, pub-5063766797865882, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 Ptolemaic Dynasty in Ancient Egypt Part 3/3 ~ Ancient Egypt Facts

April 25, 2012

Ptolemaic Dynasty in Ancient Egypt Part 3/3

Ptolemy IV married his sister Arsinoe in 217, and she produced an heir seven years later. The king then turned his affections to another woman, Agathoclea, who, with her brother Agathocles, encouraged his excesses. They were probably the cause of his death at the age of 41, leaving his sister-wife Arsinoe, who was soon poisoned by Sosibius and Agathocles, and his young son who became Ptolemy V Epiphanes. The conspirators then appointed themselves the five-year-old king's guardians, but suspicion about the events had been aroused. Matters came to a head when the popular general Tlepolemus, who held Egypt's eastern frontier fortress Pelusium, rescued the king and the mob broke into the royal palace at Alexandria and lynched Agathocles and his sister Agathoclea.

Gold octadrachm issued by Ptolemy IV Philopator, British Museum
The map of Ptolemaic possessions and naval bases around the Mediterranean was shrinking as other rulers took advantage of Egypt's internal weaknesses to seize them. As an endeavour to settle the civil commotions, it was decided to crown the now 12-year-old Ptolemy V as king at the old capital of Memphis and make grants of land and tax remissions. Much of this is recorded in the decree of the priests of Memphis in 196 BC and inscribed in three scripts (hieroglyphs, demotic and Greek) on the Rosetta Stone found in 1799.

An uneasy peace was made with Syria in 192 when Ptolemy V married Cleopatra (I), the daughter of Antiochus the Great. In the last 13 years of his reign they had two sons and a daughter, of whom the elder boy became Ptolemy VI, Philometor, at roughly the same age as his father had become king. His mother acted as regent, but when she died five years later two greedy officials, Eulaeus and Lenaeus, appointed themselves guardians, much as had happened under the previous Ptolemy. They were foolish enough to declare war on Antiochus IV in 170 and were soundly beaten near Pelusium. The young Ptolemy was now Antiochus' prisoner and so the Egyptians declared Ptolemy's younger brother, also Ptolemy, and his sister Cleopatra, king and queen.

The curious situation thus arose of there being two Ptolemies, brothers, both nominally declared rulers of Egypt. Both sides - the Egyptians on behalf of the younger brother (Ptolemy Euergetes), and Antiochus (holding Ptolemy Philometor, his own nephew) - appealed to Rome as the major power for aid. The outcome was that Ptolemy Philometor ruled in the old capital of Memphis, and his younger brother Euergetes in Alexandria with his sister Cleopatra.

Antiochus IV returned to Syria in 169, but he was still a dominant power in Egypt by virtue of his protection of Ptolemy VI, which was an anathema to the brothers and sister alike. They, therefore, joined forces and appealed to Rome for help against Antiochus. Antiochus for his part marched to Pelusium, where he demanded control not only of this frontier fortress, but also Cyprus, an Egyptian possession. Both were denied him so he marched on Memphis and then turned north to Alexandria. At that moment Rome's hands were tied because of her involvement in the Macedonian war with Perseus, but on 22 June 168, at the battle of Pydna, Perseus was defeated. Rome was now free to respond to the Ptolemaic plea and a three-man mission sailed for Alexandria, led by Caius Popilius Laenas.

The confrontation between the Senate's representatives and Antiochus IV took place in July outside Alexandria at Eleusis. The Senate's decree was that Antiochus should vacate Egypt and Cyprus immediately. He asked for time to consider. Popilius refused and, taking his stick and drawing a circle in the sand around Antiochus' feet, demanded his answer before he left the circle. Antiochus realized that Rome was now the major state in the Mediterranean; he had no option but to comply with the Senate's demand. Ptolemy VI was confirmed as ruler in Egypt and his younger brother, Euergetes, was made king of Cyrenaica.

The next quarter-century of Ptolemy VI's reign passed quietly with Egypt prospering. In 145, however, he was mortally wounded in battle in Syria, where he had gone in support of his daughter, Cleopatra Thea who was married to the dissolute Alexander Balas (150-146 BC). Alexander was to be removed ( and subsequently beheaded by his own soldiers) and Demetrius II became king, similarly marrying Cleopatra Thea.

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