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Chapter IX
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.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter XI

p306 Chapter X

Ptolemy VII, Euergetes II
(145‑116 B.C.)

When Philometor met his sudden death in Palestine, Cleopatra II was left as queen in Egypt with her son, the young Ptolemy, who had been associated with his father as joint-king in the last year, or years, of Philometor's life. But there was no hope of maintaining a child on the throne of Egypt, when the practised uncle, Ptolemy "the Brother," was waiting at Cyrene to seize the inheritance at the first favourable moment. It is impossible from our fragmentary authorities to get any consecutive story of the events which put the "Brother" upon the throne. Egypt had for the moment no adequate body of troops at its disposal, since a large proportion of the Egyptian forces had gone with Philometor to Syria, and soon after Philometor's death this army ceased to exist as an organized unity. The Seleucid boy-king, Demetrius II, or those who exercised power in his name, improved the opportunity to destroy this instrument of Ptolemaic patronage and superiority. They compelled Philometor's troops either to enter the Seleucid service or make their way back, as they best could, to Egypt. Nothing remained of Philometor's reconquests in Syria. There could be no question now of the Seleucid retroceding Coele-Syria; Ptolemy's African elephants remained in the Seleucid king's possession. Alexandria was obviously divided into two parties — one loyal to Cleopatra and her son, and one eager to have the "Brother" back again. The Jews supported Cleopatra. What troops she could dispose of seem to have been commanded by two p307officers of Jewish race, called Onias and Dositheus. This would not make her cause more popular at Alexandria. A deputation went to Cyrene to invite the "Brother" to return and take over the kingdom of Egypt. Lucius Minucius Thermus, the Roman noble who had always been a partisan of the "Brother," was in Alexandria, probably not by mere accident, in these days. Whether any serious fighting took place between the troops introduced by Onias into Alexandria and the forces of the "Brother" we do not know. Justin says that the "Brother" established himself "without a conflict" (sine certamine). He assumed the title of Euergetes, associated with his popular ancestor, Ptolemy III. It was agreed that Cleopatra, the widow of her elder brother, should become her younger brother's wife. She must, before consenting to this, have made some stipulation regarding the future position of her son — probably he was to continue as joint-king. In any case Euergetes II simplified the situation by having his nephew killed — "assassinated in the arms of his mother at the wedding-feast," Justin says — but that may be only rhetorical painting up in Justin's way.1

Against the Jews, who had supported Philometor and Cleopatra, Euergetes had a bitter grudge. Josephus tells of Euergetes, after his return to Alexandria, the story which 3 Maccabees attaches to Ptolemy IV, how the king tried to have a great crowd of Jews trampled upon by elephants, and how the elephants turned, instead, upon the king's men. Euergetes was induced to give up his vendetta against the Jews, Josephus says, by the intercession of his mistress, whose name was given in one account as Ithake, in another as Irene. The Alexandrine Jews celebrated a day annually in memory of their deliverance.

All our ancient literary sources represent Ptolemy Euergetes II as a monster, disgusting in appearance and savage in his vindictiveness. He was certainly of a swollen corpulence which got him at Alexandria the nickname of Physcon ("Pot-belly"). Posidonius, whose teacher Panaetius had seen him in Alexandria, vouches for his abnormal obesity.2 Justin adds that he liked to wear garments p308of transparent gauze, through which his blown-out body showed in almost worse than naked hideousness.3 Our sources also speak of his sanguinary persecution of all whom he suspected of disloyalty in Egypt — executions, orders of banishment, confiscations on a wide scale, even massacres of the people of Alexandria by his hired soldiery.

Apparently his hand was especially heavy upon the intelligentzia of Alexandria. Many of them had been attached to Philometor and were regarded by Euergetes as his enemies. A number of the savants and artists connected with the Museum became scattered through the Greek lands, by flight or banishment, and created in the places to which they went — so a writer belonging to the Ptolemaic realm, Menecles of Barca, asserted — a revival of learning. This did not mean that Euergetes II was hostile to Greek culture as such. He aspired himself to a place amongst Greek authors, and left behind a book of miscellaneous reminiscences, in which, amongst other things, he described the eccentricities of his uncle, Antiochus Epiphanes.

It is not the behaviour of Euergetes which offers the gravest psychological difficulty in the story; it is the behaviour of Cleopatra. That she can have consented to cohabit with her brother after the murder of her son is certainly hard to believe. Yet that Cleopatra bore Euergetes a son (in 144) is plainly stated by our ancient authorities (Diodorus, Livy, Justin). One may say, of course, that she was compelled by fear to live with Euergetes, as his wife, but when one thinks what these Macedonian princesses were, that seems hardly plausible. It is more likely to have been the desire to remain queen at all costs. In the case of Cleopatra's daughter, the queen of Syria (Cleopatra Thea), the love of power seems to have overridden natural affection: she contrived the assassination of her husband, Demetrius II; she murdered one of her sons, and tried to murder her other son, when they stood in the way of her ambition. In the case of the mother, Cleopatra II of Egypt, it may have been love of power which induced her — not indeed to murder her son — but to cohabit with her son's murderer.

Euergetes, having established himself in Alexandria, a year later had himself crowned as a Pharaoh, by Egyptian p309rites, at Memphis. It was during the festivities of the coronation that the son of Euergetes and Cleopatra II was born, and called (or surnamed) Memphites in record of the coincidence. A papyrus mentions an Edict of Indulgences (φιλάνθρωπα) promulgated by the king about this time,4 calculated to reassure the actual possessors of property, since the troubles of recent years had made titles questionable, and a measure was called for to allay unrest. The festivities at Alexandria in honour of the new little prince were marred by the killing of a number of Cyrenaeans who had come with Euergetes to Alexandria in 145. The charge against them was that they had spoken disrespectfully of the king's concubine Irene.5

Within a year or two, relations within the royal house became strained, Cleopatra II had, beside her murdered son, two daughters by Philometor, both called Cleopatra. One was the queen of Syria just spoken of, the other (Cleopatra III) was still living in the palace, when her mother married Euergetes. Euergetes violated his niece, and some time afterwards took her publicly as his wife. The first papyrus we have, in which the young Cleopatra III appears as queen, belongs to the year 141‑140, but the marriage may have taken place a year or two earlier. Whether Euergetes formally repudiated Cleopatra II we do not know. She continued to be queen, but is henceforth described in our documents as "queen Cleopatra the Sister," whilst Cleopatra III is "queen Cleopatra the Wife."6 The trio were officially regarded as, all three together, the sovereigns of Egypt. Cleopatra the Sister had prestige and power in Egypt which made it unsafe for her younger brother, even as king, to degrade her openly; but it is obvious that relations between Euergetes and his sister were now anything but easy. There was a rift running through the palace and the kingdom, since Cleopatra the Sister had her partisans as well as the king and Cleopatra the p310Wife. In the years between 145 and 118 B.C. we find sometimes both Cleopatras associated with the king in the protocols of documents, sometimes "Cleopatra the Sister" only, sometimes "Cleopatra the Wife" only.7 It is hardly probable that these changes of style accurately reflect changes from one moment to another in the relations of the three sovereigns to each other; it is much more likely that they are due in part to the uncertainty of scribes in places far away from Alexandria during the present abnormal state of things.

At some time during these years occurred the visit of Scipio Aemilianus to Alexandria with his friend Panaetius of Rhodes — his "Stoic chaplain" (M.).8 Our account of it comes from the disciple of Panaetius, Posidonius. The visit gave later writers the occasion for an effective contrast between the great Roman noble in his republican simplicity and dignity and the king of Egypt, a bloated mountain of flesh in his indecent gauze, puffing and panting as he escorted his powerful visitor from the ship to the palace on foot.9 "The Alexandrines," Scipio whispered to Panaetius, "owe me one thing; they have seen their king walk!" Scipio had been charged by the Senate to "inspect" the kingdoms of the Eastern Mediterranean. The Romans, as practical hard people who cared for power, but despised Oriental display, wanted to ascertain precisely what the country of the Nile could furnish in the way of real strength and resources to its possessor. Scipio surveyed with the shrewd, devouring eye of a Roman farmer-statesman the lie of the great city, its harbours and giant lighthouse. He went up the Nile as far as Memphis and looked at the rich fields with the endless villages and country towns — a land which the first Ptolemy had chosen well as the basis of his power, a land which under efficient control might some day mean a solid accession of power — who knew? — to another possessor.

It is plain that revolt against Ptolemy Euergetes was always simmering at Alexandria. Those who had been attached to Philometor, those who were eager to serve Cleopatra the Sister, their queen for more than twenty years past, were only held down with difficulty by the king's mercenaries. p311The Athamanian prince Galaestes, Philometor's general, who had fled to Greece, continued to foment trouble from overseas. Even the mercenaries in Alexandria became exacting, and we are told that on one occasion a mutiny was only staved off by a captain in the service of Euergetes, called Hierax, advancing the pay demanded out of his own pocket. "Over and over again," Polybius says, "Euergetes let loose his troops on the people of Alexandria and massacred them."

In 131‑130 the unrest at Alexandria, maintained by the division between the king and his sister, came to a head. There was an attempt by the excited populace to set fire to the king's palace, and Euergetes fled to Cyprus, taking with him Cleopatra III, his children by her, and the boy of six or seven called Memphites, his son by Cleopatra II. Cleopatra II was left in Egypt for the moment as sole sovereign, though papyri make it probable that Euergetes continued to be recognized as king in most of Egypt outside Alexandria. Possibly the quarrel between brother and sister had come to open war for some time before the king's flight. Cleopatra II seems to have got herself recognized in certain parts as sole sovereign, with the style Cleopatra Philometor Soteira, as early as the thirty-ninth year of Euergetes (132‑131)10 and to have started for herself a new series of regnal years. The Greeks of Ombi are found erasing from an inscription put up in 136‑135 the names of Euergetes and Cleopatra III, making Cleopatra II appear as sole queen.11 Of the events which followed the king's flight we have Justin's account, and while his careless and rhetorical habit diminishes his value as an authority, we have, in the absence of any more trustworthy account, to take Justin's for what it is worth. This, then, is what Justin tells us. Euergetes in Cyprus got together a mercenary army in order to carry on the war against his sister in Egypt. A bastard son of the king's was residing at this time in Cyrene. (He may have been viceroy there.) There was a movement at Alexandria to call him in and put him upon the throne (as the husband of Cleopatra II, Bouché-Leclercq supposes! Nothing indeed seems impossible for that world in the way of dynastic marriages). Euergetes forestalled the plan by inducing the young man to join him in Cyprus, and then putting him to death. This enraged the Alexandrine populace, and they began pulling p312down the statues of Euergetes. (One would have thought this a mild act after their attempt to burn Euergetes alive in his palace, and after his expulsion it is less odd that the statues should have been pulled down now than that they should have been left standing till now.) Euergetes believed that the attack on his statues had been instigated by Cleopatra II, and in revenge he killed his own son by her, the boy Memphites, had his body cut limb from limb, and the pieces sent in a box to Alexandria as a birthday present to the boy's mother.

Some regions in Egypt held by the king, some by Cleopatra II. These years are termed in the papyri the time of amixia, "cessation of general intercourse." A letter has been found of a Greek soldier, Esthladas, dated Choiach 23, year 40 (January 15, 130 B.C.), and written in Upper Egypt, stating that he is about to go with a detachment of troops loyal to Euergetes against the town of Hermonthis which is being held for Cleopatra II.12 He says that news has come that Paōs is going to bring up next month "sufficient troops to crush the folk of Hermonthis and treat them as rebels." The Paōs in question was strategos of the Thebaïd nome, and by his name an Egyptian — another instance of a native in high place. We have an inscription put up by a Cretan officer, Soterichus, whom Paōs sent to take command of the quarries in the hills, and guard the caravan road between Coptus and the coast by which the cargoes of incense from South Arabia and India travelled to the Nile.13

In 129 B.C.14 Euergetes had succeeded in regaining Alexandria by a military victory. We have an inscription put up by the Roman merchants resident in Alexandria recording their gratitude to Lochus, the son of Callimedes, who commanded the army of Euergetes on this occasion.15 In 129‑128 p313Euergetes is proved to be in possession of the Fayûm, since he settles native kleruchs there.16 Hostilities between the forces of Euergetes and those of his sister seems to have continued in the Thebaïd, since a papyrus dated January 9, 127 B.C., speaks of the priests of the State-worship being at that moment "in the king's camp."17 But probably before this date, Cleopatra II had already left Egypt and sought shelter with her son-in‑law, Demetrius II, at Antioch.

A great deal had happened in Syria since Philometor had fallen there in 145. In 140‑139 Demetrius had led an expedition east in order to recover Irân from the Parthians, but had himself been captured and retained for ten years a prisoner of the Parthian king. During his captivity his much abler brother, Antiochus VII (Sidetes), had established himself as king in Syria and taken over Cleopatra Thea (Ptolemy Philometor's daughter) as his wife. In 130 Antiochus VII in turn invaded Irân, and, though at first brilliantly successful, had fallen in 129 on the field of battle. Demetrius now escaped and once more took up his residence in Antioch as king. But Cleopatra Thea did not welcome back her former husband, who, whilst in captivity, had married the Parthian princess Rhodogune. When Cleopatra II of Egypt arrived at the Seleucid court, her daughter Cleopatra Thea was perhaps already living in hostile separation from Demetrius, as she is found doing three years later at Ptolemais (Akko). Cleopatra II induced Demetrius to attack Egypt. If he succeeded in driving out Euergetes, the spoil of Egypt might go far to restore his unstable fortunes. But Demetrius, semi-Orientalized by his ten years in Parthia, bearded like a barbarian, was very unpopular in Antioch, and by the time he reached the frontier of Egypt with his army, his own kingdom was in revolt behind him. The rebels entered into negotiations with Ptolemy Euergetes and begged him to use the power of Egypt to install some prince of the Seleucid blood as king in place of Demetrius. Euergetes cynically responded to the request by throwing into Syria, as the nominee of Egypt, a young man, the son of an Egyptian tradesman, possibly a native,18 who pretended to be the son of the former pretender Alexander Balas, and who himself assumed, as king of Syria, the name of Alexander. The Antiochenes p314nicknamed him, in the speech of the native Syrians, Zebina, the "Bought One." However, the Antiochenes preferred him as king to Demetrius, and Euergetes had effectively paralysed his Seleucid enemy. Demetrius continued to hold the country in the region of the Lebanon, till he was defeated by the forces of Alexander near Damascus. He tried to find shelter in Ptolemais, but Cleopatra Thea shut the door in his face. He fled to Tyre and was there killed (126‑125 B.C.) — it was believed by his wife's orders.

The hopes which Cleopatra II had built upon her son-in‑law had proved vain. In 124 probably,19 she agreed to a reconciliation with her brother, and returned to Alexandria, to resume her place as "queen Cleopatra the Sister," alongside of her daughter "queen Cleopatra the Wife." Her other daughter Cleopatra Thea remained in Syria to uphold the claims of the house of Seleucus against the pretender. It was obviously more natural for Euergetes, now that Demetrius was gone, to support his niece rather than Alexander Zebina.

Cleopatra Thea, after killing one of her sons, Seleucus V, who did not prove docile enough, had associated another of her sons, Antiochus VIII, nicknamed Grypus the "Hook-nosed," with herself on the throne. Euergetes sent one of his daughters by Cleopatra III, Tryphaena, to Syria, to be the wife of the young Antiochus. Without the support of Egypt, the cause of Alexander Zebina rapidly sank. In 123 he fell into the hands of Antiochus VIII and was put to death. Two years later Cleopatra Thea was detected in an attempt to poison the king her son, and was compelled by Antiochus to drink the mortal cup herself. It was twenty-nine years since the daughter of Ptolemy Philometor had been brought as a girl to Syria to be the bride of Alexander Balas. That was her end. We hear of no further action in Syria on the part of Euergetes after the overthrow of Alexander Zebina. He was probably satisfied with having his daughter Tryphaena installed there as queen.

The official reconciliation between Cleopatra II and Euergetes did not mean that the country immediately returned to peace and orderly bureaucratic government. The fights which had been going on in many places between the two factions had brought about a state of violence and confusion p315(the amixia) which could not be brought to an end all at once. A papyrus reveals to us a petty war between the towns of Crocodilopolis (near Gebelên) and Hermonthis in the Thebaïd in 123 B.C.20 A papyrus21 from the neighbourhood of Ptolemais tells us that a state of amixia existed there in 122‑121 B.C. In 118 at last a decree to regulate conditions throughout the kingdom was issued in the name of all three sovereigns. This is given us in the long papyrus from Tebtunis, edited by Grenfell and Hunt in 1902 — one of the chief documents for the working of the Ptolemaic bureaucracy. Preisigke believed22 that it represented a kind of compromise between the king and Cleopatra II, in which considerable concessions were made by Euergetes. The existing confusion was largely due to grants having been made in the amixia by each of the rival governments to its own partisans, which were naturally not recognized by the other. Many people therefore in actual possession of land had uncertain tenure, including Egyptian temples which had taken one side or the other and received grants of land or privileges from Euergetes or Cleopatra. The object of the decree was to draw a sponge over the past and recognize actual possession as legally valid. If Cleopatra had thus to accept grants made by Euergetes to her enemies, Euergetes had no less to accept grants made by Cleopatra to his enemies, and (Preisigke held) bind himself not to interfere with them. The document is so important that a short survey of its several sections may be in place.

1. An amnesty for all offences committed in the kingdom before Pharmuthi 9 of the fifty-second year (= March 28, 118 B.C.), murderers and robbers of temples being excepted.

2. Persons who had taken part in pillaging and fled in consequence will be allowed, if they return home, to resume their former life, and what remains of their property will not be confiscated.

3. Arrears of taxes remitted, except in the case of those Royal Cultivators who cultivate their lot by an hereditary lease.

4. Remission of debts to the State incurred by strategoi in connexion with their taking office.23

p316 5. In Alexandria (a) collectors of customs are not to seize as contraband goods which have once been carried from the exhairesis into the city;24 any contraband seized in the exhairesis is to be delivered to the office of the dioiketes.

(b) Travellers on foot from Alexandria into the interior are not to be subject to any requisitions from the customs-collectors, except the legal duties. (This probably means that goods carried on ass or camel would be examined by the customs-collectors, but goods carried on the head or back, or in their hand by the poor, who went on foot, allowed to pass free. Pedestrians would, however, have to pay dues for such things as transport by ferries.)

(c) Goods imported through the xenikon emporion are not to be seized as contraband, except at the gate (leading from the harbour to the city).

6. (a) All who are actual holders of land by an irregular act during the time of confusion may regularize their tenure by first retroceding the land to the sovereign, paying a year's rent in produce, and receiving the land back from the sovereigns by a regular grant. No charges will be made against them in respect of years before the current year 52.

(b) Native Egyptians who have come irregularly into occupation of kleroi are confirmed in their possession.

7. Certain services (leitourgiai) due from the kleruchs mentioned in the previous section are remitted.

8. The temples have their actual revenues confirmed to them; the land which the temple administer themselves (i.e. the ge anhieromene) they are to continue to administer without interference from anybody. (In effect this is an undertaking by the king that his agents shall not interfere with them.)

9. Arrears of taxes due from the temples remitted.

10. The expenses of the burial of the sacred bulls are to be paid by the royal treasury.

11. Priesthoods which have been bought from the State are confirmed to the temples.

12. The privilege of asylia confirmed to those temples which possess it.

13. Irregularities in respect of the different measures used by collectors of government revenues in kind are to be checked.

14. Those who replant vine-land or orchard-land, which has been allowed to go waste, shall hold the land free of tax p317for five years and with specially light taxes for the following three years. In the country-territory attached to Alexandria an extra three years' grace will be allowed.

15. Houses or lands bought from the Crown (ἐκ τοῦ βασιλικοῦ) are to remain in legal possession to the purchasers. (Preisigke supposes that the point of this section is that Euergetes and Cleopatra mutually agree to recognize transactions with the other's treasury.)

The lines following (102‑113) are too fragmentary to yield any certain sense. Then comes:

16. Owners of houses which had been burnt down or otherwise destroyed may rebuild them as before [i.e. without the special permission which had to be got from the State in the case of any new building]. Temples also may be rebuilt. [The smaller temples, no doubt, put up by individuals or villages. The factions had apparently not spared each other's sacred buildings.] But the height is limited to 10 cubits (about 15 feet). Panopolis is excluded from this concession. [Panopolis must have been a special centre of trouble. Grenfell and Hunt suggest that the fragment of Diodorus which speaks of Panopolis as a nationalist stronghold under Philometor has been misplaced and that the siege had really taken place only shortly before 118. V. Martin (Les Epistratèges, p49) puts it in 130. But it seems likely that a place which had once been a centre of nationalist revolt (under Philometor) continued to be a convenient stronghold for rebels. The provision which forbade Panopolis to build temples above 15 feet high was probably a measure of security rather than of punishment. Stone buildings of that height might be used for street-fighting.]

17. Those engaged, as cultivators or industrial workers, in the king's service are protected against exactions on the part of officials (strategoi, oikonomoi, police officers, etc.).

18. Strategoi and other high officials are not to take and cultivate themselves good land already being cultivated, as part of the gē basilikē, by Royal Cultivators.

19. Certain classes of people are not to have kleruchs quartered upon them. The classes include: (1) Greeks serving in the army; (2) priests; (3) Royal Cultivators; (4) those who carry on certain industries by licences bought from the Crown — wool-weavers, cloth-workers, swineherds, gooseherds, manufacturers of oil and beer, honey-producers. Where any member of the classes specified owns other houses, p318beside the one in which he lives, kleruchs may be given quarters in them, but not more than half the house in question is to be taken.

20. Strategoi and other high officials are not to compel any of the people to work for them without proper remuneration.

21. This clause frees policemen, or guardians of crops, throughout the country from certain charges which might be made against them for irregularities in the past, but its meaning is obscure.

22. Penalties incurred by those who have failed to comply with the law in respect of the oil monopoly remitted.

23. Penalties incurred for failure to provide brushwood and reeds for mending embankments remitted.

24. Penalties incurred by those who have failed to cultivate their plots according to the law up to the year 51 remitted. For the year 52 and onwards the law is to be enforced.

25. Penalties incurred by those who have cut down trees in their holdings without the government licence remitted.

26. This is the clause determining the respective jurisdictions of Greek and native judges, referred to on p161.

27. Royal cultivators and workers in the industries in which the Crown is interested are not to be personally restrained for debt. Their goods may be distrained, but not the tools necessary for their work.

28. Textile workers are not to be compelled to work for officials without adequate remuneration.

29. No official may seize boats for his own use.

30. No official may imprison any one for a private quarrel with himself or a debt owed to him; if he had any charge to make against any one, he must sue in proper form in the appointed court.25

Such was the decree issued by the three sovereigns in 118 B.C. One of the documents in the Hermias case mentions a decree of amnesty (philanthropa) which remitted liabilities incurred before Thoth 19 of the fifty-third year,26 that is, five months later than the date specified in this decree. It is probable that the decree mentioned in the Hermias case was a supplementary decree which extended the period of grace.

This decree is the main argument for those who desire to prove that the picture drawn of Euergetes II by the historians is untrue. Instead of the monster given us in the p319literary tradition, what wise solicitude we find here for the people's welfare, what excellent reforms, what concern to do justice as between Greeks and Egyptians! I cannot but think that the argument suffers from a certain naïveté. Consider the moment — everything in the kingdom out of gear from years of civil war, fields gone to waste, house property in many places destroyed, dangerous unrest rampant, the natives ready to rise against the Greeks. And all this would bear directly upon the king's revenues. Egypt was his personal estate, and Egypt in disorder meant restriction and discomfort for the king. The most narrowly self-regarding landlord would see that something must be done to pull things straight, that concessions must be made to people driven to the verge of madness by official exactions, to Egyptians exasperated at their political subjection. It may be noticed that the peasants and manual workers which the decree is especially concerned to protect are those working for the king. But, supposing the measures taken by Euergetes II at this crisis showed unusual administrative sagacity, that would not in the least prove that he was incapable of the crimes recorded by historians. It is surely a naïveté to suppose that a bad man must necessarily be a stupid man. Whatever of sagacity there is in the decree of 118 B.C. may perhaps be put down to the credit of Ptolemy VII's intelligence. But even this is uncertain. If the decree represents a compromise between Euergetes and Cleopatra, we do not know how much of the credit belongs to the Sister. Or it may belong to none of the sovereigns. It may belong to some dioiketes or other high-placed adviser of the king. Royal rescripts were not composed by the sovereign himself, and when things were as desperate as they were at this moment, the king may have gone almost entirely by the judgment of the chiefs of the bureaucracy, ready to put his hand to any document they submitted to him, provided that his personal safety and his revenues were secured to him.

Nor does it seem to me that there is anything in the documents really to support the fancy of Mahaffy, and some other recent scholars, that the policy of Euergetes II had a markedly pro-native bent. Euergetes built, indeed, and adorned Egyptian temples, as his predecessors had done, and amongst those of which the remains are still to be seen, the work attributed to Euergetes is perhaps rather conspicuous. Amongst other things, the inscription on the great temple at p320Edfu, which went on growing, one reign after another, describes notable additions made by the seventh Ptolemy. In his twenty-eighth year (142 B.C.)º the formal dedication of the temple took place, ninety-five years after the foundation stone had been laid by the first Euergetes. But Mahaffy himself admitted that this did not "prove anything very distinctive." It is also true that the inscriptions on some other Egyptian temples speak of benefits conferred or wrongs p321redressed by the king. The Aswan stele mentions philantropa conferred by Euergetes II Cleopatra III ("the wife") upon the temple of Chnubo Nebieb in Elephantine.27 A small temple has been found at Philae, dedicated by him to Hathor.28 At Kom‑Ombo,29 at Medinet-Habu, at Dêr-el‑Medineh, at El‑Kab, the existing remains bear witness to Euergetes II as a builder or restorer of temples in honour of Egyptian gods. But the fact that the remains of his work in this line are (perhaps accidentally) somewhat more extensive p322than those of his predecessors, is hardly evidence that his policy was more distinctively pro-native than theirs. We have a petition of the priests of Isis at Philae addressed to Euergetes II and the two queens in the last ten years of his reign, complaining that the royal officials and military commanders visiting Philae, or passing through on their way south, have laid a heavy burden upon them in the matter of ceremonial p323receptions; and we have the sovereigns' rescript, dated 118‑117 B.C., commanding the strategos of the nome to dispense these priests in future from such obligations.30 But this only shows that the Alexandrine court was ready on occasion to check abuses by which influential bodies of Egyptian priests might be exasperated. Petitions must have been continually coming in to Alexandria from individuals and corporations throughout the kingdom, and it was naturally the successful petitions which were preserved, with the royal answers. All the kings of the dynasty realized that the conciliation of their native subjects was good policy, so far as it did not clash with other objects they might have in view.

The decree of 118 B.C. contains provisions which would protect the natives, or certain classes of the natives, against oppression by royal officials, and would secure the Egyptian priesthood in the possession of privileges they had won. But such clauses may well be due to the necessity of doing something at the moment to reconcile the natives to the re-established order, not to any systematic policy of favouring the Egyptians. It is true that from the days of Philopator the native element in Egypt goes on regaining strength and gradually pushes its way into the higher grades of the bureaucracy. But this rise of the natives was, so far as one can see, due to a natural process, not to a deliberate policy on the part of the kings. Of course, as the natives grew stronger, the necessity of conciliating them, removing the abuses which caused the worst bitterness, extending the privileges of temples, etc., became more urgent. But I can see no evidence for Mahaffy's statement in regard to Euergetes II that "this policy of fusing Greeks with natives was a reasonable and gracious one";31 or for the notion that he had such a policy at all.

No doubt Justin's rhetorical sensationalism provokes modern readers to take the contrary view. Yet is there any reason to disbelieve that Alexandria, after the accession of Euergetes in 145, lived through a period of terror? One of the nicknames which Euergetes got — Kakergates — will not have been given without cause. Mahaffy thought the crimes attributed to him too outrageous to be credible. But perhaps a modern writer is apt to judge what human nature is capable of by the men he sees round him in Western society to‑day. p324Human nature, under other conditions, may take on developments in which moral inhibitions which seem to us an essential part of it cease to exist. I question whether any one who had a close acquaintance with what has one on in the courts of Indian rajahs — even to quite recent times — would find anything out of the way in the story of Ptolemy VII. Or perhaps a closer parallel would be found in the princely Indian courts of the 15th and 16th centuries. We see there a high level of literary and artistic culture, keen intellectual vigour and practical ability, go with moral monstrosities quite equal to those narrated of the house of Ptolemy. If Euergetes II was an able administrator — as he may have been for all we know — we ought to think of him as a specimen analogous to that of an Italian despot of the Renaissance. The horrors of lust and bloodshed which Elizabethan dramatists, like Webster and Tourneur, pile up, in depicting the life of those circles in contemporary Italy, should be in our mind when we study the later Ptolemies and Cleopatras. The story of Euergetes cutting his son piecemeal and sending his limbs in a box to his mother as a birthday present is exceedingly like the plot of an Elizabethan play. Indeed, one Indian playwright of the Renaissance, Spinello, did find it a subject made to his hand and embodied it in a play called Cleopatra, brought out and dedicated to a bishop in the year 1540. To judge what is possible or not in the Alexandria of the 2nd and the last century B.C. we must free our minds from the environments of 20th‑century London or Oxford, or Dublin.32

In regard to Lower Nubia, Euergetes evidently continued the policy of his brother in treating it as part of his kingdom. At Debôd there was a naos of red granite, placed in the temple in the name of Euergetes and one of the Cleopatras.33 In the temple at Pselchis (Dakkeh) Euergetes added a pronaos, on which is an inscription, in Greek: "On behalf of king Ptolemy and queen Cleopatra the Sister, Beneficent Gods, and of their children, to the greatest god Hermes, who is also Paotpnuphis and the gods associated in the temple. Year 35."34 We have an inscription of Herodes of Pergamon, from the Twelve‑schoinos-reach, still in command there in the earlier p325years of Euergetes: "On behalf of king Ptolemy and queen Cleopatra the Sister, Beneficent Gods, and their children."35 But Herodes has now risen from the order of diadochoi to that of the archisomatophylakes, and he calls himself now, not "Pergamenos" but "Berenikeus," that is, probably a member of the deme in Ptolemais called after Berenice. The synodos with which Herodes is connected is now given the name of Basilistai. In the list given of its members most of the names are Greek, some are Egyptian.

After the return of Cleopatra II eight years elapsed till the death of Euergetes on Payni 11 of the fifty-fourth year36 (June 28, 116 B.C.), at the age of about sixty-five. Whether Cleopatra II survived her brother or not is uncertain; a demotic document of October 116 gives the name "queen Cleopatra" twice over, but that may be due merely to an inadvertent repetition on the part of the scribe. The wickedest of all the Ptolemies, Euergetes had a longer life than any of his predecessors since Ptolemy II, and died in peace after thirteen years' unbroken possession of the desirable things for which he had intrigued and murdered.


The Author's Notes:

1 L. Pareti identifies (it seems to me with great probability) the murdered boy with the Neos Philopator who appears in later lists of the Ptolemies (Ricerchi sui Tolomei Eupatore e Neo Filopatore, in the Reale Accademia d. Scienze di Torino, Ann. 1907‑1908).

2 Athen. XII.549C.

3 Greek men did not wear transparent clothing, but the Pharaohs of the New Empire seem to have done so. May Euergetes possibly have liked to show himself sometimes in the garb of one of these Pharaohs?

4 Tor. I pp9, 21.

5 Diod. XXXIII.13.

6 She may even have borne Euergetes more children after his marriage with her daughter. That she did bear him another son beside Memphites seems to be proved by OGI Nos. 130 and 144, though possibly the second son may have been born in 143, before the king's marriage with Cleopatra III. The son of Euergetes, who dedicates at Delos a statue of Cleopatra III, "the wife of his father and his own first cousin," must have been a son of Cleopatra II (OGI No. 144), and is hardly likely to have been Memphites, who was killed when only fourteen.

7 The list in Mahaffy, History, p189.

8 The date is uncertain; see Bouché-Leclercq's note, II p68.

9 Sir Flinders Petrie thinks it probable that Scipio had arranged intentionally that the king should come to meet him on foot at the harbour, so as to inflict upon him a public humiliation.

10 Bouché-Leclercq, IV p323.

11 Wilcken, Archiv, V (1913), pp411, 412.

12 Documents are dated in Thebes by Euergetes up to the middle of September 130. About the beginning of October, Thebes seems to have been won by the party of Cleopatra II (Strack, pp45, 46).

13 OGI No. 132 (in October 130). Conon (March 22) is making enrolments "contrary to the orders of Paōs the strategos" (Wilcken, Theb. Bank, No. 8; Abhandlungen d. Akad. zu Berlin, for 1886).

14 Because the reign of Alexander Zebina in Syria is shown by coins to have begun in 129‑128 B.C.

15 OGI No. 135. Bouché-Leclercq thinks it probable that this Lochus is identical with the Hegelochus, who is said to have commanded the army of "the elder Ptolemy" and to have beaten an army of the Alexandrines commanded by Marzyas (Diod. XXXIV.20). Lochus was Governor (strategos) of the Thebaïd between 127 and 124.

16 Tebtunis, I pp553 ff.

17 B. G. U., No. 993.

18 Justin calls his father an "Egyptian." This generally means a native Egyptian, but might mean an Egyptian Greek.

19 The date is not quite certain, but it was at any rate before the edict issued by all the three sovereigns together in 118 B.C. (TebtunisI.5). See Preisigke, Archiv, V pp302, 303.

20 Chrest., No. 11.

21 P. S. I. III No. 171.

22 Archiv, V (1913), pp301 ff.

23 "Probably all the more important officials had to pay heavily for their posts" (Grenfell and Hunt, Tebtunis, I p33).

24 See p94.

25 Tebtunis, I No. 5.

26 Tor. I col. 7, ll. 13 ff.; cf. Tebtunis, No. 124.

27 OGI No. 168. For Chnubo we find Chnomo in OGI 111.

28 Captain Lyons, Philae, p27.

29 See Fig. 61, History.

30 OGI 137‑139; see II pp547, 548.

31 History, p205.

32 I am confirmed in my doubt regarding the modern attempt to rehabilitate Euergetes II by the sensible observations of Jouget, Revue Belge for 1923, pp419 ff.

33 Roeder, Les Temples Immergés, I p118.

34 OGI No. 131.

35 OGI No. 130.

36 The date is given by the inscription on the temple of Edfu.


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