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Chapter II
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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Ch. IV § 1

p56 CHAPTER III

The Second Ptolemy, "Philadelphus"
(283‑245 B.C.)

The young man of twenty-five who became sole king of Egypt in 283 or 282 B.C. is known in history as Ptolemy "Philadelphus." This surname he never bore in his own lifetime. He was known to his contemporaries simply as "Ptolemy the son of Ptolemy." The name Ptolemy did not yet sound in their ears as the dynastic name of a long line of kings. It happened to be the personal name of a Macedonian chief who had had the singular fortune to make himself king of Egypt, and now the name of his son. There may have been no intention at this time that all the kings of this house, suppose it continued to rule Egypt, should be called Ptolemy. In the house of Antigonus there were several royal names — Antigonus, Demetrius, Philip; in the house of Seleucus there were at first two, Seleucus and Antiochus; later on, Demetrius and Philip were added, to show that Seleucid kings also represented by their blood the house of Antigonus. It may have been more or less an accident that the first kings of the house of Ptolemy were all called by the name of the founder of the line, and it may then have come to be established as the invariable rule.1

Ptolemy the son was of a very different character from Ptolemy the father. The softening of fibre which became more pronounced in several of the later kings already showed itself in the son of the tough old Macedonian marshal. It was something of the contrast between David and Solomon, the magnificent voluptuary with intellectual and artistic interests succeeding the man of war. His education had been p57directed by Strato, one of the chief representatives of the school of Aristotle, and Ptolemy II's eager interest in geography and zoology was, no doubt, quickened by the attention devoted to scientific studies by Aristotle and his disciples. Yet probably the climate of Egypt had not yet changed the robust Macedonian stock in the second Ptolemy as far as it had done in later kings. He was of fair complexion,2 an obvious European, probably of a ruddy corpulence; there was plainly in the kings of this house an inherited tendency to grow fat in later life. Some constitutional weakness, or, it may be, too tender care for his own health, made him averse from bodily exertions.3

Often during his reign Egypt was at war, but the wars were carried on by Ptolemy's generals and admirals. Only on an expedition up the Nile do we hear of Ptolemy II going forth himself to war as his father had done, and as his contemporaries Antiochus I and Antigonus Gonatas did. His statecraft was soon confronted by new convulsions in the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean. In 281 the last two survivors of the generation of Alexander, both old men over eighty, Seleucus and Lysimachus, addressed themselves to their crowning fight. Lysimachus fell, and Seleucus was left with apparently no rival between him and the supreme position of Alexander. The situation was threatening for the young Ptolemy in Egypt. His half-brother Ptolemy Keraunos was with Seleucus, and it was plainly possible that Seleucus might support his claims to the Egyptian throne. Then suddenly everything was plunged into confusion by Ptolemy Keraunos assassinating Seleucus on the Dardanelles. It relieved the situation for the king of Egypt. Seleucus had been the great danger, and the ambitions of Ptolemy Keraunos were now diverted from Egypt to Macedonia. Arsinoe, the widow of Lysimachus, full sister of Ptolemy II and half-sister of Ptolemy Keraunos, was still in Macedonia, and she determined to secure the vacant throne for her infant son. She was little more than a girl, but she was also, as we have seen, a Macedonian princess, with not a little of the tigress. Yet Keraunos could outmatch her in cunning and ferocity. He first married her, and then murdered her child, the son of Lysimachus. Arsinoe took refuge in the sanctuary of Samothrace. And now came a new and frightful p58complication — an irruption of masses of wild Gauls from beyond the Balkan into Macedonia, Greece, and Asia Minor. Ptolemy Keraunos perished in that barbaric deluge (280). There was a period of confused fighting in Macedonia, during which for two months another son of the old Ptolemy — Meleager — held the position of king, to disappear again into darkness. Another man, Antipater, the nephew of Cassander, who held the throne of Macedonia for a few months at this time, took refuge, after his overthrow, at Alexandria; he was known there by his nickname of Etesias (the wind that blows for forty-five days), and a chance papyrus has revealed him as the patron of a certain maker of knuckle-bone dice.4 In Asia Minor and Northern Syria, Antiochus I, the son of Seleucus and the Persian princess Apama, contrived to establish himself as king in his father's place, though in Asia Minor his authority could now assert itself only in conflict with other new powers — native principalities here, Persian dynasties there, the Greek principality centred in Pergamon, and the roving hordes of Gauls. In the end, after the half-century of confusion which followed Alexander's death, the Eastern Mediterranean world settled down into a fairly stable group of powers — in Macedonia, the house of Antigonus; in Northern Syria, a good part of Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and Persia, the house of Seleucus; in other parts of Asia Minor, the new local dynasties; in Egypt, Palestine, Cyrene, and Cyprus, the house of Ptolemy. In Greece itself, in the islands and on the coasts of the Aegean, on the Bosphorus and in the Black Sea, the old Greek city-states continued to have more or less freedom according as circumstances enabled them to stave off subjection to one or other of the monarchic powers.

Between all these powers great political and military activity went on throughout the reign of the second Ptolemy. Macedonian Egypt was at the height of its power and glory. But the histories which would have given us a narrative of what this ancient Roi Soleil, his generals and ambassadors, did in the world, have perished. Only by the inadequate epitomes of later writers, incidental references and a few sporadic inscriptions, it is possible to trace a doubtful outline.

The ambition of the house of Ptolemy to extend its dominion outside Egypt over certain regions of Asia, to be the strongest sea-power and intervene effectively in the politics of the Greek p59world, made it impossible for them to avoid foreign entanglements. Some time between 279 and 274 a stronger will than Ptolemy's came to govern the policy of the Alexandrine court. His sister Arsinoe, for whom all prospect of being queen in Macedonia had now vanished, arrived in Egypt, perhaps with the formed intention of becoming queen in the house of her father. There was already a queen in Egypt, the other Arsinoe, the daughter of Lysimachus, wife of Ptolemy. That, however, was not an obstacle to a woman like Arsinoe, the daughter of Ptolemy I. She had already in Macedonia, years before, swept Agathocles from her path by causing her father to kill him on a false charge. The other Arsinoe had already borne her husband three children — two sons, Ptolemy and Lysimachus, and a daughter, Berenice. She was now accused of conspiring against the king her husband's life. Two of her supposed accomplices — a certain Amyntas and a Rhodian called Chrysippus, her physician — were put to death and the queen herself banished to Coptos in Upper Egypt.

Mahaffy was the first to point out an Egyptian stele, found at Coptos, which refers to Arsinoe I. "It is the memorial of Sennukhrud, an Egyptian, who in an account of his life says he was her steward, and for her rebuilt and beautified a shrine. . . . Though the lady is called 'the king's wife, the grand, filling the palace with her beauties, giving repose to the heart of King Ptolemy,' she is not qualified as loving her brother, and, what is perhaps more significant, her name is not enclosed in a royal cartouche, as a queen's name should be."5

Arsinoe, the daughter of Lysimachus, having been thus got rid of, Arsinoe, the daughter of Ptolemy I, took her brother Ptolemy to husband, and became queen of Egypt. The marriage of a full brother and sister was before unheard of in the Greek world, although quite common amongst the p60Egyptian natives, and according to the practice of the Pharaohs. Many people were scandalized. Arsinoe at this time was about forty; she was in any case several years older than her brother-husband. But the Greeks had to remember that Ptolemy and Arsinoe were gods; the case of Zeus and Hera showed that what was incest for men was permissible for gods.

Sotades, a Greek writer of indecent verses, famous at the time (hardly, as Mahaffy calls him, "like John the Baptist"), described the marriage in a coarse line as incestuous. According to the story in Athenaeus, he fled from Alexandria immediately after having given it forth, but was caught by the king's admiral, Patroclus, off the coast of Caria, and thrown into the sea in a leaden coffin.6

Arsinoe assumed, or was given, the surname of Philadelphus ("loving-her‑brother").7 She probably had no hope of bearing any more children, and adopted apparently the children of the other Arsinoe.8 It seems to have been an understood thing in the Greek world that the line henceforward p61followed by the Egyptian court in foreign policy was drawn by the firm hand of Arsinoe Philadelphus. What Ptolemy himself felt about it all no one will ever know. He made a great show of devotion to Arsinoe after her death, but that proves little. Even if he had not the feelings of a lover for his sister, he may have sincerely mourned the loss of her strong directing intelligence. For the rest, he had many mistresses to amuse him.

If we can go by the order of Pausanias' brief statement, it was under the drastic régime of Arsinoe Philadelphus that inconvenient members of the royal family were cleared away. Ptolemy's brother Argaeus was put to death on the charge of conspiring against him. With Arsinoe in command one never knows whether such charges were true or fabricated. Then another half-brother, a son of Eurydice's (we are not told his name), was accused of stirring up trouble in Cyprus, and put to death.

The Coele-Syrian Question now entailed almost permanent antagonism between the house of Seleucus and the house of Ptolemy. It came to actual war probably in the spring of 276 B.C., when Ptolemy invaded Syria, as we know by a Babylonian cuneiform inscription.9 This is what modern historians have labelled the "First Syrian War." It is impossible to write any history of it. Only points in it here and there receive a doubtful illumination. Pausanias says briefly that the Egyptian forces, by striking here and there at different points over the far-spread‑out Seleucid realm, prevented Antiochus from ever attacking Egypt itself. There was evident some apprehension in Egypt of an attack. The stele of Pithom mentions a visit of Ptolemy to Heroönpolis (Tell Mashkhutah), on the Isthmus of Suez, in January 273, to inspect the arrangements for defence. Arsinoe, as might be expected, came with him; she was probably the real inspector. On the Ptolemaic side our two accounts of the war are, unfortunately, one a hieroglyphic inscription, now in the Louvre, composed largely of the traditional phrases coming down from the days when Pharaohs invaded Asia, and the other the passage of a poem composed by Theocritus to win favour at Alexandria.

The stele put up by the priests at Saïs tells us that Ptolemy "received the tribute of the cities of Asia," that he chastised the nomads of Asia, cut off quantities of heads and shed blood in floods, that his enemies in vain p62arrayed against him innumerable ships of war, horses, and chariots, "more than those possessed by the princes of Arabia and Phoenicia," that he had celebrated his triumph by festivals, and that the crown of Egypt had been firm upon his head. Whatever course the war beyond the frontiers had taken, the phrases used by the priests would not have been very different. What Theocritus says, after extolling the greatness of Ptolemy's principal possession, Egypt, is:

"Aye, and he cuts off for himself portions of Phoenicia and Arabia and Syria and Libya and of the black Ethiopians. He gives commands to all the Pamphylians and the Cilician spearmen, and to the Lycians and the war-loving Carians and to the isles of the Cyclades, since his ships are the best that sail over the waves — yea, all the sea and the land and the sounding rivers have Ptolemy for their king" (XVII.86‑92).

The Babylonian inscription claims that in 276 the Seleucid army routed the Ptolemaic army in Syria. It may have been now that Antiochus recaptured Damascus from the Ptolemaic general Dio.10 Ptolemy's hold upon Phoenicia seems to be firm. At Sidon, on the death of king Eshmunazar II (280 B.C.?), Ptolemy had installed as king his chief admiral, Philocles, possibly, as Clermont-Ganneau thought, a Hellenized Phoenician; but Philocles may have died before the war began.11

Tyre, which, owing to the disasters come upon it during the last sixty years, had sunk to be a mere dependency of Sidon, begins a new era as an independent city in 274‑273, indicating some change due to Ptolemaic policy in Phoenicia at the time of the First Syrian War.12 Tripolis is shown as Ptolemaic in 258‑257.13

A little more can be extracted from the panegyric of the Greek poet than from that of the Egyptian priests. Where Theocritus mentions peoples of the coast of Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands as subject to Ptolemy, this must really mean that in the naval part of the war the Egyptian fleet was successful in inducing many seaboard cities in Cilicia, Pamphylia, Lycia, and Caria to acknowledge Ptolemaic supremacy. These were conquests of the second Ptolemy in a region where the Ptolemaic forces, operating from the sea, could counter the Seleucid armies coming down from p63the hinterland. The supremacy of Ptolemy over the Confederation of the Cyclades, on the other hand, was not something new; it was inherited by the second Ptolemy from his father; only the accession of Samos to the Confederation about 280 meant an extension of Ptolemy's sea-power. Miletus, still a port of consequence, on the coast of Asia Minor, seems to have passed under the control of Ptolemy even before the outbreak of the First Syrian War, as early as 279‑278.14 At the neighbouring shrine of Didymae we find a statue of Ptolemy's sister Philotera put up by the Milesian demos.15 Halicarnassus appears as a Ptolemaic possession in 258‑257.16

In Crete, Ptolemaic power had a firm hold, where its relations seem to have been particularly close with the city of Itanus. Patroclus is mentioned in an inscription as strategos in the island,17 possibly at a later date in connexion with his command in the Chremonidean War, or later still.

The trouble in which Egypt was involved by the Syrian War was complicated by another revolt of the Cyrenaica. This time it was Ptolemy's half-brother Magas, viceroy of the country since 308, who declared himself independent, and set out to invade Egypt (summer of 274). He had to turn back, because the Libyan nomads, the Marmaridae, rose in his rear. The Egyptian army was prevented from taking advantage of this circumstance by a revolt in Egypt of the four thousand wild Gauls who had been engaged as mercenaries. There must have been terror for the moment at Alexandria, so that it seemed like a great victory when the Gauls were somehow manoeuvred on to an island in the Nile, and there cut off and left to die of starvation. What part the unwarlike king had in the business we do not know, but it was afterwards the sole action which a court poet could attribute to the second Ptolemy as a brilliant feat of arms. The Cyrenaica remained for the present detached from Egypt. Magas married a daughter of Antiochus I, called Apama after her Persian grandmother, and exchanged the style of viceroy for that of king. It meant an entente between Magas and the Seleucid against Ptolemy.

In 272‑271 Antiochus made a peace, which left the balance of gain in the war on the Egyptian side; beside the failure of his arms, he may have been moved by an outbreak of p64plague which seems to have occurred at this moment in Babylonia.

Arsinoe Philadelphus was a power whose goodwill many men in those days found it wise to conciliate. "Of no other queen do we find so many memorials in various parts of the Greek world. She was honoured with statues at Athens and Olympia. . . . The honours done to her in Samothrace and Boeotia, where a town Arsinoe is named, may have been during her early life, when she was queen of Thrace. But beside these, we have votive inscriptions in her honour from Delos, Amorgos, Thera, Lesbos, Cyrene, Cyprus, Oropus, and doubtless yet more will be found. The dedications to her in Egypt are numerous, and are only the formal part of the many exceptional honours heaped upon her by her husband. There seems to have been a statue of her, seated upon an ostrich, at Thespiae in Greece. Though not a co-regent in the sense that some later queens were (as we shall see in due time), she was associated in every titular honour with the king. It is noted by Wilcken (Pauly-Wissowa) from Naville's transcription of the Pithom stele, that the Egyptian priests had even assigned her a throne-name in addition to her ordinary cartouche, an honour quite exceptional for a queen. We have many coins issued with her effigy only, as well as those with the king her brother, as Gods Adelphi. She was deified together with him, and gradually declared co-templar (synnaos) with the gods of the great shrines throughout Egypt" (M.).18

p65 In July 269 Arsinoe died. A hieroglyphic inscription records, in the phraseology of the priests, that in the month of Pachon of the fifteenth year of King Ptolemy, "this goddess departed to the sky; she was reunited to the members of Ra."19 The reign of Ptolemy II enters upon a new epoch. Some two and a half years later20 the documents begin to show a younger Ptolemy, the "son" of Ptolemy II, associated with his father upon the throne. One would say without hesitation that this was his son by the other Arsinoe, the future Ptolemy Euergetes, who succeeded him, were it not that the name of this younger associated king disappears from the documents some time between May and November 258. Hence a problem, upon which historians are still at variance.a Three hypotheses have been put forward: (1) the joint-king of the papyri was an otherwise unknown son of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe Philadelphus, who died in 258. This is in direct contradiction to the Scholiast on Theocritus, who says that Arsinoe Philadelphus died without children, and adopted the children of the other Arsinoe, and the Scholiast is confirmed by the documents of the reign of Ptolemy III, who, although without question the son of the other Arsinoe, is always described as the son of the "Brother-and‑Sister Gods" (θεοὶ ἀδελφοί).21 (2) The joint-king was the son of Arsinoe Philadelphus by her first husband Lysimachus. He had escaped when her other son was murdered by Ptolemy Keraunos, had come with her to Egypt and been adopted by Ptolemy II as his heir. His disappearance in 259‑258 is due to his death. This is the hypothesis preferred by Beloch amongst others, but this, too, is really incompatible with the statement of the Scholiast, and, fragmentary as our sources are, it is hardly conceivable that no notice of so striking an event as the designation of a son of Lysimachus as heir to the Egyptian throne should appear in any ancient author. (3) The joint-king was the future Ptolemy III, p66and his disappearance in 259‑258 is due to some cause unknown. Mahaffy thought that he left Egypt in that year to reside in Cyrene as viceroy. (This view is taken not only by Mahaffy but by Bouché-Leclercq and Grenfell.) But it is an objection to this view that the years of Ptolemy III are afterwards reckoned from Nov. 247, when he was associated, on this hypothesis, a second time with his father on the throne, whereas, according to the precedent of Ptolemy II himself, one would have expected his years to be reckoned from his first association in the throne.

Perhaps a fourth hypothesis may be suggested, as open to least objection and the simplest of all — that the joint-king of 266‑258 was an elder brother of Ptolemy III (Euergetes), a son of Ptolemy II by Arsinoe I, that he died in 258, and consequently left no mark in history. Any theory which makes the joint-king a son of Arsinoe II (whether by Lysimachus or by Ptolemy) entails absurd consequences, which Beloch and others do not seem to have thought out. We should have to suppose that, although Arsinoe II up to her death was trying to oust the son of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe I from the throne, in favour of her own son, and although for eleven years after her death Euergetes remained excluded from the throne by this machination of his stepmother's he, nevertheless, when he came to the throne, always officially called himself a son of his stepmother, not of his real mother! For that he did always officially call himself a son of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II (the "Brother-and‑Sister Gods") is the one thing fixed in the midst of these uncertainties. Even if Arsinoe II had adopted the children of Arsinoe I before she died, in addition to her own son by Lysimachus, Euergetes would hardly have thought of his stepmother gratefully. And that Arsinoe II would have adopted the sons of Arsinoe I and maintained them in their position at court, if she was all the time trying to oust them (the real heirs) from the throne in favour of a son of her own (who, if his father was Lysimachus, had no claim to the Ptolemaic inheritance) — that surely is not like Arsinoe Philadelphus! The only hypothesis which makes the action of Euergetes intelligible in calling himself a son of the Theoi Adelphoi, is that he really had been adopted (as the Scholiast says all the children of Arsinoe I were) by Arsinoe II, and that no attempt had been made by Arsinoe II to defraud him of his inheritance. But there is no chronological difficulty in the supposition p67that Arsinoe I had a son older than Euergetes, who was adopted, like her other children, by Arsinoe II, and associated with his father on the throne from 266 to 258, that he then died prematurely, and left his brother, Ptolemy Euergetes, as the next heir, to be in turn associated with his father in 247.

The next war in which Egypt was involved is labelled the "Chremonidaean War," after the Athenian Chremonides, who led the revolt in Greece against Macedonia. The enemy for Ptolemy this time was the house of Antigonus, represented by the king of Macedonia, Antigonus Gonatas, the son of Demetrius the Besieger. An anti-Macedonian League had been formed by a number of the old illustrious cities of Greece, headed by Athens and Sparta, who saw an opportunity of recovering the liberty lost a century before. This league Ptolemy joined, "carrying out the policy," says an Attic inscription, "of his sister."22 Even after her death, the mind of Arsinoe continued to rule at Alexandria. The war was opened by Athens throwing off the Macedonian yoke (end of 266 B.C.).23 Great hopes were evidently built by the Greeks upon the support of Egypt, whose fleet dominated the Aegean. Never in its history was Egypt more true to the character once given it by a Hebrew prophet — of being a "broken reed." Antigonus invested Athens and held up the Spartans at the Isthmus. And all the time the Egyptian fleet under Ptolemy's admiral Patroclus rode off the little island, afterwards called "Patroclus' Island," close to the Attic coast, and did nothing effectual. Patroclus, of Macedonian race himself, excused himself by saying that his marine troops consisted only of native Egyptians. Perhaps the invasion of Macedonia at this moment by Alexander of Epirus (the son and successor of Pyrrhus) was a success for Ptolemy's diplomacy; but, if so, it was a useless success, since the Egyptian forces were incapable of taking advantage of it. Antigonus was able to recover Macedonia and crush Epirus without raising the siege of Athens. The king of Sparta, who tried to break through to the help of Athens, fell on the battlefield. In the end, Athens had to surrender (261). Chremonides and his brother Glaucon took refuge in Egypt, where Glaucon held the eponymous priesthood of Alexander and the Brother-and‑Sister Gods in 255‑254 B.C., as a papyrus has recently shown.24 The Chremonidaean War was a p68miserable exhibition of incapacity or timidity or dilettantism on Ptolemy's part. Perhaps, if Arsinoe had still been alive, to supervise her brother's carrying out of her policy —!

The years between the Chremonidaean War and the accession of Antiochus III to the Seleucid throne in 223 are some of the most obscure of Greek history, since none of the historical works which deal with them have survived, and we can only piece together some general idea of them from occasional references in later writers and a few casual inscriptions and papyri. In the Aegean the outstanding fact of the years which immediately followed the Chremonidaean War was a struggle between Egypt and Macedonia for command of the sea. So much is certain. We also know that two signal sea-fights took place — the battle of Cos and the battle of Andros — and that in the first of these Antigonus Gonatas defeated the Egyptian fleet. There is also a sea-fight off Ephesus in which the Egyptian fleet, commanded by Chremonides, was defeated by a Rhodian fleet, Rhodes being presumably allied with Macedonia. But whether it was Antigonus Gonatas or his nephew and successor Antigonus Doson who fought at Andros, and whether the two battles occurred when Ptolemy II or when Ptolemy III was king of Egypt, and whether Andros was a defeat or (as Mahaffy thought) a victory for Egypt, and when the battle of Ephesus took place, are matters on which there is no general agreement. In an important inscription published by Rehm,25 we see Miletus, at a certain moment in the reign of Ptolemy II, holding fast for Ptolemy, but hard pressed by war, on land and on sea; and since the inscription seems to belong to 262 or one of the two following years, and it is hard to see how Miletus could have been pressed by an enemy at sea, unless the Egyptian sea-power had been already weakened, Rehm argues that the battle of Cos must have taken place — that is, just before, or just after, the capitulation of Athens. Inscriptions make it plain that for a certain period the Ptolemaic protectorate over the federation of the Cyclades were replaced by a Macedonian one (from about 260 to 247, according to Kolbe),26 though before the death of Ptolemy II. Egypt had probably recovered its position there, since the Adulis p69Inscription puts the Cyclades amongst the dependencies which Ptolemy III inherited from his father, not amongst those he acquired by conquest.

In the Milesian inscription just referred to, Ptolemy II in his letter to Miletus speaks of the favourable report of their loyalty sent him by his "son and Callicrates [chief admiral in the Aegean from about 274 to 266] and the other Friends [i.e. persons attached to the Ptolemaic court] who are with you." Who is this son? Those who believe in the fiction of the son of Lysimachus and Arsinoe Philadelphus, adopted by Ptolemy II, and identical with "Ptolemy the bastard," who commands for Ptolemy II at some time after 261 in Ephesus, are naturally disposed to claim the son of the Milesian inscription as another appearance of this same man. Here, it is said, you find him commandant in Miletus. (One may observe that the inscription never says that the son held any command in Miletus; its language would be quite compatible with the supposition that the young prince was simply making a tour of inspection through the Ptolemaic dependencies and visiting Miletus on his way.) If, on the other hand, the suggestion I have put forward — that the associated king of 266 to 258 was an elder son of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe I — be accepted, he would naturally be the "son" of the Milesian inscription. But it is certainly possible that the "son" of the inscription was identical with "Ptolemy the bastard."

Since the end of the First Syrian War, the internal troubles of the Seleucid realm had prevented it from taking any strong action in the Mediterranean. In 261 Antiochus I (Soter) fell in battle against Eumenes I of Pergamon, and was succeeded by his son Antiochus II (Theos). The new Seleucid king, some time after his accession, believed himself strong enough to try to recover from Ptolemy the losses which his house had suffered in the First Syrian War. A war between Egypt and Syria seems to have broken out which modern scholars have decided to classical the "Second Syrian War." Of its dates and course and extent we know even less than we do about those of the First Syrian War. Jerome says vaguely that Antiochus "fought with the whole military force of Babylon and the East."27 But he certainly did not succeed in detaching Coele-Syria from Egypt; perhaps he did p70not penetrate into the coveted province. There must have been a complicated struggle of fighting and diplomatic intrigue along the coast of Asia Minor, where the Egyptian fleet could not operate as effectively as before, now that it had lost command of the seas. Antigonus of Macedonia had probably an entente with Antiochus II, with whom he was connected by two dynastic marriages. Miletus about this time is found in the possession of an adventurer called Timarchus who made himself tyrant of the city, and perhaps also got hold of Samos. He was certainly no friend to Antiochus, since it was the suppression of Timarchus which earned for Antiochus II, from the grateful Milesians, the surname of "God." Nor does he seem to have been friendly to Egypt, since he allied himself against Ptolemy with Ptolemy's bastard, a young man who also bore the name of Ptolemy. In the course of this war apparently Egypt had got hold of Ephesus, and the king of Egypt had put this illegitimate son of his in command there. Ptolemy the bastard revolted against his father in collusion with Timarchus, but was before long killed by his Thracian mercenaries.28

In 253, probably after these events, Ephesus is proved by an inscription to have been in Seleucid hands.29 It was certainly one of the residences of the Seleucid court at the end of the reign of Antiochus II. From the fact that Cilicia and Pamphylia, which are mentioned by Theocritus as subject to Ptolemy II, are not mentioned in the Monument of Adulis amongst the possessions inherited by Ptolemy III from his father, it has been inferred that the places conquered in this region during the First Syrian War were lost in the Second Syrian War.

In the end Ptolemy II and Antiochus II made peace (end of 252 B.C.). It was probably considered at Alexandria a triumph for Ptolemy's diplomacy. Antiochus agreed to take as his wife and queen, Ptolemy's daughter, Berenice. He already had a wife, Laodice, who had borne him two sons, but he agreed to repudiate her, or keep her in Asia Minor, at Sardis or Ephesus, whilst Berenice was to be queen at Antioch. The elderly king escorted his daughter in state as far as Pelusium.30 This fact, taken by itself, might seem an indication that Coele-Syria was included in Berenice's dowry, so that Pelusium had become the frontier-town. We p71now know, however, that this was not so. In the archive of Zeno there is a letter written by the house-steward of Apollonius the dioiketes from Phoenicia in the spring of 251 B.C., saying that Apollonius is approaching Sidon with the retinue "escorting the queen to the frontier,"31 which was therefore still north of Coele-Syria. Whether the dowry included any cession of territory at all, we cannot say. Its vastness, at any rate, gained for this Berenice the appellation of phernophoros. Ptolemy, we are told, sent his daughter after her marriage a regular supply of Nile water, which was supposed to promote fertility. When Berenice, in due course, bore Antiochus a son, Ptolemy might consider the house of Seleucus firmly attached to Egypt. The future king of Asia would be his grandson. That he lived to see the tragedy which shattered his plan now seems to be made probable.

There are other directions in which the policy of the Ptolemaic court outside Egypt may be discovered during the reign of Ptolemy II. In 273, when Rome was engaged in war with Pyrrhus of Epirus, an embassy from Alexandria arrived in Italy, to offer Rome the friendship of the house of Ptolemy. It is the first time that the new Power rising in the West appears on the horizon of Egypt. Alexandria, no doubt, by its extending commerce, was already at this date forming connexions all over the Mediterranean. In 273 Arsinoe Philadelphus had still her hand upon the helm. In 264, when the First Punic War began between Rome and Carthage, Carthage applied to her African neighbour for a loan. In those years, after Arsinoe' death, the Alexandrine court could be trusted to do the right thing when the right thing was to sit still. Perhaps in this case it was the wisest policy to be strictly neutral. Ptolemy refused to give the Carthaginians the loan they asked for. Both sides, he said, were his friends. He would be happy to give his services as mediator, if they were required.

It is certainly noteworthy, if a papyrus of 252‑251 B.C. is read right, that "Dinnus [or 'Dinnius'] a Roman" appears as a soldier serving in Ptolemy's army32 — an individual Roman attracted to adventure overseas by the prospects of service under the great king of Egypt.

Palestine, as we have seen, was a dependency of great importance to the king of Egypt. The Zeno papyri exhibit p72the extensive trade connexions between Greeks in Egypt and the country south of the Lebanon — the country which supplied olive-oil, and live stock, and slaves. Ptolemaic rule stamped itself upon the country in the new names given to various towns. Near the western end of the Sea of Galilee there was a Philotera; in the Lebanon valley above Damascus there was an Arsinoe. Stephen of Byzantium says that there was also another Arsinoe somewhere in Syria, and a Berenice. But the chief seat of Ptolemaic rule in Palestine was the old town on the coast called Akko in the Old Testament and Acre to‑day, but then renamed Ptolemais, a name which it continued to bear in Roman times. The little Jewish state on the hills — Jerusalem and the country round it — was allowed to go on living its own life, as tributary to Ptolemy.

The Zeno papyri give us a glimpse of Ptolemaic rule under Ptolemy II in Transjordania, or, as it was then called, the Ammonite country — in Greek, Ammanitis. We knew already that its capital — Rabbath-Ammon in the Old Testament, Amman to‑day — was renamed Philadelphia after the great queen. The papyri show us a local sheikh, Tubias — that is, in Hebrew, Tobiah — as the commander of a cavalry corps in the Ptolemaic service. The troopers of the corps have allotments of land (kleroi) assigned them, presumably in Ammanitis, just as the soldiers of the regular army have in Egypt. Of the three members of the corps who appear in a deed of sale, two are described as "Persians," one as a Macedonian." The sale takes place in "Birta of the Ammanitis": Bîrtâ is the Aramaic for "fortress."

Tubias corresponds with king Ptolemy in terms which suggest one potentate addressing another. His letter, accompanying the dispatch of a number of animals to Alexandria — perhaps for the royal menagerie — runs, without any phraseological trimmings:

"To king Ptolemy, Tubias, greeting. I have sent you two horses, six dogs, one hybrid ass (wild ass crossed with domestic ass), two white Arabian beasts of burden, two colts of half-wild‑ass stock, one wild ass colt. Good-bye."33

Putting together other statements from the Old Testament and Josephus, in which the name Tobiah occurs, it seems likely that Ptolemy's cavalry commander was the head of a powerful local family, which had its seat in Ammanitis, and, being linked with the priestly aristocracy in Jerusalem, had become p73half-Jews. Tobiah the Ammonite of the Book of Nehemiah, who had married a daughter of the Jewish High Priest, and whom Nehemiah roughly chased out of Jerusalem, was probably an ancestor of the Ptolemaic Tubias. The name Tobiah ("Jehovah is good") is specifically Jewish; so is the name Ananias, borne, curiously enough, by the father of one of the "Persians" serving in the cavalry corps. Later on, in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, the "sons of Tobiah" play a part in the strife of factions at Jerusalem. One of them, Hyrcanus, had in 183 B.C. withdrawn to a rock-fortress of his own in the Ammonite country. To‑day in Transjordania galleries hewn out of the rock, which might serve for fortresses — they have stalls for more than a hundred horses — may still be seen. Over the entrance to one of them the name Tobiah (in Hebrew characters) can be descried.34

The kind of slaves for which there was a demand in rich Greek households in Egypt were got from Syria and Palestine. One of our papyri is a contract by which Tubias sells to Zeno a slave-girl called Sphragis.35 Another shows us Tubias sending to Apollonius the dioiketes a young eunuch and four "black-eyed" slave-boys.36

At Cyrene there were fresh developments in the latter years of the second Ptolemy's reign.37 These events were no doubt connected with what was happening elsewhere — in Macedonia and Greece, in the Aegean, in the Seleucid realm. But what the connexion was can now be only a matter of very hazardous conjecture, the chronology upon which conjectures must rest being itself highly conjectural. When Magas died, old and portentously fat, after a reign in Cyrene, first as viceroy and thenº as king, of fifty years,38 he left a widow, the Seleucid princess Apama, and a daughter called, like her grandmother and like her cousin, Berenice (about 259‑258 B.C.). Before his death he had come to an agreement with his half-brother, the king of Egypt, that his daughter and heiress, Berenice, should marry Ptolemy's son, the heir-apparent to the Egyptian throne. That would be a happy way of reuniting Cyrene to Egypt. After his death, however, Apama, who naturally inclined rather to the side of the Syro-Macedonian entente than to the side of Egypt, sent to Macedonia p74to procure a husband from that quarter for Bernice. The husband was Demetrius the Fair, a half-brother of the king Antigonus Gonatas and a son of Ptolemy's half-sister Ptolemais. He was, indeed, so fair that, when he arrived, Apama could not resign him to her daughter. Although officially he was Berenice's husband, he was actually Apama's paramour. In the bold and masterful assertion of her passions and her ambitions, Apama was another of those terrible Macedonian princesses whom we meet with all through this history. But Berenice, although still little more than a child, was a Macedonian princess too. She refused to accept the humiliating situation, conspired with the soldiers of the royal guard, and had Demetrius assassinated in her mother's bedchamber. She herself maintained command of the operation, and saw to it that, whilst Demetrius was properly killed, her mother was spared. The poet Callimachus, who knew Berenice later on, when she was queen of Egypt, testifies that she did really, as a child, give this evidence of the spirit of her race.39 There was now nothing to prevent Berenice being married to her first cousin, the young Ptolemy, according to her father's arrangement, and becoming eventually, as she no doubt desired, queen of Egypt. Yet the marriage of Berenice to Ptolemy Euergetes did not take place till on the eve of Euergetes' setting out for the war in Syria (245). Mahaffy, as we have seen, supposed that he resided as viceroy in Cyrene from 259‑258 till his father's death. It is surely hard on this supposition to see why the marriage was delayed thirteen or fourteen years! If such a supposition is necessary in order to make Euergetes the mysterious joint-king of 266 to 258, that is a point against the identification.

If the joint-king who disappears in 258 was, as I have suggested, an elder brother of Euergetes who died in that year, it would have been to him, not to Euergetes, that Berenice had, in the first instance, been affianced, and the young prince's death would explain why the marriage did not take place when Berenice came to the throne. In any case, the accession of the girl-queen would have meant that the p75Cyrenaica turned from Syria to Egypt. The coins of Berenice, without the veil — i.e. as a virgin — probably belong to this period. They bear the superscription "Of King Ptolemy as well as the superscription "Of Queen Berenice." This would point to Berenice having recognized the king of Egypt as her suzerain. Yet a few years later, apparently, the coins show the cities of the Cyrenaica as a republican koinon. Its institution seems to have been carried out under the guidance of two adherents of the Platonic school — Ecdemus (or Ecdelus) and Demophanes) — who came to Cyrene in 251 or 250 — to show the way of freedom. How long the koinon lasted, and what happened meantime to the young queen, are obscure questions. Bouché-Leclercq supposes that Ptolemy II reconquered the Cyrenaica before his death, because in the inscription of Adulis "Libya" is one of the countries inherited, not gained, by Ptolemy III. Tarn thinks that the koinon went on into the reign of Ptolemy III, because the first proved instance of the use of the surname "Euergetes" belongs to the king's fifth year, and his surname probably referred to the benefit he conferred by regaining the Cyrenaica. But it is merely a guess in the dark of Bouché-Leclercq's that the surname had anything to do with the reconquest of the Cyrenaica, and it seems to me much more likely, as Jerome says, that it had to do with the restoration of the images to Egypt. The reconquest of a bit of his paternal estate would have been a benefit to himself, more than to anybody else. In any case, the marriage of Ptolemy III with Berenice took place quite at the beginning of his reign — possibly even before the death of his father. It was perhaps after the reconquest that new names were given to three of the Cyrenaic towns: Euhesperides became Berenice, Tauchira became Arsinoe, and Barca became Ptolemais.

In the great days of old Egypt the Pharaohs had carried their arms far south beyond the first cataract into the region which the Greeks called Ethiopia ("Land of the Men of Burnt Faces") and which we know to‑day as the Sudan. The dominant population of Nubia and the Upper Nile were of a kindred stock to the Egyptians, not negroes, though with a certain infusion, it would seem, of negro blood, since the negro peoples of the interior pressed upon the dwellers on the Upper Nile.40 Egyptian culture became the culture of the land — or, at any rate, of its ruling houses: temples "thoroughly p76Egyptian in style" are found as far south as Khartûm. In an earlier volume of this series Sir W. Flinders Petrie has told how kings of Ethiopia in the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. united for a time under their sceptre the whole country of the Nile as far as the Delta, and later on, when Egypt itself fell under the foreign rule of Assyrians and Persians, Ethiopian Pharaohs and priests of Amen were still bearing rule on the Upper Nile.

When the rule of Persians gave place to the rule of Greeks, when the externals of Pharaonic royalty disappeared from the palaces of Alexandria and Memphis, at Napata, the Ethiopian capital (near the modern Gebel Barkal), king Nastasen still showed the Pharaonic tradition in being. The Ptolemies had not the same ambition, which the old Pharaohs had had, to annex Ethiopia to their kingdom. As Greeks, their interests were turned rather northwards to the Mediterranean world, and they were content to have their southern frontier at the first cataract, or a little beyond. Under Alexander the Great we saw Elephantine held by his forces, and the Greeks and Macedonians who were in garrison there under Ptolemy I have left us some of the earliest Greek papyri we have. Possibly at this time Elephantine was the frontier station. But Ptolemy II, Diodorus tells us, made an expedition with a Greek force into Ethiopia, thus opening to the knowledge of the Greeks a country hitherto outside their ken. One rather gathers that geographical curiosity and the desire to obtain strange beasts counted for something amongst Ptolemy II's motives;41 we hear at any rate of no attempt to annex Ethiopia. Apparently since the death of Nastasen in 308 B.C. (according to Reisner's calculation) Ethiopia had been split into two kingdoms. A new dynasty had established itself at Meroë farther to the south (modern Begerawîyeh, about 130 miles this side of Khartûm), more powerful than the dynasty at Napata,42 though the dynasty at Napata still went on for a time. Greeks began to make journeys to the far south. A man called Dalion is said to have been the first king to penetrate beyond Meroe — probably early in the reign of Ptolemy II. He left a book about Ethiopia.43

p77 A scrap of papyrus in Greek found at Elephantine is not improbably a report of the commandant of the Ptolemaic garrison there (an Egyptian by his name) to the king at a time when there was war between Egypt and Ethiopia. "To king Ptolemy Pertaeus son of Arnuphis, greeting . . . the Ethiopians came down and besieged . . . constructing a stockade, I and my two brothers . . . as reinforcements, and we took up . . ."44 The style of writing seems to assign this fragment to the first half of the 3rd century, and it is perhaps connected with Ptolemy II's Ethiopian campaign.

On November 12 or 13, 247 B.C., the young Ptolemy (Ptolemy III) was associated with his father on the throne.45 Possibly he took over the active functions of government.

In 245 (on the 25th of the Macedonian month Dios = Jan. 27), Ptolemy II died at the age of sixty-three. He was a parallel to Solomon in his wealth, surpassing that of any other king of his time, in his intellectual interests, in his proclivity to fall under the sway of women. Later Greek writers tell us the names of many of his mistresses. One was a native Egyptian, though she is mentioned by a Greek name, Didyme ("Twin"). Another, Myrtion, was taken from the low comedy stage; her house, after she had captured the royal favour, was known as one of the finest in Alexandria. Mnesis and Pothīne were flute-players, and became also known for the magnificence of their houses. Clino was another, whose statues and statuettes, no doubt in demand at Alexandria, represented her clad in nothing but a chiton and carrying a cornucopia like the goddess Arsinoe. A Delian inscription mentions "two little silver pigs" which Clino dedicated to the deity.46 Stratonice, another mistress, was remembered by the imposing sepulchre at the Egyptian Eleusis, near Alexandria, in which her body reposed. The most celebrated of all was Bilistiche, whose name does not sound Greek, though it probably is.47 Plutarch48 says she was a barbarian, a "trull from the market-place"; Pausanias49 says she came from the seaboard of Macedonia; Athenaeus50 p78says she was an Argive, of noble family, descended from Atreus. Whether the low origin was fabricated out of malice or the high origin was fabricated out of flattery it is idle now to conjecture. In the year 268 Bilistiche ran a chariot at Olympia in the two-horse chariot race and won a prize. She is probably the "Bilistiche, daughter of Philo," who is kanephoros of Arsinoe in the year 260‑259.51 Ptolemy caused her to be declared a goddess. Shrines were erected and offerings made to her under the name of Aphrodite Bilistiche.

Perhaps it was less the real Solomon to whom Ptolemy II was a parallel than the ideal Solomon portrayed in the Book of Ecclesiastes — the book written by some world-weary Jew at a date not far off from Ptolemy's time. Ptolemy, too, was a king who had "gathered silver and gold and the peculiar treasure of kings and of provinces," who got him "men-singers and women-singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts," who had "proved his heart with mirth and enjoyed pleasure," who had "made great works and builded him houses," who had "given his heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning things that are done under heaven"; and Ptolemy, too, the story says, felt in the end that it was all vanity of vanities. We are told how one day, after a severe attack of gout, he looked out of a window of his palace and saw a group of natives of the poorest class beside one of the canals, eating the scraps they had collected and lying at ease on the hot sand, and cried out in bitterness of spirit that he had not been born as one of them.52 Or perhaps the story is as apocryphal as the words which the writer of Ecclesiastes puts into the mouth of Solomon, and in both cases an imaginative moralist chose a famous king, who had had everything which mind or heart could desire, in order through him to read the world his own lesson of disillusionment.


The Author's Notes:

1 One might conjecture that the reason why the house of Ptolemy had only one dynastic name was because the name of Lagus was not sufficiently distinguished. It would otherwise have been natural for the first Ptolemy to give his son and successor the name of his father, as Seleucus and Demetrius did.

2 ξανθοκόμας (Theoc. XVII.103).

3 Strabo, XVII p789; Aelian, V. H. IV.15.

4 Edgar, Zeno Pap. 70, Ann. XXII (1922), pp222 ff.; cf. p231.

5 History, p75.

6 Plutarch, De lib. educ. 14, says he was thrown by Ptolemy into prison, where he pined for many years. Susemihl supposes he was first thrown into prison, and then escaped. This view would be confirmed by the fact that Patroclus did not become chief admiral apparently till some time after Arsinoe's death.

7 The proof that Arsinoe was called Philadelphus during her lifetime is that inscriptions are found, ὑπερ Ἀρσινόης φιλαδέλφου (OGI I p648; Wilcken, Archiv, III p318). Bouché-Leclercq (IV p313) disputes the inference on the ground that, although dedications were not made "on behalf of" the dead, Arsinoe, as a goddess, was not dead. But can one conceive dedications "on behalf of" a deity?

8 Schol. ad Theocr. XVII.128.

9 Sidney Smith, Babylonian Historical Texts (1924), p152.

10 Polyaen. IV.15.

11 See W. W. Tarn, J. H. S. XI (1911), 251 ff.

12 Bouché-Leclercq, IV p308.

13 P. S. I. 495 (cf. Archiv, VI p399).

14 Rehm, Das Delphinionº in Milet, p263.

15 OGI 35.

16 Zeno Pap., Nos. 67, 68.

17 OGI 45.

18 Sir F. Petrie has recently got a foundation deposit, with two cartouches, "Sat Amen" ("Daughter of Amen") and "Arsinoe," on the back of Philadelphus cartouches. He thinks that these may be cartouches of Arsinoe I.

19 Ernst Meyer, Untersuchungen, pp64, 65. [But see p386.]

20 A demotic papyrus, in which the joint-king appears, seems to have a date corresponding with Jan. 26, 266. Hibeh 100, a month and a half earlier, has not got him. See Bouché-Leclercq, IV p310.

21 Sir F. Petrie says: "Why should not Arsinoe II at forty have had a child? Cannot Euergetes be her son, as he says — in spite of the Scholiast?" It appears to me that, since the Scholiast probably drew his material from the literary tradition of the Alexandrine Museum, a definite statement of this kind on a salient point of Ptolemaic history is not lightly to be rejected.

22 Michel, 130.

23 Ferguson, Hellenistic Athens, p177.

24 Edgar, Zeno Pap., No. 36, Ann. XIX (1919), p34, 35.

25 Das Delphinion in Milet, p263. But see "Corrections and Additions," p386.

26 Gött. Gelehrt. Anz. for 1916, p458. Marieluise Fritze, Der ersten Ptolemäer und Griechenland (Halle, 1917).

27 "Totis Babylonis atque Orientis viribus dimicavit" (Jerome on Daniel, xi).

28 Athenaeus, XIII.593B.

29 Haoussoullier, Milet, p83.

30 Jerome on Daniel, xi.

31 Edgar, Zeno Pap., No. 42, Ann. XIX (1920), p91 f.

32 H. I. Bell in Archiv, VII (1923), pp20, 26.

33 Zeno Pap. 13.

34 Gressmann, Sitzungsb. d. Akad. d. Wiss. (Berlin) for 1921, pp663 ff.

35 Zeno Pap. 3.

36 Zeno Pap. 84.

37 See Additional Note, p387.

38 See the discussion of the date in Tarn, Antigonos, pp449 ff.

39 "Certainly I knew that thou wast of heroic temper from the time when thou wast a little girl. Or hast thou forgotten that good exploit, by which thou didst get a king for a husband — a deed which no one else has surpassed for daring?" (Callimachus, after the translation by Catullus, lxvi.25 f.).

40 See G. Elliot Smith, The Ancient Egyptians, ch. V.

41 Diod. I.37; cf. III.36.

42 The king of Meroe, Yesruwaman (280‑265 B.C.) was strong enough at one moment to put up memorials of himself in a temple at Napata. See Reisner, J. E. A. IX (1923), p65.

43 Plin. N. H. VI § 194.

44 Sachau, Aramäische Papyrus und Ostraka, 1911. Papyrus 47 (in Greek).

45 Ernst Meyer, Untersuch. p33. [But see p386.]

46 B. C. H. VI (1882), p117.

Thayer's Note — Chris Bennett's, actually: watch these pigs turn into just plain figurines. (I preferred the pigs, but truth is truth, alas.)

47 Sir F. Petrie suggests that the name may be Phoenician, "Ba'al‑yishthag," "Baal is appeased," or Iberian (Bilistages, name of a Spanish chieftain, Liv. XXXVI.10).

Thayer's Note — For comprehensive sources and references on Bilistiche, her name, origins, and career, see (once again) Chris Bennett's page.

48 Amator. 9.

49 Paus. V.8.11.

50 Athen. XIII. 596E.

51 Edgar, Zeno Pap., No. 46; see Wilcken, Archiv, VI p453.

52 Athen. XII 536E.


Thayer's Note:

a For a detailed, updated look at it, see Chris Bennett's page on Ptolemy Nios.


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