Anybody looking for Julius Caesar facts is bound to find something interesting along the way - namely, his wild reputation for sex. The ancient Romans didn't have the same hangups about sex that many societies do today; much of Julius Caesar's sex life was considered normal by their standards, but not all of it. Caesar had a few alleged preferences in his sexual relationships that made him the subject of mockery, some of which could even be connected to his death in the Senate.
Though Caesar was far from the most depraved leader of Rome, his proclivities do seem a little at odds with the modern concept of him as a stoic, bold, and important leader. But even in the stories accepted as largely historically accurate, such as that of the relationship between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, there's a hint of lasciviousness about them. Sex was clearly an important part of Roman life, and to Caesar, a leader of Rome, it was no different.
Among Caesar's rumored peculiarities: he was said to cross-dress, particularly during his time in the court of Nicomedes. Though he wasn't the only Roman politician to do so by a long shot, his other activities while there led to rumors that his interests were unconventional. More specifically, the rumors held that he enjoyed being penetrated, the act of which went against acceptable male social behavior.
Many of these rumors were recounted by Suetonius, a historical biographer and notorious gossip-hound who detailed the lives of many Roman figures in detail. Though much of his writing has been debated as propaganda spouted by a political enemy of the regime, there is a substantial amount of corroboration in other Roman writings from the period, lending some credence to things like Caesar's purported cross-dressing.
Caesar's rumored relationship with King Nicomedes of Bithynia was not suspect because it was a relationship between two men, but because of the role that Caesar was said to play in it. Rome was a patriarchy, meaning that men were considered socially superior to women, and, as such, traits normally ascribed to women were considered lesser. As a result, to be penetrated was to fall into a feminine role. The rumor held that Caesar was the penetrated partner in his relationship with Nicomedes, and he became the subject of ridicule for it.
According to Roman gossip writer Suetonius, the Gauls were said to sing, "Caesar may have conquered the Gauls, but Nicomedes conquered Caesar," referring to Caesar's passive sexual role. The intent of such an insult was to paint Caesar as less manly - and therefore less confident and powerful, two important characteristics in a leader - regardless of whether or not the relationship really occurred.
Caesar's reputation with women was legendary. It wasn't just the concubines, foreign leaders, and ladies of the evening he dallied with, but also the women he actually married. He married three different women over the course of his life, beginning with Cornelia, who died seven years after giving birth to Caesar's only legitimate child, Julia.
After Cornelia's death, he married Pompeia, whom he left in scandal after she was caught with a man disguised as a woman during the festival of Bona Dea. Calpurnia came third; she had a nightmare about Caesar's passing on the day he was targeted in the Senate. They had no children, though Caesar did father a child with Cleopatra during his marriage to Calpurnia.
The affair Julius Caesar had with Cleopatra is the stuff of legend. At the time of their dalliance, the leadership of Rome and Egypt were in a feud, but Cleopatra, according to legend, had herself rolled up in a carpet, rug, or bag of linens to be delivered to Caesar directly. They entered into a relationship not long after, one that infuriated Ptolemy XIII, then ruler of Egypt.
The feud continued, with both Caesar and Cleopatra's lives threatened – and along the way, Cleopatra became pregnant with Caesar's child. The two remained together until Caesar's death, with Cleopatra reportedly hiring two actors dressed as Castor and Pollux to light his funeral pyre to reinforce belief in his divinity.