Sunday, 1 January 2012

Jesus Christ and Julius Caesar: same initials, same man?

It is a new year, and high time we had a book review. It has been several months since I linked the names of Jesus Christ and Julius Caesar (here) but, in the meantime, I have come across a much more sensational connection between these two people.

Carotta: Jesus Was Caesar

Sensational Theory

It seems that, for several years now, the left-wing Italian philosopher and ancient history aficionado Francesco Carotta has been promoting his bizarre theory that Jesus was Caesar. (Oddly, in the original Continental versions, the title is phrased as a question: "War Jesus Caesar?" or "Jésus, est-il Divus Julius?")

Signor Carotta's theory seems to be that the Gospel of Saint Mark is a coded retelling of Caesar's life, in which the character of Jesus represents the divine Julius himself. Bizarre? You bet!

His publicity breathlessly announces: "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." However, so trivial and contrived are these alleged similarities that it is no wonder that no serious reviews have ever appeared, and no recognized authority, whether theologian, historian or philosopher, has yet engaged with Signor Carotta. Here, readers may amuse themselves by deciding for themselves: "Was Jesus Caesar?"

Carotta: War Jesus Caesar

I. Prima Vista.

Signor Carotta's entire theory springs from one unfortunate misconception: the claim that Julius Caesar was known as chrêstos ("worthy"), a word that could have been misconstrued (he argues) as Christos, "Christ". As proof, he first claims that inscriptions of Julius Caesar name him as archiereus megistos, which he interprets as the Greek equivalent of pontifex maximus (Caesar's official religious title as "high priest"). Then, although he does not (cannot?) cite any source that actually calls Julius Caesar "chrêstos" (if Signor Carotta knows of any, why does he not cite them?), he claims that it "looks like a contraction of archiereus megistos", by missing out several letters.

Clearly, this foundation of his theory depends entirely upon Julius Caesar holding the title archiereus megistos, so that it can first be contracted (why?) into chrêstos, and then misconstrued as Christos, "Christ".

Unfortunate Blunder

Unfortunately for Signor Carotta, the overwhelming majority of Caesar's inscriptions name him as archierea kai autokratora (the equivalent of pontifex maximus et imperator) or archierea hypaton (i.e. pontifex maximus, consul) or archierea hypaton kai diktatora (i.e. pontifex maximus, consul et dictator), and only a single inscription is known to name him as archiereus megistos (probably because the megistos element is tautological: archiereus already means pontifex maximus without the addition of the Greek adjective megistos = maximus).

Undeterred, -- indeed, oblivious to his blunder -- Signor Carotta continues with supplementary claims: (1) that Christos resembles pontifex maximus because both can be abbreviated to two letters (i.e. PM, and the Christian Chi-Rho symbol); and (2) that PM looks a little like the Chi-Rho if you invert the letters! Frankly, this sounds a little desperate.

His conclusion, that Caesar's statues "not only looked like a pietà, but the inscription on the base also evoked the Christ", is patently ridiculous: none of the statues survive, so it is only Signor Carotta's opinion that they would have resembled a Renaissance pietà (don't you require a Virgin Mary to make a pietà, in any case?), and none of the inscriptions (some two dozen are known, I believe) "evoke the Christ". Nevertheless, this is Sig. Carotta's springboard "to place Caesar's history and the Gospel (sic, presumably Mark's Gospel) side by side and see if further resemblances (sic) occur".

II. Vitae Parallelae

Signor Carotta claims that "new ground is being broken". Readers can make up their own minds, as I list each of Sig. Carotta's astonishing (astonishingly trivial) similarities.

Carotta: El Evangelio
  • Both Caesar and Jesus begin their careers in northern countries beginning with G: Gallia and Galilee.
  • Both have to cross a fateful river: the Rubicon and the Jordan.
  • Both meet a patron/rival: Pompey and John the Baptist, and their first followers: Antony and Curio, and Peter and Andrew.
  • Both are continually on the move, finally arriving at a capital city: Rome and Jerusalem.
  • Both at first triumph, but then undergo their passion.
  • Both have a special relationship with a woman: Cleopatra and Mary Magdalene.
  • Both have encounters at night with "N of B": Caesar with Nicomedes of Bithynia, Jesus with Nicodemus of Bethany.
  • Both run afoul of the authorities: Caesar with the Senate, Jesus with the Sanhedrin.
  • Both are contentious characters, but show praiseworthy clemency as well.
  • Both have a traitor: Brutus and Judas, or Brutus and Barabbas, or Lepidus and Pilate. (Carotta can't quite decide on this one.)
  • Both have famous sayings: Caesar's famous "Veni, vidi, vici", Jesus' "I came, washed and saw" (according to Carotta).
  • Both are accused of making themselves kings: King of the Romans and King of the Jews.
  • Both get killed: Caesar is stabbed with daggers, Jesus is stabbed in his side.
  • Both hang on crosses. (Yes, Carotta has an astonishing theory on this.)

It's probably worth just giving a flavor of Carotta's standard of scholarship here: (1) he claims that Pompey's head was presented to Caesar in a bowl (as far as I can see, no ancient source specifies a bowl), "exactly what the Gospels tell us happened to John the Baptist"; (2) he tries to equate Caesar's Lepidus with Pontius Pilate by "syllabic metathesis" so that the name Lepidus mysteriously becomes Pilatus; (3) he claims that both Barabbas and Judas are equivalent to the traitor Decimus Iunius Brutus ("et tu, Brute"), without realising that he has the wrong Brutus; (4) he claims that Jerusalem is code for Rome, because "the other variant of the name (H)ierosolyma, even contains the letters of Roma in sequence: (H)ieROsolyMA"!

Carotta: Gospel of Caesar

III. Crux.

Carotta claims that "We have shown some similarities and parallels between Caesar and Jesus". That's true, though they are all trivial (e.g. both crossed a river) and many are mistaken (e.g. a supposed parallel between Marius and Lazarus as an "uncle" figure). Carotta is so unaware of the fragility of his theory that he sees only one stumbling-block: "Caesar was stabbed and Jesus crucified".

Nevertheless, he claims that a "structural correspondence is plain to see" in the sequence: conspiracy, capture, trial, crucifixion, burial, resurrection. And in order to make this sequence fit both men, he claims that Jesus was actually killed during his capture, and that both he and Caesar were paraded on a cross after their death. This kind of nonsense is surely easy meat for theologians. But let's have a go from the historical perspective.

Jesus' Funeral Pyre

Carotta reinterprets the entire crucifixion as "the erection of a funeral pyre and the ritual deposit of gifts for the dead". Amongst his hotch-potch of evidence, he suggests that the biblical "myrrh" is a linguistic mistake for "(funeral) pyre", and the sour wine is a misinterpretation of the "quickly assembled stakes" (of the funeral pyre? Carotta does not explain this point). He clearly has Plutarch's description of Caesar's funeral pyre in mind, rather than an honest attempt to interpret the Gospel accounts. "It is easy to detect that the passage from Mark is an abridgement of Caesar's funeral". Yes, it's easy when you completely and totally misinterpret it! "No word has been taken away or added", he claims. No, not much! Just a complete rewriting of the Gospel account to fit the story of Caesar's funeral!

Golgotha ("the place of the skull") is equated with the Capitol at Rome, because "the Romans derived Capitolium from caput", the Latin for head. He claims that Mark calls the place Kraniou Topos, which can be altered, "Capi > Kraniou; tolium > Topos", to read Capitolium. (But Mark explains that the place was called Golgotha, so shouldn't Carotta be employing his ingenuity to find some parallel between Golgotha and Capitolium?)

Christ's Tropaeum

Carotta: Jesus Was Caesar

Carotta describes Caesar's funeral procession, as a parallel to the Passion of Christ, concentrating on the wax figure of the dead dictator "dressed in his triumphal robes". (Appian, BC 2.147 refers to a wax effigy on which the 23 wounds could be seen, but Suetonius, Div. Jul. 84, mentions only the funerary couch "and, at its head, a tropaeum with the clothing in which he had been killed".) Carotta combines the two descriptions, claiming that the effigy must have been attached to a cross "not only because on a tropaeum the arms could only be fastened like that [but Appian doesn't say that the effigy was on the tropaeum] but because somebody who falls down dead stretches out his arms and because Caesar's body had been seen like that when three servants carried him home with the arms hanging out of the litter on both sides" (the latter is apparently a reference to FGrH 26.97, which I have not seen).

However, if (as Carotta claims) the wax effigy required a wooden core ("they were actually wooden figures with a wax outer-layer"), surely it could adopt any position? Carotta again links the effigy with the tropaeum (two separate items in the story) when he claims that "the most functional and direct way to fasten such a wooden figure coated with wax to a tropaeum would involve nails through the hands" -- of course, this is patently false: there are all sorts of ways to fix a wooden mannequin to a supporting structure, if you decide to do so.

Carotta appeals to the late antique "atypical and unnatural representation of Christ standing on the cross" as proof that such artworks were depicting "the expositio of a stabbed one lying on the floor who was only erected that all could see him". (The reason surely has more to do with artistic limitations in late antiquity.)

IV. Words And Wonders

When Carotta claims that "we determined that Jesus was not crucified, and that a cross had indeed played the main role ... during the cremation of Caesar", he has deluded himself on both counts. There is much more in similar vein.

Caesar's siege of the Pompeians in Corfinium is supposed to be encoded as Jesus' exorcism of the demon called Legion: the giveaway, besides the obvious mention of a Roman "legion" (!), is the fact that both men crossed over: Caesar crossed the Rubicon; Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee. Jesus walking on water is Caesar crossing from Brundisium. A servant-less Pompey, obliged to take off his own shoes, is John the Baptist claiming to be unworthy of loosening Christ's sandals. Caesar's famous saying, Alea iacta est! ("The die is cast") is paralleled by the Galilee fishermen "casting" their nets. (Yes, Carotta really does employ such facile arguments.) Caesar's visit to Zela is encoded as Jesus visiting Siloam, because "Zela > Siloah is almost the exact same pronunciation"!

It is rather depressing that Carotta is satisfied with such threadbare evidence: "Our question as to whether or not the Gospel is based on an original Caesar source has been answered positively by successfully verifying our suppositions." Clearly, Carotta is no historian.

Finally, if you have managed to read this far, you will be amused to learn that the "fact" that Julius Caesar was historical, but that some scholars dispute the historicity of Jesus, proves that they were one and the same man.

"It must be recognized that the two figures are complementary and that it is only when they are combined that they provide the complete person of a God incarnate", writes Carotta. "Caesar is a historical figure who as a god has vanished without leaving a trace. Jesus, on the other hand, is a god whose historical figure cannot be found."

And all of this nonsense because Caesar was chrêstos. (Or was he?)

Now read the continuing saga: The Carotta Code Cracked | The Parrot Replies | Three strikes, and Carotta is out!


  1. Gideon Nisbet8/1/12 7:43 am

    Fantastic, but where are the Picts in all this? ;-)

  2. "... no serious reviews have ever appeared, and no recognized authority, whether theologian, historian or philosopher, has yet engaged with Carotta."

    However, a couple of years ago there was a debate about Carotta in Dutch academic circles. A jurist proclaimed on national tv that Carotta's view was groundbreaking. His colleagues in the Religious Studies and the History departments were quick to point out that Carotta's theory was "monkey cabbage" (i.e. nonsense). The jurist defended himself with the accusation that the experts didn't have an open mind.

  3. Upon reading the last name of the author I was reminded of (my wife was born in Korca)the Albanian word for a useful vegetable (or maybe its carotka? - it is 4AM and if I ask her she will make short work of me!).Upon reading the arguments he makes I am reminded of a bizzare book I once read authored by Edwin Jacques entitled 'The Albanians'.Now Albania was for almost 50 years what may be politely defined as a 'Stalinist police state'.So I expected to read some unusual things and find a rather unique and curious perspective. What I 'learned' briefly was that 1) Albanians are the 'original' Europeans (something to do with the 'Aryans')thus most of their rightful lands have been 'stolen'. 2)The 'Mycenean Greeks' were actually Albanians (and by the way didn't speak Greek either)3)Not only were Achilles,Agamenon, Menelaus,Helen,et al Albanians,but so was Hector Paris,Troilus,Aeneas and the rest of the Trojan Heroes! Did I forget Homer? Yeah him too! So it naturally follows of course that Alexander the Great,Aristotle,Plato you name it .... them too.4) Of course seeing Aeneas was one of 'the tribe' then it only follows that Julius Caesar,Augustus,Tiberius...well I think you can see where this is going (he didn't claim Caligula or Nero as far as I can remember but I wasn't too surprised) I was surprised Mssr. Jacques didn't claim either Jesus or the Queen of Sheba as 'members of the tribe'... But Albania was a Stalinist police state which strictly adhered to an official policy of Atheism... religion was absolutely verboten which may explain the omissions. Mr.Edwin Jacques was visiting,traveling and writing in a closed Stalinist police state (very similar in practice to N Korea) What is Mr. Carotka's excuse ?

  4. Quote; "..the experts didn't have an open mind"

    Answer.... "Keep an open mind –
    but not so open that your brain falls out"

    "This excellent piece of advice is most often attributed to physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988), but also a slew of other more or less famous people, most of them from the field of science: Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, James Oberg, Bertrand Russell, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Virginia Gildersleeve, Harold T. Stone ... To name but a few."
    taken from YAHOO ANSWERS

  5. The author of the blog Divus Iulius has responded to your objections against the hypothesis that Jesus was Caesar.

    As to Carotta's hypothesis that Caesar was crucified in imago? I have looked into it and found it to be >95% credible because the Imperial Cult later did it for all the deified emperors! (Justin Martyr, I Apology 55)

  6. Taken at its face... Justin seems to imply the image of the cross can be found everywhere.But if it is found 'everywhere',then its significance in any one place cannot really have any special significance beyond being 'normal'.
    People have made 'interesting' parallels in the lives of many people and 'official' biographies are often manipulated to improve a good story. A 'bio fact' like Jesus being descended from King David may actually be true given the way the number of your ancestors usually increases exponentially when you go back a thousand years ! Witness the current 'reliable' estimate that Ghengis Khan has over 16 million male heirs alone.
    Somehow I think that the Caesar and Jesus parallel might have been noticed quite a bit earlier in the narrative if there was much to it. Wouldn't the Emperor Julian have 'spilled the beans' if this story required some sort of conspiracy element ? He was a rather well educated fellow and hung out with a intellectually oriented pagan crowd who attempted a 'last ditch' attempt to save the 'Old Ways'.They would have used this 'fact' if it were even a rumor. They didn't. I enjoy listening to new theories and this one is well packaged and rather novel. But given the state of the economy..I am affraid .. No sale.

  7. << The author of the blog Divus Iulius has responded to your objections against the hypothesis that Jesus was Caesar. >>

    Thanks for the heads-up. See my next post.

  8. Justin was writing to an Emperor by the name of Antoninus Pius. Of course it was meant to be taken at face value, even the 35th chapter where he says the Jews crucfied Jesus. And he says that A.P. would be able to verify everything that happened to Jesus by fishing the Acts of Pilate out of the imperial archives and reading them! Or in Justin's words, "And that these things did happen, you can ascertain from the Acts of Pontius Pilate."

    And yes, Justin did see the cross everywhere. Even in an overhead view of a trireme under active sail with its oars out and in the nose.

  9. "Wouldn't the Emperor Julian have 'spilled the beans' if this story required some sort of conspiracy element ?"

    How do you know there was a conspiracy?

    "He was a rather well educated fellow and hung out with a intellectually oriented pagan crowd who attempted a 'last ditch' attempt to save the 'Old Ways'.They would have used this 'fact' if it were even a rumor. They didn't"

    Julian probably did use this fact that the Emperors were deified using wax images on crosses. Remember, what we have of Julian is only that which is preserved in Catholic Christian apologetics. There is no guarantee that everything he wrote made it into the apologetic works. And we don't need conspiracies on the part of Christians for this! Just sufficient offense by the apologist at what julian wrote; i.e., such-and-such is so blasphemous it doesn't even deserve mention let alone comment.

  10. "How do you know there was a conspiracy?"

    I didn't !
    I don't !
    I won't !

    (I will not eat it on a house - I will not eat it on a mouse - I do not like green eggs and ham....Sam I am !)

  11. Oh, please, Furvius Rufus. Emperor Julian himself said the whole story behind Christianity was a fabrication of the Galileans. You can read it for yourself in one of the many online English translations of "Against the Galileans."

    Basically Julian exposed Christianity as based on lies. And he said some rather unsavoury things about Jesus. And the Christian Apologists who responded to him back then couldn't stand what he said about him. THAT IS IN THE RECORD.

  12. < Emperor Julian himself said the whole story behind Christianity was a fabrication of the Galileans. >

    I think Fvrivs' point (unless I've gotten the wrong end of the stick) is that -- if Carotta's theory is correct -- Julian had a ready-made defense against "the Galilaeans": namely, that there never was a Jesus Christ, and the Galilaeans' God was none other than Julius Caesar (in some kind of mutated form that Carotta never fully explains).

    That would have been a far more crushing attack on the very foundations of Christianity. Surely -- if Carotta's theory is correct -- the Emperor Julian would have known that the Galilaean Gospel was not simply "a fiction of men composed by wickedness" (as Julian calls it), but was actually a corruption of the Life of Julius Caesar? Not "a monstrous tale" (Julian again), but -- horror of horrors -- a "diegetical transposition"!!

    1. thats because this author stole the material and is not fluent with bible and lacks history knowledge. revelation John, jesus declares he is the root of the morning star (venus) julius also claimed that goddess venus was his ancestor. but there are many many points, both were king of jews, ceasar collecting taxes from doing jewish census for Rome records.yet rome has no record of jesus of nazareth, many other yoshua though, and even some cricified, but not with same story. Also the jesus phrase; render to ceasar what belongs to ceasar is now to be seen in a new light. coined money with ceasar depicting himself as sungod(son of god) list goes on and on.. ceasar was a militant. jesus says i did not come for peace but with a sword(dividing old ways from new imperialism method(extortion free)) blabla... world forgets that greeks philosophers/writers are primarly the authentic authors of all world religions... which were altered refined changed and sold to middle east in compartments but were originally based on sumerian heritage as far as 6000 bc. venus was binah(KABBalla) the shekina the jesus the isis, the list never ends... also under her persian or egyptians(isis) indian or sumerian-iraq(Nansiena) name later greek(aphrodite) and roman, ect.. after the jesus story was published..what was the wisdom, shekina, messia--the venus.. the lady became male in the flesh, such as julius being son of venus Gdess, in the flesh, the whole worlds mentality changed. and all of a sudden, the greeks wer writing for the yazidis theri own book of creation,and many popped up as Nanak, all male warriors, save others........... and all these yahoo christianity branches(islam is A xtianity branch(with more sect creations)) they beleive in Jesus) for each region and predominatly male. they had killed the source of life(venus) and had been replaced by source of maintaining life exciting (war). islam doesnt even understand their own symbol on its flag. it is venus al uzza. the black stone is not a meteorite, but is the black stone of paphos, venus s island. francis bacon when transalting for KJV used word in italic.( these italic words are placed in such a way, that you will see truth in genesis of the meaning of jesus===it states that (isis IS the son)

      all this said, god is a proton! keep the dream alive...

  13. Thank you Antoninus. It seemed like we (Ed-M and myself) were reading from different scrolls. I tend toward the Sagan Standard 'Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence'. I see none.

  14. Nicely done and what an honor to have been reviewed yourself by Divus Julius already.Pity that he is only Carotta himself (would-be emperors don't live thar long).
    Please note that Carotta changes Jesus's crucifixion into a funeral pyre to make it look more like Caesar's end and that at the same time he changes the showing of Caesar's dead body into a kind of crucifixion to make it look more like Jesus's end.
    Carotta is a real crackpot.

  15. Sorry, I should have said Caesar's 'wax figure' instead of 'dead body'. Before you know Divus Julius will react by saying that I don't know what I am talking about and probably did not even read his book.

  16. << (But Mark explains that the place was called Golgotha, so shouldn't Carotta be employing his ingenuity to find some parallel between Golgotha and Capitolium?) >>

    Also, ironically, Dionysius of Halicarnassus goes out of his way to explain that, far from being a *skull*, the head found at the Capitol looked as if it had recently been alive (hence the "prodigy"):

    "...a wonderful prodigy appeared under ground; for when they were digging the foundations and the excavation had been carried down to a great depth, there was found the head of a man newly slain with the face like that of a living man and the blood which flowed from the severed head warm and fresh." (Ant. Rom. 4.59)

  17. I love the idea that Julius Caesar used a phone box (without a phone obviously, duh!) to change into Jesus...

  18. Er, surely Carotta didn't mention a phone box?! (Although it does suit his bonkers theory.)

  19. From Aljazeera English
    Anonymous last month briefly disabled the websites of the US justice department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation offline using distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), a common technique used by the collective where multiple sources bombard the target website.

    There was no immediate explanation from Anonymous for the targeting of the CIA site.

    Mssr. Anonymous should try the same thing on the signor ...just joking.... of course.....I think

  20. Sorry, I'll try and differentiate myself from the rest of the Anonymous group here.
    The contribution about the dead man's head was mine. I have no idea about the others.

  21. I should add that I also commented on "Andreas" and the "wine mingled with myrrh" elsewhere on this blog. That's it. :-)

  22. Gaius01... I admire your devotion to the literary sources. As for myself I long ago failed to complete my studies of both Latin and Greek and as my 'neurons' are now calcified by caffeine and nicotine use I must content myself with rereading Edward Gibbon, studying David Sear books while wasting away my days perusing Roman Imperial Bronzes online (and in hand when my finances allow it!) and of course watching my favorite news channel Aljazeera.Sometimes at 4AM (early riser)I am slightly impaired mentally when I begin my daily routine of hunting down coins of Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius. I meant no offense and was 'light' in the head when I read the Aljazeera article. It did make me smile though.....

  23. << my daily routine of hunting down coins of Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius >>
    You realize that all such coins must be returned to their original owner (me).

  24. I will 'return' those in my possession (after I have completed my 'studies') but as I cannot find the zip code for Mt.Olympus and as I have little hope of any personal 'Deification' ceremonies taking place upon my demise it may be necessary to dispatch the Eagle which carried your most worthy heir Marcus 'aloft' (Sear #5984). A small pouch should suffice as I have only about one dozen (or so). As for my own heirs I am sure they will be satisfied with any remainder which will include those 'other' Antoninus Pius namesakes (aka wannabe's). Namely the unworthy (although deified) Commodus, Caracalla (also deified) and that little monster Elagabalus. I must say they really set the 'bar' a bit low don't you think ?. Whatever you decide please don't send one of them !

  25. . . . I don't suppose you've done a similar analysis of Joseph Atwill / Atwill's _Caesar's Messiah_?