A huge relief on the front wall of the Hathor Temple at Dendera that depicts Cleopatra VII, Julius Caeser and their son Caesarion.
Cleopatra was a shrewd enough politician to realize that linking Egypt’s fortunes with those of Rome would be the best way to secure her kingdom, and in the traditional way of Hellenistic queens, she used dynastic ties to try protect her rights.
Julius Caesar, then in his fifties, fell in love with the twenty-one-year-old queen -much to the horror of many Romans. Cleopatra bore him a child named Caesarion, and seemed as if a new dynasty would rule Egypt, but first Caesar would have to marry the queen and declare the child legitimate.
When Julius Caesar returned to Rome in 46 B.C., he celebrated a triumph in which he demonstrated the subjugation of Egypt by having Cleopatra’s younger sister march in chains. Yet, Cleopatra was still the acknowledged queen of Egypt, and Caesar placed a statue of her made of gold in the temple of Venus. Cleopatra, her son, Caesarion, and her consort Ptolemy XIV joined Caesar in 46 B.C., and they stayed in Caesar’s villa outside Rome. Caesar may have planned to gain special permission from the Roman people to marry Cleopatra, but his plans were cut short by his assassination in 44 B.C. Cleopatra would need all her wits and charm to hold her throne without her champion.
As was customary in the Hellenistic dynasties, Cleopatra first placed her hopes in her son, Caesarion, expecting that he could rule and that as a son of Caesar he would receive Rome’s support. Her younger brother stood in the way of a clear succession, and he was poisoned about the time of Caesar’s death. Historians differ about Cleopatra’s role in her brother’s death. Cleopatra quickly returned to Egypt with Caesarion to await the power struggle that was sure to come…
-Encyclopedia of Women in the Ancient World, Joyce Salisbury.
"Yet parallels can be deceptive. The Romans, it goes without saying, existed under circumstances - physical, emotional, intellectual - profoundly different from our own. What strikes us a recognisable about aspects of their civilisation may be so - but not always. Often, in fact, the Romans can be strangest when they appear most familiar. A poet mourning the cruelty of his mistress, or a father his dead daughter, may seem to speak to us directly of something permanent in human nature - and yet how alien, how utterly alien a Roman’s assumptions about sexual relations or family life would appear to us."
~ ‘Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic' - Tom Holland (via argonauticae)
I think I’ll make a fire in the firepit tonight, put on some fiddle music and have a glass of wine…
The Great Fire of Rome began in the late evening hours on this date 1,950 years ago (64 A.D.). The fire raged for six days, during which time Emperor Nero either acted heroically to contain the fire and provide for his people, or played his lyre and watched the city burn — depending on whose version you believe. There are no surviving primary accounts of the fire, so we have to base everything we know on hearsay.
Most modern scholars tend to believe the account of Tacitus, a historian writing in the year 116. In Tacitus’ version, the fire began in a dry goods store near the Circus Maximus. Since it was very windy and dry that night, the fire spread quickly through the closely built wooden apartment buildings. Tacitus also reported that looters encouraged the fire, but whether they were acting under orders from Nero or just taking advantage of the situation, he couldn’t say with certainty. Far from setting the fire, Nero rushed back to Rome from his palace in Antium to rescue treasures from his mansion in the city. He opened his private gardens so evacuees would have a place to escape the flames, ordered the construction of temporary shelters, and brought in food from neighboring regions.
But people still wanted someone to blame, and Nero was, at the end of the day, still a politician. He pointed the finger at a relatively obscure but troublesome religious sect known as Christians and publicly tortured them to death in Rome’s only surviving amphitheater. He also took the opportunity to rebuild the city in an architectural style that he preferred.