UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


332-30 - Ptolemaic - XXXII Dynasty

Alexanderthe Great332 BC 323 BC
Philip Arrhidaeus323 BC 317 BC
Alexander IV 323 BC 311 BC
Ptolemy I Soter Saviour323 BC 285 BC
Ptolemy II Philadelphus Brother-Loving282 BC 246 BC
Ptolemy III Eueregetes Benefactor246 BC 222 BC
Ptolemy IV PhilopatorFather-Loving222 BC 205 BC
Plolemy V EpiphanesIllustrious205 BC 180 BC
Ptolemy VI EupatorGood Fathered186 BC
Ptolemy VII Philometor Mother-Loving182 BC 146 BC
Ptolemy VIII Neos PhilopatorFather-Loving145 BC
Ptolemy IXEueregetes II PhyskonBenefactor146 BC 116 BC
Ptolemy X Soter II LathyrusSaviour116 BC 80 BC
Ptolemy XIAlexander I117 BC 81 BC
Ptolemy XIIAlexander II 81 BC
Ptolemy XIIIAuletes / Neos DionysosFlute Player81 BC 52 BC
Ptolemy XIV61 BC 47 BC
Ptolemy XV Kaisaros
Ptolemy XVI Caesarion

Queens of Egypt

Ptolemy IX Soter IIQ. Cleopatra III 116107
Ptolemy X Alexander IQ. Cleopatra III 10788
Ptolemy IX Soter II8881
Ptolemy XI Alexander IIQ. Cleopatra III 8180
Ptolemy XI Alexander II80
Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysus8058
Q. Berenike IV5855
Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysus(again!)5551
Ptolemy XIIIQ. Cleopatra VII5147
Julius Caesar arrives in Egypt48
Ptolemy XIVQ. Cleopatra VII4744
Ptolemy XV CaesarionQ. Cleopatra VII4430

The Persian occupation of Egypt ended when Alexander the Great defeated the Persians at the Battle of Issus (near presentday Iskenderun in Turkey) in November 333 BC. The Egyptians, who despised the monotheistic Persians and chafed under Persian rule, welcomed Alexander as a deliverer. In the autumn of 332 BC, Alexander entered Memphis, where, like a true Hellene, he paid homage to the native gods and was apparently accepted without question as king of Egypt. Also like a true Hellene, he celebrated the occasion with competitive games and a drama and music festival at which some of the leading artists of Greece were present. From Memphis, Alexander marched down the western arm of the Nile and founded the city of Alexandria. Then he went to the oasis of Siwa (present-day Siwah) to consult the oracle at the Temple of Amun, the Egyptian god whom the Greeks identified with their own Zeus.

After Alexander's death of malarial fever in 323 BC, the Macedonian commander in Egypt, Ptolemy, who was the son of Lagos, one of Alexander's seven bodyguards, managed to secure for himself the satrapy (provincial governorship) of Egypt. When Arrhidaeus, the son of Philip II. of Macedon and of Philinna, was elected as the successor of Alexander the Great, he succeeded as Philip III of Macedon, and Ptolemy, Alexander's general and friend, received Egypt and Libya as his share of the kingdom. But the hieroglyphic inscriptions show that Ptolemy did not assume the sovereignty of Egypt, and that he only, at first, ruled the country on behalf of Philip III of Macedon, who became Philip I of Egypt. Philip Arrhidaeus was co-regent of Macedonia with Alexander IV. of Macedon, the son of Alexander the Great and his wife Roxana, who was born soon after the death of his father. The murder of Philip Arrhidaeus and Alexander IV In 306 BC, Antigonus, citing the principle that the empire Alexander created should remain unified, took the royal title. In reaction, his rivals for power, Ptolemy of Egypt, Cassander of Macedonia, and Seleucus of Syria, countered by declaring themselves kings of their respective dominions. Thus came into existence the three great monarchies that were to dominate the Hellenistic world until, one by one, they were absorbed into the Roman Empire.

The dynasty Ptolemy founded in Egypt was known as the line of Ptolemaic pharaohs and endured until the suicide of Cleopatra in 30 B.C., at which time direct Roman control was instituted. The early Ptolemies were hardheaded administrators and business people, anxious to make the state that they created stable, wealthy, and influential. The Ptolemies had their eyes directed outward to the eastern Mediterranean world in which they sought to play a part. Egypt was their basis of power, their granary, and the source of their wealth.

Under the early Ptolemies, the culture was exclusively Greek. Greek was the language of the court, the army, and the administration. The Ptolemies founded the university, the museum, and the library at Alexandria and built the lighthouse at Pharos. A canal to the Red Sea was opened, and Greek sailors explored new trade routes. Whereas many Egyptians adopted Greek speech, dress, and much of Greek culture, the Greeks also borrowed much from the Egyptians, particularly in religion. In this way, a mixed culture was formed along with a hybrid art that combined Egyptian themes with elements of Hellenistic culture. Examples of this are the grandiose temples built by the Ptolemies at Edfu (present-day Idfu) and Dendera (present-day Dandarah).

With the reign of Ptolemy VI the history of Egypt under the Macedonian dynasty declines in dignity and increases in complication. Hitherto, though it was usual to associate the queen, or the prince royal, in the government, there is no doubt about the reigning king. From henceforth, there were almost constantly rival brothers asserting themselves in turn, queen mothers controlling their king sons intestine feuds and bloodshed in the royal house, till the stormy end of the dynasty with the daring Cleopatra VI. The historian is bound to chronicle these wretched complications, to unravel these problems of chronology, and yet they only affect the reigning house, and tell nothing of interest to posterity.

Even the accession of Ptolemy VII Philometor, though attested unanimously by all remaining historians as following at once upon the death of Plolemy V Epiphanes, is not without serious difficulties. There are several papyri1 which give the list of the Ptolemies down to Lathyrus, in which there is a Eupator inserted between them a king who seems to occupy no time, and for whom there is no place. Yet it is improbable to ascribe to business texts a wanton invention, and scholars must seek for some solution. What has been suggested is this: Philometor was not born till 188 BC, five years after the marriage of his father, and that other children followed quickly. It is therefore more probable than not that there was an elder son, who may have lived long enough to survive his father a week or two, and so attain the titles and the recognition of royalty. There is another such case later on, namely in the son of Philometor, and this too without distinct knowledge of the historians.

Authorities do not clearly explain how it was that the people of Alexandria so frequently acquiesced in a reigning queen, in the presence of legitimate male heirs. That a royal princess, the sister of the king, should be associated with him as his queen in public acts, seems natural enough. But in the case of Cleopatra III and her sons Philometor, Soter II (or Lathyrus) and Ptolemy XI Alexander I (l17-81 BC), as in other cases, when the old king dies, no one seemed to dispute the right of the queen-mother to retain her position and control the state. And yet the association with one of her sons as king seems also to be presupposed as unavoidable. Once a queen, who was also the eldest female heir of the royal family by birth, was officially raised to the rank of partner with the king in public acts, with the usual deification, her right to the throne was permanent, and was not affected by her husband's death. Hence it is that the elder Cleopatra (II), Physkon's former wife and sister, is named in public acts to the end of her life along with the reigning king and queen. Hence it is that when Physkon died, his queen remains in possession of the throne, though her son also has recognised rights of succession.

The last of the Ptolemies was Cleopatra [more precisely, Cleopatra VI or Cleopatra VII, depending on which authority is consulted], the wife of Julius Caesar and later Mark Antony. During her reign, Egypt again became a factor in Mediterranean politics. Cleopatra was a woman of genius and a worthy opponent of Rome. Her main preoccupations were to preserve the independence of Egypt, to extend its territory if possible, and to secure the throne for her children. After the ruinous defeat at Actium in 31 BC, Cleopatra was unable to continue the fight against Rome. Rather than witness the incorporation of Egypt into the Roman Empire, she chose to die by the bite of the asp. The asp was considered the minister of the sun god whose bite conferred not only immortality but also divinity.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 03-04-2012 19:35:55 ZULU