The following is an excerpt (#7 of 20) from:
"Jesus Among the Julio-Claudians"
copyright 2017 Charles N. Pope
Phony Antony and Foxy Cleopatra
We have seen that Mark Antony rose from relative obscurity to become Caesar’s most trusted friend and ally, even as Ptolemy became the right hand man of Alexander. Antony also played the distinctive role of Ptolemy during the staged murder and funeral of Julius Caesar. After the departure of Caesar, Antony confirmed his allotted typecasting by repeating the exploit of Ptolemy in seizing the land of Egypt. Like Ptolemy, Antony was not officially appointed to rule Egypt, but instead (and again after Ptolemy) only gave the impression that he had taken it. And in addition to Egypt, Antony also took Cleopatra as his consort and queen, even as Ptolemy had taken Roxane/Barsine as his consort and queen in Egypt after the “death” of Alexander.
Antony and Cleopatra were famously known for producing two sons and a daughter. Subsequently, the celebrity couple notified the world (through the press release known as “The Donations of Alexandria”) that the world itself would belong to these children. The eldest prince, Alexander Helios, was presented with Parthia, Armenia and Media (and all lands beyond). The younger son, Philadelphius, was deeded properties closer to Rome, i.e., Syria and Cilicia in Asia Minor. Libya and Cyrene, which had previously been bequeathed to Rome by former kings, was to become the exclusive possession of their daughter, Cleopatra Selene. Cleopatra’s son by the “late, great” Julius Caesar was confirmed as heir to the throne of Egypt.
The pronouncements of Antony and Cleopatra served two main purposes. First and foremost was the fulfillment Antony’s role as the Roman Ptolemy (I) Soter. In order to complete this typecasting it was necessary for Antony to adopt the sons of the “ascended” Caesar as Ptolemy had the sons of Alexander. The eldest son of Alexander had been conceived just prior to Alexander’s “death” in Babylon. As shown in Alexander the Great: Beyond the Divide, a second royal prince was born to Alexander afterwards, and this second son was arguably of superior pedigree than the first. His mother, Arsinoe, was the daughter of a Great King (Seleucus/Lysimachus), whereas Roxane/Barsine was not. Consistent with this, the second prince was called Ptolemy Epigone (“The Heir”) and his line emerged as dominant upon the death of the elder prince, Ptolemy II Philadelphius (the former Alexander IV). However, as genetic fate would have it, a male branch descending from Philadelphius later reclaimed the throne when the line of Epigone (through Antiochus III “the Great”) played out.
The eldest son of Antony and Cleopatra had received the illustrious name of Alexander Helios and was dressed up as the next King of Kings (to match his inheritance from Persia to the very ends of the Earth). To an aristocratic audience this could signal only one thing. The son of the still living Julius Caesar was being recognized as the eldest son and heir of Mark Antony, as well. There was nothing unusual about such an arrangement as it was a standard expression of primogeniture. In fact, just a few months later, Caesarion would be “reborn again” as the eldest son and heir of Octavius (Augustus) in Rome. This practice ensured that the succession was Caesarion’s to lose, and he could only lose it by failing to produce a qualified heir of his own.
Although the coveted name of Alexander (and the divine epithet of Helios to boot) was bestowed upon Caesarion, it was the younger prince that was called Philadelphius. This served to place the two princes more-or-less on equal footing with regard to royal precedent. The young Helios was betrothed to the “daughter of the king of Media,” which was a roundabout way of saying that Helios and Cleopatra’s daughter Selene were promised to each other. Helios (“The Sun”) and Selene (“The Moon”) were obviously intended to be an ideal dynastic match from the very start, which would not have been the case if they had literally been twins. Again, the eldest son Helios had priority with respect to royal mating, but not exclusivity. It would be Philadelphius that eventually produced an heir by Selene and not Caesarion/Helios.
The second purpose of the “Donations of Alexandria” was to simultaneously issue a boast and a provocation. It was not within Antony’s authority to designate his own sons as the new overlords of the Empire, but it was his duty to recognize Caesar’s sons as such. The “Donations of Alexandria” is a declaration that Caesar’s natural line was going to rule the world, and whether it was public knowledge or not. These great princes were born to dominate the world, both within Roman society and without. It was a statement of fact. Nevertheless, it could still be used as the provocation and justification necessary for Rome to act (under the leadership of the same royal family) and bring the Ptolemaic dynasty to its long-delayed conclusion.
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