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How did Cleopatra get Caesar?

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Cleopatra and Caesar, Jean-Leon-Gerome
Cleopatra and Caesar, Jean-Leon-Gerome

After the victory over Pompey, in 48 BCE at Pharsalus and his death, Caesar became the sole master of the Roman world. Cleopatra VII, expelled from Alexandria by her brother Ptolemy XIII, was looking for every way to regain power and rebuild the power of Egypt under her rule.

The queen saw Julius Caesar as her only chance to regain power. To this end, she came up with the brilliant idea of ​​seducing Caesar. For this purpose, she had to use her most important arguments: beauty, seduction skills and the wealth at her disposal. She sneaked into the palace (there are widespread reports that she was wrapped in a carpet, but this is unlikely) and got into Caesar’s presence. This is how Plutarch of Caesarea describes the event:

So Cleopatra, taking only Apollodorus the Sicilian from among her friends, embarked in a little skiff and landed at the palace when it was already getting dark; and as it was impossible to escape notice otherwise, she stretched herself at full length inside a bed-sack, while Apollodorus tied the bed-sack up with a cord and carried it indoors to Caesar.

Plutarch of Chaeronea, Life of Caesar 49

As it turned out, Caesar was so delighted with the young, beautiful and exotic queen that he began to share her bed. Caesar supported Cleopatra in the conflict between the siblings, who became his lover during her stay in Alexandria. Caesar demanded that Ptolemy XIII dissolve his army and reconcile with his sister. Caesar finally brought Cleopatra to the throne so that she would give birth to his son – Caesarion, who was to rule the Empire according to her intentions. Caesar officially recognized him as his son, giving him the right to claim his father’s inheritance in the future. Fearing this, in the future Octavian Augustus, after the victory over Antony and Cleopatra, passed judgment on Caesar’s own son and ordered him to be killed. First, however, Octavian asked the philosopher Areios whether he had the right to kill Caesarion. The philosopher, paraphrasing Homer, said: “Too many Caesars is not a good thing”. Augustus then ordered to strangle Caesarion at the end of August 30 BCE.

  • Koper Sławomir, Miłość i polityka. Kobiety świata antycznego, Warszawa 1997
  • Matyszak Philip, Wrogowie Rzymu, Warszawa 2007

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