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frank van den broeke
The death of Julius Caesar and aftermath.
It was written in the stars: Julius Caesar would die violently. Everybody knew it. The only one who wouldn’t see it was Caesar himself. Suetonius describes what happened the months before his dead.The tomb of the founder of Capua was discovered and on a bronze plate they found the following Greek text: “When they will find the bones of Capi, a descendant of the Gens Julia will be killed by the hand of his people, and will be vindicated by great tumult and sorrow in the whole of Italy”. And more; only a few days before his dead, the horses with which he crossed the Rubicon, didn’t want to eat anymore, and the augur Spurinna warned him for the ides of March. Even his wife Calpurnia had a premonition: She dreamt that the roof of her house would collapse and that he would be buried underneath. Her upset stomach convinced her that something bad was to happen. But Caesar didn’t want to listen to those silly voices , and stubborn as he was, he went to the reunion of the senate at the theatre of Pompej.
But what was the real reason of the conspiracy?, Maybe it had to do with his girlfriend, who was also in Rome in those days: days: Liz Taylor, oups, sorry, Cleopatra. She lived in an enormous villa of Julius Caesar on the other side of the Gianicolo hill together with the only male hear of Julius Caesar: Caesarione. And she was the last pharaoh of Egypt, the last member of the Ptolemaic
family. And nothing was said that Caesar, who was made dictator for life only a few months before, would have pointed out in his will that the young boy would become his hear. What implicated that Rome would go over in the hands of Egypt. In any case, the absolute power that Caesar took for himself, were enough reasons to kill him.
And so it happened: on the Ides of March 44 BC, when the senate came together at the theatre of Pompej, Julius Caesar got killed. And his wife, receiving the notice of his dead for sure must have said: “his own fault, I told him my worries !” and she cried. Not for long, because there was Caius Octavius or Octavianus, the young adopted son by Julius Caesar, who even received his name and who was at the time of his death 17 years old. He went to Calpurnia and said: “don’t worry, we with the younger senator took the power, and we will give you on behalf of the government a new house, a life-insurance and Volkswagen with chauffeur.
But on the other side of the River, in the villa of Caesar was sitting Cleopatra with Caesarione, their son. When she heard of the dead of her lover, she must also have been in tears. But not for long, as we know from the history, very soon after she was already in bed for the first time in bed with Richard Burton, euhh….., Marc Anthony. He was known as one of the best generals of Julius Caesar, and thought that the power should go to him. Therefore he probably told her: “Look my dear, we with the lobby of the elder senators took over the power, and from us you will get a new house, a life-insurance and because you are a queen, a Mercedes with chauffeur.
Julius Caesar & Cleopatra
Between the two lobbies started a civil war, who lasted thirteen years. Then, everybody was tired. It was time to make an end at that civil war. And they decided to fight a final battle in the sea, near Actium, in 31BC. Actium is a city near Greece in the Ionian Sea. When Cleopatra heard of the imminent battle, she begged Marc Anthony to take her with him. And you can imagine his reply: “War is for men, and women stay at home !” She was a bit offended. What follows is confirmed by a papyrus that the Belgian Egyptologe Jean Bingen found by accident in the Museum of Berlin. The authenticity of the papyrus was also confirmed by Prof. Peter van Minnen of the Catholic University of Leuven and by Dr. Dietrich Wildung, director of the Egyptian museum in Berlin. She convinced in that letter a general, named Cheney? or was his real name Publio Canidio, to take her on his ship. As we know, wartime is always an opportunity to make good money. The letter is an authentic act of corruption for love. She authorised Publio Canidio to export 5 thousand amphora’s of wine and to import 10 thousand bags of grain … and all tax free, on the condition that she would be allowed to be on his ship, following Marc Anthony. And, being a diplomatic ship, nobody would check what was in the boot. Signed by Cleopatra with the Greek word: Genesthoi “and so it will be !”
And then, the sea battle started. Marc Anthony, who had build his float with the money of Cleopatra, had also the best strategic position for the battle. There was no way that Octavianus could have won. But then everything changed. Could it happen that from the rostrum of a nearby ship was standing Cleopatra as in the movie “the Titanic”, shouting: “Antonio !! Anto…onio!!”. We don’t know. Documents telling us in Latin: “Antonius perdeat caput …” Anthony lost his head. And for what reason a man can loose his head ? Maybe for a woman ? History told us that when the ship with Cleopatra moved away from the battlefield, he followed her, forgetting victory and everything. His troops, thinking that was deserting the battle, didn’t knew what to do and got defeated by the much smaller army of Octavianus. Plutarch tells us very well how it happened: “ When on a sudden Cleopatra's sixty ships were seen hoisting sail and making out to sea in full flight, right through the ships that were engaged. For they were placed behind the great ships, which,
in breaking through, they put into disorder. The enemy was astonished to see them sailing off with a fair wind towards Peloponnesus. Here it was that Antony showed to all the world that he was no longer actuated by the thoughts and motives of a commander or a man, or indeed by his own judgment at all, and what was once said as a jest, that the soul of a lover lives in some one else's body, he proved to be a serious truth. For, as if he had been born part of her, and must move with her wheresoever she went, as soon as he saw her ship sailing away, he abandoned all that were fighting and spending their lives for him, and put himself aboard a galley of five ranks of oars, taking with him only Alexander of Syria and Scellias, to follow her that had so well begun his ruin and would hereafter accomplish it.” He got killed and she suicide with her son Cesarione. Octavianus returned home with the victory and became the first emperor under the name Augustus. And sometime we, men, are thinking that we write the history. Forget it !
Maybe a last observation about Cleopatra: Why a woman, so wealthy, didn’t use gold, but only a fiscal exoneration to corrupt the general ? The latter she could revoke in any moment, and that shows us the she was indeed the superb wheeler-dealer that the history made from her.
Augustus, British Museum, London