Was Jesus Caesar? – TUMULT-Debate

[ redi ad Echo ]

Lutherse Kerk, Utrecht – 28 November 2002 · 8.00 pm

Jesus Christ = Julius Caesar

Lecture by Francesco Carotta

[ Dutch original version ]

[ Report by Tommie Hendriks ]


Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

excuse me if I don’t speak good Dutch. I’ve just begun to learn it.
It is a great honor for me that I may speak in Utrecht, in Traiectum ad Rhenum. I thank my friends Tommie Hendriks (he’s responsible for my maltreating your language today), Jan van Friesland (he’s responsible for me standing here tonight) and also Mr. René Sanders (he’s responsible for the fact that Brutus and Cassius are sitting here, who want to murder me tonight).
May God in whose house we are here stand by us in the search for the truth that, as he told us, sets us free.
It is not about religion tonight but about history of religion. It is not about our subjective faith but about the objective revolutionizing changes that occurred in the religious life in the Roman Empire during the last century before Christ and the first century after Christ.
Is what I’m saying understandable? [it could be better]. Or should I rather speak German?
You wanted it!

1. The Roman Empire

This is the map of the Imperium Romanum, of the Roman Empire, at the time of the supposed birth of Christ.

And this is the map of the spread of Christianity around 600 AD.
As one sees, Christianity developed within the borders of the Roman Empire.

The capital of both was Rome.
The Roman colonies which were founded by Caesar and his adoptive son Octavian Augustus became strongholds of Christianity. There the apostle Paul became active.
The spreading of the Christian religion for the most part occurred among Roman soldiers.
The grandchildren of the veterans who were settled in colonies by Caesar became the Christian people.

(Rome, the capital of the world)

The center of the Empire, i.e. the world, was Rome, caput mundi. To this very day the pope gives his blessing to the city and the world: ‘Urbi et orbi’.

The center of Rome was the Forum Romanum where the people gathered and where the Curia, the place the Senate held meetings, was located. From here the world was governed.
Above, a reconstruction from the University of California from the project ‘Rome reborn’.
One sees the Rostra, the speakers’ platform. Next to it, hardly visible, the Curia.
One also sees that many temples stood here [Saturn, Concordia, Castor and Pollux, and after Caesar’s death, Divus Iulius and opposite to it, after the Jewish war, Divus Vespasianus]. The Romans were very religious and religion was the fundament of the city state.

and the basilicas

But even more important is that Caesar enlarged the Forum Romanum with his Forum Iulium. There he had the temple of Venus Genetrix built, the original mother of his family (house).
Furthermore he had two basilicas built on the Forum Romanum:
The basilica Aemilia for which he provided the financial means to his enemy Paulus Aemilius who thus became his friend (from Saulus to Paulus: ante litteram).
And on the opposite side he had his own basilica built: the Iulia.

The Basilica Aemilia was completed earlier: the Basilica Iulia was not yet completed at Caesar’s death afterwards it burnt down and had to be rebuilt by Augustus. So particularly the first basilica, the one of Paulus, became the exemplar for all the basilicas in the Empire. The Christian basilicas adopted its structural design: the five naves are cleary distinguishable.


A reconstruction by the University of Caen makes it clear that the space perception in the basilica is also the same as with the Christian basilicas.
But mind you: we are in the first century before Christ here!

5. City map with the Forum and the Capitol

Here we see that Caesar has laid the city-planning basis for a new religious Rome beneath the old Capitoline hill: two basilicas, a temple for mother Venus, who rose to the position of Mother of God, after Caesar’s death and his being received amongst the Gods.
For Divus Iulius, the deified Caesar, a temple of his own was built after the reckoning with his murderers. This temple stood in a central position on the Forum, at the place where Caesar had been cremated. Everywhere in the Empire and beyond temples for Divus Iulius were built which were called caesarea. In Christian times these caesarea became churches of the Redeemer, the Venus temples became churches of Mary, while the basilicas remained basilicas.
Thus we see that from a religious point of view as well as one of town planning Caesar’s Rome was no longer ‘heathen’ but already appeared ‘Christian’.

All symbols of the later Christianity are present in the cult of Divus Iulius already: the Mother of God, the cross, the crucified one, the pietà-face, the resurrection, the ascension, the star of Bethlehem, etc…
Let’s briefly go into this now.


This is how Caesar is known. Pay good attention: On the coin it says ‘dictator perpetuus’, but it is the likeness of a God, because at that time only Gods were allowed to be portrayed on coins. The corona aurea, the old-Etruscan king’s crown charaterizes him not only as imperator, but also as autocrat – said with the Christian word: as Pantocrator – 45 years before Christ’s birth (the supposed Christ’s birth)!


En face he looked like this: superior with an ironic smile. It is the Caesar of ‘veni vidi vici’ – 46 years before Christ’s birth!


There is, however, a completely different face of Caesar, which is kept in the Museum Torlonia in Rome. Archaeologists see the head of a statue here, which Antonius had errected on the Rostra after Caesar’s murder. The image was supposed to awaken feelings of pity as well as revenge. Thus a pietà-face, Caesar’s Pietà – 44 years before Christ’s birth!


The head of this statue was adorned with a corona civica, a citizen’s wreath, which he was entitled to because he had saved all citizens from the Gallic threat and during the civil war had saved the lives of many citizens. It is the image of the savior, the Salvator, the Redeemer – 44 years before the Christ’s birth!


On Caesar’s coins one also finds the Mother of God depicted: Venus Genetrix, the mother of Aeneas and thus the original mother of all Romans. And via Iulus, the son of Aeneas, she was also the original mother of the family (gens, house) of the Iulii. She carries a moony diadem like the Madonna. She is accompanied by Amor [hard to see here on this small coin, a denarius] like the Madonna is accompanied by angels.
On the reverse there is an image which makes one think of a crucifixion with Mary and John beneath the cross.
It is the defeated Vercingetorix and the mourning Gallia. On the cruxiform tropaeum hang the weapons of Vercingetorix. Both sides of these coins are still found unchanged on medaillons which the Christians sill carry around the neck with the Madonna on the one side and the cross on the other – 48 years before Christ’s birth!


On a similar coin appears the ‘Christ child’ instead of Amor with Venus. Here the age of Caesar at the time of this minting immediately after the battle of Pharsalos is imprinted: 52 years. The battle took place in 48 BC, Caesar was born 100 BC.
We see that after the battle at Pharsalos one began to count the years starting from Caesar’s birth. Thus we are now in the year 2102.
On the other side of the coin the cross is emphasized by the crosswise arrangement: The vertical line is formed by the tropaeum and Vercingetorix; the horizontal one by the name ‘Caesar’.

12. Tropaeum of Octavianus

What a tropaeum looked like can be seen better on other coins, e.g. on this coin of Octavian Augustus…

13. Tropaeum Berlin-Charlottenburg

or on this miniature tropaeum from the Museum Berlin-Charlottenburg [here the weapons, helmet and shield are missing].

14. The Arma Christi – la ‘croix des Outrages’ (the cross of improperies)
– here the one from Perpignan

That originally also ‘weapons’ hung on the Christian tropaeum, on the cross, can be recognized by the so-called Arma Christi, also called ‘croix des outrages’ (cross of improperies), which is carried on Good Friday in many places in processions. Here in Perpignan. The weapons are replaced with all kinds of instruments and requisites of the crucifixion, but there still is a lance among them.

As far as the lance is concerned: A Longinus is said to have stabbed Jesus in the chest with a lance. Cassius Longinus was the name of the man who inflicted the mortal dagger thrust on Caesar. The feast of Longinus, who was elevated to the status of a Saint falls on the 15th of March. On the same date Caesar was murdered (Ides of March).


You will say: But Jesus was crucified, Caesar, on the other hand, was killed by dagger thrusts.
That is correct: But Caesar, too, posthumously underwent a crucifixion.

For Antonius wanted to show the bloody pierced body of Caesar to the people. Caesar’s body was laid out in a miniature model of the temple of Venus. Lying on the rostra in this way it was not visible for the people. Therefore Antonius had a wax copy of Caesar made. This wax figure showed Caesar as he had fallen after the murder and as he had been seen when he was carried home lying in a litter his arms hanging out. Antonius ordered this wax figure of Caesar be erected on a pivoted tropaeum at the head of Caesar’s body. At first this wax figure was still covered with Caesar’s blood stained toga. While a herald read out the resolutions that the senators had granted Caesar, the father of the fatherland, Antonius showed what the same senators had done to him out of gratitude for his mercy. At a certain point in time he lifted the toga with a lance, let it flutter in order to show the dagger thrusts and the blood on it, pulled it away completely and thus showed the mourning people the martyred body of its Savior.
Here is a reconstruction of this scene, made by the Utrechtian artist Pol du Closeau [ * ]:

[ © 2002 Pol Corten, Zuilenstraat 52, NL-3512 ND UTRECHT, 003130-2340079 ]

One sees the miniature model of the Venus temple in which Caesar’s body was laid out. Here the wax figure on a tropaeum. And here Antonius who pulls away the toga with a lance. In the background the Capitol, Caesar’s Golgotha [by the way, both names mean place of a skull].

16. Denarius of Buca: Caesar’s resurrection

The people could not stand the sight and burnt Caesar right there on the Forum on an improvised pyre made of wooden benches, chairs and fences which were at hand there. Then some daring ones took burning pieces of wood from the pyre and ran to the houses of the murderers in order to set them on fire, others pursued the murderers themselves. This rebellion of the people on the day of Caesar’s funeral launched his posthumous resurrection. It was later recorded as Caesar’s resurrection on coins also. Here is the denarius of Buca.

Underneath the body one recognizes the fire. And one clearly sees how Caesar sits up during his cremation and is taken by heavenly figures.

And here the Christian version of it.


A proper ascension is not missing with Caesar either. One sees it here on the left. On the right there is the oldest preserved ascension of Christ as Helios [from the necropolis under the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome: in the mausoleum of the Iulii].
Both ascend to heaven in a chariot pulled by horses.

Now we briefly show how the image of Caesar changed after his death.

18. Commemorative coin of Cossutius Maridianus

On this commemorative coin one sees that he is depicted capite velato, with a veil: as a sign that he was dead already then.
He possibly also has a beginning of a beard here: as a token of mourning, as can be seen on the coins of Antonius and Octavianus as well.
Together with the veil, which looks like long hair, this goes towards our idea of Jesus.
On the reverse the cruciform tropaeum gives way for an entirely stylized cross on which the name of the mint master is engraved.


After Caesar was adopted among the gods he was no longer depicted as a man but as Divus Iulius, as a God. From then on he looks young forever and has an impersonal face.

Here is Divus Iulius on a coin issued by Octavianus.
In addition to a wreath he also carries the sidus Iulium on his head, the comet which appeared in the sky during the festivities that were held in his honor after his death. The people regarded the comet as the returned sould of Caesar. Octavianus had this comet affixed to all the statues of Divus Iulius.
We stand here before the oldest complete icon of Christ: long before Christ’s birth!

20. Habitus of Divus Iulius

A. Coin of Lentulus / Resurrection, here e.g. by Raffaellino del Garbo

A. Here we see how Octavianus Augustus places the comet on the head of the statue of Divus Iulius. One also sees how the habitus of Divus Iulius anticipates that of Jesus: the naked torso, the loincloth and the staff. The sidus Iulium, the comet, has become an aureole and the cruciform tropaeum has been placed on the flag.

B. Redeemer statue of the Paushuize (pope’s house)

B. On other statues he carries the globe and the tropaeum stylized to a cross, as here in the hand of the Redeemer statue of the Paushuize (pope’s house) in Utrecht.

21. Sidus Iulium and Christogramm

The sidus Iulium has the same structure and form as the later chi-rho, the Christ monogram.

We could show much more but time is running out.

What we can still show briefly are a couple of corruptions in writing that occurred in the course of the handing down of the texts and by which the history of the Roman civil war became the Gospel.
It is the same story, only that it has been relocated from Gallia to Galilaea.



The land in the north where Caesar and Jesus are at the beginning of the civil war respectively the beginning of the preaching activity.


Both cross a fateful river, the Rubicon and the Jordan. Both then enter into a town:


Caesar finds the town occupied by an enemy and besieges it; Jesus finds a man in the town who is possessed by a demon. Occupied, resp. besieged as well as possessed is rendered by the same word in Latin:



With the next siege of Caesar one finds the next possessed one with Jesus.
Caesar besieges Pompeius and his legions but cannot force him to surrender because Pompeius stays in his entrenchments (munimenta);
Jesus encounters a possessed one whose name is Legion and who cannot be enchained because he dwells among the tombs (monumenta).
Here too:



So we see that we are dealing with two reports running parallel, in which the same structures and attributes occur, that have the same or almost same names:




If we compare both stories it turns out that the structures and all names, places and actions correspond to each other.

26. Once more the map of the Empire

This delocalization of the events from Gallia to Galilaea became necessary with the founding of the second dynasty.
As Caesar had become big in the Gallic war in Gallia, Vespasianus copied him in the Jewish war in Galilaea.
Galilaea had been the cradle of power for the Flavians, as Gallia had been for the Iulians.
The statue of Divus Iulius in Rome was miraculously ad orientem conversa, ‘turned to the Orient’: ‘converted’ one should say. From then on it looked in the same direction as the temple of Divus Vespasianus: to the East.


Vespasianus and Titus had not only acquired the temple utensils of Jerusalem but also captured Josephus. Josephus was a ringleader of the insurrectionaries but he had defected to Vespasianus under dubious circumstances. He claimed that Gott had appeared to him and revealed that Vespasianus was the true Messiah for whom the Jewish rebels waited. He said that he was to become emperor and his son Titus as well. In the secession war that broke out soon after the death of Nero this prophecy of Josephus came at just the right time. When Vespasianus unexpectedly became emperor he adopted Josephus. This one wrote as Flavius Josephus the history of Jewish war for the new emperor. The autobiography of this Flavius Josephus shows many correspondences with the story of Paul as it is passed down in the Acts.
Since the historical existence of Paul is supported as little as the one of Jesus one must assume that Paulus is Flavius Josephus, in the same way as Jesus is Divus Iulius.


The adapting of texts became possible because of the bilingualism of the empire. The priests of Vespasianus did not have to write a new version of the holy story of Divus Iulius. It was sufficient to make the Eastern version the official one: the story of Divus Iulius experienced many changes in the East in the translation from Latin into Greek. Then it mutated into the Gospel in the incessant process of copying and commenting.

29. Specimina

Aglance into the preserved original manuscripts of the Gospels. Here is one of the most authentic, the Codex Bezae Catabrigiensis, bilingual, Greek-Latin. This codex makes it clear that the probability of mistakes is not low. The text, written in majuscules, i.e. continously in capitals, at first glance gives the impression of good legibility. The appearance is deceiving. There are many possible sources of error. One example: it is not only written without periods and commas and without the diacritical signs which are important for the Greek (accents, spirits, etc.) but also without word spacing opening the potential for erroneuos word divisions (e.g. in English: GODISNOWHERE may be read as “God is now here” or “God is nowhere”).

30. Examples of erroneous word divisions

God’s son, later David’s son

Son of man

Son of Mary

publican Levi, the son of Alphaeus

Et cetera, et cetera


As one knows there was no printing press and no photocopier at that time.
Each copy was made by hand. Thus errors cumulated quickly. Later attempts of correction inevitably led to more errors: so-called corrections which make things worse and scholarly corruptions.

In the first book on the old Rome that we looked in at the book store here in Utrecht yesterday, we read: ‘Het orakelachtige heiligdom van Fortuna Primigenis in Preneste, tegenwoordig Palestina’ – ‘the mysterious sanctuary of the Fortuna Primigenia in Praeneste, today’s Palestine’. It should be Palestrina. But it says Palestine, presumably because this name was better known than the one of the musician.
One can imagine that after further copying the temple of Fortuna would soon become the one of Solomon or of Herodes.

In a review of our book a Berlin newspaper cited a passage where there is talk about two Romans, Hortensius and Scipio. They became ‘Horrensius’ and ‘Skorpio’. Apparently the typesetter had just watched a gothic movie.

One of our English translators who has a Sicilian amonst his ancestors translated a passage where Paul comes from Cilicy. He made it ‘from Sicily’.

A friend of mine, an Italian Franciscan, who lives in Brasil told me that the Brazilians think a great deal of Saint Frances the more so as for them he is a Brazilian: he came from Assis, Rio Grande do Sul, and not as we think from Assisi in Umbria (Italy).
It is exactly the same thing the veterans of Vespasianus did who relocated the story from Gallia to Galilaea. And Vespasianus’ reasons of state sanctioned it.


Today’s visitor of Rome when standing in front of the temples of Antoninus and Faustina has a feeling that the Christian churches were built on the fundaments of old Roman temples. It’s more than that: The basilicas and temples simply became Christian. Not even a rebuilding took place, only the meaning of the edifices changed – and this too only slightly.



Translated literally:

There is nothing in Jesus
that was not already in Caesar

[ * ] [ < ]

The drawing of the Utrechtian artist Pol du Closeau is based on descriptions of Caesar’s funeral by Suetonius and Appianus.

For comments on these two passages cf. ‘Jesus was Caesar’, p. 384-7, note 157 [ ** ].

See also the description of these events by E. Stauffer, Jerusalem und Rom im Zeitalter Jesu Christi, Bern, 1957, p. 21-23 [ s.da ].


NOTA BENE: During the presentation it was mischieviously claimed by one person [ cf. the Report by Tommie Hendriks ] that the graphical reconstruction of Caesar’s funeral shown above, which has been made by the professional illustrator Pol du Closeau on the basis of the ancient historiographical sources (Suetonius Divus Julius 84.1 and Appianus Bellum Civile 2.146–147 [ v.s. ill. 15 ], were wrong and that there was no talk about a wax figure with Appianus.

A simple glance into ‘Jesus was Caesar', paragraph ‘The new images of Caesar’ p. 74-80, where the sources are given and translated, would have sufficed to realize the opposite. In note 157 there are also the literal expressions of Appianus, which are unambiguous [ v.s. or cf. the German notes online ].

Notice that the word ‘andreikelos’ is also used by Plutarchus in the parallel biography of Alexander, (72) where there is talk about Stasikrates, who promised Alexander to turn the Mount Athos in Thrakien into an ‘andreikelon’. ‘if, therefore, Alexander should so order, he would make out of Mount Athos a most enduring and most conspicuous statue of the king, which in its left hand should hold a city of ten thousand inhabitants, and with its right should pour forth a river running with generous current into the sea.’
Thus an ‘andreikelos’ was a whole body figure ‘similar to a man’, which in the case of Alexander was supposed to be hewn into a mountain, as e.g. the Buddhas, which were blown up in Afghanistan recently, in the case of Caesars it was a life-size wax mannequin which was to be fixed to a ‘mêchanê’. That this ‘mêchanê’ which is usually rendered as ‘mechanical device’ into English, was tropaeum-like, results from the parallel passage in Suetonius, where it is said that the blood-stained robe of Caesar hung on a tropaeum, which stood at the head of a miniatur model of the Venus temple, in which Caesar’s body was laid out:

Since with Appianus Antonius first lifted this robe with a spear and let it wave about [BC 2.146 610] and then showed the wax mannequin on the device, one must assume Suetonius’ ‘tropaeum’ and Appianus ‘mêchanê’ with ‘andreikelos’ are one and the same. Else one would have to assume that Suetonius forgot to mention Appianus ‘mêchanê’ as well as Appianus forgot to mention Suetonius ‘tropaeum’, and in addition, that there were two robes of Caesar, one hanging from the tropaeum (Suetonius) and one covering the ‘body’ (Appianus).

[Notice that Appianus persistently speaks of ‘sôma’, i. e. ‘body’, which some translators sometimes render by ‘corpse, dead body’ and at other times by ‘body’. And because they obviously don’t consider the parallel passage in Suetonius they also write ‘dead body, corpse’ when the wax mannequin on the mêchanê is meant.]

Result: One cannot possibly confuse this ‘wax mannequin’ with the ‘persona’, i.e. the mask that the mime who imitated Caesar wore, because firstly one could not have seen the wounds on the whole body on it and secondly one would not understand why the people should not have been able to stand the sight of a comedian-like mask.

Here the picture of the assumed mask of Caesar which is preserved in Torino.

[ Museo d’Antichità, Torino, Gabinetto Fotografico
cf.: Irwin Isenberg, Iulius Caesar, 1964, deutsch: Reutlingen 1965, p.148 ]

Those who, against their better judgement, want to doggedly maintain that no wax figure was standing at Suetonius' tropaeum beneath the toga hanging there, because else Suetonius would have mentioned it may take a closer look at Suetonius' passage:

Sueton 84.1:
… et pro rostris aurata aedes ad simulacrum templi Veneris Genetricis collocata; intraque lectus eburneus auro ac purpura stratus et ad caput tropaeum cum veste, in qua fuerat occisus.
... and in front of the rostra a gilded model of the temple of Venus Genetrix was placed; therein was a couch of ivory covered with purple blankets trimmed with gold, and at its head stood a tropaeum with the robe Caesar had worn when he was murdered.
[translated from the German translation Adolf Stahr / Franz Schön / Gerhard Waldherr]

As one sees, Suetonius does not mention the body of Caesar either which was laid out in the miniature temple of Venus. The fact that the body was laid out in it and nowhere else is not questioned, however. Although it actually would be possible because Appianus only says that "it was laid out on the rostra with magnificent display" and Plutarchus merely that "the dead was carried across the forum and the people saw the body torn with wounds."
Apparently at that time everyone knew how it had happened and the historiographers needed not to explain it. Fortunately Appianus reported it extensively, who, as text critics opine, used the text of a praetexta "Julius Caesar" for it (cf. i.a. Stefan Weinstock): the prototype of our passion plays?

The outstretched arms of Caesar’s wax figure result from the fact that Suetonius calls Appianus’ mêchanê a tropaeum and that presupposes a crossbeam. Moreover Antonius wanted to have Caesar’s body imitated in the way he had fallen when he was stabbed. Only, he himself had not witnessed the stabbing because Trebonius had deliberately detained him outside the Curia.
Somebody must indeed have seen how Caesar fell and that he shrouded his head with the toga, out of shame as was meant. But not more since all others had fled in panic immediately also. Only three servants are said to have stayed with him and put his body on the lectica, i.e. the litter, sedan and so carried him home with the arms hanging out. That is to say, apart from the fact that when somebody falls down he not seldom falls with outstretched arms, he had really been seen with his arms hanging out right and left of the litter. Since those who saw this had barricaded themselves in their houses and watched the dramatic scene mainly from the attic floors they looked down on a dead one lying on a litter. It is this scene, this sight, that Antonius wanted to reproduce and show the people. Therefore Caesar’s wax figure must have appeared to the people like a crucified one. An unbearable view which did not miss to have its effect: The people became beside itself with rage and got out of control, tried to set the curia on fire, burned Caesar’s thereat and pursued the murderers. Cf. Jesus was Caesar p. 74-80, especially notes 154 and 157:

The reports of Appianus and Suetonius are confirmed by Dio Cassius, Historia Romana 44.35.4 and 44.49.3-4:

To guard against misunderstandings: As we show in Jesus was Caesar, Jesus was not crucified but stabbed on the day of his so-called ‘capture’. Also, during the entire first millenium Jesus is never depicted as dying on the cross. (cf. JWC, p. 83). However there were early attempts to interpret the showing of the martyred body on the cross, as is usual in the Good Friday liturgy, as crucifixion. This is testified i.a. by the Quran, which precisely campaigns against this interpretation. In the sequel of Nestorius sure 4.157 denies that Jesus was crucified and says that ‘a figure similar to him appeared to them’ resp. ‘was shown’. Therein it is confirmed that the idea of Jesus’ crucifixion was a late and contended one and it sounds as if it had developed from a staging—particularly from the displaying of Caesar’s wax figure on the cruciform tropaeum during the Passion Play within the original Easter ritual.


I leave with memories of nice, attentive people. The openness and sympathy that was shown towards this new approach, towards the one JC as well as the other was reward enough.

So I want to thank all attendees in the Luther Church for your attention and the patience you had with my stuttering Dutch. I know that it was not lost time for you either. The mere sight of the unique reconstruction drawing of Caesar’s funeral from the pen of Pol du Closeau was worth more than one evening.

To all of you once more:

en tot ziens. (and Goodbye!)

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