Delice Bette | February 15, 2023
A descendant of the Ptolemaic family, Ptolemy XV Kaisar († August 23, 30 BC), also called Καισαρίων Kaisaríōn, Latin Caesarion (the little Caesar, Caesar”s son), was the son of Cleopatra and probably Caesar. He was king (co-regent with his mother) of Egypt from 44 to 30 BC.
By bestowing the title Pharaoh and the name Kaisar on her infant son, Cleopatra expressed that he was the future ruler of Egypt, but also the son and heir of Caesar. For this purpose he received (probably only at the accession in 44 B.C.) the dynastic standard name Ptolemaios and was therefore mostly called Ptolemaios, called Kaisar(os)… in hieroglyphic inscriptions. He was called Kaisarion by the Alexandrians.
During Caesar”s stay of about nine months in Egypt, when he secured the rule of Cleopatra in heavy battles in the Alexandrian War, a love affair developed between the Ptolemaic queen and the Roman general. When Caesar finally left Egypt again in early 47 B.C., Cleopatra was already heavily pregnant, according to the ancient biographer Plutarch (early 2nd century), and gave birth a short time later to Ptolemy XV. A demotic stele from Memphis, now in the Louvre, names June 23, 47 B.C. as the feast day of the goddess Isis; according to this stele, the pharaoh Kaisar was also born on the same day. This parallelism was perhaps the product of later constructions; for since Cleopatra appeared as the incarnation of Isis, she probably appropriately stated that the birthday of her son coincided with the feast day of this goddess.
Even in antiquity, it was disputed whether Ptolemy XV was really Caesar”s biological son. Especially Octavian, who later became the first Roman emperor as Augustus, tried as part of his propaganda in the power struggle against Marcus Antonius for the sole rule of the Roman Empire to make Caesar”s paternity look implausible. This was important for Octavian because he was only an adopted son of Caesar, but the loyalty of many of his followers was based on this. Thus a former friend of Caesar, Gaius Oppius, wrote in the interest of Octavian a (lost) essay of his own that Ptolemy XV was not Caesar”s son. The imperial historian Cassius Dio also disputed Caesar”s paternity. The historian and philosopher Nicolaos of Damascus, who first acted as a teacher of Cleopatra”s children, later befriended Octavian and wrote, among other things, a fragmentary and pro-Augustan Vita of Octavian, according to which Caesar had expressly denied in his will that he was the father of Ptolemy XV. This testimony, however, is considered highly implausible by today”s scholars. On the other hand, Lucan, despite his anti-Caesar attitude, does not doubt in the least that Ptolemy XV, described by the Roman poet as a “bastard” and “whore child,” was the result of the extra-marital liaison of the general with the Egyptian queen.
Among the minority of modern researchers who do not consider Caesar to be the real father of Ptolemy XV is Robert Étienne. Another doubter was the French ancient historian Jérôme Carcopino, who assumes the date of birth of Ptolemy XV as late as April 44 BC – when Caesar had already been assassinated – so that Cleopatra”s son would have been conceived at a time when Caesar was waging war in Spain far from the Egyptian queen. But since Marcus Antonius stated in the Senate that the dictator himself had recognized little Ptolemy XV as his son, the triumvir could only make this claim – whether true or not – if Cleopatra”s son had come into the world while Caesar was still alive. Also Augustus” propaganda would hardly have left it unmentioned if Caesar”s paternity had been disprovable due to the time of Ptolemy XV”s birth. In favor of the assumption that Caesar considered himself the father is clearly the indication of the ancient emperor biographer Suetonius that the dictator allowed the naming after his name. In addition, J. Carcopino states that the inscription of the above mentioned stele could not refer to Ptolemy XV, because there a pharaoh is mentioned Kaisar. A royal child could not have held this title yet. This argument was convincingly refuted by the historian Hans Volkmann, who pointed out that loyal Egyptians hardly had any reservations under constitutional law about already designating royal children as kings.
John Percy Vyvian Dacre Balsdon puts forward as an argument against Caesar”s paternity that although the dictator fathered his daughter Julia at a young age, no further children are known of him despite his numerous affairs, so that he was probably already incapable of procreation when he met Cleopatra. The relationships in question, however, often involved married partners, so that neither the women in question nor Caesar nor even the later Augustan propaganda had any interest in the disclosure of possible offspring from these relationships. Finally, in domestic political disputes, it was not uncommon for extramarital affairs of the respective opponents to be brought into focus in order to brand them in public.
If one assumes the correctness of the date of birth of the mentioned stele, then Ptolemy XV was conceived at a time when Cleopatra and Caesar were just together with the rest of the Ptolemaic family locked up and besieged by the Egyptian army in the palace at Alexandria. At that time Cleopatra”s fate depended entirely on Caesar”s commitment. In this situation, she could hardly have taken the risk of another affair, which Caesar could have easily noticed. And her brother husband Ptolemy XIII cannot be considered as Caesarion”s father, if only because he was mortally at enmity with his sister. According to Suetonius, some Greek authors also stated that Ptolemy XV was similar to Caesar in shape and gait. When Octavian had Ptolemy XV executed after his victory, he took this step because he feared a possible threat to his position of power because of the young man”s possible descent from Caesar.
For the reasons mentioned above, the majority of modern research assumes Caesar as the biological father of Ptolemy XV. However, absolute certainty cannot be achieved in this question. What is certain is that Cleopatra and Antony had good reasons for claiming Caesar”s paternity, regardless of whether this really corresponded to the facts, while Octavianus
Cleopatra called herself an incarnation of the goddess Isis and accordingly her son Ptolemy XV Horus, the son of Isis. On her coins the Egyptian queen had herself depicted with the attributes of Aphrodite – Isis and at her breast the little Ptolemy XV.
Most likely, Cleopatra took her infant son Ptolemy XV to Rome in 46 BC, when she resided with her brother and entourage in one of Caesar”s private houses. The people”s tribune Gaius Helvius Cinna allegedly claimed that in Caesar”s absence he should have pushed through a law allowing the dictator to marry as many times as he wished – even to non-Roman women – which would have enabled him to officially recognize Caesarion. After Caesar”s assassination (March 15, 44 BC), the Ptolemaic family returned to Egypt. In his will, the dictator had not included his son by Cleopatra. According to Roman law, Ptolemy XV could not even claim inheritance.
After Cleopatra had her brother Ptolemy XIV assassinated in mid-44 BC, she elevated the only three-year-old Kaisarion to her co-ruler. At the same time she gave him the epithets Philopator (= father-loving) and Philometor (= mother-loving). Meanwhile, in the Roman civil war, the Caesar murderers fought against the Caesarians, whose main leader in the east of the Roman Empire was Publius Cornelius Dolabella. Cleopatra entered into an alliance with him in 43 B.C. and in return gained the recognition of her son as co-ruler.
In the birth temple at Hermonthis near Thebes (Upper Egypt), Cleopatra had her son”s birth depicted realistically next to that of Horus in accordance with Egyptian beliefs, probably after his elevation to co-king. Between goddesses one sees Cleopatra kneeling, who is called hieroglyphically as mother of the sun god Re. The sign of the scarab above the newborn Ptolemy XV identifies him with the god of the rising sun. In addition, two cow-headed goddesses suckle two small children, Horus and the son of Cleopatra, who is referred to in a large inscription on the outer south wall of the cella as Ptolemaios Kaisar Theos Philopator Philometor, thus clearly alluding to Caesar”s paternity.
Birth temples served the pharaohs and their wives after births to perform sacred rituals. For a long time, the birth of Horus was preferably depicted in these temples, but the texts and illustrations were always kept symbolic and did not directly allude to the birth of an earthly prince, while Cleopatra, deliberately breaking with this tradition, unequivocally placed the birth of Ptolemy XV next to that of Horus and identified the boys with it. Apparently, she alluded to the mythical theme that Horus should avenge the murder of his father Osiris and take his place as ruler. Cleopatra had apparently assigned the same task to her son – the epithet Philopator given to him also alludes to this – thus disputing Octavian”s claim to be the sole avenger and heir of Caesar. According to the proclamation of the priests, the sun god Re had begotten Ptolemy XV in Caesar”s form.
Cleopatra let build also in Dendera (Upper Egypt) eagerly on the temple of the goddess Hathor, whose establishment was already begun by her father and whose completion should reach only Octavian. On the back wall of the temple a larger-than-life image of Cleopatra in Egyptian pharaonic form appears behind her son, whom she probably wanted to designate as heir to the throne; both appear before the gods of Dendera.
A prostagma of Cleopatra and Ptolemy XV, dated April 13, 41 BC, is the last known decree of the Lagids. It confirms the privileges of Alexandrians engaged in agriculture outside the capital and condemns encroachments by provincial officials against these landowners.
Antony granted his mistress Cleopatra large territorial expansions of her empire in 37 and 34 BC. These “donations” were confirmed in 34 BC in a solemn ceremony in the Gymnasion at Alexandria before a large audience. On that occasion, the then 13-year-old Ptolemy XV sat with his younger half-siblings on thrones at the feet of Antony and Cleopatra and was named King of Kings, while his mother received the title Queen of Kings.
After the decisive defeat of Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium against Octavian (31 BC), the power struggle for the rule of the Roman Empire was decided. Nevertheless, after her return to Egypt, Cleopatra declared Ptolemy XV to be of great age, supposedly to encourage the Egyptians by saying that now, if necessary, an adult man could take over the reigns of a king. After the suicide of the Egyptian queen (August 12, 30 B.C.), he was executed by order of Octavian because the heir of Caesar could not use a second “son of the deified Julius” (Divi Iuli filius). Plutarch reports that shortly before her death Cleopatra wanted to send her son to India via Ethiopia with treasures and his tutor Rhodon, but that his tutor persuaded him to turn back because Octavian supposedly wanted to make him king. Perhaps Rhodon thereby practiced treason against his protégé. Supposedly Octavian hesitated with the death sentence until the philosopher Areios persuaded him to execute Ptolemy XV by saying that it was not good if there was more than one Caesar. In view of Octavian”s very purposeful, in doubt always unscrupulous personality, however, this is an extremely implausible account: there is nothing to suggest that he hesitated before ordering the youth”s death. Ptolemy XV was certainly not a real threat to Octavian”s position of power at first, because as the illegitimate child of a foreigner and without Roman citizenship he would never have been accepted by Roman society anyway. But Antony and Cleopatra had already exploited his ancestry for propaganda purposes, and Octavian sought to prevent a possible repetition of this situation from the outset with Caesarion”s execution.
- Ptolemaios XV.
- G. Hölbl: Geschichte des Ptolemäerreiches. Darmstadt 1994, S. 213.
- Plutarch, Caesar 49,10
- Plutarch, Caesar 49,10
- Von Beckerath J. Handbuch der ägyptischen Königsnamen (нем.). — S. 246—247.
- Carcopino J. Points de vue sur l’impérialisme romain. Paris, 1934. P. 141 ff.; idem. César et Cléopâtre // Annales de l’École des Hautes Études de Gand. Vol. 1. 1937. P. 35—77
- 1 2 Paterson J. Caesar the Man // A Companion to Julius Caesar (ed. by M. Griffin). — Malden; Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. — P. 137.
- ^ Later full name: Ptolemy Caesar Theos Philopator Philometor; Koinē Greek: Πτολεμαῖος Καῖσαρ Θεὸς Φιλοπάτωρ Φιλομήτωρ).
- Η αρίθμηση των Πτολεμαίων είναι σύγχρονη επινόηση. Οι Έλληνες τους διέκριναν από το προσωνύμιο. Ο αριθμός που δίνεται εδώ (ΙΕ”) είναι σήμερα αποδεκτός, αλλά κατά τον 19ο αιώνα υπήρξε μία διαφωνία σχετικά με το ποιοι από τους Πτολεμαίους θα πρέπει να υπολογίζονται ως βασιλείς. Καθώς άλλες πηγές μπορεί να δίνουν έναν άλλο αριθμό μεγαλύτερο ή μικρότερο, τα προσωνύμια είναι ο πιο αξιόπιστος τρόπος για να καθορίζεται ο Πτολεμαίος που αναφέρεται σε κάθε περίπτωση.