April 26, 2012

Ptolemaic Dynasty in Ancient Egypt 305-30 BC

Ptolemaic Dynasty
305-30 BC
  • Ptolemy VII (Neos Philopator) : 145 BC
  • Ptolemy VIII (Euergetes II) :170-163, 145-116 BC
  • Ptolemy IX (Soter II) : 116-110, 109-107, 88-80 BC
  • Ptolemy X (Alexander I) :110-109, 107-88 BC
  • Ptolemy XI (Alexander II) : 80 BC
  • Ptolemy XII (Neos Dionysos) : Iwaenpanetjernehem Setepptah Irmaat : 80-58, 55-51 BC
  • Queen Berenice IV : 58-55 BC
  • Queen Cleopatra VII (netjeret-merites) : 51-30 BC
  • Ptolemy XV (Caesarion) : Iwapanetjer - entynehem - Setepenptah - Irmaatenre - Sekhemankhamun : 36-30 BC
The widowed Cleopatra was left in Alexandria with the young heir, Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator, and little protection since her late husband's army, largely composed of mercenaries, had joined Demetrius II in Syria. Ptolemy Euergetes, king of Cyrenaica, saw his chance and returned to Egypt, driving the queen and heir to take refuge in Memphis. A reconciliation was arranged and Euergetes married his sister Cleopatra, she agreeing to the match to protect her son's interests. However, as soon as she produced an heir for Euergetes, he had Ptolemy VII, his stepson and nephew, killed.

Ptolemy I
Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II, repulsive and nicknamed 'physon' (potbelly), was captivated by his niece, also Cleopatra, the daughter of his sister-wife Cleopatra. The niece agreed to the liaison so long as she could also become queen - so mother and daughter, sister and niece of Euergetes, became joint queens as Cleopatra II and III, generally differentiated as Cleopatra the Sister and Cleopatra the Wife. The former was much beloved by the people since her late husband Ptolemy VI's reign was such a shining example and memory compared to their present situation. Public resentment against Ptolemy VIII grew to such a point that he fled to Cyprus, taking the younger Cleopatra (III, the Wife), their two children and the young boy Memphites (his son by Cleopatra II) with him. His flight was not a moment too soon, for the mob broke into the palace seeking his blood.

In Cyprus, Euergetes plotted his return to Egypt where his sister, Cleopatra II, reigned as Cleopatra Philometor Soteira. In a fit of maniacal revenge against his sister and the Alexandrian mob which had been busy destroying his statues and memories of him, he murdered Memphites, his own son by Cleopatra II, and sent the child's dismembered body to her as a present on her birthday.

In 129, now strong enough to invade Egypt, Euergetes returned from Cyprus and in 128 Cleopatra II fled for protection to her daughter Cleopatra Thea, now married to Demetrius II of Syria. Strangely, she was to return to Egypt, and Euergetes survived until 116. What happened to his sister-wife Cleopatra II after her return is not known, but she presumably predeceased him as her daughter, Cleopatra III, inherited Egypt by Euergetes' will.

Cleopatra III

Cleopatra III, now queen-mother and regent for her two young sons, soon proved that she was as strong-willed as any of her ancestors. Although the younger son, Ptolemy X Alexander I, was her favourite, the two boys had, by popular pressure, to be seen to rule jointly with her so the elder, Ptolemy IX Soter II, was associated with them. He began building the temple of Hathor at Dendera, to which many of his successors added, including Cleopatra VII (below) and several of the Roman emperors. In 106 BC Ptolemy IX, whose nickname was 'lathyrus' (chickpea), fled to Cyprus because he had been accused of plotting to murder his mother. Since Cleopatra had always favoured Ptolemy Alexander, there is a strong possibility that the charge was false in an attempt to dispose of Ptolemy Soter. Cleopatra took her younger son, Ptolemy Alexander, to be her consort, and he may well have had a hand in her death at the age of 60 in 101 BC.

Ptolemy X practised the gross excesses of his immediate forebears and was so huge that he was incapable of walking on his own without support. As with Ptolemy VIII, the Egyptians eventually turned against him; - he fled but was killed sea between Lycia and Cyprus. The older brother, Ptolemy IX, was therefore able to return and claim his throne, dying in 80 BC aged 62.

Ptolemy IX had no legitimate male heir so he left the throne to his daughter Berenice. She needed to have a male consort and a nephew, Ptolemy XI Alexander II, was found to marry her,- but Ptolemy disliked Berenice, who was older than him. Foolishly he decided to reign alone and had her murdered within a month of their wedding. However, the queen had been a popular choice with the people, and he was lynched after a 19-day reign. This left a royal vacuum on the throne again. The only male descendants of Ptolemy I available, albeit illegimate, were the sons of Ptolemy IX by an Alexandrian Greek concubine whose name is not even known. They were then living in safe exile at the court of Mithridates VI of Pontus at Sinope. The eldest of the boys was proclaimed king as Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos and, to complete the royal pair, he married his sister Tryphaena.

Rome was now the major factor in all Mediterranean politics and Ptolemy XII sought to legitimize his rule not only by an Egyptian coronation but also with Roman approval. Like his predecessors, his habits were not to the liking of the populace - he earned the nickname 'auletes' (the flute player) - and his heavy taxes and fauning attitude to Rome made history repeat itself. He fled to Rome, driven out of the country by the people.

Once more the throne of Egypt was vacant with only a female heir, Ptolemy XII's daughter Berenice. She needed a male consort and was married to a Seleucid cousin. As strong-willed as her female forebears, she had him strangled within a week of their wedding and then took as her husband Archelaus, whom she knew as a friend from her exile at the court of Mithridates VI. They ruled for a brief period of four years whilst Ptolemy XII plotted in Rome to regain his throne.

He needed two things initially to achieve this: recognition by the Roman Senate, and an army. A large bribe to Julius Caesar (underwritten from Egyptian revenues) secured the first, and a similar large bribe to the pro-consul of Syria, Gabinius, secured the use of his three legions. They marched on Alexandria and in the conflict Archelaus was killed, Berenice captured, imprisoned and then murdered. Ptolemy XII had returned but ruled Egypt only by virtue of the backing of the Roman legions. His second reign lasted just four years. History records that Ptolemy XII was neither valiant nor religious, despite the fact that he is so represented in the reliefs he completed on the temple pylons at Edfu and Philae.
  
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