Egypt's last pharaoh was the 'love child' of Caesar and Cleopatra

Caesarion embodied his mother's alliance with Rome, but assassination and war would bring about his death at age 17, ending Ptolemaic rule in Egypt.

Caesarion wears the striped head cloth (nemes) of the pharaohs in a first-century B.C. rose granite statue, National Roman Museum, Rome
AKG/ALBUM

Ptolemy Caesar “Theos Philopator Philometor”—“Ptolemy Caesar, The God Who Loves His Father and Mother”—became king of Egypt at the tender age of three. His alleged father, Julius Caesar, had been assassinated several months earlier, and his mother, Queen Cleopatra VII, placed him on the throne to solidify her power as queen of Egypt.

Better known to history by his Greek nickname “Caesarion,” or “little Caesar,” Cleopatra’s son reigned only a short time; his rule ended with his murder, shortly after the suicide of Cleopatra in 30 B.C. The deaths of mother and son brought an end to the Ptolemaic line of rulers who had controlled Egypt since the time of Alexander the Great.

Caesarion’s story began when his grandfather, Ptolemy XII, named his two oldest children, 18-year-old Cleopatra and 10-year-old Ptolemy XIII, as co-heirs. They would serve together under the guardianship of Rome. Because Egypt had become a Roman protectorate during the elder Ptolemy’s rule, Romans had a say in who would be ruling Egypt. (Watch how Cleopatra achieved immortality through her personal story of love and tragedy.)

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