Review of The Gospel of Caesar

The version made for British TV of the documentary I saw a few months back. Along general lines, the documentary is the same, though this one is narrated by a British voice actor, in stead of a Dutch one. The subtitle of the film is Discovering the historical Christ and in case you’re not (yet) familiar with the line of thought put forward by Francesco Carotta, the primary subject of the film, it’s as follows. The historical context of the story of the life of Jesus is not just debatable, it’s non existent. There is no historical proof Jesus ever existed, what’s more, there are plenty of inconsistencies within the stories related in the first few chapters of the new testament. Years ago, Carotta realised, in part due to earlier investigations by other scholars, and then researched in detail, the parallels between the life of Jesus and the lives of both Caesar and his adopted son Augustus; the life of the young Jesus being mirrored in the early life of Augustus, that of the older Jesus mirrored in the life of Caesar after his return from Gaul. If you’re new to this, it might be a bit of a surprise, though the lack of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus shouldn’t be. The parallels between the lives of the two Caesars and Jesus are striking, at worst, and very convincing, at best, and fore more details you can read up on the theory in Carotta’s book. This version feels a bit more polished than the previous version I saw. The main story is of Carotta and a Spanish priest planning and then reenacting the death and funerary procession of Caesar, against a backdrop of Carotta explaining some of aspects of his theory. What’s very nice about the film is that the director van Friesland isn’t sensationalist about the subject with the documentary presenting the theory rather neutrally, though, in my mind, quite convincingly. This, when several of the aspects of Carotta’s theory which are presented are strong indicators for the validity of his theory. Overall, I do have a few gripes with his rationalizations surrounding the death of Caesar: After his murder, Caesar’s body was carried inside a miniature version of the temple of Venus. Carotta says that a wax effigy of Caesar, wearing the bloodstained robes in which Caesar was murdered, was hung on a tropaeum, a Roman victory cross, to be displayed to the masses. Yet, Seutonius seems to say that only his bloodstained toga was hung out for all to watch, with his body in the bier below, while it’s Appian who mentions the wax effigy. Similarly, there’s a moment in the video where Carotta realises that the grave of the Julians is not just underneath the floor of the St. Peter, it’s also right beneath the main altar.  Not quite, as some simple sleuthing shows. And that’s not withstanding the fact that not all sources seem to mark the grave in question as that of the Iulii, Caesar’s family. Small hiccups like that don’t invalidate Carotta’s theories, but do show a certain vulnerability that doesn’t help. The overwhelming a-priori public disbelief, though often not rationally grounded, then isn’t helpful either. Here’s a new factoid I picked up from the film: The Greek for founder is ktistēs, or κτίστης. Caesar, through his policies of retiring his soldiers in the Roman colonies, effectively was the founder of many a city in the eastern Mediterranean.

Babak Fakhamzadeh