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Chapter VIII
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.
If you find a mistake though,
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Chapter X

p282 Chapter IX

Ptolemy VI, Philometor
(181‑145 B.C.)

For the second time within twenty-one years — another of those accidents which bring great dynasties to the ground — the king of Egypt was a child. The elder of the two sons of Ptolemy Epiphanes was only five or six at his father's premature death.1 But it seemed fortunate that this time there was a regent — other than an ambitious courtier — to take up the reins, the queen-mother, Cleopatra. In these Macedonian houses, as we have seen, a woman is the equal of a man. Cleopatra's position at the Ptolemaic court had perhaps been a difficult one, when the policy of the court had taken a turn so hostile to the house of Seleucus; but if it had been hoped at Antioch, when she was married, that she would act as an agent for the Seleucids at Alexandria, there must have been disappointment in that quarter, for Cleopatra, we are told, remembered rather that she was the daughter of Antiochus "the Great" and the sister of Seleucus IV.

So long as Cleopatra lived as queen-regent, Egypt was quiet. She did not break with Rome, but neither did she pursue the plan of a war with Syria, which had been in contemplation at the end of her husband's reign. In Syria a change, which was to have consequences, took place in 175. Seleucus IV died and was succeeded by his brother Antiochus IV (Epiphanes). Antiochus had been a hostage in Rome, and now appeared in Syria, supported by forces lent by the king of Pergamon, killed his infant nephew, the son of Seleucus, and placed himself on the Seleucid throne. What the relations of this strange personality and his sister, the queen-regent p283of Egypt, would have been in a few years, had Cleopatra lived, one cannot say; unhappily within four years of this date — perhaps within two — Cleopatra died, young, like her husband.

Her death must have been very sudden, or she would, one thinks, have made some provision for the regency being taken over by some one of standing and authority, when she was gone. As it was, the direction of affairs was seized by two creatures of the palace, Eulaeus and Lenaeus, both of whom were of barbarian origin and both of whom had been slaves. Eulaeus was a eunuch and perhaps, by his name, a native of Khuzistan; Lenaeus was a Syrian. The young Ptolemy being about fifteen at his mother's death, the new regents hurried on his assumption of majority. They were probably afraid, if his minority continued, of Rome finding occasion to interfere. At least, it is generally supposed, on the faith of a doubtful phrase in a doubtful document, that the young Ptolemy's anaklētēria were celebrated in 172, and that his uncle Antiochus sent a certain Apollonius to Alexandria to represent the Seleucid court on this auspicious occasion.2

And with this is brought into connexion the embassy sent from Rome in 173 "to renew friendship with Ptolemy."3 We are not told whether Ptolemy VI was also consecrated by Egyptian rites at Memphis as a Pharaoh, but since Ptolemy V set the example, we may take it for granted that it became the regular custom for later kings of the dynasty. Possibly at his anaklētēria, possibly earlier, in any case, before his marriage,4 Ptolemy V had got the surname by which he is known — Philometor. He was officially "the Mother-loving God." In this case the reference to the first years of his reign under the tutelage of Cleopatra is obvious. An inscription, which can hardly be later than 172, shows him in that year already married to his sister, the little Cleopatra (Cleopatra II).5 He himself then was only sixteen, and Cleopatra was younger. The royal couple are now worshipped together as "the Mother-loving Gods."

p284 Eulaeus and Lenaeus still directed the policy of the kingdom, and determined to resume the plan of an attack on Coele-Syria. Antiochus Epiphanes regarded their hostile preparations as a justification for striking first. Both sides had sent embassies to Rome to present their case to the Senate, since any disturbance of the status quo in the East was liable to provoke the disapproval, and perhaps the intervention, of Rome. But Rome for the moment was entangled in the war with Perseus of Macedonia, and the Powers of the East were left to take independent action. Eulaeus and Lenaeus in 170, after making boastful speeches at Alexandria, led out an army to attack Coele-Syria. Antiochus met them with his army before they had crossed the desert, and the Ptolemaic army was shattered. Then, by some ruse which is not specified, but which Polybius thought discreditable, Antiochus seized Pelusium, entered Egypt, and moved up the river on Memphis. For the first time since Alexander the Great, the invasion of Egypt from Palestine had been accomplished! Antiochus Epiphanes, thanks to the present régime in Egypt, had succeeded at last where Perdiccas and Antigonus and Antiochus "the Great" had failed! The young king Ptolemy, badly, perhaps treacherously, advised by the palace eunuch, tried to escape by sea to the sacred island of Samothrace, leaving Cleopatra and his younger brother behind in Alexandria; but he was caught by the Seleucid forces and brought a prisoner to his uncle's camp. Antiochus treated the young man with his characteristic false bonhomie.

St. Jerome (probably following Porphyry) states that Antiochus was formally crowned by Egyptian priests at Memphis as king of Egypt. This is a very strange statement. Such an action would be incompatible with the policy of Antiochus — not to set Rome against him by displaying the extension of his power — and it would be incompatible with the position he took up a few weeks later, in treating with the Greek ambassadors — that he recognized Ptolemy Philometor as king of Egypt. We may say, I think, that Antiochus cannot seriously have meant to present himself to the world as a Pharaoh, and that possibly the statement about his being crowned at Memphis is quite untrue. But when we bear in mind the character of Antiochus — his spasmodic and extravagant caprices, his love of anything spectacular and dramatic — it seems to me quite possible that the same man who used later on in Antioch, as we know, to love to play at being a p285Roman aedile and judge disputes in the market-place, dressed in Roman garb, might quite conceivably, when he found himself at Memphis in 170, have had the ancient ceremony of crowning performed upon him by Egyptian priests — not as an expression of his real political purpose, but for the fun of the thing. It is some confirmation of St. Jerome's statement that coins have been found, apparently struck in Egypt, with the effigy of Antiochus.

Meantime a revolution had taken place in Alexandria. The people and the soldiers had overthrown Eulaeus and Lenaeus and called the younger brother of Ptolemy Philometor, a boy of about fifteen, to the throne. Whatever the boy's name may have been up to this moment, henceforth, as king, he, too, was Ptolemy. Later on, he was to be known by the surname of Euergetes, like his great-grandfather; for the present he was officially distinguished from Ptolemy Philometor simply as "Ptolemy the Brother."

Under the direction of the two new ministers at Alexandria, Comanus and Cineas, appointed by the boy-king, on his own initiative or in answer to a popular cry, the city was put into a state of defence, which would have made its reduction by Antiochus, although he held Memphis and the open country of the Delta, a lengthy business. Ambassadors from Greece who happened to be in Alexandria streamed to Antiochus' camp to attempt mediation. Antiochus took up the position that he was already on friendly terms with the rightful king of Egypt, Ptolemy Philometor; all that Alexandria had to do was to receive Ptolemy back. When Antiochus retired at the end of the year 169 with his army from Egypt, he left the country divided against itself — Ptolemy Philometor king in Memphis, and Ptolemy the Brother king in Alexandria. Antiochus did not apparently intend to keep Egypt under his own dominion; it was enough that Egypt was reduced to impotence. Only he kept a Seleucid garrison in Pelusium, so that the door of Egypt should be open for him, if ever he wanted to return.

During the winter 169‑168, the policy of Antiochus met with a reverse. Negotiations passed between Alexandria and Memphis; perhaps the girl-queen Cleopatra took into her capable hands the task of bringing about an agreement between her two brothers. It was agreed that the two should be joint-kings, reigning together in Alexandria — Cleopatra continuing to be, as before, Philometor's wife. This reconciliation p286brought down upon Egypt a fresh invasion by Antiochus in the spring of 168. Simultaneously his fleet took possession of Cyprus. There was here some fighting, but in Egypt Antiochus appears to have met with no resistance. Philometor sent in vain an embassy to intimate, with thanks, to Antiochus that his grateful nephew no longer required his presence with an army in Egypt. Once again Antiochus came to Memphis, and from Memphis moved by slow stages to Alexandria. But now Rome had freed its hands by the final defeat of Perseus at Pydna (June 168),a and could respond effectively to the bitter cry for intervention which had been coming to it from Alexandria in vain, so long as the war with Macedonia went on. At Eleusis, the suburb of Alexandria, Antiochus encountered a Roman embassy, headed by Gaius Popillius Laenas, who declared to him the pleasure of the Senate that he should immediately evacuate Egypt; and then the celebrated scene took place — Popillius drawing with his staff the circle in the sand round the Seleucid king, and telling him that he must give a definite answer before he stepped outside it. When the Roman ambassadors had seen Antiochus and his army safely out of Egypt, they proceeded to Cyprus and made the victorious Seleucid fleet withdraw from the island. Coele-Syria remained to the house of Seleucus, but not for long. A new enemy was about to arise in that country itself — the Jewish nationalists led by the Hasmonaean family — who in the course of the next few generations would conquer for an independent Hebrew principality most of the province so long disputed between the two great Macedonian houses.

For the next five years there were two kings in Egypt. Polybius says that both the brothers "wore the royal headband and exercised the authority."6 Curiously enough, there are few traces of this double régime in the coins and papyri. Coins issued at this period bear the inscription "Of King Ptolemy" in the singular; only, instead of the one eagle, the emblem of the house of Ptolemy, there are two eagles. Papyri or Greek inscriptions with the official protocol which one would expect, "In the reign of Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy and Cleopatra, Manifest Gods, and of Ptolemy the Brother, Mother-loving Gods, etc., have not, so far, come to light for any of these five years. We have a letter from one official to another which begins, "King Ptolemy is in health, also p287king Ptolemy the Brother and queen Cleopatra the Sister and the children . . ."7 This letter is dated "Year 6" — a puzzle, since the year 6 of Philometor is 176‑175, long before the double reign, and Wilcken's theory that during the double reign Philometor agreed to have the regnal years reckoned from his brother's elevation to the throne is hard to believe, though one does not see how otherwise to account for the date.8 A hieroglyphic inscription9 makes it probable that the two Ptolemies and Cleopatra were officially styled, all three together, the Theoi Philometores.10

The five years of the double reign were anything but years of harmony. Of the three evils which ultimately brought down the kingdom built by Alexander's sagacious marshal in Egypt, two had already appeared before Ptolemy Philometor came to the throne — Egyptian nationalism insurgent against the Greek supremacy, and the influence at court of ex‑slaves and eunuchs. The third evil now made its appearance — strife within the royal family itself, brothers and sisters continually quarrelling for the throne. In these wretched feuds the strength of the Ptolemaic dynasty was wasted, just as the strength of the Seleucid dynasty was, after the reign p288of Antiochus Epiphanes. Ptolemy II and Ptolemy IV had taken the means common in Oriental courts to obviate this evil: they had murdered their brothers. If Philometor had murdered Ptolemy the Brother, the house of Ptolemy might have been kept a unity for some generations longer. The fate of the dynasty hung upon the character of the young man who at this moment sat upon the throne. That character, by the testimony of the contemporary Polybius, of later historians, and of recorded facts, was the best and most attractive exhibited by any king of the house. In an age when violence and cruelty were fearfully rife, Ptolemy Philometor was marked out by his gentleness and humanity. "None of his Friends" (i.e. the men attached to the court and employed in the king's service) "did he ever make away with, upon any accusation whatever; I think I may say there was no single Alexandrine who suffered death by his will."11 Just as it was Philometor's spirit of ready accommodation which had accepted his brother as a partner of his throne, so the way in which he met his brother's selfish ambitions was the way of generosity and forgiveness. It is mere muddled thinking to suppose that because, from the highest point of view, goodness is worth while, therefore goodness pays as a means to worldly object of desire — such as the establishment of a dynasty. Philometor's goodness proved wholly ineffectual to change his brother's bad heart, and his brother survived to bring trouble upon the kingdom. If Philometor had removed him, as Philopator had removed Magas, he might have lost his own soul, but he would probably have gained more tranquil possession of the world for himself and for the house of Ptolemy.

There was one thing now in the Mediterranean world which made the diseases afflicting the great Macedonian houses incurable — the baleful influence of Rome. This great sinister Power was now always there in the background, always ready to prevent any recovery of the eastern kingdoms, because the strong elements in them always had the hostility of Rome working against them, and the disruptive elements always, when they were near being overcome, could find refuge and support in Rome and begin over again. Rome had saved Egypt from Antiochus, but Rome was equally unwilling to see the house of Ptolemy strong. It is questionable whether, with the ills now afflicting the kingdom and p289the overshadowing influence of Rome, any descendant of Ptolemy Soter, however great a genius, could have made Egypt once more a strong independent Power.

At Alexandria the years of the double reign were full of unrest. The younger Ptolemy, who had been called to the throne by a movement of the people, was popular and Philometor was not.

A man of position and influence at the court tried to turn this state of things to his own ambitious ends. If, as seems to be implied,12 this man was, wholly or partially, of native p290blood, it is the first time that we hear of an Egyptian in such high place under the Ptolemies. His name in Greek was Dionysius, in Egyptian Petosarapis. He had won distinction in the war with Antiochus, and a reputation for military prowess could perhaps whiten even an Egyptian in the Graeco-Macedonian milieu. Dionysius used the popularity of Ptolemy the Brother to excite a rush of the mob upon the royal palace with intent to kill Philometor, who, so the report which Dionysius had set going through the bazaars declared, meant to make away with the younger king. Dionysius hoped to make away with both. But the plan failed, when Philometor first offered his brother to abdicate, and then, the Brother having declared that the tumult had been stirred up without his knowledge, when the two young kings appeared together in their royal garb (no doubt, Macedonian kausia, chlamys, krepīdes) before the populace — the picture of fraternal concord. Dionysius slipped away, but was soon heard of at the suburb of Eleusis, where he had got some 4000 disaffected soldiers to join him (possibly from the native levies, though our text does not say so). Philometor went out against the mutineers with a loyal force and crushed them. Dionysius swam naked across the canal and sought refuge amongst the native multitude. His influence with the Egyptians was very great, and he used it to work up a new revolt.13

The fragment of Diodorus breaks off here, and we do not know what happened to Dionysius and the Egyptians who rose at his call. But another fragment tells about "a new rebellion in the Thebaïd," and it may have hung together with the rebellion started by Dionysius. Ptolemy, we are told, "easily" subdued the rest of the country, but the nationalist bands concentrated in the fortified town of Panopolis (modern Akhmîn)º and were only reduced after a troublesome siege. Panopolis, on the other side of the Nile just opposite the great Greek city of Ptolemais, was, as Mahaffy observed, a very odd place for native insurgents to choose.

Philometor returned victorious to Alexandria. But if the Brother had been innocent of any connexion with the agitation of Dionysius-Petosarapis, he did in the end contrive a movement against his brother, which succeeded. In the p291latter part of 164, Philometor was compelled to fly from Alexandria.14 The uneasy five years of double kingship were at an end.

Philometor went to Rome. Diodorus describes15 how from the Italian port where he landed he trudged up to Rome, habited as a common wayfarer and attended only by a eunuch and three slaves. Another young Macedonian prince, Philometor's first cousin, the Seleucid Demetrius, was in Rome at the time as a hostage, and met him about 20 miles from the City with a horse and royal apparel. But Ptolemy explained that it was all-important to produce the proper impression upon the Senate, and resolutely tramped the whole distance on his feet. At Rome (still with an eye to dramatic effect) he took up his abode in poor quarters with a Greek house-painter, to whom he had once shown favour in Alexandria.

The decision to which the Senate came, in answer to Philometor's pathetic appeal, was one which had the advantage, from the Roman point of view, of dividing the Ptolemaic realm into two. Philometor was to have Egypt and Cyprus, and Ptolemy the Brother was to have the Cyrenaica. How far Rome was prepared to enforce this judgment by military power we do not know. Philometor at first, obviously uncertain whether it would be safe for him to return to Egypt, went to reside in Cyprus. But experience of the sole rule of the Brother had in a few months changed the affection of the Alexandrines into violent hatred. They summoned back Philometor from Cyprus. The Roman embassy, which was now in Alexandria, claimed afterwards that it was only their presence which saved the Brother from being torn to pieces by the populace. The new arrangement was solemnly sworn to by the two kings, and the Brother departed to his Cyrenaean kingdom (July-August 163).16

Philometor proclaimed an amnesty of all crimes committed up to Epiph 19 of his eighteenth year (August 17, 163)17 — a kind of decree officially described as philanthrōpa. Henceforth, to the end of his life, he was sole king in Egypt. We notice, however, an innovation in the form of official protocol p292by which documents are now dated. Instead of running, "In the reign of king Ptolemy, etc.," it now runs, "In the reign of king Ptolemy and queen Cleopatra."18 Henceforth the queens-consort are regularly associated in the dating formula with the king. We cannot argue from this that Cleopatra II had more actual power in the kingdom than, for instance, Arsinoe Philadelphus had had. It may have been rather a stretching of the official formula to correspond with a state of things which was more in accordance with Egyptian tradition than with Greek — the independent standing of woman in law and society. As the Ptolemaic monarchy showed in some other respects an assimilation to the Egyptian type, so in its official formulas it may now have shrunk less from what had an un‑Hellenic appearance. Yet Cleopatra II, as we know from her record, was a woman of character. "The Sister" may have been the most popular of the three children of Ptolemy Epiphanes in 163, when Ptolemy Philometor returned home from Cyprus. If so, it may be for that reason that Ptolemy made his close association with his sister more conspicuous by embodying it in the official style of the realm. In 153‑152 Philometor's eldest son, Ptolemy Eupator, was associated with his father as joint-king. He died, however, about three years later (about 150), but appears in later lists of the deified kings who are associated with Alexander in the State-worship.19 A younger brother survived as heir-apparent to the Egyptian throne.

Papyri and inscriptions do not tell us much of what went on in Egypt during the remainder of Ptolemy Philometor's reign. In October 163 we hear of the king and queen going on progress together up the Nile. The papyri from the Serapeum at Memphis tell us of their visit at that time to the shrine near the old capital. The king and queen were again at the Serapeum in October 158. In the same year, no doubt as part of the same progress, they visited Philae.20 At Edfu the addition of a great wooden gate to the temple had been made in 177‑176, when Philometor had still been a child under his mother's regency; the war with Syria and the rebellion in Upper Egypt had, after p293that, no doubt prevented work on the temple continuing; but it was resumed, the inscription tells us, in the year 30 (150‑149). In other places where Philometor had left his mark as a builder or restorer or adorner of Egyptian temples the inscriptions give us no precise date. At Antaeopolis (modern Qau el‑kebir) Ptolemy and Cleopatra dedicate a pronaos to Antaeus (i.e. the Egyptian god of the temple, whose name is not known, but is conjectured to have sounded something like the Greek name Antaios).21 At Ombi (modern Kom Ombo) Philometor continued the temple to Aroeris-Apollo (i.e. the Egyptian Har‑wer, "Horus the Elder") begun by his father.

There are also traces of work done for Philometor on Egyptian temples at Diospolis Parva, Karnak, and Esneh. But, besides the inscriptions put up by the king, or showing work done by royal order, we have Greek inscriptions put up by officials in honour of Ptolemy Philometor and Cleopatra. At Ombi a shrine (σῆκος) is built by the garrison of the Ombite nome (infantry and cavalry) and dedicated "on behalf of" the king and queen and their children "on account of the benevolence shown by them."22

In the island of El‑Hesseh, south of Philae, a basis for three statues has been discovered which the Greek inscription shows to have been statues of Philometor, Cleopatra, and their son,23 and in the neighbouring Aswan the basis of a statue of Philometor.24 In both cases the name of the dedicator has been erased, and the divine names "Isis and Horus" engraved to fill up the gap to the eye, although they make no sense. The dedicator was, no doubt, some official who, as a partisan of Philometor, had fallen into disgrace under Euergetes II.

There is evidence that the Ptolemaic court adopted at this moment a forward policy on the southern frontier. It evidently tried to establish against the Ethiopian Pharaohs a permanent occupation of the reach of the Nile above First Cataract as far as the Second Cataract (Wady Halfa). If the reach from Aswan to Derâr was known as the Dodekaschoinos, this longer reach was called the Triakontaschoinos.25 p294A hieroglyphic inscription to be seen on the rocks near the little village of Khartûm26 declares that the Thirty‑Ar-reach belongs to Isis of Philae27 — just as other inscriptions assert this of the Twelve‑Ar-reach. We know of two men who held prominent commands for king Ptolemy in this region at this period. One is Boethus, son of Nicostratus, possibly a Carian, who in 145‑144 B.C. was epistrategos and strategos of the Thebaïd, with the rank of Kinsman,28 evidently one of the chief men of the kingdom. At the end of the reign of Philometor, the birthday of Boethus was celebrated by annual festivals in the island of Seti (El‑Hesseh), mentioned above. He had the task of founding two new towns in the Triakontaschoinos, to which were given the names of Philometoris and Cleopatra.29 We never hear of these towns again, and their sites are quite unknown. Probably, as the Ptolemaic power contracted in the troublous days which followed, they were abandoned and disappeared. Boethus is found still holding his command in 136‑135 B.C. under Euergetes.

The other man is Herodes, son of Demophon, from Pergamon, who is commandant (phrurarchos of the garrison at Syene (Aswan) and Warden of the Stockade Camp (gerrhophylax),30 but holds a further command which is described in one inscription by the words, "put over the Upper Region," and in another as "over the Dodekaschoinos."31 He has the court rank of a diadochus and the military rank of a hēgēmon ep' andrōn. But, curiously, this Greek officer has also the office of an Egyptian priest; he is "prophet" of the god Chnubis and archistolistes of the temples in Elephantine and on the Abaton Island (Biggeh) and in Philae, and seems to be a prominent member of the synodos of priests of Chnomo Nebieb and of the deified kings of the house of Ptolemy, who meet at the temple on the island of p295Seti (El‑Hesseh) for annual festivals in honour of the royal family — a strange example of the way the Ptolemaic government pushed its officials into the control of the native religious corporations and bent these corporations to its own ends.

The dedication (in Greek) made by Herodes and the other priests is to the king, the queen, the royal children, and the native gods, each of the four gods mentioned being identified with a Greek deity, though the inscription in each case tells us the native name as well. Thus the four mentioned are Ammon32 = Chnubis, Hera = Satis, Hestia = Anūkis, Dionysos = Petempamenti ("He‑who-is‑in‑Amenti"). The dedication is made "on behalf of" Boethus.

At Debôd the chapel erected by the Ethiopian king Azechramon was enclosed by more buildings, on one of whose pylons stands an inscription saying that the pylon is dedicated to Isis and the synnaoi theoi on behalf of Ptolemy Philometor and his sister-wife Cleopatra.33

An institution of which we first find mention in papyri belonging to the Thebaïd under Ptolemy VI perhaps indicates, as Bouché-Leclercq supposes, a definite attempt by the government to weaken the native element and strengthen the Greek, in this insubordinate region. Hitherto, as we have seen (page 159), the documents which regulated the legal dealings of Egyptians with each other had been drawn up in demotic by native monographoi. And this was allowed to continue; only now there appears in the Thebaïd a class of Greek professional notaries, with the name agoranomoi, who draw up legal documents in Greek, not only for Greeks, but for any Egyptians who care to resort to them instead of to their native scribes. The government further made a law (end of 146 B.C.) that demotic deeds, in order to be valid in law, must be registered and deposited in a government bureau (archeion or grapheion), accompanied by a précis in Greek. Further, the attestation of the agoranomos on a document dispensed with the need for witnesses. Yet again, in a case tried before a Greek court, demotic documents could be adduced only with a certified Greek translation. Any Egyptian, therefore, might simplify his business and halve his expenses by having a document drawn up in the first instance p296in Greek by an agoranomos, and, except so far as Egyptians were prepared to pay for their patriotism out of their pocket, the monographoi were in danger of losing their occupation.34

To the years from 164 to 152 belong the voluminous budget of papyri discovered rather more than one hundred years ago on the site of the Serapeum, near Memphis, and now dispersed through various museums. The Serapeum papyri form one of the great groups of Ptolemaic documents, and the whole set is now re‑edited in chronological order in the first volume of Wilcken's Urkunde der Ptolemäerzeit. Perhaps more than any other set of documents, they bring home to us the new kind of knowledge we can have, through papyri, of antiquity — knowledge of the life of ordinary men and women in the ancient world. Antiquity, as it had been known from historians and literary texts, consisted of the doings of statesmen and generals and kings; we could have some notion of those dominant personalities, but the great crowd of the nameless remained a dim mass, moving indistinctly in the background. And now, thanks to the papyri, quite obscure individuals, whose names have been forgotten for two thousand years, are suddenly brought again into the light. They are known again, as men to men — their interests, their peculiarities, their actual handwriting. The Serapeum papyri are the papers of a certain Ptolemy, whose father, Glaucias, had been a Macedonian allotment-holder (katoikos) at the village of Psichis in the Heracleopolite nome. In October 172, or thereabouts, Ptolemy became a katochos in the Serapeum. What that means is still a subject of extensive controversy. So much is agreed that, as a katochos, Ptolemy might not go outside the precinct of the temple; but, whilst some scholars hold that he had taken sanctuary as an insolvent debtor, or been confined to the precinct, as a punishment, by his military superiors, Wilcken has, I think, proved that the restraint was a purely religious one. Ptolemy was a devout worshipper of Sarapis, and Sarapis had somehow signified his will — by dream or inspired utterance — that Ptolemy should remain, for the term of the god's pleasure, in his courts. This was a generally recognized form of religious consecration; there were other katochoi beside Ptolemy — Greek and Egyptian — in the Memphian Serapeum. The god, so far as we know, never set Ptolemy free. When the documents cease in 152 B.C. he is "held fast" still.

p297 A very large proportion of the Serapeum papyri are rough copies of petitions to the authorities, complaints, correspondence, concerning affairs in which Ptolemy was interested. He had often with him his younger brother Apollonius, who was himself "held fast" by the god for a short time in the summer of 158. Apollonius acted as his brother's secretary, and a good many of the documents are in his hand. The young man was a poor scholar, and his Greek is full of blunders in grammar and spelling. We have already seen, in another connexion, how in 157 Apollonius obtained an appointment to the corps of epigonoi at Memphis. Ptolemy's papers refer to a number of different affairs. In 164 he addressed a petition to the two kings, because a girl, Heraclea, who had taken refuge in the Serapeum and whom he had adopted, had been taken away from him and delivered into slavery in Memphis. In 163 he appeals first to the strategos of the nome, and then to Philometor, because he had been confined to a particular cell by the temple authorities, and a body of priests, with some of the police from the police station at the Anubieum below, had raided his cell and carried off his belongings, on the pretext that they were searching for arms. Those were days when the antagonism between Greek and Egyptian, intensified by the recent rebellion of Dionysius Petosiris, was still strong. At the time of the rebellion, Ptolemy had suffered violence at the hands of Egyptians in the temple "because he was a Greek," and in 163 again he was set upon in his cell and mishandled. Hence, another appeal to the strategos. In 158 Ptolemy was again assaulted and beaten by some Egyptians — with "ass-drivers' sticks," he indignantly throws in — on account of some quarrel arising out of a purchase of reeds (for basket-making?) from a reed-vender in the temple courts. Again, an appeal to the strategos. The largest group of papers concern the affairs of two Egyptian girls, Thaues and Taûs — the "Twins" now so familiar to students of papyrology. Their father (probably an Egyptian) had been a friend of Ptolemy's, and when their Egyptian mother went off with a Greek soldier, and their father, to escape being murdered by the soldier, fled to Heracleopolis and died there, the Twins took refuge with Ptolemy in the Serapeum. They obtained a post in the temple as priestesses of a minor order, Ptolemy making himself responsible for their maintenance. A fixed allowance of oil and bread was due to them from the royal treasury, the p298syntaxis assigned to them as priestesses by the king. According to the system prescribed, oil was delivered direct to priests and priestesses from the royal thesaurus; bread was delivered to the temple authorities for distribution. Through the slackness or dishonesty of officials and priests, the Twins failed to get their allowance in either kind when it fell due, and we have in consequence the stream of petitions and appeals drawn up by Ptolemy, either in the name of the Twins themselves (who evidently could not write Greek) or in his own name on behalf of the Twins — to the government finance department, or the king and queen — from the beginning of 163 to 161.

Amongst the papers of Ptolemy, some of the most curious are those in which he writes his dreams or the dreams of the Twins, regarded, of course, as of prophetic significance, and the very human letter of Apollonius to his brother in a moment of angry disillusionment: "I swear by Sarapis, if it were not that I have a little reverence for you still, you would never see my face again. Everything you say is untrue, and when your visions tell you that we are going to be saved, then we sink under."35 Perhaps one point of especial interest is that we find these Greeks, here in the heart of Egypt, with the environment of an Egyptian temple, still holding on to the literary tradition of their people. As they sit on the sand under the Egyptian sun, one of their occupations is to copy out on their sheets of papyrus verses of Greek poets. We have forty-four verses of Euripides in a hand which is that of neither of the two brothers, other verses on the same papyrus in the handwriting of Apollonius. On the back of the papyrus are four columns of Euripides written by Ptolemy, and two epigrams of Posidippus, which had not otherwise come down to us, on the Pharos Lighthouse and on the temple of Arsinoe Zephyritis. Their mistakes prove that they are not men of high literary education; yet these men of a relatively uncultured Macedonian soldier-family, still in their rough way take pleasure in the scraps of Greek poetry they know. It is a significant indication of the kind of culture kept up by the Greeks scattered over Eastern countries in the centuries after Alexander.

The Jews in Egypt seem to have enjoyed the favour of the court under Philometor and Cleopatra. When in Jerusalem, p299under the Seleucid power, the old line of high priests was ousted, and their office given to those who promised subservience to the king of Syria, the representative of the legitimate line, Honya (a name which the Greeks transmuted into Onias and vaguely connected with the ass, onos, which, according to a current belief, the Jews worshipped), fled to Egypt. He was apparently accompanied by a considerable body of his adherents, since Ptolemy assigned them a strip of territory on the eastern arm of the Nile, known afterwards as the "land of Onias."36 Onias was allowed to build on the site of an old deserted Egyptian temple of Bast at Leontopolis a Jewish temple, more or less a copy of the temple of Jerusalem, and institute a worship there with a priesthood formed from members of the sacred tribe. Sir Flinders Petrie has identified the site of the temple of Onias with the immense artificial mound called Tell-el‑Yehudiyeh,b which he shows to have been thrown up all at one time in the 2nd century B.C. The remains would agree with Josephus' statement that the main building of the temple erected on the mound was a tower 60 cubits high. The temple had the same proportions as Solomon's (on a smaller scale), and its surroundings were so arranged, Sir Flinders Petrie thinks, as to correspond roughly with the features of the ground around the temple at Jerusalem.37 The worship went on there till the temple was closed by Vespasian. Although it was regarded as only "quasi-legitimate" by the orthodox Rabbis, it must have had continuous support from a proportion of the Egyptian Jews.

Although Philometor, after his return from Cyprus, continued for the rest of his life to hold his kingdom against the machinations of his brother, it was only by an employment, as occasion required, of military energy or of diplomatic address. If Rome had stood by its own award of 163, as Philometor was prepared to stand by it, there would have been no room for further dispute, but there were men of influence in the Senate always ready to back up the appeals which came from Ptolemy the Brother for an oversetting of that judgment in his interest. What Ptolemy the Brother now asked for was Cyprus in addition to the Cyrenaica, and the Senate, by listening to his ambassadors, kept the dispute in the Ptolemaic realm open.

p300 In 162 Ptolemy the Brother went to Rome in person, and in spite of the pleadings of Philometor's ambassadors, the Senate actually decided that the Brother ought to have Cyprus. He left Rome with two senatorial legates, charged to install him in the island as king, though they were not to use any military force, it being hoped that Philometor would amiably accede to Rome's judgment. Philometor, however, while showing every possible honour to the Roman legate who presented himself at Alexandria, resolutely evaded giving assent to the new Roman proposition. The Brother, who had returned to the Cyrenaica, procuring a force of one thousand Cretan mercenaries on the way, waited events on the coast near the Egyptian frontier. Then Cyrene and other Greek cities of his kingdom rose against him. He had left as his viceroy in the Cyrenaica, when he went to Rome, an Egyptian, whose native name was Sympetesis, and whose Greek name was Ptolemy — "another symptom, and a strange one, of the rising power of the natives" (M.). When the rebellion broken out, Sympetesis threw in his lot with the rebels, and so did the Libyans, the fair-skinned natives of the Cyrenaica. Instead, therefore, of acquiring Cyprus, Ptolemy the Brother found that it was a question of his reconquering his Cyrenaean kingdom. Philometor received notice of Rome's displeasure at his not having complied with the Senate's judgment; but the Romans had now a man to deal with in the king of Egypt. Rome was not prepared to use force — Philometor knew it, and he quietly held his position. Eight years went past, and Rome took no action. In 155 the governor of Cyprus, Archias, was caught in secret negotiations with the Seleucid king, Demetrius I, who also had his eye on Cyprus. This was the same Demetrius who, in 164‑163, had shown friendliness to Philometor in Rome, and who had escaped in 162 to Syria, to take possession of the throne of his ancestors. A result was that the defences of the island were strengthened. In 154 the Brother appeared again in Rome and showed the horrified Senate certain marks upon his body, which he said were wounds inflicted upon him by would‑be assassins in the service of Philometor. Rome wrote to its allies in the Eastern Mediterranean authorizing them to install the Brother in Cyprus by military force, but as Rome did nothing itself, and the allies were not anxious to do anything, and Philometor continued to sit quiet and firm, the Brother, when he landed in Cyprus with p301a force, found himself left to his own resources. It was now the moment for Philometor to take military action, and he took it — swift, able, and effective. The invader was shut up in the Cyprian town of Lapethos and obliged to surrender his person into his brother's hands. Philometor's conduct at this moment showed the world what he was. He not only forgave the Brother, but made a new pact with him, according to which the Brother was to go back in peace to the Cyrenaica (which he had in the meantime brought again under his authority) and receive annually from Egypt a fixed amount of corn.º Philometor also betrothed to him one of his own daughters, a third Cleopatra.38 The Brother's conduct after Philometor's death showed that he felt little gratitude. But he was not able to advance any further demand for Cyprus during Philometor's lifetime. From the fact that his marriage with the young Cleopatra did not take place, we may perhaps gather that he again showed some unfriendliness. But Rome ceased to support him. Philometor found a powerful advocate at Rome in the person of Marcus Cato, the Censor. We still have fragments of an oration which Cato pronounced in the Senate, "De Ptolemaeo rege optimo et beneficissimo."

The young Eupator, associated, as we have seen, on the throne with his father from 153‑152 to 150, when he apparently died at about the age of twenty, seems to have resided as viceroy in Cyprus. Two marble slabs found in Delos were put up by a contingent sent by the League of Cretan cities as auxiliaries to fight under Philometor in Cyprus in 154. The first is in honour of the king: ". . . pardon for the offences committed throughout the kingdom . . . to treat him as a brother and friend, and the king being, in accordance with previous actions in regard to him, pious and God-fearing, and the most humane of all men, he made friendship and peace, showing a great spirit in all his dealings, making it a chief object of his policy to gratify the Romans. In order, therefore, that those who fought as the allies of king Ptolemy in Cyprus, and had a share in the glory, may be shown to pay regard to fine and memorable actions, and not forget the p302benefits bestowed upon their several native cities, but always to evince the gratitude which such benefits deserve towards the benefactors. With propitious fortune: It is decreed, to give praise to king Ptolemy, and crown him with a crown of gold, and to set up two bronze images of him, the most beautiful possible, one in Delos, the other in Crete, in the city appointed by the League."39

The second slab40 is in honour of a man of Cos, Aglaos, son of Theocles, who, we are told, was a person of great consideration with "king Ptolemy the elder," and had been at his side in the campaign in Cyprus. Aglaos was proxenos of the Cretans in Alexandria, and in this capacity had been of great service to men coming from the island to Egypt. This slab definitely states that the dedicators are those Cretan troops sent by the Cretan League (τὸ κοινὸν τῶν Κρηταιέων) to Alexandria, in accordance with the alliance subsisting between the League and Ptolemy Philometor.

Egypt under Philometor could still bring force to bear at this or the other point in the Greek lands. The inscriptions just cited speak of benefits bestowed by Ptolemy upon certain cities of Crete, and show that although the cities of Crete were frequently embroiled with each other, a Cretan League of cities did exist, and that with this Philometor maintained alliance. An inscription of Itanos records that its people got military help from Ptolemy VI against the people of Praesos.41

There was still a relic, after all that had happened, of the old Ptolemaic supremacy in the Aegean — the Ptolemaic garrison in Thera, from which island we have inscriptions of this time.42 We find even a Ptolemaic force, including a contingent of native Egyptians (machimoi), at one moment occupying Methana in the Peloponnesus and operating in Crete;43 and the head of a statue with a Greek face, but a Pharaonic head-dress, is believed to be an image of Philometor dedicated in the temple of Isis at Methana.44 Incidentally we learn that the Confederation of the Cyclades still p303existed in 159 B.C., and that men from the islands served as mercenary marines in the Egyptian fleet.45

As between Egypt and Syria, the situation, soon after Philometor's war in Cyprus, was transformed in a strange way. Demetrius I, on the Seleucid throne, had shown himself a king of high courage and vigorous resolution. That was enough, apart from his unauthorized escape from Rome in 162, to bring upon him the hostility of the Senate. Unfortunately, he also alarmed the neighbouring kings. His cousin of Egypt he had made his enemy by his designs upon Cyprus. When, therefore, the king of Pergamon put up another claimant to the Seleucid throne — a good-looking young man, probably of base origin, but passing himself for a son of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) — and when the young man, having been to Rome and obtained the Senate's blessing upon his enterprise, returned to the East, to conquer Syria, Ptolemy sent an army from Egypt, under Galaestes, a man of princely race from the hill-country between Northern Greece and the Adriatic, to overthrow Demetrius. Demetrius fell before the coalition, and the pretender was installed as king of Syria (150). He called himself by the great name of Alexander, though the Syrians nicknamed him Balas. Then came something very extraordinary. Philometor gave Alexander Balas his daughter Cleopatra in marriage. Bouché-Leclercq conjectures that he did so reluctantly; he supposes that Philometor had originally intended to get back Coele-Syria, but that when Alexander asked his daughter's hand he thought it, on the whole, good policy to agree and drop the question of Coele-Syria. Our p304knowledge of the history is really so fragmentary that it is hardly worth while guessing at the considerations which moved the Alexandrine court.

In two years' time Alexander Balas had shown himself a dissolute creature of no value, though he was popular with the Jews. A better claimant to the throne appeared in Cilicia, the boy Demetrius, the son of Demetrius I. In view of the threatened invasion of Syria from the north, Philometor entered Coele-Syria with a strong force, passing through Ashdod and Joppa to Ptolemais (148). The contradictions of our authorities make it impossible to say whether he had come in support of Alexander, or against him — perhaps he did not himself let his purpose be known at the time.46 At Ptolemais, in any case, there was an attempt to assassinate him, for which he declared that Alexander was responsible. From now, if not before, he was Alexander's enemy. Having regained possession of his daughter, the queen of Syria — how we do not know — he transferred her, "as if she were a piece of furniture" (M.), to the young Demetrius. Antioch expelled Alexander, who fled to Cilicia, and Ptolemy Philometor entered the great Syrian city, which his ancestor, Ptolemy Euergetes, had entered as a conqueror almost exactly a century before. And then an astounding scene took place. The people of Antioch, wishing neither to have Balas nor the son of Demetrius I as their king, besought Ptolemy to bind round his head the diadem of Syria, as well as that of Egypt. The same man who, in his boyhood, had seen the house of Ptolemy brought to its greatest humiliation under the house of Seleucus — Antiochus playing the Pharaoh in Memphis — lived to find himself in Antioch invited to add all that remained of the Seleucid realm to the dominions of the house of Ptolemy! Philometor, with Rome casting its shadow over the world, was too prudent to accept the offer. He persuaded the people of Antioch to allow the young Demetrius to ascend his ancestral throne. He had, of course, exacted from Demetrius the retrocession of Coele-Syria p305to the house of Ptolemy. Probably his troops were already in occupation of that ground of endless debate. Then a sudden accident plunged everything again into confusion. Alexander returned with a force from Cilicia and was engaged by the army of Ptolemy and Demetrius on the river Oenoparas. He was completely routed and fled to the protection of an Arab sheikh in the neighbouring country. But in the battle Philometor had been thrown from his horse and got a severe fracture of the skull. Five days later he died under the hands of the surgeons, who were trying to smooth the jagged edges of bone. Before he died he had the satisfaction of seeing the head of his late son-in‑law, which had been sent in by the Arab sheikh (June (?) 145).47 It was the thirty-sixth year of his reign and the forty-first or forty-second of his life.

Polybius says that Ptolemy Philometor combined with his goodness and kindliness a presence of mind and high courage in perilous crises and on the battlefield (στάσιμον ἱκανῶς καὶ γενναῖον ἐν τοῖς κινδύνοις ὑπάρχοντα),48 but that when things were going well, he was apt to show a slackness and inertia which were "quite Egyptian." Justin rhetorically paints up the portrait and makes him a monster of obesity and indolence. This is quite incompatible with his known actions. But we can see how what Polybius says of him — and Polybius was in a position to speak with very precise knowledge — might give ground to Justin's caricature. We may believe that Ptolemy Philometor was fat — and fat good-natured men are apt to be over-easygoing, when there is no imperative call to action. Yet Philometor's actions show that he could be resolute in great matters. His diplomacy in regard to Rome was resolute and courageous, as well as skilful and urbane. He took personal part in more than one war, all of them carried to a successful close — the war against the nationalist rebels in Egypt, the war against his brother in Cyprus, the war against Alexander Balas. And he received his mortal hurt riding, stout as he may have been, amongst the fighters in the field, after the manner of the old Macedonian chiefs from whom he sprang.


The Author's Notes:

1 The theory, followed by Mahaffy, which regarded the problematic Ptolemy Eupator as an elder brother of Ptolemy Philometor's, who was associated with his father on the throne, but died early, is incompatible with the data now existing. See Bouché-Leclercq, II p56, note 2.

2 2 Macc. iv.21. We have to suppose (what is far from certain) that the πρωτοκλήσια in this text are the same thing as what Polybius calls ανακλητήρια.

3 Livy, XLII.6.

4 OGI Nos. 103, 105.

5 OGI No. 106. Already θεοὶ φιλομήτορες in Amherst, 43 (= Chrest., No. 105), 173 B.C.

6 XXIX.23.9.

7 Louvre, 634 (Strack, p34).

8 Strack's theory that certain departments of state were made over to "the Brother," and that in the official correspondence of these particular departments the dating of documents was by the years of the Brother, in other departments by the years of Philometor, is still harder, if one considers what frightful confusion and inconvenience such a double system of dating would entail.

9 Lepsius, Abhandlung. d. Berl. Akad., 1852, p467.

10 Yet in OGI II No. 734, the Brother is not included in θεοὶ φιλομήτορες. An inscription from the basis of a statue in Ptolemais in the Cyrenaica (OGI No. 124) runs: "King Ptolemy, Mother-loving God, Brother of king Ptolemy and queen Cleopatra, erected by the City." The statue in question is ordinarily taken (by Strack, Mahaffy, Bouché-Leclercq) to be a statue of Ptolemy the Brother, put up during the double reign, and is adduced to show that the Brother was also individually called Theos Philometor, like the elder king. Dittenberger says that it is certain ("certum est") that the statue was of Ptolemy Philometor, put up after his death, and that the Ptolemy coupled with Cleopatra is Euergetes II. It seems to me most probable that "the Mother-loving God" is Ptolemy the Brother, but that the statue was put up not during the double reign in Egypt, but when the Brother was king of Cyrene, during Philometor's lifetime. The fact that Ptolemy the Brother was more or less continually at variance with the king of Egypt does not seem to me to rule out the idea that his subjects in Ptolemais might refer to his relationship to the king of Egypt as showing that he belonged to the illustrious house of Ptolemy.

11 Polyb. XXXIX.18.

12 Diodorus (XXXI.15a) does not expressly say that Dionysius was a native Egyptian, though the phrase πάντων Αἰγυπτίων προχὼν ἐν τοῖς κατὰ πόλεμον κινδύνοις probably implies it. His being popularly called by an Egyptian rendering of his name (Dionysius = belonging to Dionysos: Petosarapis = belonging to Sarapis, who was sometimes regarded as a form of Dionysos) would not by itself prove Egyptian origin. It might have been a joke of the Greek Alexandrine populace, to give a nickname in the native language.

13 Amherst, 30 (= Chrest., No. 9), seems to refer to this rebellion. The rebels in the Fayûm compelled a certain Condylus to destroy a deed of sale he kept on behalf of a native priest.

14 The last documents before the expulsion (Louvre, 63.1 and 3) have a date which corresponds with October 23, 164.

15 Probably he was drawing from Polybius, who was in Rome at the time, and no doubt knew Philometor there.

16 Wilcken, U. d. Pt. I p188.

17 Louvre, No. 63.

18 The earliest document so far known with the new form is a demotic papyrus of the year 21 (161‑160 B.C.) (Strack, p33).

19 Inscriptions in honour of Eupator. See the article by L. Pareti referred to on p307, note 1 (OGI 125, 126, 127).

20 Lepsius, Denkmäler, IV.23.

21 OGI No. 109.

22 OGI No. 114.

23 Strack, p37.

24 OGI Nos. 121, 122.

25 Ptolemy the geographer (IV.7, 10) put the Triakontaschoinos south of the Second Cataract, but the other evidence shows that this is wrong.

26 About 30 miles above Philae, not to be confounded with the capital of the Sudan.

27 Weigall, Antiquities of Lower Nubia, p67.

28 Preisigke, Sammelbuch, 4512. A collection of passages from papyri referring to Boethus is given by Meyer, Giessen, No. 36. Whether the description "Chrysaeorus" affixed to Boethus means that he came from Chrysaoris in Caria, or that he was a member of a deme "Chrysaoreus" in Ptolemais, is uncertain.

29 OGI No. 111.

30 The gerrhon must have been a kind of defence like that which became very familiar to the English under the name of zariba during the Sudan wars in the latter part of the 19th century.

31 OGI No. 111; Preisigke, Sammelbuch, 1918.

32 It is noteworthy that Ammon here counts as a Greek god! The god of the Oasis had been known and venerated so long in the Greek world that he had come to count as a Greek ancestral god.

33 OGI No. 107; see Roeder, p6.

34 Mitteis, Grundzüge, II pp58 ff.

35 U. d. Pt., No. 70.

36 Joseph. Archiv, XIV § 131.

37 See the full account in Hyksos and Israelite Cities (British School of Archaeology in Egypt, 1906).

38 Both Philometor's daughters were called Cleopatra. Whether the daughter now betrothed to the "Brother" was the one who afterwards became queen of Syria (Cleopatra Thea) or the one whom the "Brother" did marry after Philometor's death (Cleopatra III of Egypt), there is nothing in our sources to show.

39 OGI No. 116; given in completer form by Holleaux, Archiv, VI (1920), pp10, 11.

40 Published by Holleaux, Archiv, VI pp9 ff.

41 CIG II Add. 2561b.

42 OGI Nos. 102, 110, 112; II No. 735. Cf. Holleaux, Archiv, VI (1920), p20.

43 OGI Nos. 102, 115.

44 J. P. Six in Athen. Mitt. X (1885), pp212‑222 (= Fig. 50).

45 P. Hamburg, Inv. 333; cf. Archiv, VI p366.

46 The statements that Ptolemy's first intention was to support Alexander may go back to Polybius, and, if so, have more authority than the statements of 1 Macc., where Balas is concerned. See Nussbaum, Observ. in Fl. Josephi Antiquitates, Marburg, 1875, and H. Volkmann in Klio, XIX (1925), p408. On the other hand, it seems more probable in the circumstances that Philometor would hold different plans in reserve, securing his own eventual action by garrisoning the Syrian coast-towns with Ptolemaic troops meanwhile.

47 A demotic papyrus from Hermonthis still dates by Philometor on Payni 21 (= July 15, 145). It may be that he was already dead at that date, but that the news from North Syria had not yet reached Upper Egypt (Spiegelberg, Dem. Pap. Strassb. n. 21).

48 XXVIII.21.5.


Thayer's Notes:

a The date of the battle of Pydna, though usually given in the English-speaking world as 168 B.C., was almost certainly in September 172, as commonly found in continental scholarship: see Plut. Aem. 17.7 and my note there.

b Human memory can last a long time; the name means "Jew's Mound" in Arabic, a language that would not be in general use in the area for another 800 years.


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