Cambyses and Julius Caesar

Published May 10, 2016 by amaic

Shaka Zulu vs Julius Caesar. Epic Rap Battles of History Season 4 


 Damien F. Mackey



Common factors here may include ‘divine’ madness; violating the sacred traditions; dreams, signs and visions; and the conquest of Egypt.



‘Sacred’ Illness


As with the peculiar looking pharaoh, Amenhotep IV (Akhnaton), so with Julius Caesar, medical experts may significantly disagree as to the cause of the debilitation, or malformation. The latest conclusion is that Julius Caesar was the victim, not of epilepsy – as is usually thought – but of mini-strokes. Thus:


In the years preceding his assassination by the Roman Senate in 44 B.C., Julius Caesar was struck by a host of health problems including dizziness, limb weakness, headaches, depression and sudden falls. For centuries, most historians have accepted ancient writers’ claims that he was epileptic, but a new theory suggests a different diagnosis. After reevaluating Caesar’s symptoms and looking into his family history, a pair of doctors now believes that the famed dictator may have actually been the victim of a series of “mini-strokes” that damaged his health and affected his mental state.

In a paper titled “Has the Diagnosis of a Stroke been overlooked in the Symptoms of Julius Caesar?” doctors Francesco M. Galassi and Hutan Ashrafian of Imperial College London argue that the Roman general may have been afflicted by cerebrovascular disease. Their study, published in the journal “Neurological Sciences,” offers a provocative new take on Caesar’s mysterious illness, which began in the years after his meteoric rise through the ranks of the Roman power structure. Conventional wisdom has long held that he suffered from epilepsy, but Galassi and Ashrafian suggest that his symptoms are more in line with Transient Ischemic Attacks, more commonly known as “mini-strokes.”

“The theory that Caesar was epileptic appears not to have very solid philological foundations,” Dr. Galassi told Discovery News. “If carefully re-examined, the facts appear to suggest a simpler and more logical diagnosis of stroke.”

[End of quote]


The emperor Cambyses, thought to have preceded Julius Caesar by about half a millennium, has been ‘diagnosed’ as having suffered anything from epilepsy to stark raving madness.

…. Cambyses becomes Emperor #1 in the fulfilling of this first prophecy. His is a strange, some say mad, reign, reminding us of Nero and Caligula and mad monarchs of all times. He was sick from birth, with the “sacred sickness” as it is called, epilepsy. Sacred only in that self-styled gods and dictators like Julius Caesar have often experienced its ravages. Known by those who have seen it up close and personal as demonic.

[End of quote]


Cambyses, who has certain traits strikingly like those of King Nabonidus:

Cambyses Mad Yet Great

is thought to have ruled Persia c. 530-522 BC. Now some think that the title, “Caesar”, may actually derive from “Cyaxares”, the Greek version of the Persian name, Uvaxštra.

In modern history, Caesar has been rendered as “Kaiser”, the German word for emperor.


Violating the Sacred


In the above article I quoted from the Nabonidus Chronicle concerning the controversial behaviour of Cambyses when he entered the Esagila temple “in ordinary Elamite attire, fully armed. The priests persuaded him to lay down his arms, but he refused to change his clothes for those prescribed in the ritual. He then received the royal scepter”.

And I referred there to “Oppenheim’s view [that] Cambyses thus deliberately demon­strated “a deep-seated religious conviction” hostile to this alien religion”.


Julius Caesar was, for his part, notorious for his failure to follow the established rubrics.

This was not the first time that Caesar had violated a tribune’s sacrosanctity. After he had first marched on Rome in 49 BC, he forcibly opened the treasury although a tribune had the seal placed on it. After the impeachment of the two obstructive tribunes, Caesar, perhaps unsurprisingly, faced no further opposition from other members of the Tribunician College … [,]


or for ignoring the soothsayers. The classic case of this being, of course, the “Ides of March”.


Dreams, Signs and Visions


And the classic example in this case is the famous sign eliciting Caesar’s, “the die is cast”:

The incident is reported in several ancient sources, but it is Suetonius who, in his Life of Julius Caesar, preserves the Latin version of the famous phrase ‘the die is cast’, alea iacta est, ‘the game is on’ (Suet. Iul. 31–32, transl. J. C. Rolfe):


consecutusque cohortis ad Rubiconem flumen, qui prouinciae eius finis erat, paulum constitit, ac reputans quantum moliretur, conuersus ad proximos: ‘etiam nunc,’inquit, ‘regredi possumus; quod si ponticulum transierimus, omnia armis agenda erunt.’ cunctanti ostentum tale factum est. quidam eximia magnitudine et forma in proximo sedens repente apparuit harundine canens; ad quem audiendum cum praeter pastores plurimi etiam ex stationibus milites concurrissent interque eos et aeneatores, rapta ab uno tuba prosiliuit ad flumen et ingenti spiritu classicum exorsus pertendit ad alteram ripam. tunc Caesar: ‘eatur,’inquit, ‘quo deorum ostenta et inimicorum iniquitas uocat. iacta alea est,’ inquit.


Then, overtaking his cohorts at the river Rubicon, which was the boundary of his province, he paused for a while, and realising what a step he was taking, he turned to those about him and said: “Even yet we may draw back; but once cross yon little bridge, and the whole issue is with the sword.”  As he stood in doubt, this sign was given him. On a sudden there appeared hard by a being of wondrous stature and beauty, who sat and played upon a reed; and when not only the shepherds flocked to hear him, but many of the soldiers left their posts, and among them some of the trumpeters, the apparition snatched a trumpet from one of them, rushed to the river, and sounding the war-note with mighty blast, strode to the opposite bank. Then Caesar cried: “Take we the course which the signs of the gods and the false dealing of our foes point out. The die is cast,” said he.


A lot has been written about the crossing of the Rubicon and the phrase ‘the die is cast’ (and its Greek origins). Equally, the role of visions, premonitions, dreams, and omens in Caesar’s life (right down to the point of his death) has been well-explored.

Moreover, historians such as Peter Wiseman (in Roman Drama and Roman History) and Gregor Weber (in Kaiser, Träume und Visionen in Prinzipat und Spätantike) have quite rightly pointed out that the introduction of this episode in Suetonius’ report may be testimony to an early dramatisation of this particular historical event for theatrical performance.


Conquest of Egypt


No one doubts that the emperor Cambyses embarked upon a most successful conquest of Egypt and Ethiopia. In the previous “Cambyses” article I gave various evidences (Egyptian, Greek, Jewish) of this, including the testimony of Darius the Persian in the Behistun inscription: “Cambyses went to Egypt.  When Cambyses had departed into Egypt, the people became hostile, and the lie multiplied in the land, even in Persia and Media, and in the other provinces”.

Cambyses is thought to have died upon his returning from Egypt.


And Julius Caesar is said to have been assassinated (44 BC) several years after his return from Egypt (


  • 48 BCE: Caesar followed Pompey to Greece and defeated his forces at Pharsalus. Pompey then fled to Egypt. But the Egyptian king, Ptolemy, arranged for Pompey to stabbed soon after he got off his ship at Alexandria. Caesar arrived soon afterwards and took control of Alexandria. In Alexandria the young queen Cleopatra arranged to meet Caesar in his quarters and an affair developed. ….
  • 47 BCE: From Egypt Caesar led a military expedition to northeastern Anatolia to defeat the son of the Mithradates whom Sulla had defeated a generation ago. He then returned to Rome and was appointed dictator. Some of Caesar’s enemies were organizing in North Africa and took his forces there to confront that potential danger.
  • 46 BCE: Caesar’s forces crushed the opposition in North Africa and he returned to Rome. Later in the year he led another military expedition to Farther Spain to put down a rebellion against his control.
  • 45 BCE: Caesar’s army annihilated the opposition in Farther Spain and he returned to Rome.
  • 44 BCE: On March 15th a cabal of his opponents in the Senate assassinated Caesar with knives they had concealed under their robes. …..





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