Is Julius Caesar's bloodline traceable to present day?

Of course for the average mortal I would never expect to be able to follow a genealogy that far back. But for someone whose lineage was considered as important as Caesar’s, one would think they would have made some effort to keep tracking it.

So are the modern-day descendants of Julius Caesar (if any exist) known? And if not, when did they lose track of them? During the fall of Rome? Who was the last known descendant?

There are genealogies that purport to trace ancestries back to Caesar. They are regarded by competent genealogists with a high degree of skepticism.

I am not a classicist, but I think Caesar’s bloodline died out with his two children–Caesarian (son of JC and Cleopatra) was assassinated when he was 17, and Julia died during childbirth, although her child lived a few days, so I guess it’s more accurate to say the bloodline died out when Julia’s child died.

Unless you mean the descendants of Augustus Caesar, whom JC adopted. If Wikipedia is accurate, then there’s no way to answer your question–his line of descent can’t be traced farther than the early 3rd century AD:

There isn’t anyone who can realistically trace their ancestry back 2000 years. Reliable records - even in the most aristocratic families - don’t exist before the renaissance.

Even if reliable records did exist, the amount of formal and informal adoption, passing off one man’s children as another’s, etc, means that after many generations, 100% of people are descended from someone different to the official version of their bloodline.

So, really, any of us with any possible European ancestry might be descended from Caesar, but nobody will ever know for sure because proving it is impossible. Even if we had a sample of Julius’ DNA the amount of genetic drift that happens over 2000 years means that there is no possible way to definitively connect anyone from 2010 AD to any individual person from that era. The best you could say is “we can’t rule out the possibility that you might be descended from the Julian clan.”

Yeah, I kinda figured as much but wanted to see to what extent we really know of his line. I conceived of the question because I was having fun imagining how his descendants could be working in an Italian bakery, or American hedge fund managers, or in jail somewhere for child molestation and so on… anyway, could make an interesting fictional story.

So how did those records get lost? Like I mention in the OP I understand it for 99.9%+ of the population but it seems crazy that they couldn’t even keep track of the people they considered to be so important that they were essentially divinities.

Actually, at this distance in time it’s a virtual certainty that anyone with any European ancestry is descended from Caesar’s family (though not Julius, as his children left no descendants). This is due to pedigree collapse - as you go back in time, more and more of your ancestors are shared with others (see Cecil’s column here). By the time you go back 2000 years, or around 100 generations, you are descended from essentially everyone who was alive in Europe at the time who has living descendants.

If you figure about 30 years between generations, and two kids per generation, then there are about 2^(2100/30) = ~a sextillion descendents of Julius Caesar (or if not Caesar himself, then Caesar’s cousin) alive today. Obviously, his family tree had some straight sections to it because that’s more than the population of the planet, but still, the point remains, if you have any European blood, your chances are pretty good at being one of those descendents.

Good information. I wasn’t really considering how exponentially we’ve been multiplying over all those years (thinking “how hard can it be to track one friggin’ family?”) :stuck_out_tongue:

For what it’s worth, five alleged lines of descent of Queen Elizabeth II from Julia, sister of Julius Caesar. Take these, not merely cum grano salis, but with all the rock salt you have left over from last winter.

A lot of people can trace their lineage to Charlemagne, and there exists one documented line tracing his ancestry back to a provincial governor of some fame to specialist historians (Syagrius, if anyone cares) during the last days of the Roman Empire. But back beyond him? Legend and unproven lineages only.

The dark ages, while a misnomer, did represent a period in history when very little was written down. And if I’m not mistaken, didn’t they use Papyrus for much of their written records? It has the bad habit of not weathering time very well…

As an Italian-Canadian, I’m not terribly convinced there’s any Roman blood in me. My family was Abruzzese, so not getting into any north/south divide, I suspect that modern day Italians are more likely descended from Germans and Greeks than Roman Emperors. I have a better chance of being related to Odovacar or Attila the Hun than Julius Caesar.


Charlemagne, mentioned in the previous sentence, if you mean who is the “his” in “his ancestry”; Syagrius, whose name I gave parenthetically, if you mean “traced to whom”

Sygarius was a Gallo-Roman ruler of the Domain of Soissons, which was a Gallo-Roman kingdom that rebelled against Rome and declared independence as the Empire collapsed. It lasted for about 30 years and then fell to the Franks.

Isn’t like 25% of all Central Asian peoples descended from Genghis Khan?

Supposedly. I missed that episode of ‘Maury.’

It’s not proven that Julius’ bloodline died out. His legitimate bloodline died out, but there is absolutely no way of knowing whether or not he knocked up a senator’s wife and/or some random British slave girl and through her has millions of living descendants.

Over the course of 2000 years, the amount of surreptitious sex and unofficial adoption that has undoubtedly occurred in every family makes everyone’s official ancestry fiction.

Nowadays we have DNA testing and can prove who is (or isn’t) a child’s father. A large percentage of the suspicions that lead to DNA paternity tests turn out to be well-founded. There is no reason to believe that today’s women are any less faithful to their partners than the women of the past.

It didn’t happen so much at the wealthier end of society, but plenty of men have married single mothers (or “widows”, and occasionally genuine widows with children) and adopted and raised the non-biological child/children as their own, formally or informally. After a generation or two, who remembers that grandpa was adopted? Especially if it was done informally, as these things usually were in non-wealthy families. And especially if there was a hint of bastardy about it.

Orphans were and are routinely brought up by non-related people. If your sister and her husband die in a cholera epidemic but their baby miraculously survives, you take the baby in and raise it as your own. Or your teenage daughter gets knocked up by a passing scoundrel and pops out a baby 9 months later - you raise the child as yours, allowing your daughter to appear a bit more respectable and therefore marriageable. That sort of thing happens all the time, and always has.

It’s usually done legally now, and there’s a paper trail to prove it. But 400 years ago, among farm labourers in a rural community? Generally there is no record at all. So, John Smith is recorded as the son of William Smith, and that’s all we know. Who was his biological father? Maybe William Smith, maybe someone else entirely.

Given human nature, over the course of just a few hundred years there is very little chance that anyone doesn’t have a cuckoo or two in their family tree. Over the course of 2000 years, even if perfect records existed, there is zero chance that they’re a true record of who begat who.

And some huge percentage of English people are descended from Edward III.

My mother once informed me that I was descended from a long line that Julius Caesar once told…

Julius Caesar was a notorious womanizer and there were numerous rumors in his lifetime of his having illegitimate children. One of his assassins, Marcus Junius Brutus, was one of these rumored children.

But he only had two children he acknowledged; his daughter Julia Caesaris by his wife Cornelia Cinna and his son Caesarion by Cleopatra. He also adopted his grandnephew Octavian (Augustus) as a son.

Gotterfunken already explained what happed to Julia and Caesarion.

Augustus had one daughter, also named Julia. She had five children: Gaius, Julia, Lucius, Agrippina, and Agrippa. The only of these who lived to have children was Agrippina, who had nine children. Three died in infancy and the other six were Nero, Drusus, Gaius (Caligula), Agrippina, Drusilla, and Livilla. Nero, Drusus, Drusilla, and Livilla died childless. Caligula had a daughter Julia Drusilla who was killed along with her father. Agrippina had one son, Lucius (the future emperor Nero). Nero had a daughter Claudia who died in 63 AD. Nero died in 68 AD and was the last legitimate biological descendant of Augustus Ceasar. (I’ve left out various adopted and illegitimate children.)

Brutus and his sisters had a good chance of being his son as their mother, Servilia, was widely known to be not just Caesar’s mistress but the love of his life. He lavished gifts on her; at a time when the average salary of a Roman soldier was 500 denarii per year he gave her a black pearl necklace valued at 5,000,000 denarii. (Thank you All Roads Lead to Rome special feature on the HBO Rome DVD :D.)

Caesarion was allegedly his son but who knows. Contrary to the movies he never actually acknowledged him, and he almost certainly would have since not only was it a healthy male heir but one born to the richest and most powerful woman in the known world of the Romans. Also contrary to the movies it is unknown what became of Caesarion; it’s assumed he was killed but there’s no proof, he just vanished from the records.

Cleopatra would probably have descendants. In addition to Caesarion she had three children with Mark Antony: Alexander Helios (Sun), Cleopatra Selene (Moon), and Philadelphius who were taken to Rome and reared by Antony’s wife (who also raised some of his other children, legitimate and ill-, in addition to her two daughters with him). Only Selene is known for certain to have had children, but she had two (King Ptolemy of Numidia and his sister Drusilla), but the records stop with them, though Queen Zenobiawas alleged to be a descendant of Drusilla in her own lifetime.

Most genealogies are completely forgotten within surprisingly few generations though. I didn’t know the names of several of my Civil War era ancestors until I began researching them and that’s only four generations removed from me- for that matter it’s only one person removed since I knew their grandchildren who knew them- and while I’m not royalty I do live in a society where the vast majority are literate and I even grew up near where these people lived. It’s easy to see how the fact great-great-great-grandma was a queen or great-great-great-great-grandpa was the most famous man of his time can not get passed down when you don’t have his money or power and you’re illiterate and in a land where not many people care and frankly it can be dangerous to claim the ancestry.
The royal family of England has full time genealogists who devote their careers to researching the royal pedigree, and even they have a few dead ends (not of the crowned heads lines obviously, but of some of their spouses and branches). Even for the super well known records can be spotty: as much as has been written about Anne Boleyn, for example, we’re not sure what her date or even year of birth is.