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Preface
This webpage reproduces part of
The House of Ptolemy

by E. R. Bevan

published by Methuen Publishing, London,
1927

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter II

p359 CHAPTER I

Alexander the Great

In the autumn of the year 332 B.C. an army of Macedonians and Greeks, numbering some 40,000 men, invaded Egypt. It was led by the young king of Macedonia, Alexander, who had gone forth two years before, Captain-General of the states of Hellas, to assail the huge Persian Empire. Before he reached Egypt he had defeated an army gathered by the Persian satraps on the river Granicus in Asia Minor and an army commanded by the Great King himself at Issus on the Syrian coast. By the autumn of 332 the Persian power had disappeared from the coast-lands of the Eastern Mediterranean, except from Egypt. There Mazakes still ruled as satrap in the name of the Great King (perhaps as the lieutenant of the satrap Sabakes who had left Egypt to join Darius at Issus). It was necessary for Alexander to obtain possession of Egypt, and perhaps of Cyrene, farther west, before he plunged into the countries of the East, because his enemies were still strong at sea, and he had no fleet with which to counter them; the only plan which would secure his base would be for him to hold all the ports round the Eastern Mediterranean and leave the hostile fleets in the air with no place in which they could refit or provision. Thus it was that the army of Ionians, as the Egyptians called the Greeks [in old Greek Iaones, Persian Yavan, Hebrew Yavan], appeared in the old land of the Pharaohs.

Greek soldiers were not an altogether unfamiliar sight to Egyptians. In the days of Herodotus, a century before, Egyptians had looked upon Greeks as unclean foreigners, but in the interval there had come the national struggles p2against the Persian, in which native kings had had the help of forces sent by Greek states; Egyptians and Greeks had fought side by side against the common foe. Only ten years before Alexander's arrival, the last Pharaoh, whose Egyptian name the Greeks rendered as Nectanebo, had been overthrown and Persian rule restored. Thus the army of Alexander, coming in all the prestige of its astonishing victories, seemed to the Egyptians as strong friends and deliverers.1 The struggle with Persia was still proceeding; Egyptians and Greeks were still natural allies. At that moment the Egyptians could hardly have realized that the Ionians came this time to Egypt not as allies, but as masters. They were coming to Egypt to bring Egypt under a rule stronger and more durable than that of the Persians. After former invasions of foreign people, Hyksos and others, Egypt had again always in the end recovered its freedom and set up new dynasties of native Pharaohs, carrying on the immemorially old national tradition in government and culture and language; but now there would never again, to the end of time, be a Pharaoh of native blood ruling beside the Nile. From the coming of Alexander, for a thousand years Egypt would be subject to alien rulers of Hellenistic civilization, Macedonian and Roman, and at the end of the thousand years, the Egypt which became part of the body of Islam would be a different Egypt, with another language, another social system, another religion. The gods whom for thousands of years the land of Egypt had worshipped as its own gods would have been forsaken for ever, buried in its dust.

No foreboding of this can have troubled the Egyptians who in 332 hailed Alexander as a liberator. Persian rule in the country collapsed without fighting. The Persian garrison had been strong enough to crush a Greek adventurer called Amyntas, who fought on the Persian side at Issus, and after the battles had raided Egypt with 8000 men; possibly the natives had ultimately been turned against him by his plundering.2 But there could be no question of opposing the army of Alexander. Mazakes, the acting satrap, ordered the towns of Egypt, beginning with Pelusium, to p3open their gates to the conqueror. After putting a garrison in Pelusium, Alexander moved up the eastern arm of the Nile, first to Heliopolis and then to Memphis. According to Curtius, Mazakes, delivered over to Alexander in Memphis 800 talents and the goodly things of the King's House. A Macedonian walked as king in the palace of Pharaoh. The Romance of Alexander, composed in Egypt, probably in the 3rd century A.D., says that Alexander actually went through the ceremony of enthronement in the temple of Ptah at Memphis, according to the rites used in the case of the old Pharaohs. Mahaffy believed that this statement was a bit of tradition, preserving a historical fact. The statement may be true, but one has to remember that the Romance was concocted partly in order to flatter Egyptian national feeling and represent Alexander as a true successor of the native kings. The writer invented or propagated the story that Alexander was really the son of Nectanebo who, being a magician, had taken the form of a serpent in order to have intercourse with the wife of king Philip of Macedon. His statement about the enthronement at Memphis is likely to be an invention with a similar purpose.

But there is good authority for saying that Alexander did show conspicuous honour to the gods of the land. His conduct was a contrast to that of the Persian conquerors, who had outraged national feeling by killing the sacred Apis bull. Alexander on his arrival at Memphis offered sacrifice to the sacred bull and the other national deities. The religion of the Persians, like that of the Hebrews, made them regard the idolatrous worships of other peoples with contempt; p4but the Greeks, however superior they might believe their culture to be to that of the barbarians, felt a strange awe in the presence of traditions as old as the Egyptian. They were accustomed to think of Egypt as a land of marvels. Verses of Homer, which ran in their minds from childhood, connected Egypt with the heroic age of long ago. The immense antiquity, the vast imposing monuments and temples, the spectacle of an ancient order of life going on, enigmatic and eccentric in many of its features, the peculiar aspect and charm of the land fed by the mysterious Nile — all this had filled the idea of Egypt with a unique body of associations for the Greeks. And now they found themselves in this wonderful land, amongst its pylons and groves of palm, a land which to their fathers had always been something far off and strange, as the masters of it. Alexander offered sacrifice to the Egyptian gods, but he did not forget that he was a champion of Hellenic culture. At Memphis he also held a gymnastic and musical festival in the Greek manner. Some of the most renowned musicians and actors of the Greek world took part in the competitions. How did they happen to be on the spot, miles up the Nile, just at the right moment? Niese, arguing that they must have been invited some time beforehand, supposed that their presence here was a proof that Alexander had privately arranged with Mazakes for the surrender of Egypt before ever he began his invasion; Mahaffy thought that the Greek artists had gone to Egypt on the chance, and had perhaps had "a little acting season at Naucratis, among their Greek friends," so as to be ready at hand if Alexander wanted them. We may draw to any extent on our imagination, but we shall never know.

The thing of most enduring importance which Alexander did in Egypt was the founding of Alexandria. In the summer of 332 Alexander had taken and destroyed the great commercial port of the Eastern Mediterranean, Tyre. He may have desired to create a new port in Egypt — a "Macedonian Tyre" — which would take the place Tyre had taken.3 He chose a site some forty miles from the old Greek city of Egypt, Naucratis, communicating with the interior by the Canopic branch of the Nile.

"As for the site of the city, it has often been pointed out why wretched little Egyptian Rhacotis was selected to be p5transformed into a world capital. The Canopic mouth of the Nile had long served for the comparatively little sea-borne commerce with the alien Levant, which Egypt had hitherto had. Of the other mouths the Pelusiac alone remained open to anything much larger than a fishing-boat. Even the Canopic had a dangerous bar. If merchant ships might enter, it offered nevertheless a good port to the Macedonian war-fleets, which must henceforth keep the Levant. Entry, exit, conditions ashore, which made for neither health nor security, were all against it. But at Rhacotis, a few miles west, Alexander found a dry limestone site, raised above the Delta level, within easy reach of drinkable and navigable inland water by a canal to be taken off the Nile, not seriously affected by the Canopic silt which the point of Abukir directs seaward, and covered by an island which, if joined to the mainland by a mole, would give alternative harbours against the sea-winds, blow they whence they might. It was the one possible situation in Egypt for a healthy open port to be used by Macedonian sea-going fleets, and particularly by warships, already tending, at that epoch, to increase their tonnage and their draught."4

Strabo gives us to understand that the site, when Alexander found it, was occupied only by a fishing village. "The former kings of Egypt, content with home produce and not desirous of imports, and thus opposed to foreigners, and especially to Greeks (for these were pillagers and covetous of foreign land, because of the scantiness of their own), established a military post at this spot, to keep off intruders, and gave to the soldiers as their habitation what was called p6Rhacotis, which is now the part of Alexandria above the dockyards, but was then a village. The country lying around this spot they entrusted to herdsmen, who themselves also should be able to keep off strangers"5 — "herdsmen" (βούκολοι), a wild and formidable breed, themselves a kind of brigands, if we may go by the Romance of Heliodorus.a

In front of the site chosen by Alexander, about a mile out to sea, lay the island called by the Greeks Pharos, some three miles long, constituted by what had once been a line of separate islands. Homer had spoken of it as a place where seals came to lie on the beach, and said that it had a good harbour. But it has been supposed that, when Alexander examined the coast, Pharos was little more than a habitation of native fishermen, and that it was Alexander and his successors of the house of Ptolemy who first created a great port for world commerce at this spot. Recently, however, the researches of Monsieur Gaston Jondet, Engineer-in‑Chief of the Ports and Lighthouses of Egypt, has given history a new and sensational problem. For he has discovered under the sea, reaching in some places to a quarter of a mile beyond what was in ancient times the island of Pharos, the remains of large and massive harbour-works, moles, and quays; and it is still a question whether they were part of Greek Alexandria or whether they were works of a far earlier age, abandoned and fallen into ruins long before Alexander passed that way. Monsieur Jondet himself is disposed to think that the submerged harbour was made by the great Rameses as a defence against the marauding peoples of the sea. "The mass of material used is colossal, as in all the Pharaonic buildings; its transport and construction must have presented graver difficulties than the piling up of the stones which form the great pyramids."6 A French scholar, Monsieur Raymond Weill, has advanced the theory that the works in question are a relic of the Cretan sea-power in the second millennium B.C., which held at some time or other, so he supposes, this bit of the Egyptian coast.7 It seems wise to p7suspend judgment till a more thorough examination of the works has taken place. In any case, the submersion of these works is due to the soil in this region sinking suddenly, either in consequence of a seismic disturbance or from a simple subsidence at some moment of the alluvial soil.8

A subsidence of the soil of Alexandria generally to an extent of at least 7½ feet has taken place since Graeco-Roman times, and the remains of the city of Alexander and the Ptolemies probably are now for the most part buried below the water level.9 This has made it harder thanº ever for archaeology to reconstruct a picture of the ancient Alexandria. We know that Alexander laid out his city on the straight rectangular plan which had been brought into fashion for new cities by Hippodamus of Miletus a century before. The architect employed by Alexander was Dinocrates, according to the Romance, a Rhodian.10 The city, as he planned it, formed an extended oblong along the neck of land between Lake Mareotis and the sea. The foundation feast of the city was afterwards kept on the 25th of Tybi, and it was therefore perhaps about January 20, in the year 331, that the actual ceremony of foundation took place. Legend afterwards told how the architects had marked the lines of the city for Alexander's inspection with white meal taken from the rations of the army, and found an omen for the city's future greatness in what took place at the first tracing of it upon the ground, p8though we are given two different and contradictory forms of the story.11

The original citizen-body of Alexandria must have consisted of Macedonians and Greeks; how Alexander got together the families which constituted the first nucleus, we do not know. Natives later on formed a considerable proportion of the population of the city, though they did not belong to the privileged disease-body. A story to which we shall presently refer says that a large number of Egyptians from the neighbouring Canopus were compelled to migrate to the new city. Although the Jewish element in Alexandria was large a few generations later, it is very questionable whether the statements of Josephus about Alexander encouraging the Jews especially to settle in Alexandria and giving them citizen-rights there are true. There was no reason why Alexander should be interested especially in the Jews. The Jews were not in those days what they afterwards became — a people connected to a pre-eminent degree with trade and finance. "We are not a commercial people," Josephus could still write in the 1st century A.D. (c. Apion, I § 60).

The other event, beside the foundation of Alexandria, which stands out in connexion with Alexander's winter residence in Egypt, is his visit to the Temple of Ammon — as the Greeks called Amen — in the Oasis now called Siwah. The first problem connected with it is why Alexander should have chosen, when in Egypt itself there were ancient and magnificent temples of Amen, to make a journey across the desert to the "lone and distant temple in the palm-groves of Siwah," fifteen to twenty days' journey from the Nile Valley. It seems a sufficient reason that the oracle of Amen in this oasis had had for many generations a peculiar prestige in the Greek world. Croesus had consulted it, as well as the principal Greek oracles in the 6th century. Pindar had composed a hymn to Ammon. We hear of Greeks — Eleans, p9Spartans, Athenians — sending embassies to the shrine, to procure oracular advice, in the days before Alexander. Euripides speaks of the "rainless seat of Ammon" as of a place familiar to the Greeks, a place to which people in need of divine counsel might naturally go.

Greek legend asserted that Perseus and Herakles had gone to consult Ammon before their great enterprises. Callisthenes, who was, later on if not now, in Alexander's entourage, affirmed that the thought of these two heroes had been one of the chief motives which prompted Alexander to make his journey.12 It might be naïve to posit such a motive in the case of a modern practical man, but it is thoroughly in accordance with the temperament of Alexander. There is certainly a problem here; but the problem is not why Alexander in particular wanted to consult the ram-headed god, but why this shrine, so far out of the world and so difficult of access, had ever become a place to which Greeks resorted.

It is plain that the prestige of Ammon in the Greek world had to do with the growth of the Greek colony, Cyrene, on the African coast. For whilst Cyrene maintained constant commercial relations with the other Greek states of the Mediterranean, from Cyrene coasting vessels easily would reach Paraetonium about 345 miles eastwards, and from Paraetonium a comparatively easy caravan-road goes from the coast inland over the desert to Siwah, a journey of some seven days by camel. The Cyrenaeans would thus have been the intermediaries between the shrine of Ammon and the Greek world, and the road running up from Paraetonium the ordinary road by which Greeks reached the shrine. It is noteworthy that Herodotus gets his information about Siwah from Cyrenaeans who have been there.13 And this would explain another problem about the expedition of Alexander, why he went to Siwah by way of Paraetonium and not across the Nitrian desert — the more direct way, as Mahaffy points out, from Egypt. Mr. Hogarth supposes that Alexander was at Paraetonium, because he was marching from Egypt to get possession of Cyrene, but that, being met p10there by the Cyrenaean envoys, who brought him some hundreds of fine horses as a token of the submission of their state, he held it unnecessary to proceed, and, instead, struck inland to visit Ammon. No ancient authority, however, says anything about an expedition to conquer Cyrene. Even the statement about the Cyrenaean envoys is not found in Arrian, and perhaps goes back to Clitarchus, from whom Diodorus and Curtius largely draw — an unworthy authority. Mahaffy so far believed the statement as to suppose that Cyrenaean envoys really did meet Alexander; he conjectured, however, that what they offered was not horses, but guides to Siwah.14

This march across the desert sands to Siwah was accompanied, according to all the ancient books, by various miraculous circumstances. An unwonted downpour of rain came to relieve Alexander's company in the extremities of thirst. Two crows flew by short flights ahead of the company to show them the way, obliterated as it was by the shifting sand. Two serpents went before them, "uttering a voice." It is certain that these stories were told by people who had actually been with Alexander in the East. The most staggering one, that of the two serpents, stands upon the authority of Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, who, if he did not himself accompany the expedition (we are not told whether he did or not), must have been at any rate for years in daily contact with people who had; and we know that Ptolemy's history of Alexander was distinguished generally for its sober veracity. Rationalization of the stories is really easy enough. Rain still occurs, as a rare phenomenon, in this region. Crows and snakes might not impossibly be met with in the desert; a company marching through the solitude startles any animals which may be about, and these naturally flee in front of the advancing column.15

p11 A more or less true picture of the Oasis of the Oracle of Ammon, as it was in those days, may be made out by combining what we are told by ancient writers (the fullest account is to be found in Diodorus, XVII.50) with the data furnished by Siwah to‑day.16 There are two principal villages, Siwah and Aghurmi, two miles apart, huddled upon two isolated rocks which stand up over the surrounding expanse of palm-groves and olive-yards. It is at Aghurmi that the remains of the temple of Amen are to be found. Below the rock, a few hundred yards to the south, there are remains of another smaller temple (called by the present natives Ummebeida). The remains are said to indicate that both temples had been rebuilt during the days of Persian rule in Egypt. With regard to the temple of Amen "one can still mark, near the ancient Fountain of the Sun, the line of a wall of squared stones, forming a rectangular enclosure of about 50 yards by 48. The temple itself comprised different courts and halls, with or without columns, now completely in ruins; then came, at the extremity of the chief quadrangle, the shrine. The two chambers which once adjoined it have disappeared, and it is barely possible to make out the position of the doors which gave admission to them; but of the door of the shrine itself, and of the front portion of it, considerable remains are left. It was a chamber about 30 feet long, 10 to 13 broad, covered in with enormous blocks, of which several are still in place, ornamented with at least three rows of writing and imagery. . . . There Amen dwelt in the darkness, and his sacred bark rested upon an altar, or rather a cube of stone or wood, in the middle of the chamber. The classical historians describe the bark as being 'of gold'; that means it was of wood, covered with plates of gold. Its length must have come short of the length of the shrine by some 7 or 8 feet. One can imagine it by looking at the bas-reliefs of p12Luxor or Karnak, where the barks of the Theban Amen are depicted, with their thin high build, their prows and poops decorated with rams' heads, their crew of gods, their cargo of figures, their naos half-curtained by a white veil and enshrining the image within its slight walls. The image, Callisthenes tells us, was a mass of emeralds and other precious stones. We must conceive it like one of those composite idols mentioned, for example, at Denderah, the body of which was made up of different substances, ordinarily fitted together on a framework of wood or bronze. The emerald in question was certainly not our emerald, but one or other of the numerous stones which the Egyptians classed together under the term mafket — chiefly green feldspar, the root of emerald, very largely used during the Saïte epoch.17 Like all prophetic images, this one, too, was constructed so as to be able to make a limited number of gestures, move its head, wave its arms or hands. A priest pulled the string, which made the image move, and uttered the oracle. Every one knew him, and nobody charged him with any sort of fraud. He was the instrument of the god — an unconscious instrument. At a definite moment the spirit seized him; he made the image work, and moved his own lips; he lent his hands and his voice, but it was the god who impelled his actions and inspired his words."18

As to what happened when Alexander came to the shrine of Ammon, the account given by Callisthenes was as follows:

"The king alone was suffered by the priest to enter the temple in his ordinary dress; his retinue were compelled to change their clothes. All except Alexander stood outside to listen to the delivery of the oracle, Alexander alone inside. Oracles are here not given, as at Delphi and Branchidae, in words, but for the most part by gestures and symbols . . . the 'prophet' assuming the character of Zeus [i.e. of Amen]. This, however, was said distinctly in words by the prophet to the king — that he, Alexander, was the son of Zeus."19

In later forms of the story, which come through Clitarchus, it has been expanded and embellished. Alexander asks p13whether the god, his father, will grant him the dominion over the whole earth, and receives the answer that the god will surely do so. He asks further whether all those implicated in the murder of his father, Philip, have now been punished, and the prophet cries out that the question is impious, because his father (the god) cannot be hurt. This elaboration of the story may be part of the growth of the Alexander myth, which began even before Alexander was dead. On the other hand, it seems certain that when Alexander put forward instructions received from Ammon to explain why he offered sacrifice in India to a particular group of gods,20 such instructions had really been given by the oracle. It may still remain a question whether the instructions were given on the occasion of Alexander's historic visit to the shrine, or whether they had been received later through envoys, since we know, in connexion with the apotheosis of Hephaestion, that Alexander continued to consult the god by envoys in later years.

There is no reason to doubt that Alexander was really hailed by the priest of Ammon as a son of the Supreme God. It is now, however, generally recognized that this was common form in the case of a king of Egypt.21 All the Pharaohs since the second millennium had been officially sons of Amen‑Ra. According to established formulas, Amen gave to his royal sons "the heads of all living," "all countries, all peoples," "all the lands as far as the circuit of the sun." Mr. Tarn may be right in thinking that Alexander did not go through "the ritual," if by that is meant the particular ceremony by which native Pharaohs had been instituted, but he can obviously not have consulted the oracle without going through some ritual; and such ritual, where priests of Amen were receiving one who came to them in the character of king of Egypt, would almost necessarily have included formulas which attributed to the reigning Pharaoh divine sonship and universal dominion.

The remarkable thing is not that Alexander should have been called a son of Amen by Egyptian priests, but that this particular utterance should have been laid hold of by the Greeks, and probably by Alexander himself, and insisted upon with apparent seriousness before the whole world. Alexander "continued," as Mr. Hogarth says,22 the son of Amen "in lands with which Amen had nothing to do. . . . It is not p14clear that the usage of Middle Asiatic religions offered either means or precedents of nearly so literal and satisfactory a sort as did the usage of Egypt for affiliating the mortal sovereign to a supreme deity.23 But what is certain is this — that so far as his own followers imputed divinity in honour of him while he was on the march, and so far as his Greek and other critics imputed it in ridicule, it continued to be expressed as sonship of Ammon. After his death the apotheosis of him, which his successors promoted for their own ends, whether in Asia Minor or in Syria or in Babylon, was from first to last as a divinity in the Egyptian, not in any Asiatic, pantheon. For the benefit of Greeks or Philhellenic princes he might appear on coins with the attributes of a hero, such as Herakles; but, if he was to be a full god, the ram-horns of Ammon must protrude from his beautiful hair. . . . It is as 'Dhulkarnein' the Two-horned that he has passed from pre-Islamic folklore into the Koran, and out of it again into the pseudo-history of half Asia and much Africa. These facts, more than any other evidence, dispose me to think that Alexander himself insisted on his sonship of Ammon, after he left Egypt, and imposed it as a cult with greater or less effect wherever he went."

From Siwah, Alexander and his company returned to Egypt, according to Ptolemy, by the direct way across the Nitrian desert to Memphis. Aristobulus said he returned as he came by Paraetonium, but Ptolemy is here the better authority. At Memphis, Alexander was busy receiving embassies from the Greek states and reinforcements from Macedonia. The children of the land saw once more the culture of their new masters displayed in a great musical and gymnastic festival, and a sacrifice was offered to Zeus the King, no doubt in Hellenic fashion. Yet we know that in some way this god, with his Greek name and Greek ritual, was regarded by the Greeks as identical with the Egyptian Amen, of whom Alexander had just been declared the son.

In the spring of 331 — it cannot have been more than a month or two at most after Alexander's return from Siwah — he left Egypt to attack the Persian king in Mesopotamia. His corpse was destined to return one day to Egypt, but he himself never. He had probably not seen much of the Nile Valley above Memphis, though the Macedonian effective occupation p15extended at any rate as far as the first cataract, since we hear of Alexander sending Apollonides of Chios (a Greek who had joined the Persians and had been captured by Alexander's forces) to be interned at Elephantine.24

Egypt was left solidly organized as a province of the new Macedonian empire. "He made two Egyptians nomarchs25 of [all] Egypt, Doloaspis and Peteesis,26 and divided the country between them; but when Peteesis presently resigned, Doloaspis undertook the whole charge. As commanders of the Macedonian garrisons (phrūrarchoi tōn hetairōn) he appointed Pantaleon of Pydna at Memphis, and Polemo of Pella at Pelusium; as general of the mercenaries, Lucidas the Aetolian; as secretary (grammateus) of the mercenaries, Eugnostus son of Xenophantus, one of the 'Companions' (hetairoi); as overseers over them (episkopoi), Aeschylus and Ephippus of Chalcis. Governor of the adjacent Libya he made Apollonius son of Charinus, of Arabia about Heroönpolis, Cleomenes of Naucratis, and him he directed to permit the [native] nomarchs to control their nomes according to established and ancient custom, but to obtain from them their taxes, which they were ordered to pay to him. He made Peucestas and Balacrus [two of his noblest Macedonians] generals of the [whole] army he left in Egypt, and Polemo the son of Theramenes admiral. . . . He is said to have divided the government of Egypt into many hands, because he was surprised at the nature and [military] strength of the country, so that he did not consider it safe to let one man undertake the sole charge of it."27

We have here the sketch of an organization, of which we are unable to fill in the details. It was destined to be of very short duration. Even during Alexander's time, the effective control of the country seems to have been soon gathered into his hands by one man, the Greek, Cleomenes of Naucratis, who had become a citizen of the new Alexandria, and the system as devised by Alexander must have lost reality, if it p16was not definitely abandoned. When a new system was contrived by Alexander's successors of the house of Ptolemy, it was on other lines. So far as we can see the principle of Alexander's arrangement from Arrian's summary description, it was one of elaborate checks. Even the supreme military command is divided between Peucestas and Balacrus. Cleomenes is to receive the taxes, but their collection is to be left in the hands of native nomarchs. The high position given in Alexander's arrangement to two native Egyptians is a feature not reproduced under the house of Ptolemy till the later days of the dynasty. Cleomenes was apparently clever enough to use his power of financial control to wrest the real power to himself. He seems soon to have gained a reputation in the Greek world for dishonesty and extortion. He was unpopular at Athens because the effect of his measures was to raise the price of corn.º28 Instances of his drastic modes of raising money are given in the work on Economics which goes (wrongly) under the name of Aristotle.

"Cleomenes the Alexandrine, satrap of Egypt, when a severe famine occurred in the neighbouring countries, but in Egypt only to a small extent, forbade the exportation of corn. But when the nomarchs complained that they were unable to pay their tribute, owing to this regulation, he allowed the export, but put so high a price upon it that for a small quantity exported, he obtained a large sum of money, besides getting rid of the excuse made by the nomarchs. Again, as he was going by water through the nome where the crocodile is a god, one of his slaves was carried off by a crocodile; so, calling the priests together, he said he must have revenge for this wanton attack, and ordered a crocodile hunt to be set on foot. Thereupon the priests, in order that their god might not be brought into contempt, collected all the gold they could and gave it to him and so appeased him. Again, when Alexander directed him to found a city at Pharos [Alexandria] and to remove the trade-mart of Canopus thither, he went to Canopus and told all the priests and wealthy people that he had come for the purpose of moving them out. They, therefore, collected a large sum of money, which they gave him, in order to keep their mart. He departed with this, but, after a while, when everything was ready for building operations on the new city to begin, he came again and asked them for a still larger sum, declaring that he estimated the difference p17of the mart being there or at Alexandria at this figure. And when they said they could not pay it, he transferred them all to the new city. . . . Again, when corn was selling at 10 drachmas [the medimnus] he called together the peasants (τοὺς ἐργαζομένους) and asked them on what terms they would work for him; they said they would do so at a cheaper rate than that at which they sold to the merchants. Then he told them to sell to him at the same price as to the rest, but fixed the price of corn at 32 drachmas, and sold at this rate. [This seems to mean that he got rid of the middlemen, and so made all the profit himself for the Crown. — M.] Again, having called together the priests, he told them that the expenses of religion in the country were extravagant, and that a certain number of temples and priests must be abolished. Then the priests offered him money, both privately and from their temple funds, as they thought he was really going to reduce them, and each wanted to preserve his own temple and his own priesthood." [If this argument meant, either you must sacrifice some of your endowments or give a large contribution to the Crown, then any one who knows the enormous wealth of the old Egyptian priesthood will hardly quarrel with Cleomenes. — M.]

How far Cleomenes really deserved his evil reputation, it is not possible now to say. It is always easy by a slight twist of the facts to represent any drastic fiscal administration as unjust and oppressive, and it was the interest obviously of the house of Ptolemy later on to have the memory of Cleomenes blackened. Alexander, we know, would not remove him. Arrian quotes from a supposed letter of Alexander to Cleomenes, in which he says: "If I find the temples in Egypt and the heroon of Hephaestion well appointed, I shall condone your former transgressions; and whatever wrong you may do hereafter, you shall suffer nothing disagreeable at my hands." But Mahaffy has pointed out that the letter cannot be genuine, because it mentions the Pharos lighthouse, not constructed till many years after Alexander's death. It is possible, of course, that Cleomenes did contrive to keep in Alexander's good graces by showing zeal in the things which Alexander specially cared about, such as the development of Alexandria and the cult of Hephaestion. It is worth noting that Cleomenes is specially connected with the founding of Alexandria in the Romance — that is, in local Alexandrine tradition, some three or four centuries later.


The Author's Notes:

1 Oxy. I.12, col. iv: Ὀλυμπιάδι ἑκατοστῇ δωδεκάτῃ . . . ταύτης κατὰ τὸ πρῶτον ἔτος Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Φιλίππου Τύρον εἶλεν· καὶ Αἴγυπτον παρέλαβε ἐκουσίως αὐτὸν προδεξαμένων τῶν ἐνχωρίων διὰ τὸ πρὸς Πέρσας ἐχθρόν.

2 πολυπραγμονῶν τι Ἀμύντας ἀποθνλησκει ὑπὸ τῶν ἐγχωριών (Arrian, II.13.3).

3 D. G. Hogarth, "Alexander in Egypt," J.E.A. II (1915), p55.

4 Hogarth, loc. cit.

5 Strabo, XVII p792.

6 Gaston Jondet, "Les Ports submergés de l'ancienne Ile de Pharos" (Mémoires présentés à l'Institut Egyptien, vol. IX, Cairo, 1916).

7 "Les Ports antéhelléniques de la côte d'Alexandrie, et l'empire Crétois" (Bull. de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale (1919), tome XVI).

8 Sir Flinders Petrie writes to me: "The submerged harbour may well be all Ptolemaic. There has been a large drop. The catacomb is 9 feet under water, and it must have been well over sea-level to avoid damp, say 15 feet higher or more. This is, however, only part of the tale; the shore has been 20 feet lower still, and then risen, like Puteoli, to its present level."

9 Breccia, Alexandrea ad Aegyptum, pp66, 67.

10 Vitruvius says a Macedonian, but on questions of the local history of Alexandria, the Romance is the better authority.

11 According to one form of the story (Arrian, Strabo), the architects intended to mark the lines in the normal way with white earth, but had no adequate supply, and therefore drew upon the soldiers' rations of white meal. The omen consisted in the fact that the architects were driven unexpectedly to use meal. According to the other form of the story (Curtius, the Romance), the architects intended all along to use meal; it was the regular Macedonian custom to do so, when cities were founded (Curtius) — an assertion obviously incompatible with the other form of the side — and the omen consisted in the fact that birds flew down and devoured the meal. The birds do not come in at all in the first form of the story.

12 Strabo, XVII p814.

13 The Cyrenaean Theodorus in Plato (Polit. 257B) speaks of Ammon as "our god."

14 Mahaffy created, in connexion with this expedition, one problem which is not there. He wrote: "It is more interesting to note that none of our authorities makes any mention of the use of camels in this journey," and he explains this strange omission by the hypothesis that camels were not yet domesticated in Egypt. He had overlooked Curtius, IV.7.12: Aqua etiam defecerat, quam utribus cameli vexerant.

15 Maspero quotes an odd coincidence from the account of nineteenth-century traveller, Bayle St. John, who visited Siwah in 1847. He and his companions had temporarily lost the track in the desert. "While in this state of suspense we saw two crows wheeling in the air for some time, and then taking a south-west direction. Had we (p11)been in an age of superstition, we should have considered this a sufficient indication, and have followed these kind guides, the descendants possibly of the birds which, on a similar occasion, and very near, says tradition, the point at which we had arrived, extricated Alexander the Great from the horrors of the pathless wilderness. Had we obeyed the augury we should not have gone wrong; but we seems yield to the suggestions of our imaginations, and waited for the return of Wahsa [the guide], who had certainly taken the best method of repairing his mistake" (Adventures in the Libyan Desert (1849), p69).

16 See C. D. Belgrave, Siwah (1923).

17 Sir Flinders Petrie writes: Mafkat is only malachite; mafkat neshau, 'imperfect mafkat,' is green feldspar; emerald was wholly unknown till Greek times, as likewise 'root of emerald' or beryl."

18 Maspero, Etudes de Mythologie et d'Archéologie Egyptiennes, vol. VI (1912), p271.

19 Strabo, XVII p814.

20 Arrian, VI.19.4.

21 See W. W. Tarn in J. H. S. XLI (1921), p2.

22 J. E. A. II (1915), p38.

23 The Persians do not seem (although Aeschylus thought they did) to have regarded the Great King as a god or the son of a god.

24 Arrian, III.2.7.

25 It may be questioned whether Arrian is right in giving the title of nomarch to persons whose authority extends over the whole of Upper or Lower Egypt. See Holwein, Musée Belge, XXVIII (1924), p125 f.

26 "The Greek text gives Petisis, but the true form is found frequently in papyri, and means gift of Isis — in fact, the Greek name, Isidorus. Doloaspis is not known to me as an Egyptian name, and is probably Persian" (Sir F. Petrie).

27 Arrian, III.5.

28 Demosthenes, Against Dionysodorus.


Thayer's Note:

a The Aethiopica is online in English translation at Elfinspell, and is well worth reading. For these robbers, see especially the references to "herdsmen" in Book 2 and Book 6.


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