Calpurnia Pisonis

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Calpurnia from the 16th-century Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum

Calpurnia Pisonis (born 75 BC), daughter of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, sister of Lucius Calpurnius Piso, "the Pontifex", was a Roman woman and the third and last wife of Julius Caesar. Calpurnia was the great-granddaughter of a lieutenant of Lucius Cassius Longinus, whose name was Lucius Piso. The grandfather of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesonius was killed by the Tigurini during the Cimbrian War, as was Lucius Cassius Longinus.[1]

Marriage and Caesar's demise[edit]

Calpurnia married Caesar in late 59 BC. Contemporary sources describe her as a humble, often shy woman.[2] No children resulted from the union. Caesar's daughter Julia, born by his first wife Cornelia Cinna, was likely older than her stepmother and married Pompey around the same time that Calpurnia married Caesar. Following Caesar's death on the Ides of March (March 15) of 44 BC, Calpurnia delivered all Caesar's personal papers, including will and notes, and most precious possessions to Mark Antony, one of the new leaders of Rome. She did not remarry after Caesar's death.

According to historical tradition, reflected in some ancient sources,[3] Calpurnia had a premonition of her husband's murder and tried to warn him in vain. She also encouraged Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus to send word to the senate that Caesar was sick on the day of his death, but Caesar refused to lie.

Calpurnia in literature and popular culture[edit]

Greer Garson as Calpurnia.
  • In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Calpurnia has a dream that a statue of Caesar was flowing with blood as many Romans wash their hands in the blood. She also sees in her dream that Julius Caesar would die in her arms.
  • Her character from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar was also portrayed by Sylvia Lennick in Wayne and Shuster's comedy sketch "Rinse the Blood Off My Toga", parodied as a hysterical Italian-American housewife repeatedly wailing "I told him, Julie! Don't go!" in a Bronx accent.[4]
  • She is shown taking part in solving a murder in Mist of Prophecies (2002) - part of the Roma Sub Rosa series by Steven Saylor. She gets Gordianus the Finder to look into a threat to her husband in a later book in this series, The Triumph of Caesar (2008). She is portrayed as a woman of formidable intelligence and efficiency, utterly devoted to her husband's interests, but with an incongruous fascination with trying to foretell the future.
  • In the motion picture The Addams Family, there is a portrait of Calpurnia on the wall of the Addams'.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Caesar's Gallic War, Book 1, Julius Caesar, Hinds & Noble, 1898, pg. 83.
  2. ^ Cicero: The Secrets of his Correspondence, Volume 1, Jerome Carcopino translator, Taylor & Francis, 1951, pg. 352.
  3. ^ Vita Caesaris, chapters 19–24, recounts Caesar's assassination; extracts are quoted in "The Assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 BC". EyeWitness to History. Retrieved 9 November 2005. . For an assessment of Nicolaus and his sources see Sihler, E.G. Annals of Caesar: A Critical Biography with a Survey of the Sources (New York : G. E. Stechert, 1911), pp. 293–4
  4. ^ "Sylvia Lennick, Wayne & Shuster sidekick, dies at 93". The Globe and Mail, August 10, 2009.