir. Collecting a large army he attacked Cleopatra’s country and although Mark Anthony fought valiantly, he knew the end was near. For the Queen, the safety of her son was paramount and she decided to send him somewhere safe.
It is a historical fact that the Cheras of Kerala traded extensively with Egypt, China etc. Historians also concur that Cleopatra decided to send her son for safety to Kerala in India. Obviously she was on very good terms with the Chera king and I am told that members of the Travancore Royal family have indeed heard vague stories from their elders about letters exchanged between Cleopatra and their contemporary ancestor. Anyhow the story gets a little hazy here with two views emerging. The historian George Woodcock says that Caesarion did indeed manage to escape with a large treasure and was granted asylum in Kerala. Lucy Hughes-Hallet in her book “Cleopatra: histories, dreams, distortions” says that the Queen herself intended to flee to India but fell ill and therefore ordered her son to leave without her. The other view is that her son did indeed depart for the safety of the Chera country but was ambushed by Octavius en route and killed. In any case, whether or not he reached Kerala and survived is not known clearly, but the story assumes that he arrived in Kerala and was received as a honored guest of the royal family.

Rukmini Varma
In fact, such was the respect and importance of this guest that there is said to have been a matrimonial alliance between the Egyptian prince and a Chera Princess. When I first heard this, it seemed extremely incredible. However it cannot be dismissed as impossible. When Rukmini Varma of the Travancore Royal family, an artist, dancer and writer with a keen interest in Egyptology heard of this story for the first time, she visited the Padmanabhapuram Palace where certain relics are said to be preserved.She saw over there, and I presume it is still there, an important Egyptian statue of a King with his arms crossed, similar to the statues placed in the Pyramids of the ancient rulers, along with other artifacts. These had been unearthed many years ago from Quilon and remained for long in the custody of the royal family. These could simply be gifts from Egyptian rulers to their trade partner, the Chera king but anyhow the story states that the prince established a connection with the Cheras. Just like the royalties of so many places later were given asylum in Travancore, it is said the Egyptian prince too was welcomed.
The story picks up centuries later with the legendary Cheraman Perumal who ruled his kingdom well for many years from near Cochin. The story about this time notes the two families of the Travancore and Cochin royalties as separate. They were directly related to the Perumal. It was now that the Perumal decided to go looking for his lost relatives in Egypt and proclaimed that he was going to cross the ocean and visit the lands beyond. By now Brahminical hinduism seems to have secured a hold over the region and the Brahmins declared that the king would sustain “bhrashthu” or impurity due to this from which he would never be able to redeem himself. The king however had made up his mind and departed with the Arab traders who regularly travelled the way. Perhaps it was because these traders were Muslims that the king when he left was also considered a Muslim by the Brahmins of his country. The story of an Islamic conversion may have gained currency due to this, or perhaps to travel abroad the king deliberately converted. Anyhow, Cheraman Perumal left and we hear the last of him.
Cheraman Perumal
When he died many years later news eventually reached Kerala. The Rajahs of Cochin ignored the news but the Travancore Rajah decided to perform the “pula” ceremonies. The Brahmins were astounded and declared that the Travancore family having maintained pula and performed funeral obsequies for a converted, impure relative, were diminished in caste themselves now. They had no right to wear the poonool after this and the only way to redeem themselves was through expensive Danoms and associated ceremonies such as Hiranyagarbham. Thus began the tradition of every Travancore Maharajah performing this ceremony to “purify” himself. It may be noted that the Travancore State Manual, and I think, Prof. Sreedhara Menon also, records the story of a member of the royal family performing funeral ceremonies for Cheraman Perumal.
Thus this story traces the arrival of Cleopatra’s son in Kerala and then the departure of a possible descendant, the Perumal, who left to seek his lost relations in Egypt. Historians and scholars on Cleopatra and her times are divided on whether her son reached Kerala or not, but both possibilities may be weighed and studied. This new dimension of the Cheraman Perumal story is also interesting.
Obviously discrepancies may appear in the story. I have merely stated here yet another legend and story connected to Cheraman Perumal. Whether or not it is true is for real historians to determine.
(I am thankful to Dr. Lakshmi Raghunandan for introducing me to this story. The picture of Cheraman Perumal is taken from Shungunny Menon’s “History of Travancore” published in the 19th century. For the photograph of Mrs. Rukmini Varma, I thank her son, Mr. Jay Varma. Rukmini Varma is the granddaughter of HH Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi and was born in 1940 as Princess Bharani Thirunal Rukmini Bayi. In 1949 her family shifted to Bangalore where she is now based. Had the princely order continued, she would today have held the titles of “Attingal Elaya Thampuran” and Junior Maharani of Travancore.)

Cleopatra VII

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:-

BELOW:- Cleopatra VII with baby Ptolemy XV Caesarion son of Julius Caesar on coin of Cyprus 47BC displayed in the British Museum

Cleopatra and Caesarion with the Egyptian gods
Cleopatra and Caesarion with the Egyptian gods
Pharaoh of Egypt
A relief of Cleopatra VII and Caesarion at the temple of Dendera, Egypt

ALSO READ:-Caesarion:-
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Caesarion (Ptolemaios XV), son of Cleopatra VII


Vatican bust of Caesar Vatican bust of Caesar, side
102/100 BCE: Gaius Julius Caesar was born (by Caesarean section according to an unlikely legend) of Aurelia and Gaius Julius Caesar, a praetor. His family had noble, patrician roots, although they were neither rich nor influential in this period. His aunt Julia was the wife of Gaius Marius, leader of the Popular faction.
c. 85 BCE: His father died, and a few years later he was betrothed and possibly married to a wealthy young woman, Cossutia. This betrothal/marriage was soon broken off, and at age 18 he married Cornelia, the daughter of a prominent member of the Popular faction; she later bore him his only legitimate child, a daughter, Julia. When the Optimate dictator, Sulla, was in power, he ordered Caesar to divorce her; when Caesar refused, Sulla proscribed him (listed him among those to be executed), and Caesar went into hiding. Caesar's influential friends and relatives eventually got him a pardon.
c. 79 BCE: Caesar, on the staff of a military legate, was awarded the civic crown (oak leaves) for saving the life of a citizen in battle. His general sent him on an embassy to Nicomedes, the king of Bithynia, to obtain a fleet of ships; Caesar was successful, but subsequently he became the butt of gossip that he had persuaded the king (a homosexual) only by agreeing to sleep with him. When Sulla died in 78, Caesar returned to Rome and began a career as a orator/lawyer (throughout his life he was known as an eloquent speaker) and a life as an elegant man-about-town.
75 BCE: While sailing to Greece for further study, Caesar was kidnapped by Cilician pirates and held for ransom. When informed that they intended to ask for 20 talents, he is supposed to have insisted that he was worth at least 50. He maintained a friendly, joking relationship with the pirates while the money was being raised, but warned them that he would track them down and have them crucified after he was released. He did just that, with the help of volunteers, as a warning to other pirates, but he first cut their throats to lessen their suffering because they had treated him well.
72 BCE: Caesar was elected military tribune. (Note that Pompey and Crassus were the consuls for 70 BCE.)
69 BCE: He spoke at the funerals of both his aunt, Julia, and his wife, Cornelia. On both occasions, he emphasized his connections with Marius and the ancient nobility of his family, descended from the first kings on his mother's side and from the gods on his father's (revealing a notable talent for self-dramatization and a conception that there was something exceptional about him).
68/67 BCE: Caesar was elected quaestor and obtained a seat in the Senate; he married Pompeia, a granddaughter of Sulla. Caesar supported Gnaeus Pompey and helped him get an extraordinary generalship against the Mediterranean pirates, later extended to command of the war against King Mithridates in Asia Minor.
bust of Caesar 65 BCE: He was elected curule aedile and spent lavishly on games to win popular favor; large loans from Crassus made these expenditures possible. There were rumors that Caesar was having an affair with Gnaeus Pompey's wife, Mucia, as well as with the wives of other prominent men.
63 BCE: Caesar spent heavily in a successful effort to get elected pontifex maximus (chief priest); in 62 he was elected praetor. He divorced Pompeia because of her involvement in a scandal with another man, although the man had been acquitted in the law courts; Caesar is reported to have said, “The wife of Caesar must be above suspicion,” suggesting that he was so exceptional that anyone associated with him had to be free of any hint of scandal. In 61 he was sent to the province of Further Spain as propraetor.
60 BCE: He returned from Spain and joined with Pompey and Crassus in a loose coalition called by modern historians “The First Triumvirate” and by his enemies at the time “the three-headed monster.” In 62, Pompey had returned victorious from Asia, but had been unable to get the Senate to ratify his arrangements and to grant land to his veteran soldiers because he had disbanded his army on his return and Crassus was blocking his efforts. Caesar persuaded the two men to work together and promised to support their interests if they helped him get elected to the consulship.
59 BCE: Caesar was elected consul against heavy Optimate opposition led by Marcus Porcius Cato, a shrewd and extremely conservative politician. Caesar married his only daughter, Julia, to Pompey to consolidate their alliance; he himself married Calpurnia, the daughter of a leading member of the Popular faction. Caesar pushed Pompey's measures through, helped Crassus' proposals, and got for himself a five-year term as proconsul of Gaul after his consulship was over. However, he used some strong-arm methods in the Assembly and completely cowed his Optimate colleague in the consulship, Bibulus, so that jokers referred to the year as “the consulship of Julius and Caesar” (instead of “the consulship of Caesar and Bibulus”). Caesar was safe from prosecution for such actions as long as he held office, but once he became a private citizen again he could be prosecuted by his enemies in the Senate.
58 BCE: Caesar left Rome for Gaul; he would not return for 9 years, in the course of which he would conquer most of what is now central Europe, opening up these lands to Mediterranean civilization—a decisive act in world history. However, much of the conquest was an act of aggression prompted by personal ambition (not unlike the conquests of Alexander the Great). Fighting in the summers, he would return to Cisalpine Gaul (northern Italy) in the winters and manipulate Roman politics through his supporters (see this map of Caesar's Gallic campaigns).
56 BCE: Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus met in Caesar's province to renew their coalition, since Pompey had been increasingly moving toward the Optimate faction. Pompey and Crassus were to be consuls again, and Caesar's command in Gaul was extended until 49 BCE.
bust of Caesar 54 BCE: Caesar led a three-month expedition to Britain (the was the first Roman crossing of the English Channel), but he did not establish a permanent base there. Meanwhile, Caesar's coalition with Pompey was increasingly strained, especially after Julia died in childbirth in 54. In the following year, Crassus received command of the armies of the East but was defeated and killed by the Parthians.
52 BCE: Rioting in Rome led to Pompey's extra-legal election as “consul without a colleague.” Without Julia and Crassus, there was little to bond Caesar and Pompey together, and Pompey moved to the Optimate faction, since he had always been eager for the favor of the aristocrats.
51 BCE: The conquest of Gaul effectively completed, Caesar set up an efficient provincial administration to govern the vast territories; he published his history The Gallic Wars. The Optimates in Rome attempted to cut short Caesar's term as governor of Gaul and made it clear that he would be immediately prosecuted if he returned to Rome as a private citizen (Caesar wanted to run for the consulship in absentia so that he could not be prosecuted). Pompey and Caesar were maneuvered into a public split; neither could yield to the other without a loss of honor, dignity, and power.
49 BCE: Caesar tried to maintain his position legally, but when he was pushed to the limit he led his armies across the Rubicon River (the border of his province), which was automatic civil war. Pompey's legions were in Spain, so he and the Senate retreated to Brundisium and from there sailed to the East. Caesar quickly advanced to Rome, set up a rump Senate and had himself declared dictator. Throughout his campaign, Caesar practiced—and widely publicized—his policy of clemency (he would put no one to death and confiscate no property). In a bold, unexpected move, Caesar led his legions to Spain, to prevent Pompey's forces from joining him in the East; he allegedly declared, “I am off to meet an army without a leader; when I return, I shall meet a leader without an army.” After a remarkably short campaign, he returned to Rome and was elected consul, thus (relatively) legalizing his position.
48 BCE: Pompey and the Optimate faction had established a strong position in Greece by this time, and Caesar, in Brundisium, did not have sufficient ships to transport all his legions. He crossed with only about 20,000 men, leaving his chief legate, Mark Antony, in Brundisium to try to bring across the rest of the soldiers. After some rather desperate situations for Caesar, the rest of his forces finally landed, though they were greatly outnumbered by Pompey's men. In the final battle, on the plains of Pharsalus, it is estimated that Pompey had 46,000 men to Caesar's 21,000. By brilliant generalship, Caesar was victorious, though the toll was great on both sides; Caesar pardoned all Roman citizens who were captured, including Brutus, but Pompey escaped, fleeing to Egypt.
October 2, 48 BCE: Caesar, with no more than 4,000 legionaries, landed in Alexandria; he was presented, to his professed horror, with the head of Pompey, who had been betrayed by the Egyptians. Caesar demanded that the Egyptians pay him the 40 million sesterces he was owed because of his military support some years earlier for the previous ruler, Ptolemy XII (“The Flute Player”), who had put down a revolt against his rule with Caesar's help. After Ptolemy XII's death, the throne had passed to his oldest children, Cleopatra VII and Ptolemy XIII, as joint heirs. When Caesar landed, the eunuch Pothinus and the Egyptian general Achillas, acting on behalf of Ptolemy XIII (at this time about 12 years old), had recently driven Cleopatra (at this time about 20-21 years old) out of Alexandria. Cleopatra had herself smuggled into the palace in Alexandria wrapped in a rug (purportedly a gift for Caesar) and enlisted his help in her struggle to control the Egyptian throne. Like all the Ptolemies, Cleopatra was of Macedonian Greek descent; she was highly intelligent and well-educated. Caesar saw her as a useful ally as well as a captivating female, and he supported her right to the throne. Through the treachery of Pothinus and the hostility of the Egyptian people to the Romans, Achillas and an army of 20,000 besieged the palace. Caesar managed to hold the palace itself and the harbor; he had Pothinus executed as a traitor but allowed the young Ptolemy to join the army of Achillas. When he ordered the Egyptian fleet burnt, the great Library of Alexandria was accidently consumed in the flames.
drawing of Caesar with general's cloak
drawing of Caesar with general's cloak; see also this statue
February, 47 BCE: After some months under siege, Caesar tried unsuccessfully to capture Pharos, a great lighthouse on an island in the harbor; at one point when cut off from his men he had to jump in the water and swim to safety. Plutarch says that he swam with one hand, using the other to hold some important papers above the water; Suetonius adds that he also towed his purple general's cloak by holding it in his teeth so that it would not be captured by the Egyptians.
March, 47 BCE: Caesar had sent for reinforcements, two Roman legions and the army of an ally, King Mithridates; when they arrived outside Alexandria he marched out to join them and on March 26 defeated the Egyptian army (Ptolemy XIII died in this battle). Although he had been trapped in the palace for nearly six months and had been unable to exert a major influence on the conduct of the civil war, which was going rather badly without him, Caesar nevertheless remained in Egypt until June, even cruising on the Nile with Cleopatra to the southern boundary of her kingdom.
June 23, 47 BCE: Caesar left Alexandria, having established Cleopatra as a client ruler in alliance with Rome; he left three legions under the command of Rufio, as legate, in support of her rule. Either immediately before or soon after he left Egypt, Cleopatra bore a son, whom she named Caesarion, claiming that he was the son of Caesar.
August, 47 BCE: After leaving Alexandria, Caesar swept through Asia Minor to settle the disturbances there. On August 1, he met and immediately overcame Pharnaces, a rebellious king; he later publicized the rapidity of this victory with the slogan veni, vidi, vici (“I came, I saw, I overcame”).
October, 47 BCE: Caesar arrived back in Rome and settled the problems caused by the mismanagement of Antony. When he attempted to sail for Africa to face the Optimates (who had regrouped under Cato and allied with King Juba of Numidia), his legions mutinied and refused to sail. In a brilliant speech, Caesar brought them around totally, and after some difficult battles decisively defeated the Optimates at Thapsus, after which Cato committed suicide rather than be pardoned by Caesar.
coin of Caesar
coin issued by Caesar depicting military trophy
July 25, 46 BCE: The victorious and now unchallenged Caesar arrived back in Rome and celebrated four splendid triumphs (over the Gauls, Egyptians, Pharnaces, and Juba); he sent for Cleopatra and the year-old Caesarion and established them in a luxurious villa across the Tiber from Rome. In a letter at this time he listed his political aims as “tranquility for Italy, peace for the provinces, and security for the Empire.” His program for accomplishing these goals—both what he actually achieved and what he planned but did not have time to complete—was sound and farsighted (e.g., resolution of the worst of the debt crisis, resettlement of veterans abroad without dispossessing others, reform of the Roman calendar, regulation of the grain dole, strengthening of the middle class, enlargement of the Senate to 900), but his methods alienated many of the nobles. Holding the position of dictator, Caesar governed autocratically, more in the manner of a general than a politician. Although he nominally used the political structure, he often simply announced his decisions to the Senate and had them entered on the record as senatorial decrees without debate or vote.
April, 45 BCE: The two sons of Pompey, Gnaeus and Sextus, led a revolt in Spain; since Caesar's legates were unable to quell the revolt, Caesar had to go himself, winning a decisive but difficult victory at Munda. Gnaeus Pompey was killed in the battle, but Sextus escaped to become, later, the leader of the Mediterranean pirates.
October, 45 BCE: Caesar, back in Rome, celebrated a triumph over Gnaeus Pompey, arousing discontent because triumphs were reserved for foreign enemies. By this time Caesar was virtually appointing all major magistrates; for example, when the consul for 45 died on the morning of his last day of office, Caesar appointed a new consul to serve out the term—from 1:00 p.m. to sundown! Caesar was also borrowing some of the customs of the ruler cults of the eastern Hellenistic monarchies; for example, he issued coins with his likeness (note how the portrait on this coin, celebrating his fourth dictatorship, emphasizes his age) and allowed his statues, especially in the provinces, to be adorned like the statues of the gods. Furthermore, the Senate was constantly voting him new honors—the right to wear the laurel wreath and purple and gold toga and sit in a gilded chair at all public functions, inscriptions such as “to the unconquerable god,” etc. When two tribunes, Gaius Marullus and Lucius Flavius, opposed these measures, Caesar had them removed from office and from the Senate.
February, 44 BCE: Caesar was named dictator perpetuus. On February 15, at the feast of Lupercalia, Caesar wore his purple garb for the first time in public. At the public festival, Antony offered him a diadem (symbol of the Hellenistic monarchs), but Caesar refused it, saying Jupiter alone is king of the Romans (possibly because he saw the people did not want him to accept the diadem, or possibly because he wanted to end once and for all the speculation that he was trying to become a king). Caesar was preparing to lead a military campaign against the Parthians, who had treacherously killed Crassus and taken the legionary eagles; he was due to leave on March 18. Although Caesar was apparently warned of some personal danger, he nevertheless refused a bodyguard.
March 15, 44 BCE: Caesar attended the last meeting of the Senate before his departure, held at its temporary quarters in the portico of the theater built by Pompey the Great (the Curia, located in the Forum and the regular meeting house of the Senate, had been badly burned and was being rebuilt). The sixty conspirators, led by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Brutus Albinus, and Gaius Trebonius, came to the meeting with daggers concealed in their togas and struck Caesar at least 23 times as he stood at the base of Pompey's statue. Legend has it that Caesar said in Greek to Brutus, “You, too, my child?” After his death, all the senators fled, and three slaves carried his body home to Calpurnia several hours later. For several days there was a political vacuum, for the conspirators apparently had no long-range plan and, in a major blunder, did not immediately kill Mark Antony (apparently by the decision of Brutus). The conspirators had only a band of gladiators to back them up, while Antony had a whole legion, the keys to Caesar's money boxes, and Caesar's will. Click here for some assessments of Caesar by modern historians.
possible head of Caesar
first century BCE portrait bust with features resembling Caesar's, found in Ancient Thera

In History [ABOVE]-Pharaoh Ptolemy XV,Caesarion,son of Julius Caesar and cleopatra 7

September 2, 44 B.C. Cleopatra names her four-year-old son by Julius Caesar co-ruler of Egypt with the name Ptolemy XV Caesarion.

Iulius (Julius/Julii/Caesar)

Julius Caesar

According to Sextus Pompeius Festus, the cognomen "Caesar" derived from caesaries, 'hair', and indicated that the founder of this branch of the family was born with a full head of hair (Julius Caesar himself was, ironically, balding).
Pliny the Elder (H.N. vii (in English)), on the other hand, says natus primusque Caesarum a caeso matris utero dictus, that the first Caesar was so called because he was cut from his mother's womb (see Caesarean section). It is not clear exactly which Caesar Pliny intended, but it is not Julius: his mother was still alive when he reached adulthood, and C-section was until modern times only sensible when the mother was dying. Too, the family name "Caesar" had already been in the family for generations before Julius Caesar's birth.
A third etymology, proposed by Ludwig von Doederlein, derives the name from caesius, 'grey'. (See Caesar in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities.)
In subsequent times, some authors think that "Caesar" entered Eurasian folklore as Geser of Rūm or Khrom, Geser Khan, or, much later, Geser of Ling (after a province of eastern Tibet). Geser became a war god especially popular with central Asian military societies, known to have spread from the Seljuk Turks and Sassanian Persians to Tibetan, Mongolian, Manchu and eventually Chinese mythologies by the time of the Qing dinasty.

Julius Caesar - Caesar's family

  • Wives
First marriage to Cornelia Cinnilla
Second marriage to Pompeia Sulla
Third marriage to Calpurnia Pisonis
Julia Caesaris Major (the elder)
Julia Caesaris Minor (the younger)
Julia Caesaris with Cornelia Cinnilla
Ptolemy XV Caesar (Caesarion) with Cleopatra VII, he would become an Egyptian pharaoh
his adopted son Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (his nephew by blood), who became the first Roman Emperor.
a grandson from Julia Caesaris and Pompey, dead at several days, unnamed
Female lovers
Affair with Cleopatra VII
Affair with Servilia Caepionis, mother of Brutus

List of the Male Members of the Julii Caesar Family

The Julii Caesar Family was a subdivision of the patrician Julii family in the Roman Republic. All its members had the nomen Julius and the cognomen Caesar. This list shows some of the male members; beginning with the oldest ones, the years during which they lived and some of the important activities they performed in the Roman Republic.
Numerius Julius Caesar ( bef. 300 BC)
Lucius Julius Caesar I
Sextus Julius Caesar I (fl. 200 BC, military tribune, governor of Liguria)
Sextus Julius Caesar II (consul 156 BC)
Lucius Julius Caesar II
Gaius Julius Caesar Strabo (Vopiscus, c.130 BC - 87 BC, quaestor, aedile)
Lucius Julius Caesar III (d. 87 BC, praetor 94 BC, consul 90 BC)
Lucius Julius Caesar IV (d. aft. 43 BC, consul 63 BC)
Gaius Julius Caesar I
Gaius Julius Caesar II
Sextus Julius Caesar III (d. 90 BC or 89 BC, consul 91 BC, military commander)
Sextus Julius Caesar IV (quaestor in 48 BC, military commander in Syria)
Gaius Julius Caesar III (c. 135 BC – 85 BC, quaestor, praetor)
Julius Caesar (100 BC – 44 BC, consul, dictator, etc.)
(by adoption)
Augustus (Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, 63 BC – AD 14, emperor)
(by adoption)
Gaius Julius Caesar (20 BC – AD 4)
Lucius Julius Caesar (17 BC – AD 2)
Tiberius (42 BC – AD 37, Emperor from AD 14)
Drusus the Younger (Julius Caesar Drusus, 13 BC – AD 23, military commander, etc.)
(by adoption)
`Germanicus (Germanicus Julius Caesar, 15 BC – AD 19, military commander, etc.)
`Caligula (Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus, AD 12 – AD 41, Emperor from AD 37)
Statue of Augustus

Did Caesar and Cleopatra really have a son?

By: The Scribe on Friday, December 3, 2010

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.
imageIt 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. image
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.

Vertical detail of a relief of Cleopatra and Caesarion, Temple of Hathor, Dendera, c125 BC-c60 AD.

Vertical detail of a relief of Cleopatra and Caesarion, Temple of Hathor, Dendera, c125 BC-c60 AD.

Additional information

Vertical detail of a Relief of Cleopatra VII and Caesarion (her son by Julius Caesar) offering to the gods, Temple of Hathor, Dendera, Egypt, late Ptolemaic and Roman, c125 BC- 60 AD. Temple of Hathor was dedicated to Hathor and Horus the Elder.

General and Hellenic History Subjects: Ptolemy Caesar(Caesarion) .CLICK AND READ:-:-

Ptolemy XV Caesarion

Caesarion: Victim of the wicked who whispered 'Too Many Caesars'

Colossal head thought to depict Caesarion recovered
from Abukir Bay of the coast of Alexandria by French
archaeologist Frank Goddio in 1997.

Behold, you came with your vague
charm. In history only a few
lines are found about you,
and so I molded you more freely in my mind.
I molded you handsome and sentimental.
My art gives to your face
a dreamy compassionate beauty.
And so fully did I envision you,
that late last night, as my lamp
was going out -- I let go out on purpose --
I fancied that you entered my room,
it seemed that you stood before me; as you might have been
in vanquished Alexandria,
pale and tired, idealistic in your sorrow,
still hoping that they would pity you,
the wicked -- who whispered "Too many Caesars."
- Constantine P Cavafy, Greece (1863-1933)

Like Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, I have tried to imagine what Caesarion was like. Surely he possessed a healthy dose of charisma like his mesmerizing mother Cleopatra VII and his inspiring father Gaius Julius Caesar. But then again, when I studied genetics in high school back in the 60s I was told that nature tends to return to the "norm" rather than build successively on the talents of one's parents. I was always puzzled by that since researchers exploring the boundaries of eugenics always tried to manipulate the gene pool by selective breeding.

I had never seen a sculpted portrait of Caesarion, except the highly stylized relief of him as pharaoh alongside his mother Queen Cleopatra VII on the temple of Dendera, until I attended the "Cleopatra: The Search For The Last Queen of Egypt" exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania last month. There I saw an image of a handsome young man with hair peeking out from under the royal nemes headdress looking so melancholy as if he sensed his life would end soon without any of his dreams or ambitions fulfilled.

'Son of the avenging god, Chosen by Ptah, Dispenser of the justice of Ra, Living power of Amun' proclaims the translation of Caesarion's Egyptian name, Iwapanetjerentynehem Setepenptah Irmaatenra Sekhemankhamun. Sadly, Caesarion, Ptolemy XV, known by his Greek subjects as Ptolemy Caesar, did not live to dispense justice or avenge the death of his father. He was executed by his father's adopted son, Octavian, who would become the Roman emperor Augustus.

Of course, with literally the control of the Roman World at stake, Caesarion's actual paternity, needless to say, was much disputed by some ancient Romans, probably fueled by Octavian's robust propaganda machine.

Dio Cassius, a Roman consul and historian writing in the 3rd century CE (47.31.5) claimed Cleopatra VII only "pretended" that Caesar was his father while Nicolaus of Damascus, a Greek historian who actually served as tutor to Antony and Cleopatra's children but was later patronized by Augustus, in his Life of Augustus (20) claimed that Caesar explicitly repudiated Caesarion in his will.

Suetonius[, a second century historian patronized by the Roman emperor Trajan,] is carefully neutral in his Caesar 52. He notes that he [Caesarion] was said to closely resemble Caesar, but also that Caesar's secretary G. Oppius wrote a book proving that Caesar could not be Caesarion's father. He also says that Caesar "allowed" Cleopatra VII to name the child after him, implying that he did not in fact acknowledge him as his, but then notes that Antony had declared to the Senate that Caesar did acknowledge the boy as his. - Chris Bennett, Egyptian Royal Genealogy
How painful for a young man to look so much like his famous father but be denied by him. Of course, we must consider the real possibilities of political bias in these accounts. Even the later historians would have been influenced by the Roman public's perception that Augustus represented the 'gold standard" for a Roman emperor.

Even if Nicolaus of Damascus was faithfully recording his observation of Caesar's will it would not have been beyond the pale for Octavian to have discretely amended the will to reinforce his position as unchallenged heir - especially if , as Plutarch reports, Caesarion successfully escaped to India and was at large elsewhere in the world for a time before being lured back to his death.
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. - Plutarch, Life of Antony
Plutarch's account coincides with an oral tradition in India that Cheras of Kerala traded extensively with Egypt and the descendants of that royal family were told that letters were exchanged with Cleopatra.

The [Canadian] historian George Woodcock says that Caesarion did indeed manage to escape with a large treasure and was granted asylum in Kerala. Lucy Hughes-Hallet in her book “Cleopatra: histories, dreams, distortions” says that the Queen herself intended to flee to India but fell ill and therefore ordered her son to leave without her...whether or not he reached Kerala and survived is not known clearly, but the story assumes that he arrived in Kerala and was received as a honored guest of the royal family. In fact, such was the respect and importance of this guest that there is said to have been a matrimonial alliance between the Egyptian prince and a Chera Princess. -Cleopatra and Cheraman Perumal

Furthermore, Nicolaus of Damascus reported ongoing communications between factions in India and Augustus at this time.

This writer [Nicolaus of Damascus] states that at Antioch, near Daphne, he met with ambassadors from the Indians, who were sent to Augustus Caesar. It appeared from the letter that several persons were mentioned in it, but three only survived, whom he says he saw. The rest had died chiefly in consequence of the length of the journey. The letter was written in Greek upon a skin; the import of it was, that Porus was the writer, that although he was sovereign of six hundred kings, yet that he highly esteemed the friendship of Cæsar; that he was willing to allow him a passage through his country, in whatever part he pleased, and to assist him in any undertaking that was just.
Were these letters part of Augustus' attempt to lure Caesarion back into his grasp?

Archaeological evidence cannot settle the paternity issue without scholarly controversy either - not so much from a lack of physical remains attesting to Caesarion's birth date but to the confusion over Egyptian regnal year notations as well as the state of flux in the official reading of the Roman calendar that was in the midst of being converted to the new Julian version.

A stele in the Louvre appears to record Caesarion's birth giving 23 Payni year 5 as the birthday of "the pharaoh Caesar".

Assuming this dates the birth of Caesarion to 23 June 47, it places his conception in September 48 = November AUC 706, which is precisely the period when Cleopatra VII and Caesar were in closest contact in Alexandria under the siege of the forces of Achillas. At this time, it is very difficult to imagine how anyone else could be Caesarion's father. - Chris Bennett, Egyptian Royal Genealogy

Bennett points out, though, that other scholars like J. Carpocino, Passion et politique chez les Césars (1958) 37, argued that Antony had been smitten by the 14-year-old Cleopatra in 55 BCE while stationed as a cavalry officer in Egypt and could have had an illicit affair with her resulting in the birth of Caesarion.

Head of Gaius Julius Caesar from Trajan's Foru...Image by mharrsch via Flickr
Portrait of Gaius Julius Caesar
from Trajan's Forum in Rome.
The second argument (J. P. V. D. Balsdon, Historia 7 (1958) 80, 86) is that Caesar's track-record for conceiving children is poor, and therefore he was possibly sterile at this time of his life. Only one child is certainly acknowledged, his daughter Julia, and the assassin Marcus Brutus, who is sometimes claimed as a son, can be excluded on chronological grounds. This is in spite of his having had three wives and numerous affairs. But R. Syme, Historia 29 (1980) 422, correctly points out that this means nothing. Low birth rates among the Roman aristocracy were a matter of official concern, whether this was due to lead in the pipes or the increasing independence of aristocratic Roman women in that time. Short-lived children were more common than not, and rarely noticed. And "Adultery in high society is more amply documented than any consequences"; although Cicero makes many scandalous charges against his opponents he never once accuses an opponent of not being his father's son. In illustration of the point, Syme constructs suggestive arguments that Decimus Brutus and P. Cornelius Dolabella may have been unacknowledged sons of Caesar. A Gaul, Julius Sabinus, claimed descent from Caesar through his great-grandmother in 70 AD (Tacitus, Histories 4.55). This has been generally disbelieved from Tacitus' day onwards, though, with H Heinen (Historia 18 (1969) 181, 202), I see no particular reason to doubt the story. - Chris Bennett, Egyptian Royal Genealogy

Bennett also discusses numismatic evidence with dual dates representing periods of the joint rule of Cleopatra and Caesarion. Although all of these speculations are interesting, the real bottom line is that the Romans at the time knew Cleopatra was making a valid claim which made Octavian's resolution to the question of his legitimate inheritance of Caesar's fortune and power base so urgent.

Colleen McCullough imagined a very poignant confrontation between Octavian and Caesarion in her bookAntony and Cleopatra: A Novel (Masters of Rome)Caesarion fearlessly approaches Octavian with a proposal to become a client king. But Octavian explains to the youth that he regretfully must take Caesarion's life. Caesarion's face reflects his confusion, disbelief, then resignation when he finally realizes his death is the consequence of looking so much like his famous father. This scenario was strictly fictitious, of course, but it was certainly plausible and perhaps painfully close to actual events that played out in those final days of the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt.

Head thought to be of Gaius Julius Caesar recovered
from the Rhone River near Arles, France in 2007.
So, did Caesarion so closely resemble his father that he had to die to avoid future problems for Octavian? If we compare the (suspected) colossal head of Caesarion found in Alexandria harbor with one of the stylized portraits of the divine Julius found in Trajan's forum, we can point to vague similarities in the width of the forehead and the angle of the cheekbones but, I think I see more similarity between Caesarion and a marble head found in the Rhone River near Arles, France in 2007 that is thought to be a portrait of the aging Caesar carved in 46 BCE, just two years before his assassination on the Ides of March. Caesar's hair has receded and his face is deeply lined but this more natural looking portrait appears to reflect a similar shape of the mouth and the same innate melancholia as I saw in the head of Caesarion recovered by French divers.

When I think of Caesarion, I can't help but wonder what might have been. Like Alexander IV, Caesarion held such promise but, as happens far too often in history, fortune doesn't just favor the bold, but the greedy and the ruthless.

A document thought to be written in Cleopatra VII's own
hand. Image courtesy of National Geographic.
Although I was fascinated by the portrait head of Caesarion at the Cleopatra exhibit, I eventually had to tear myself away to view the rest of the artifacts that had been assembled there.

I felt a real connection to Cleopatra viewing a document written in her own hand ordering her administrators to "Make it happen" - sounds a bit like Captain Jean-Luc Picard doesn't it?

I also found a statue thought to be Cleopatra II or III, both of whom ruled Egypt during the mid-2nd century BC, to be quite breathtaking. Near the remains of a temple that Cleopatra passed every day, divers discovered a beautifully carved sculpture of a priest holding an Osiris-Canopus jar.

"The tender way the priest carries the Osiris-Canopus vase, resting it lightly on his cheek, evokes a love for the god and a desire to forever remain in his presence." - Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt

The exhibit also included a variety of votive objects, a beautiful head of the god Serapis, and a wonderfully detailed statue of a delicate woman thought to have been Cleopatra VII herself although the head had either been broken off in the devastating earthquake that leveled and submerged the palace or perhaps stricken off by a vengeful Octavian.

The exhibit is in its final month at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. If you are going to be in the Philadelphia area over the holidays, I would strongly encourage you to attend.

Cleopatra and Antony's twin babies rediscovered in Cairo

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Washington, April 21 : An Italian Egyptologist has rediscovered a sculpture of Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, the offspring of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII, at the Egyptian museum in Cairo.
The sandstone statue, discovered in 1918 near the temple of Dendera on the west bank of the Nile, was acquired by the Egyptian Museum in Cairo but has remained largely overlooked.

The back of the 33-foot sculpture, catalogued as JE 46278 at the Egyptian museum, features some engraved stars - likely indicating that the stone was originally part of a ceiling. Overall, the rest of the statue appears to be quite unusual.

"It shows two naked children, one male and one female, of identical size standing within the coils of two snakes. Each figure has an arm over the other's shoulder, while the other hand grasps a serpent," Giuseppina Capriotti, an Egyptologist at the Italy's National Research Council, told Discovery News.

The researcher identified the children as Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, Antony and Cleopatra's twins, following a detailed stylistic and iconographic analysis published by the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw.

Capriotti noticed that the boy has a sun-disc on his head, while the girl boast a crescent and a lunar disc.

The serpents, perhaps two cobras, would also be different forms of sun and moon, she said. Both discs are decorated with the udjat-eye, also called the eye of Horus, a common symbol in Egyptian art.

"Unfortunately the faces are not well preserved, but we can see that the boy has curly hair and a braid on the right side of the head, typical of Egyptian children. The girl's hair is arranged in a way similar to the so-called melonenfrisur (melon coiffure ) an elaborated hairstyle often associated with the Ptolemaic dynasty, and Cleopatra particularly," said Capriotti.

The researcher compared the group statue with another Ptolemaic sculpture, the statue of Pakhom, governor of Dendera, now on display at the Detroit Institute of Arts, USA.

"Stylistically, the statues have several features in common. For example, the figures have round faces, little chins and big eyes," Capriotti said.

Since the statue of Pakhom was dated to 50-30 B.C., she concluded that the twin sculpture was produced by an Egyptian artist at the end of the Ptolemaic period, after Roman triumvir Mark Antony recognized his twins in 37 B.C.

The babies weren't the firsts for Cleopatra. The Queen of Egypt had already given birth in 47 B.C., when she bore Julius Caesar a child, Caesarion. In 36 B.C. she presented Antony with another son, Ptolemy Philadelphus.

At the time of their birth in 40 B.C., the twins were simply named Cleopatra and Alexander. When they were officially recognized by their father three years later, as Antony returned to Antioch, in present Turkey, and Cleopatra joined him, they were named Alexander Helios (Sun), and Cleopatra Selene (Moon).

"Antony's recognition of the children was marked by an eclipsys. Probably for this reason, and to mythologize their twin birth, the children were added those celestial names. Although in Egypt the moon was a male deity, in the sculpture the genders were reversed according to the Greek tradition," Capriotti stated.

Little is known of the children Cleopatra and Mark Antony left behind after their suicides in 30 B.C. following defeat in battle.

While Caesarion was murdered under Octavian's orders, the lives of the three offsprings of Cleopatra and Antony were spared.

Cleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios, then aged 10, and Ptolemy Philadelphus, then aged four, were moved to Rome and put under the care of Octavian's sister, Octavia whom Antony was married to.

Some years later, Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus would disappear without a trace.

Only Cleopatra Selene survived. Married to King Juba II of Mauretania, she had at least one child, Ptolemy Philadelphus, likely named in honor of her little brother.

Her image was minted on coins along with Juba's, suggesting that she ruled as an equal partner.

"Now we have her portrayed as a child with her twin brother. Blending Egyptian myths and Greek culture, this sculpture fully represents Egypt at Cleopatra's time," Capriotti added. (ANI)


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