Julius Caesar

The Emperor without a Crown

Julius Caesar is one of the most famous historical figures of the ancient times. The word for emperor in some languages (German and Dutch) is even derived from his surname, although ironically, he never wore the title of emperor. Caesar was born in 100 BC (Subura, Rome) and died in 44 BC (Pompey Theater, Rome). He was a Roman politician, military general and author. His most important work is De Bello Gallico and describes his conquest of Gallia, the province that he added to the Roman empire. This source collection touches upon various aspects of his figure. All three functions that he fulfilled are touched upon in the collection. This means that his political function, as consul and dictator for life, author and military general all have a position in this collection. The source collection starts with the description of some important events of this life. Besides the different positions, there are several the artworks, paintings and drawings created around the person of Caesar. The style changes over the centuries, as well as the message. His personal life, and especially his affair with Cleopatra is described by a couple of sources. The final part is dedicated to more recent interpretations, perceptions and artworks about Caesar and give an image of recent perceptions of Caesar.

Acknowledgements: This source collection has been developed by Laura Steenbrink with the support of Bjorn Pels. The source collection makes use of sources provided by the British Library, Rijksmuseum, National Library of the Netherlands, National Library of France, Stadsarchief ‘s Hertogenbosch, the Austrian National Library, Gooi en Vecht Historisch and the National Library of Denmark.

Julius CaesarThe Emperor without a Crown

Julius Caesar is one of the most famous historical figures of the ancient times. The word for emperor in some languages (German and Dutch) is even derived from his surname, although ironically, he never wore the title of emperor. Caesar was born in 100 BC (Subura, Rome) and died in 44 BC (Pompey Theater, Rome). He was a Roman politician, military general and author. His most important work is De Bello Gallico and describes his conquest of Gallia, the province that he added to the Roman empire. This source collection touches upon various aspects of his figure. All three functions that he fulfilled are touched upon in the collection. This means that his political function, as consul and dictator for life, author and military general all have a position in this collection. The source collection starts with the description of some important events of this life. Besides the different positions, itthere are several the artworks, paintings and drawings created around the person of Caesar. The style changes over the centuries, as well as the message. His personal life, and especially his affair with Cleopatra is described by a couple of sources. The final part is dedicated to more recent interpretations, perceptions and artworks about Caesar and give an image of recent perseptions of Caesar. Acknowledgements: This source collection has been developed by Laura Steenbrink with the support of Bjorn Pels. The source collection makes use of sources provided by the British Library, Rijksmuseum, National Library of the Netherlands, National Library of France, Stadsarchief ‘s Hertogenbosch, the Austrian National Library, Gooi en Vecht Historisch and the National Library of Denmark.

Julius CaesarThe Emperor without a Crown

Julius Caesar is one of the most famous historical figures of the ancient times. The word for emperor in some languages (German and Dutch) is even derived from his surname, although ironically, he never wore the title of emperor. Caesar was born in 100 BC (Subura, Rome) and died in 44 BC (Pompey Theater, Rome). He was a Roman politician, military general and author. His most important work is De Bello Gallico and describes his conquest of Gallia, the province that he added to the Roman empire. This source collection touches upon various aspects of his figure. All three functions that he fulfilled are touched upon in the collection. This means that his political function, as consul and dictator for life, author and military general all have a position in this collection. The source collection starts with the description of some important events of this life. Besides the different positions, itthere are several the artworks, paintings and drawings created around the person of Caesar. The style changes over the centuries, as well as the message. His personal life, and especially his affair with Cleopatra is described by a couple of sources. The final part is dedicated to more recent interpretations, perceptions and artworks about Caesar and give an image of recent perseptions of Caesar. Acknowledgements: This source collection has been developed by Laura Steenbrink with the support of Bjorn Pels. The source collection makes use of sources provided by the British Library, Rijksmuseum, National Library of the Netherlands, National Library of France, Stadsarchief ‘s Hertogenbosch, the Austrian National Library, Gooi en Vecht Historisch and the National Library of Denmark.

Caesar’s Birth

This is a detail from De Bello Gallico, the book written by Julius Caesar, where his birth on 13 July 100 BC is depicted. The style of the image is medieval, implying that this was from a version published in the Middle Ages. The mother of Gaius Julius Caesar was Aurelia Cotta, a high-born woman from a family that had been very wealthy, but they had lost a lot of money. This was the reason that Caesar was raised by his mother, because his father, Gaius Julius Caesar Strabo, was busy with regaining influence in the Roman political world. (The British Library, E058958, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/ )

Caesar’s Birth

This is a detail from De Bello Gallico, the book written by Julius Caesar, where his birth on 13 July 100 BC is depicted. The style of the image is medieval, implying that this was from a version published in the Middle Ages. The mother of Gaius Julius Caesar was Aurelia Cotta, a high-born woman from a family that had been very wealthy, but they had lost a lot of money. This was the reason that Caesar was raised by his mother, because his father, Gaius Julius Caesar Strabo, was busy with regaining influence in the Roman political world. (The British Library, E058958, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/ )

The Military Commander

Caesar is depicted on a horse, amidst the Roman army, and is standing in front of a group of half naked men, probably prisoners captured by the Roman army during one of the wars that Caesar fought to conquer territory for the Roman empire. Created by Rodolphe Bresdin in 1878. (Rijksmuseum, RP-P-1975-219, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

The Military Commander

Caesar is depicted on a horse, amidst the Roman army, and is standing in front of a group of half naked men, probably prisoners captured by the Roman army during one of the wars that Caesar fought to conquer territory for the Roman empire. Created by Rodolphe Bresdin in 1878. (Rijksmuseum, RP-P-1975-219, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Caesar watches the Decapitated Bodies of Pompey’s Nephews

These are three registers from BL Harley 4374, f. 161 by Valerius Maximus, Latin writer. The registers show various scenes from the ancient times. On the lowest register, Caesar is watching the decapitated bodies of Pompey’s nephews, Faustus Sulla and Pompeia, his second wife. The painting is medieval and probably created between 1473 and 1480. (The British Library, K017979, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Caesar watches the Decapitated Bodies of Pompey’s Nephews

These are three registers from BL Harley 4374, f. 161 by Valerius Maximus, Latin writer. The registers show various scenes from the ancient times. On the lowest register, Caesar is watching the decapitated bodies of Pompey’s nephews, Faustus Sulla and Pompeia, his second wife. The painting is medieval and probably created between 1473 and 1480. (The British Library, K017979, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Entering Alexandria

On this medieval-style painting, Caesar is at the point of entering Alexandria accompanied by a small army in 47 BC. In Rome, Caesar was in a civil war with the Roman Senate, but in Alexandria he quarrelled with Cleopatra (pharaoh), Arsinoe IV (queen and co-ruler) and Ptolemy XIII (co-ruler, married and brother to Cleopatra). The style of this painting is clearly medieval for example because of the soldiers depicted as medieval knights and was created between 1400 and 1424. (The British Library, K040721 Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Entering Alexandria

On this medieval-style painting, Caesar is at the point of entering Alexandria accompanied by a small army in 47 BC. In Rome, Caesar was in a civil war with the Roman Senate, but in Alexandria he quarrelled with Cleopatra (pharaoh), Arsinoe IV (queen and co-ruler) and Ptolemy XIII (co-ruler, married and brother to Cleopatra). The style of this painting is clearly medieval for example because of the soldiers depicted as medieval knights and was created between 1400 and 1424. (The British Library, K040721 Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Ceasar enters the Senate

Julius Caesar is entering the Senate and is being greeted by the attendees. This is an image from a French theatre play written in 1728 by Marie-Anne Barbier that is called “Caesar’s Death”. It is thus possible that this is Caesar, entering the Senate for the last time, before he is murdered by a group of Senators on the 15th of March, 44 BC. (Rijksmuseum, RP-P-1906-3688, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Ceasar enters the Senate

Julius Caesar is entering the Senate and is being greeted by the attendees. This is an image from a French theatre play written in 1728 by Marie-Anne Barbier that is called “Caesar’s Death”. It is thus possible that this is Caesar, entering the Senate for the last time, before he is murdered by a group of Senators on the 15th of March, 44 BC. (Rijksmuseum, RP-P-1906-3688, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

The Murder of Caesar

On the Ides of March, 15 March 44 BC, around 60 men participated in the assassination of Caesar and he was killed by 23 stab wounds in total. This is an early painting of the event, created between 1325 and 1335, and throughout history a popular event for painters. This version shows that three man are actually stabbing Caesar, while the other men on the left are either watching or waiting their turn. Finally, an aspect that stands out when examining this source is that the senators are clothed as medieval knights. (National Library of the Netherlands, http://resolver.kb.nl/resolve?urn=BYVANCKB:mimi_ka20:052r_min_b-c, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

The Murder of Caesar

On the Ides of March, 15 March 44 BC, around 60 men participated in the assassination of Caesar and he was killed by 23 stab wounds in total. This is an early painting of the event, created between 1325 and 1335, and throughout history a popular event for painters. This version shows that three man are actually stabbing Caesar, while the other men on the left are either watching or waiting their turn. Finally, an aspect that stands out when examining this source is that the senators are clothed as medieval knights. (National Library of the Netherlands, http://resolver.kb.nl/resolve?urn=BYVANCKB:mimi_ka20:052r_min_b-c, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Cassius Parmensis Praying to Caesar

A drawing of Giovanni Boccaccio, an important renaissance humanist in BL Harley 621, f. 274. On the left. Emperor Octavian watches Mark Antony being dragged away, while the scene in the middle shows Cassius Parmensis appearing to be praying to the statue of Caesar. On the right, Julia is sent into exile. Cassius Parmensis was one of the conspirators of Caesar’s murder. (The British Library, E120755, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Cassius Parmensis Praying to Caesar

A drawing of Giovanni Boccaccio, an important renaissance humanist in BL Harley 621, f. 274. On the left. Emperor Octavian watches Mark Antony being dragged away, while the scene in the middle shows Cassius Parmensis appearing to be praying to the statue of Caesar. On the right, Julia is sent into exile. Cassius Parmensis was one of the conspirators of Caesar’s murder. (The British Library, E120755, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Detail from De Bello Gallico

As already mentioned, Caesar’s magnum opus was the Commentari De Bello Gallico, “Commentaries on the Gallic War”, a series of reports of the conquest of Gallia by Caesar from 58 to 50 BC. He wrote it with three purposes: to inform the people on his conquests, which immediately leads to the second purpose: it was self-propaganda, to support him in the Roman political field. Finally, he wanted to defend his deeds during the war by presenting them in a positive way to the Senate. This is a detail, just the letter “C” of a medieval manuscript of the book, created between 1425 and 1449. (The British Library, K057111, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Detail from De Bello Gallico

As already mentioned, Caesar’s magnum opus was the Commentari De Bello Gallico, “Commentaries on the Gallic War”, a series of reports of the conquest of Gallia by Caesar from 58 to 50 BC. He wrote it with three purposes: to inform the people on his conquests, which immediately leads to the second purpose: it was self-propaganda, to support him in the Roman political field. Finally, he wanted to defend his deeds during the war by presenting them in a positive way to the Senate. This is a detail, just the letter “C” of a medieval manuscript of the book, created between 1425 and 1449. (The British Library, K057111, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Painting of a Statue of Caesar on a Horse

A drawing of Caesar on a horse, depicted as a proud, triumphant ruler. On the background, scenes from his life are represented. On the left side, he is refusing to accept the king’s crown, while on the left his murder is shown. A positive image is given of Caesar on this drawing: his heroic position high on a horse, his modesty of refusing a crown and the horror of his death. (Rijksmuseum, RP-P-1963-135, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Painting of a Statue of Caesar on a Horse

A drawing of Caesar on a horse, depicted as a proud, triumphant ruler. On the background, scenes from his life are represented. On the left side, he is refusing to accept the king’s crown, while on the left his murder is shown. A positive image is given of Caesar on this drawing: his heroic position high on a horse, his modesty of refusing a crown and the horror of his death. (Rijksmuseum, RP-P-1963-135, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Hector, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar

A drawing, created by Lucas van Leynden around 1518-1522, shows three heroes from the ancient times, all from a different region. This is a part of a bigger painting with 9 heroes in total. Caesar is on the right, on a horse, with Hector of Troy on the left on a horse as well, while Alexander the Great is in the middle on an elephant. The position of Alexander the Great can imply that the creator found him the biggest hero of all three. (Rijksmuseum, RP-P-BI-6236I, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Hector, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar

A drawing, created by Lucas van Leynden around 1518-1522, shows three heroes from the ancient times, all from a different region. This is a part of a bigger painting with 9 heroes in total. Caesar is on the right, on a horse, with Hector of Troy on the left on a horse as well, while Alexander the Great is in the middle on an elephant. The position of Alexander the Great can imply that the creator found him the biggest hero of all three. (Rijksmuseum, RP-P-BI-6236I, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Caesar carrying the World

A kneeling Julius Caesar carries the world on his shoulder. He is thus depicted as the founder of the Roman empire, that is emphasised even more by the eagle on top of the artefact, a symbol of strength and power in the ancient times. It was created in 1640 by Christoph Ritter. One of the interpretations of the artefact can be that the empire, because of its size, forms a burden for Caesar. However, this is one possible interpretation, with more interpretations possible. (Rijksmuseum, BK-2011-27, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Caesar carrying the World

A kneeling Julius Caesar carries the world on his shoulder. He is thus depicted as the founder of the Roman empire, that is emphasised even more by the eagle on top of the artefact, a symbol of strength and power in the ancient times. It was created in 1640 by Christoph Ritter. One of the interpretations of the artefact can be that the empire, because of its size, forms a burden for Caesar. However, this is one possible interpretation, with more interpretations possible. (Rijksmuseum, BK-2011-27, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Ceasar admired by Courtiers

This is a detail of a miniature from BL Harley 6205, f. 43, by Francois du Moulin and Albert Pigghe, enthroned among courtiers. He is depicted as a leader on a throne, with the courtiers kneeling on the floor before him. It was painted in 1519, but the courtiers are dressed in a medieval style, instead of the ancient Roman style. (The British Library, K047089, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Ceasar admired by Courtiers

This is a detail of a miniature from BL Harley 6205, f. 43, by Francois du Moulin and Albert Pigghe, enthroned among courtiers. He is depicted as a leader on a throne, with the courtiers kneeling on the floor before him. It was painted in 1519, but the courtiers are dressed in a medieval style, instead of the ancient Roman style. (The British Library, K047089, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Caesar and Cleopatra

This painting was made between 1870 and 1890 by J-L. Gérome. In more than 300 years the style of the paintings has changed enormously: both Caesar and Cleopatra are dressed in the way that we nowadays believe that they were dressed. Caesar is sitting at a table in the background and from his hand gestures he appears to be explaining something to Cleopatra. Cleopatra is listening to him with her hand on the shoulder of a man at her feet. After Caesar invaded Alexandria, they briefly had an affair, making Cleopatra pregnant with a son, Caesarion. This son was never the heir of Caesar, however, because it is said that he was condemned to die by Octavian at a young age. (Rijksmuseum, http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.64475, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Caesar and Cleopatra

This painting was made between 1870 and 1890 by J-L. Gérome. In more than 300 years the style of the paintings has changed enormously: both Caesar and Cleopatra are dressed in the way that we nowadays believe that they were dressed. Caesar is sitting at a table in the background and from his hand gestures he appears to be explaining something to Cleopatra. Cleopatra is listening to him with her hand on the shoulder of a man at her feet. After Caesar invaded Alexandria, they briefly had an affair, making Cleopatra pregnant with a son, Caesarion. This son was never the heir of Caesar, however, because it is said that he was condemned to die by Octavian at a young age. (Rijksmuseum, http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.64475, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Theatre: Caesar and Cleopatra

The romance between Caesar and Cleopatra, two of the most important people of their era, has inspired many artists. This is a script of a play inspired by the story, written by Bernard Shaw and performed in a theatre in Paris on 11 until 14 July 1956. (National Library of France, http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8419962b, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Theatre: Caesar and Cleopatra

The romance between Caesar and Cleopatra, two of the most important people of their era, has inspired many artists. This is a script of a play inspired by the story, written by Bernard Shaw and performed in a theatre in Paris on 11 until 14 July 1956. (National Library of France, http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8419962b, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Sale des Empereurs

Many statues of Caesar have been conserved or remade in the Renaissance. This is a photograph of the “Sale des Empereurs” (Room of the emperors) in the Louvre in Paris, with a statue of Caesar in front. Already between 1880 and 1910, people could visit statues of the Roman leaders in the Louvre. Worth noticing is that, although the statue stands in the room of the emperors, Caesar was never officially emperor, but proclaimed as “dictator for life”. (Rijksmuseum, RP-F-F16590, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Sale des Empereurs

Many statues of Caesar have been conserved or remade in the Renaissance. This is a photograph of the “Sale des Empereurs” (Room of the emperors) in the Louvre in Paris, with a statue of Caesar in front. Already between 1880 and 1910, people could visit statues of the Roman leaders in the Louvre. Worth noticing is that, although the statue stands in the room of the emperors, Caesar was never officially emperor, but proclaimed as “dictator for life”. (Rijksmuseum, RP-F-F16590, Public Domain, http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/)

Dressed up as Cleopatra and Caesar

Also for children, the story of Cleopatra and Caesar, and their figures individually as well, inspired. This picture was taken on 8 February 1964. The girl in the middle is dressed up as Cleopatra, accompanied by Mark Anthony and Caesar. Mark Anthony, supporter of Caesar, had an affair with Cleopatra after Caesar, while he was married to Octavia, the sister of the later emperor Octavian/August. (Stadsarchief ‘s Hertogenbosch, 0024721, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/)

Dressed up as Cleopatra and Caesar

Also for children, the story of Cleopatra and Caesar, and their figures individually as well, inspired. This picture was taken on 8 February 1964. The girl in the middle is dressed up as Cleopatra, accompanied by Mark Anthony and Caesar. Mark Anthony, supporter of Caesar, had an affair with Cleopatra after Caesar, while he was married to Octavia, the sister of the later emperor Octavian/August. (Stadsarchief ‘s Hertogenbosch, 0024721, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/)

Julius Caesar: a Tragedy

As already said before, many artists were inspired by the life of Julius Caesar. Shakespeare wrote a play with the title, although Caesar himself only appears alive in the play in three scenes. The play is about the plot, the murder and the aftermath of the assassination. This manuscript was issued in 1808. (The Austrian National Library, http://data.onb.ac.at/ABO/%2BZ170664805, Out of Copyright for Non Commercial Re-use until 2028-05-15, http://www.europeana.eu/rights/out-of-copyright-non-commercial/2028-05-15)

Julius Caesar: a Tragedy

As already said before, many artists were inspired by the life of Julius Caesar. Shakespeare wrote a play with the title, although Caesar himself only appears alive in the play in three scenes. The play is about the plot, the murder and the aftermath of the assassination. This manuscript was issued in 1808. (The Austrian National Library, http://data.onb.ac.at/ABO/%2BZ170664805, Out of Copyright for Non Commercial Re-use until 2028-05-15, http://www.europeana.eu/rights/out-of-copyright-non-commercial/2028-05-15)

Caesar in the Theatre

The play has been a very popular play through history. It was even performed at schools, as this photograph tells us. This play was performed in 1956, as part of a yearly event of a Dutch school. An interesting side note here is that, although many believe that the architecture of the Romans was white and light-coloured, in reality the Romans made extensive use of many bright colours. Of course the colours at the archaeological sites did not survive the passing of time, which can be the reason of this misinterpretation. (Gooi en Vecht Historisch, 10589, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/)

Caesar in the Theatre

The play has been a very popular play through history. It was even performed at schools, as this photograph tells us. This play was performed in 1956, as part of a yearly event of a Dutch school. An interesting side note here is that, although many believe that the architecture of the Romans was white and light-coloured, in reality the Romans made extensive use of many bright colours. Of course the colours at the archaeological sites did not survive the passing of time, which can be the reason of this misinterpretation. (Gooi en Vecht Historisch, 10589, CC BY-SA 3.0 NL, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/)

Cartoon of Caesar

Although Caesar has been portrayed often in a positive way and as a hero, he is also used as a subject for cartoonists. This is a cartoon of Bo Bojesen and shows a caricature of Caesar on a throne, with several men around him listening carefully. On the stairs a few bottles with drinking traces make the implication that the bottles were consumed by the men. (National Library of Denmark, 2012-76, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)

Cartoon of Caesar

Although Caesar has been portrayed often in a positive way and as a hero, he is also used as a subject for cartoonists. This is a cartoon of Bo Bojesen and shows a caricature of Caesar on a throne, with several men around him listening carefully. On the stairs a few bottles with drinking traces make the implication that the bottles were consumed by the men. (National Library of Denmark, 2012-76, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)