Why did Caesar leave power not to his own Octavian, and not to the son, whom Cleopatra gave birth to?

July 30, 48 BC Julius Caesar landed in Egypt. He sailed here in pursuit of his enemy and rival in the civil war, Wrath Pompey. But Caesar was two days late – Pompey landed on the same bank on 28 July. The king of Egypt, Ptolemy XIII, ordered Pompey to be executed immediately and given his head to Caesar. Ptolemy thus thought to gain the sympathy and favor of Caesar, but it turned out differently. Caesar, although he fought with Pompey, sincerely respected him and believed that his enemy did not deserve such a mean and cowardly reprisal. He buried the remains of Pompey near Alexandria and built a temple to Nemesis on this site.

In Caesar’s offense against the Egyptian ruler, there was an accurate political calculation. If he, who has now become the sovereign ruler of Rome, had made a bet on Ptolemy, he would have won nothing. But having supported the rival of the Egyptian king, his older sister Cleopatra VII, Caesar received a ruler on the Egyptian throne, completely dependent on Rome. And so it happened: with the support of Caesar, Cleopatra defeated her brother’s army, and Ptolemy himself drowned in a swamp while fleeing. Cleopatra became queen and Egypt became a Roman protectorate.

But then the unexpected happened. Caesar and Cleopatra fell in love with each other. Two years later, when the last battles were over, Caesar summoned the Egyptian queen to Rome. He settled her in his own villa, in the gardens on the banks of the Tiber. A year later, Cleopatra had a son: Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar. He was immediately nicknamed Caesarion (that is, “Caesar”). Caesar did not have any children of his own, so it would be quite logical that his inheritance would go to Caesarion. However, when after the murder of Caesar his will was opened, neither Cleopatra nor Caesarion were mentioned in it. Caesar bequeathed his estate to a completely different person – Octavian Augustus.

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Octavian was Caesar’s grand-nephew, and in order to make him a full heir, the posthumous adoption of the young man was formalized in the will. Octavian came from an ordinary family, from the plebeian family of Octavians. His ancestors, thanks to the wealth acquired by financial transactions, were able to enter the estate of horsemen, but they never became patricians or nobles. Why did Caesar prefer this young man (at the time of Caesar’s death, Octavian was 18 years old) to his own offspring, who also came from the family of Egyptian kings on the maternal line?

There were very good reasons for this. Julius Caesar proceeded primarily from political considerations. He did not care who would continue his work. It was about power – the heir to Caesar received not only considerable capital, but also a large number of his supporters, among whom were very noble and influential Roman politicians. Therefore, the young Octavian Augustus almost immediately managed to put together a political bloc, which included Caesar’s associates: Mark Antony and Mark Aemilius Lepidus. This, as he was later called, “the second triumvirate” (the triumvirate means “the power of three”, the first was Caesar’s alliance with Pompey and Crassus), soon defeated the conspirators who killed Caesar – Mark Junius Brutus and his supporters.

Of course, a baby like Caesarion could not actively participate in the political struggle. His mother, Queen Cleopatra herself, of course, could act on his behalf. But the Romans could not stand her, considering her an overseas debauchery who entangled the great Julius Caesar with her love spells. She did not enjoy any popularity in Rome and after the death of her beloved she sailed to her historical homeland, to Egypt. In addition, although Caesar loved Cleopatra, however, at the same time, he could well have strong doubts about who she would become close to after his death.

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If Caesar really doubted Cleopatra’s future sympathies, then he was absolutely right. After the collapse of the second triumvirate, Mark Antony, who now became Octavian’s rival in the struggle for power, went east to Cilicia. He summoned the Egyptian queen to him, intending to judge her for the help, allegedly provided to the assassins of Caesar. The charge was clearly far-fetched, but it didn’t matter. Cleopatra also managed to charm Mark Antony, as a result, Octavian had to fight with them. As you know, Octavian ultimately won, thereby fully confirming the correctness of Caesar, who chose him as his official successor.

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