Damien F. Mackey
In 2004 I wrote an article, “The Lost Cultural Foundations of Western Civilisation”, from which this site has developed: (http://westerncivilisationamaic.blogspot.com.au).
Towards the end of this article I included a section titled, “Jesus Christ and Julius Caesar”, showing what I believed to be Roman plagiarisation of the New Testament – Greco-Roman appropriation of Hebrew-Israelite (Jewish) culture in its various forms being the subject matter of this article and of this site.
Here is that brief and not yet fully developed article:
- Jesus Christ and Julius Caesar
We read at the very beginning of this article that Virgil’s Aeneid “is an immortal poem at the heart of Western life and culture.” But it too appears to have been inspired by the Hebrew Bible. According to C. McDowell [“The Egyptian Prince Moses”, Proc. Third Seminar of Catastrophism and Ancient History (C and AH Press, CA, 1986), p. 2]:
“The Romans, with the advent of the creation of their empire, wanted to give great antiquity to their patriarchs. The first major effort along this line was put forth by Virgil in his Aeneid. This Roman “bible” portrays the imperial city as having been founded and enhanced according to a divine plan: Rome’s mission was to bring peace and civilization to the world. Cyrus Gordon has compared Virgil’s accounts of the royal house of Rome with the New Testament account of the Messianic office as expressed in Jesus of Nazareth. Both Roman and New Testament writers drew upon the Old Testament. Virgil used the Old Testament account of Israel’s national experience as a literary model to recount Rome’s history. But he went much further. He drew upon the saying of the Hebrew prophets concerning the coming Messiah and applied them to Augustus, the first emperor, to make him “scion of a god”. The divinely sired ruler who descended from an ancient line was to rule the world in a golden age. Thus the new theology of Rome was set forth. It was heavily infused with theology appropriated and adapted from the Old Testament of the Jews”.
This explanation by McDowell may, in part, help to account for the distinct parallels now to be discussed between history’s most famous J.C’s – Jesus Christ and Julius Caesar – both referred to as the greatest man the earth has ever produced [Grant, M., Julius Caesar (Weidenfield and Nicholson, London, 1969), Foreword p. 15: “A hundred or even fifty years ago, Gaius Julius Caesar (J.C.) was variously described as the greatest man of action who ever lived, and even as ‘the entire and perfect man’.”].
Whilst in most aspects Jesus and Julius could not be any more different, there are nevertheless certain incredibly close likenesses, especially in regard to their violent deaths.
Both Jesus and Julius were born into poor circumstances; but their ancestry was one of blue blood: Davidic in the case of Jesus, Patrician in the case of Caesar. Their births were notable, a miraculous Virgin birth for Jesus, Julius’ birth giving rise to the term ‘Caesarian’.
Julius belonged to the populares, and Jesus was likewise for the common people.
“The tax collectors”, said Cicero, “have never been loyal, and are now very friendly with Caesar” [as cited ibid., p. 161]. Likewise, the Pharisees were critical of Jesus for eating with “tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 9:11).
Trial and Death
Both Jesus and Julius had spoken of an early death. Both had entered their capital city (Jerusalem, Rome) in triumph, on an ancient feast-day (Passover, Lupercalia), shortly before mid-March, and had been hailed as “king”. This had caused anger and had the plotters conspiring. But there was also an ambivalence about the kingship. Caesar, though a king in deed, had rejected the diadem thrice. And Pilate had tried to get to the bottom of Jesus’ kingship: ‘So you are a king, then?’ (John 18:37); eventually having written in three languages: “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews” (19:19).
The prime mover of Caesar’s fatal stabbing was the soldier, Gaius Cassius Longinus, the last name (Longinus) being the very name that tradition has associated with the Roman soldier who rent Christ’s side with a spear (19:34).
The zealot amongst the conspirators was the intense young Brutus, in whom Dante at least had obviously discerned a similarity with Judas, having located “Brutus and Cassius with Judas Iscariot in Hell” [as cited by Grant, op. cit., p. 257]. Even Christ’s words to Judas in Gethsemane, ‘So you would betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’ (Luke 22:48), resemble what is alleged to be Caesar’s anguished last cry: re-made by Shakespeare as ‘Et tu Brute?’.
There is the premonitory dream warning by the woman (cf. Matthew 27:19).
There may even be a confused reminiscence of Barabbas: “Caesar … staged an elaborate legal charade against an old man called Rabirius [Barabbas?] … [who] had been allegedly implicated in … murder … not interested in having the old Rabirius actually executed” [ibid., p. 51]. (Cf. Matthew 27:15-23).
On the Ides of March Julius Caesar is supposed to have died, like Jesus, riddled with wounds.
The ‘heretical’ question must now be asked: Did Julius Caesar really exist? Or was his ‘life’ merely a mixture of his nephew Augustus, who also bore the name Julius Caesar, and aspects of the life of Jesus Christ according to Virgil’s biblical borrowings? And perhaps other composites as well? “Portrait busts are not a safe guide to [Julius Caesar’s] appearance, since they may or may not date from his life-time” [ibid., p. 245].
Do we thus have any primary evidence for Caesar, as apparently we do not for Socrates?
Do we have anything for Jesus Christ for that matter? I believe that we do have a most precious artifact of his in the enigmatic ‘Shroud of Turin’ [See outstanding article “The Mystery of the Shroud” in National Geographic, June 1980, pp. 730f. Ian Wilson has disputed the 1988 carbon dating of the Shroud in The Blood and the Shroud (Weidenfield and Nicholson, London, 1998), and has traced the Shroud back historically to the early Christian centuries].
[End of article]
Further concerning the Shroud, see my recent:
Resurrection and the Shroud: ‘a New Dimension’, ‘a New Science’.
Regarding those “perhaps other composites as well” referred to above, from which the character of ‘Julius Caesar’ may have borrowed, I can now add that one of these “composites” could well have been Alexander the Great. Consider the following compelling comparisons (taken from: http://www.livius.org/aj-al/alexander/alexander_t65.html):
Alexander and Caesar
In Antiquity, a boy who wanted to play a role of some importance in his town, had to visit a rhetorical school, where he learned how to speak and behave in public. Often, a teacher would ask his pupils to make a speech on a historical theme, so that they could show their skills as a rhetor and their ability to deal with historical sources. A well-known theme was the comparison of Alexander the Great and the Roman commander Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44).
The following text was written by the Greek historian Appian of Alexandria (c.95-c.165) and is a part of his History of the Civil wars (2.149-154). It is the end of his description of Caesar’s career, and Appian, a Greek, gives the Roman the ultimate compliment: he was comparable to Alexander.
The translation was made by John Carter.
Thus Caesar died on the day they call the Ides of March, about the middle of Anthesterion, the day which the seer said he would not outlive. In the morning Caesar made fun of him, and said, ‘The Ides have come.’ Unabashed, the seer replied, ‘But not gone’, and Caesar, ignoring not only the predictions of this sort given him with such confidence by the seer, but also the other portents I mentioned earlier, left the house and met his death. He was in the fifty-sixth year of his life, a man who was extremely lucky in everything, gifted with a divine spark, disposed to great deeds, and fittingly compared with Alexander.
They were both supremely ambitious, warlike, rapid in executing their decisions, careless of danger, unsparing of their bodies, and believers not so much in strategy as in daring and good luck. One of them made a long journey across the desert in the hot season  to the shrine of Ammon, and when the sea was pushed back crossed the Pamphylian gulf by divine power, for heaven held back the deep for him until he passed, and it rained for him while he was on the march. In India he ventured on an unsailed sea. He also led the way up a scaling-ladder, leapt unaccompanied on to the enemy wall, and suffered thirteen wounds. He was never defeated and brought all his campaigns to an end after one or at most two pitched battles. In Europe he conquered much foreign territory and subdued the Greeks, who are a people extremely difficult to govern and fond of their independence, and believe that they had never obeyed anyone before him except Philip, and that for only a short time on the pretext that he was their leader in a war. As for Asia, he overran virtually the whole of it. To sum up Alexander’s luck and energy in a sentence, he conquered the lands that he saw, and died intent on tackling the rest.
In Caesar’s case, the Adriatic yielded by becoming calm and navigable in the middle of winter. He also crossed the western ocean in an unprecedented attempt to attack the Britons, and ordered his captains to wreck their ships by running them ashore on the British cliffs. He forced his way alone in a small boat at night against another stormy sea, when he ordered the captain to spread the sails and take courage not from the waves but from Caesar’s good fortune. On many occasions he was the only man to spring forward from a terrified mass of others and attack the enemy. The Gauls alone he faced thirty times in battle, finally conquering 400 of their tribes, who the Romans felt to be so menacing that in one of their laws concerning immunity from military service for priests and older men there was a clause ‘unless the Gauls invade’ – in which case priests and older men were to serve. In the Alexandrian war, when he was trapped by himself on a bridge and his life was in danger, he threw off his purple cloak and jumped into the sea. The enemy hunted for him, but he swam a long way under water without being seen, drawing breath only at intervals, until he approached a friendly ship, when he stretched out his hands, revealed himself, and was rescued. When he became involved in these civil wars, whether from fear, as he himself used to say, or from a desire for power, he carne up against the best generals of his time and several great armies which were not composed of uncivilized peoples, as before, but of Romans at the peak of their success and fortune, and he too needed only one or two pitched battles in each case to detect them. Not that his troops were unbeaten like Alexander’s, since they were humiliated by the Gauls in the great disaster which overtook them when Cotta and Titurius were in command, in Hispania Petreius and Afranius had them hemmed in under virtual siege, at Dyrrhachium and in Africa they were well and truly routed, and in Hispania they were terrified of the younger Pompey. But Caesar himself was impossible to terrify and was victorious at the end of every campaign. By the use of force and the conferment of favor, and much more surely than Sulla and with a much stronger hand, he overcame the might of the Roman state, which already lorded it over land and sea from the far west to the river Euphrates, and he made himself king against the wishes of the Romans, even if he did not receive that title. And he died, like Alexander, planning fresh campaigns.
The pair of them had armies, too, which were equally enthusiastic and devoted to them and resembled wild beasts when it came to battle, but were frequently difficult to manage and made quarrelsome by the hardships they endured. When their leaders were dead, the soldiers mourned them, missed them, and granted them divine honors in a similar way. Both men were well formed in body and of fine appearance. Each traced his lineage back to Zeus, the one being a descendant of Aeacus and Heracles, the other of Anchises and Aphrodite. They were unusually ready to fight determined opponents, but very quick to offer settlement. They liked to pardon their captives, gave them help as well as pardon, and wanted nothing except simply to be supreme. To this extent they can be closely compared, but it was with unequal resources that they set out to seek power. Alexander possessed a kingdom that had been firmly established under Philip, while Caesar was a private individual, from a noble and celebrated family, but very short of money.
Neither of them took any notice of omens which referred to them, nor showed any displeasure with the seers who prophesied their deaths. On more than one occasion the omens were similar and indicated a similar end for both. Twice each was confronted with a lobeless liver. The first time it indicated extreme danger. In Alexander’s case this was among the Oxydracans, when after he had climbed on to the enemy’s wall at the head of his Macedonian troops the scaling-ladder broke, and he was left isolated on top. He leapt audaciously inwards towards the enemy, where he was badly beaten around the chest and neck with a massive club and was about to collapse, when the Macedonians, who had broken down the gates in panic, just managed to rescue him. In Caesar’s case it happened in Hispania, when his army was seized with terror when it was drawn up to face the younger Pompey and would not engage the enemy. Caesar ran out in front of everyone into the space between the two armies and took 200 throwing-spears on his shield, until he too was rescued by his army, which was swept forward by shame and apprehension. Thus the first lobeless victim brought both of them into mortal danger, but the second brought death itself, as follows. The seer Peithagoras told Apollodorus, who was afraid of Alexander and Hephaestion and was sacrificing, not to be afraid, because both of them would soon be out of the way. When Hephaestion promptly died, Apollodorus was nervous that there might be some conspiracy against the king, and revealed the prophecy to him. Alexander, smiling, asked Peithagoras himself what the omen meant, and when Peithagoras replied that it meant his life was over, he smiled again and still thanked Apollodorus for his concern and the seer for his frankness.
When Caesar was about to enter the senate for the last time, as I described not many pages back, the same omens appeared. He scoffed at them, saying they had been the same in Hispania, and when the seer said that he had indeed been in danger on that occasion, and that the omen was now even more deadly, he made some concession to this forthrightness by repeating the sacrifice, until finally he became irritated by being delayed by the priests and went in to his death. And the same thing happened to Alexander, who was returning with his army from India to Babylon and was already approaching the city when the Chaldaeans begged him to postpone his entry for the moment. He quoted the line ‘That prophet is the best, who guesses rightly’ but the Chaldaeans begged him a second time not to enter with his army looking towards the setting sun, but to go round and take the city while facing the rising sun. Apparently he relented at this and began to make a circuit, but when he became annoyed with the marshes and swampy ground disregarded this second warning too and made his entrance facing west. Anyway, he entered Babylon, and sailed down the Euphrates as far as the river Pallacotta which takes the water of the Euphrates away into swamps and marshes and prevents the irrigation of the Assyrian country. They say that as he was considering the damming of this river, and taking a boat to look, he poked fun at the Chaldaeans because he had safely entered and safely sailed from Babylon. Yet he was destined to die as soon as he returned there. Caesar, too, indulged in mockery of alike sort. The seer had foretold the day of his death, saying that he would not survive the Ides of March. When the day came Caesar mocked the seer and said, ‘The Ides have come’, but he still died that day. In this way, then, they made similar fun of the omens which related to themselves, displayed no anger with the seers who announced these omens to them, and were none the less caught according to the letter of the prophecies.
In the field of knowledge they were also enthusiastic lovers of wisdom, whether traditional, Greek or foreign. The Brahmans, who are considered to be the astrologers and wise men of the Indians like the Magians among the Persians, were questioned by Alexander on the subject of Indian learning, and Caesar investigated Egyptian lore when he was in Egypt establishing Cleopatra on the throne. As a result he improved much in the civilian sphere at Rome, and brought the year, which was still of variable length due to the occasional insertion of intercalary months which were calculated according to the lunar calendar, into harmony with the course of the sun, according to Egyptian observance.
[End of quote]
Carotta’s Extraordinary Claim
Such apparent close similarities between Jesus Christ and Julius Caesar has a scholar named Francesco Carotta perceived that he has gone so far as to claim that: Jesus was Caesar.
Whilst this is not my own view, which is rather that “Jesus Christ was the Model for some legends surrounding Julius Caesar”, the similarities found by Carotta are indeed intriguing.
Some of these I have already listed above.
Carotta, not failing to notice the same sorts of stunning parallels between the two lives, has written a book which is the other way round to my article, that Julius Caesar was, in part, based on Jesus Christ. For Carotta, Jesus Christ was instead based on Julius Caesar.
Whilst I believe that Carotta is wrong, I am intrigued that he, too, has attempted to fuse the two lives. Here is one review of Carotta’s fascinating book:
– Carotta: ‘Everything of the Story of Jesus can be Found in the Biography of Caesar.’
The Italian-German linguist and philosopher Francesco Carotta proves in his book Jesus was Caesar that the story of Jesus Christ has its origin in Roman sources. In more than fifteen years of investigation Carotta has found the traces which lead to the Julian origin of Christianity. He concludes that the story of Jesus is based on the narrative of the life of Julius Caesar.
Carotta’s new evidence leads to such an overwhelming amount of similarities between the biography of Caesar and the story of Jesus that coincidence can be ruled out.
– Both Caesar and Jesus start their rising careers in neighboring states in the north: Gallia and Galilee.
– Both have to cross a fateful river: the Rubicon and the Jordan. Once across the rivers, they both come across a patron/rival: Pompeius and John the Baptist, and their first followers: Antonius and Curio on the one hand and Peter and Andrew on the other.
– Both are continually on the move, finally arriving at the capital, Rome and Jerusalem, where they at first triumph, yet subsequently undergo their passion.
– Both have good relationships with women and have a special relationship with one particular woman, Caesar with Cleopatra and Jesus with Magdalene.
– Both have encounters at night, Caesar with Nicomedes of Bithynia, Jesus with Nicodemus of Bethany.
– Both have an affinity to ordinary people-and both run afoul of the highest authorities: Caesar with the Senate, Jesus with the Sanhedrin.
– Both are contentious characters, but show praiseworthy clemency as well: the clementia Caesaris and Jesus’ Love-thy-enemy.
– Both have a traitor: Brutus and Judas. And an assassin who at first gets away: the other Brutus and Barabbas. And one who washes his hands of it: Lepidus and Pilate.
– Both are accused of making themselves kings: King of the Romans and King of the Jews. Both are dressed in red royal robes and wear a crown on their heads: a laurel wreath and a crown of thorns.
– Both get killed: Caesar is stabbed with daggers, Jesus is crucified, but with a stab wound in his side.
– Jesus as well as Caesar hang on a cross. For a reconstruction of the crucifixion of Caesar, see:
– Both die on the same respective dates of the year: Caesar on the Ides (15 th) of March, Jesus on the 15 th of Nisan.
– Both are deified posthumously: as Divus Iulius and as Jesus Christ.
– Caesar and Jesus also use the same words, e.g.: Caesar’s famous Latin ‘Veni, vidi, vici’-I came, I saw, I conquered-is in the Gospel transmitted into: ‘I came, washed and saw’, whereby Greek enipsa, ‘I washed’, replaces enikisa, ‘I conquered’. ….
[End of quote]
To which we find this rejoinder: “Good try, boys. But I think that our site provides copious evidence for the fact that the Greeks and the Romans tended to be the plagiarisers”.
And I would fully agree with this last observation, having by now written several articles on what I consider to have been the Greco-Roman appropriation of Hebrew (Jewish) culture and civilisation at various levels.
To give but two examples of this:
Joseph as Thales: Not an “Hellenic Gotterdamerung” but Israelite Wisdom
Re-Orienting to Zion the History of Ancient Philosophy