09 February 2010

Pompey the Great & Julia Caesar

By Michelle Styles

When the whole idea of love affairs was first mooted, I thought of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. After all, she had herself rolled up in a rug and delivered to him so she could plead her case, and have him support her rather than her husband/brother.

Then after Caesar's death, there is Cleopatra and Marc Antony and the famous asp. Not bad for a woman that historians now think was a dumpy blonde with a quick wit. (See picture of her bust.)

There is also the famous story of Servillia (the mother of Brutus) and Caesar--in the Senate, Servillia's very uptight and upright brother Cato demanded Caesar read the letter he had just received out loud. It turned out to be a highly explicit and impassioned love letter...

However, one of the love affairs that strikes me to have had a tremendous of consequence for the Roman Republic was the May December marriage between Pompey the Great and Julia Caesar, Julius Caesar's beloved daughter from his first marriage to Cornelia Cinna and his only legitimate child.

Pompey the Great was the general who first rewrote the rules of the Republic. he raised armies when he was supposed to be too young, held consulship more times than customary and generally was beloved by the people. He was married seven times and had the reputation as a dedicated womaniser. Julia was the highly educated daughter of an up and coming politician. They were married for political purposes and to tie the families together. Love was not supposed to be involved. Cato saw his chance and mocked them both, turning the public against two of his sworn enemies. An early end was predicted for the marriage.

Against the odds, Pompey and Julia fell in love. Pompey neglected his duties and became a model husband. Public scorn of him increased led by Clodius who had once dressed up as a dancing girl in order to seduce Caesar's wife Pompeia (sex scandals amongst politicians were rife in the Roman Republic) and Cato. Caesar went off to Gaul. Julia fell pregnant. Pompey and Crassus attempted to rig the election of 55 BCE. Violence broke out. Pompey was caught in the thick of it and his toga became blood splattered. Julia saw the toga assumed the worst and miscarried. It was taken to be a judgement from the gods for the rigged election. The next year, in August 54 BCE, again heavily pregnant, she miscarried and died.

Both Pompey and Caesar were prostrate with grief. Caesar never really forgave Pompey for his very quick remarriage and they ended up on opposite sides of a civil war that tore Rome apart.

Michelle Styles's latest North American release, SOLD & SEDUCED, is set during this period and is out now.