The J. Paul Getty Museum

Julius Caesar, Escaping from the Island of Pharos, Swims to a Boat while Holding a Letter

Object Details

Title:

Julius Caesar, Escaping from the Island of Pharos, Swims to a Boat while Holding a Letter

Artist/Maker:

Boucicaut Master or workshop (French, active about 1390 - 1430)

Culture:

French

Place:

Paris, France (Place Created)

Date:

about 1413–1415

Medium:

Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, and ink

Object Number:

Ms. 63 (96.MR.17), fol. 198v

Dimensions:

Leaf: 42 × 29.6 cm (16 9/16 × 11 5/8 in.)

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Object Description

Chased by Egyptians and forced to flee from his sinking boat, Julius Caesar swims to another ship holding a letter raised above the water in his hand. Although Boccaccio did not reveal the contents of this letter, he described in detail the events leading to Caesar's desperate plight. While chasing an enemy during the Roman civil war, Caesar had entered Alexandria, Egypt. After the Romans set fire to the Egyptian king's boat, which was stranded ashore, the flames spread to the famous royal library and destroyed 40,000 books. Caesar withdrew to the island of Pharos but then had to retreat from the enraged Egyptians. During his hasty flight from the island, Caesar was forced to abandon his sinking ship and swim to safety. Caesar later defeated the Egyptian army, captured the Egyptian king, and then granted control of Egypt to the king's sister Cleopatra.