Caesarion: Julius Caesar’s Only Legitimate Son To Be Pharaoh of Egypt


Ptolemaic rulers are the line of Egyptian monarchs that is believed to have started with Ptolemy I Soter. Alexander the Great ruled the Kingdom of Macedon in northern Greece. Egypt then, was part of Alexander’s former empire. Ptolemy I Soter, a friend and a historian of Alexander the Great, who after the death of Alexander, declared himself king of Egypt (Ptolemy I) in 304 BC. His heirs are automatically named after the Ptolemaic order.

Caesarion’s statue

Caesarion was born on 23rd June, 47 BC, he was named Ptolemy Philopator Philometor Caesar, and nicknamed Caesarion. He was destined to be the last pharaoh of Egypt. He was the only son of Julius Caesar. Caesarion’s mother, Cleopatra; she was the daughter of Ptolemy XII. Cleopatra, who had a younger brother; Ptolemy XIII (Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator), aged 18 and 10 respectively. Their father, Ptolemy XII, pronounced them as co-heirs in the aforementioned ages.

[Insight: When Cleopatra was 18, her father, Ptolemy XII, named her and her 10-year-old brother, Ptolemy XIII, as co-heirs. According to one account, they would serve together under the guardianship of Rome, since Egypt was a Roman protectorate.]

Cleopatra began to overrule her younger brother, and Ptolemy XIII advisers started plans to make him the only ruler. This ignited an unrest between the two siblings.

At that same time of the feud amongst the siblings, there was also a war in Rome between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great over who should rule Rome; this initiated the battle of Pharsalus. Since they were both heroes of Rome, they used this as basis to converse alliances; Pompey chose Ptolemy XIII to Egypt’s hand in the war. Cleopatra on the other hand raced to Syria where she raised an army and set a base for her activities.

Caesar defeated Pompey who fled to Alexandria to take cover from Ptolemy XIII, but he got killed by Ptolemy XIII who presented his head to Julius Caesar, to gain Caesar’s favour. Cleopatra sneaked into Alexandria and also gained the favour of Caesar to defeat her brother.

After Ptolemy XIII’s death, Julius Caesar made Cleopatra, who was 21 then, the ruler of Egypt. She co-ruled with a younger brother, Ptolemy XIV. She also took Caesar as a lover, not minding the 30 years age difference. She got pregnant, then Caesarion was born and announced by Cleopatra as Julius Caesar’s son in 47 BC.

It is made known that the mother and child duo were invited by the father, Caesar, who recognized Caesarion as his truly son in the 46 BC but didn’t mention him as heir of his throne before been murdered in 44 BC. His will stated that his great-nephew, Gaius Octavius (Octavian), as his heir. Out of fear for their lives, Cleopatra and young Caesarion, left Caesar’s place when Caesarion was two years old.

Coming back to Egypt, Cleopatra killed her brother, the Ptolemy XIV to create an avenue for her son to ascend the throne. He became Ptolemy XV and co-rule with his mother. Caesarion was aged 3.

Mark Antony who was Julius Caesar’s lieutenant who was delegated as administrator to Egypt appointed the young king as “King of Kings”. In 34 BC, Mark Antony also recognized Caesarion as the legitimate son of Julius Caesar. This sparked the emotions of leaders in Rome, and even Octavian, as this would make Caesarion the rightful heir to the throne. They subsequently warred against Antony, Cleopatra and her son.

Antony’s defeat happened in Actium in 31 BC and at the news of this, Cleopatra sent Caesarion to Berenice. Caesarion, hearing the death of his mother and Mark Antony, he was charged by his tutor to return and see if Octavian would spare him and allow him to retake his throne. He was instead arrested and killed as it was ordered by Octavian. Caesarion died at the age of 17.

Noteworthy, Mark Antony and Cleopatra had been having an affair between those years.

This is how the Ptolemaic reign ended with Caesarion, the only biological son of Julius Caesar as the last Ptolemaic pharaoh of Egypt.



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