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Epilepsy Behav. 2004 Oct;5(5):756-64.

Dictator Perpetuus: Julius Caesar--did he have seizures? If so, what was the etiology?

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  • 1Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60612, USA. jhughes@uic.edu <jhughes@uic.edu>

Abstract

The "Dictator Perpetuus" of the Roman Empire, the great Julius Caesar, was not the one for whom the well-known cesarean operation was named; instead, this term is derived from a Latin word meaning "to cut." Caesar likely had epilepsy on the basis of four attacks that were probably complex partial seizures: (1) while listening to an oration by Cicero, (2) in the Senate while being offered the Emperor's Crown, and in military campaigns, (3) near Thapsus (North Africa) and (4) Corduba (Spain). Also, it is possible that he had absence attacks as a child and as a teenager. His son, Caesarion, by Queen Cleopatra, likely had seizures as a child, but the evidence is only suggestive. His great-great-great grandnephews Caligula and Britannicus also had seizures. The etiology of these seizures in this Julio-Claudian family was most likely through inheritance, with the possibility of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) in his great grandfather and also his father. Our best evidence comes from the ancient sources of Suetonius, Plutarch, Pliny, and Appianus.

PMID:
15380131
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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