Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Ptolemaic Prince, 51-30 B.C.E. thought to be possibly the son of Cleopatra VII and Julius Caesar, Caesarion at the Brooklyn Museum

The young Egyptian kinglet stands with his arms by his sides and hands clenched holding cylinders. His hair is in a naturalistic Roman style and he wears a narrow diadem with uraeus. His eyes were originally inlaid. Could this be one of the few portrayals of Caesarion, Cleopatra's son by Julius Caesar?

There is actually little historical mention of Caesarion as a young man until he is named in the Donations of Antioch in 36 BCE. Surprisingly, Octavian gave public approval to the Donations of Antioch, which have been described as an Antonian strategy to rule the East making use of Cleopatra's unique royal Seleucid lineage in the regions donated.

However, Octavian did not greet the news of the Donations of Alexandria with a positive response. In that ceremony, Marc Antony proclaimed Caesarion to be a god, son of a god, and "King of Kings" as well as Caesar's true son and heir. Octavian used Roman resentment over the Donations of Alexandria to gain support for war against Antony and Cleopatra. When Octavian subsequently invaded Egypt, Caesarion was sent to India, according to Plutarch saying "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." However, some scholars think Plutarch's account should not be taken literally. There is some corroborating sources from India, however, that shouldn't be overlooked. I wrote about it in my 2010 blog post "Caesarion: Victim of the wicked who whispered 'Too Many Caesars.' 

A Ptolemaic Prince thought to be possibly Caesarion at the Brooklyn Museum in New York courtesy of the museum.
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