Ptolemy I Soter
gigatos | November 13, 2021
Ptolemy I Soter – satrap, and then the king of Egypt in 323-283282 BC. companion of Alexander the Great, one of the diadochs. Founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty.
The Year and Youth of Ptolemy
Very little is known about Ptolemy”s youth. Ptolemy (from polemos – “war”), later nicknamed Soter (“Savior”) for helping the Rhodesians, was the son of Laga (Hare), a tribal leader from Eordea (now Macedonia), a man of no fame, though a noble family, whose material well-being was based on landed estates. Legend called Ptolemy the native son of the Macedonian king Philip II (thus making him Alexander”s half-brother). His mother Arsinoe was supposedly Philip”s mistress, who had given her in marriage to Lagus already pregnant. But this was probably invented to legitimize the new Egyptian dynasty. Arsinoia was later represented by official genealogy as related to the Macedonian royal family, and perhaps not without reason.
The year of Ptolemy”s birth is also disputed. According to the Longitudes, a work which was unreasonably attributed to Lucian, Ptolemy lived 84 years and thus must have been born around 367 B.C. Although this date is regarded as correct, it still seems too early. It is customary to accept a time of about 360 B.C., since this year of birth agrees well with the other dates of Ptolemy”s life.
Ptolemy was one of Alexander”s closest friends from his early youth. In his time, when it became known of Alexander”s desire to marry Ada, daughter of Pixodar, satrap of Caria, Philip II in anger expelled from Macedonia all friends of his son, and Ptolemy among them. After Philip”s assassination in 336 B.C., Ptolemy returned with Alexander from Epirus, where they had been in exile, to Macedonia. Although he did not yet hold any prominent position, Alexander trusted him wholeheartedly and appointed him his bodyguard.
Warlord under Alexander
In the initial period of Alexander”s campaign to Asia, Ptolemy was not particularly noticeable, although he certainly accompanied the king throughout this period. Until 330 B.C., when he assumed the honorary position of royal bodyguard (Greek σωματοφύλαξ) instead of Demetrius, implicated in the conspiracy of Philota, his name is mentioned only twice. At the battle of Issus he is already named among the generals, though in a secondary role. During the battle at the Gates of the Perseids Ptolemy led a detachment of 3000 men who captured the Persian camp. Alexander began assigning independent combat tasks to Ptolemy after the battle of Gaugamela. In Bactria he sent him in pursuit of Bessus. According to Arrian, Ptolemy rode in four days the distance normally covered in ten days, captured Bess in one of the villages, and delivered him to Alexander. At the suppression of the revolt in Sogdiana, Alexander divided the whole army into five parts, and entrusted Ptolemy to command one of them. Ptolemy also showed a notable role as a commander of one of the units of the army in the capture of a fortified place called the “Rocks of Chorien”.
Ptolemy was among the leading commanders during the Indian campaign, where his prowess became especially noticeable. He proved to be not only a talented military leader, capable of commanding both special detachments allocated to carry out a particular operation and large parts (up to a third) of the Macedonian army. He was also distinguished by his personal courage. Already at the very beginning of the campaign, in the region of the Aspasians, Ptolemy proved himself in a battle with a local prince.
“Ptolemy, son of Lagus, saw the leader of the Indians there on the hill; around him stood warriors with shields. Ptolemy had far fewer men, but still he rushed after him, at first on horseback. The horse, however, had difficulty in climbing the hill; Ptolemy jumped down from it, gave the reins to one of the shield-bearers, and himself, as he was, ran after the Indus. When he saw that Ptolemy was near, he and his warriors turned to face him. The Indus struck Ptolemy in the chest with a long spear; the armor delayed the blow. Ptolemy pierced Indus”s thigh, knocked him to the ground, and stripped him of his armor. The warriors at the sight of their fallen prince trembled and ran; those who had settled in the mountains, seeing their leader”s body being picked up by their enemies, seized with grief, ran down, and a fierce fight ensued on the hill. On the hill was Alexander himself, arriving with his infantrymen, whom he again rushed. In spite of this assistance, the Indians were with difficulty driven back up the hill and possessed the body of the chief.”
After a while Alexander gave Ptolemy command over a third of his army, and he himself moved against the barbarians, who had taken up defenses on the heights. However, the enemies came down from the mountains and attacked Ptolemy, who remained on the plain. He fought the Indians, surrounded them on all sides, but left a free space in case the barbarians wanted to escape. With this military stratagem the enemy was defeated and fled into the mountains. Later, on the banks of the Indus, Alexander had to take a steep, impregnable cliff, on top of which many enemies were entrenched. Taking light infantry, Alexander instructed Ptolemy to go around the cliff and enter it in a place where no one was waiting for him. Together with local guides, Ptolemy, moving along a very difficult, barely passable road, climbed the rock before the barbarians saw him. Having fortified his position with a palisade and a moat, he lit a huge fire on the mountain. Alexander saw the fire and the next day led his army to the cliff. The barbarians fought back, and there was nothing Alexander could do because of the natural difficulties. The barbarians, realizing that Alexander could not go on the attack, turned and attacked Ptolemy”s detachment themselves. A fierce battle ensued between them and the Macedonians; the Indians tried their best to tear down the palisade, while Ptolemy tried to keep his position. He managed to hold out until nightfall. And the next day, following the same road, Alexander ascended the rock; and joined with Ptolemy. Frightened by this, as well as by the siege work that had begun, the Indians fled.
At the crossing of Gidasp Ptolemy commanded the part of the army that diverted the attention of King Porus and allowed Alexander to cross the river safely. He also proved himself worthy in the battle between the Macedonian army and the huge army of King Porus. Later, in the land of the Cafes, at the siege of Sangara, Alexander instructed Ptolemy to guard the place where the enemy was most likely to break through. Ptolemy ordered abandoned carts and spears dug into the ground in the path of possible retreat. When the enemies went to break through in the darkness, their lines immediately broke up. Ptolemy attacked them, killed many, and drove the rest back into the city During the march down the Indus, Ptolemy commanded a third of the Macedonian army and, in doing so, took very many cities.
Some authors also attribute to him a share in the glory of saving Alexander”s life when the latter was seriously wounded in storming a city in the Land of Mallorus, for which he allegedly received the nickname Soter (“Savior”). But, as Arrian and Curtius Rufus testify, Ptolemy himself stated in his records that he did not take part in this battle, but fought in other places and with other barbarians, leading his own army.
From numerous testimonies we see that Ptolemy is constantly near the king, protecting him and trying to soften his angry, explosive character. Thus he makes every effort to save Clyta the Black from Alexander”s rage, but the latter was still killed by the king in a drunken quarrel. Alexander”s confidence in Ptolemy increased after the discovery of the so-called “plot of the pageboys,” of which Ptolemy learned from Eurilochus, son of Arceus. Athenaeus, with reference to Haret, writes:
“The tasters of food were called aedeaters (ε̉δεάτρως); they ate the king”s food so that the king would not be poisoned. Later the title of aedeater came to mean the head of all the servants; it was a high and honorable position. At least Haret writes in the third book of the Histories that Alexander”s aedeater was Ptolemy Soter himself.
Alexander also responded to him with love and respect. Many ancient historians retell the story that when Ptolemy was wounded by a poisoned arrow and faced imminent death, Alexander was so saddened by it that he did not leave the patient”s bedside for a moment. Alexander fell asleep there and in his dream he saw a snake or a dragon that brought him an antidote herb. With the help of this dream the herb was found and Ptolemy was saved. Ptolemy was not only dear to the king, but also respected by the entire Macedonian army. Curtius Rufus relates:
“He was related to the king by blood; it has even been claimed that he was the son of Philip and undoubtedly the son of his concubine. He was the king”s bodyguard, the bravest fighter and even more valuable assistant in times of peace; he had the moderation of a civil figure, he was pleasant in manner, easily accessible, there was not a trace of royal arrogance in him. It was hard to say to whom he was more dear: the king or the people.
And it was Ptolemy, among the few who managed to persuade Alexander to order the end of the campaign and the return of the extremely weary army home, although the king himself did not want to hear about it.
During the extremely difficult return march through the desert regions of Gedrosia, when many people died of thirst, hunger, and heat, Ptolemy once again commanded one of the three main units of the Macedonian army, namely, the one that moved along the sea itself. At the celebrations at Susa he was honored with a golden wreath and at the same time received Artacama, the sister of Barsina, as his wife). Ptolemy also accompanied Alexander in his last campaign against the warlike Cossaeans.
It is clear from all these facts listed that at the time of Alexander”s death few of his friends and commanders were as prominent as Ptolemy, son of Lagos.
Satrap of Egypt
At the meeting of the diadochs after Alexander”s death, Ptolemy held the view that the state could not be entrusted into weak hands. Therefore, he opposed all the proposed heirs of Alexander – his brother Arridaeus, the son of Hercules, born by Barcina or that child (if it was a boy) that Roxana was to give birth to. Instead of them he suggested choosing a king from among the diadochs themselves, the one who was closest to the king because of his high merits, who ruled the provinces and to whom the soldiers were subordinated. By the will of the majority, however, Philip III Arrideus, Alexander”s feeble-minded half-brother, was chosen king, but the real power was exercised by the great Macedonian generals, and chiefly by Perdiccas, whose specific functions, still unclear to modern scholars, were probably already the subject of dispute among the leaders themselves in the confused struggle which began after the sudden death of the great conqueror. It is clear that Perdiccas was determined to assume the position of supreme regent of the empire. Perdiccas seems to have looked upon Ptolemy as one of his most formidable rivals, but Ptolemy was too wise to show his strength prematurely. Under these circumstances and the distribution of satrapies that followed, Ptolemy realized that he wanted Egypt for himself and tried to get away as quickly as possible to a safe distance from the future skirmish that he had foreseen in his foresight.
About five months after Alexander”s death, Ptolemy arrived in Egypt as satrap. He was assisted by Cleomenes, who had been appointed satrap by Alexander and was in charge of building Alexandria. Ptolemy first had Cleomenes killed, considering him a supporter of Perdiccas and therefore a man who could not be considered loyal and faithful. Antique tradition is far from favorable to Cleomenes, and we would not be mistaken to see here the influence of Ptolemy, who tried with all his might to discredit the Greek. But the government which Cleomenes exercised under Alexander is not to be blamed, nor is his policy of accumulation, by which he collected a great quantity of minted coins – as if it were not less than eight thousand talents. Ptolemy immediately used them to recruit the troops that the glory of his name should have attracted in sufficient numbers, and to raise the welfare of the country entrusted to him, which had been thrown into deepest poverty by the selfish rule of Cleomenes.
Immediately upon entering the satrapy, Ptolemy gave out fifty talents of silver for the burial of Apis. In the name of King Philip and Alexander he ordered, as attested by hieroglyphic inscriptions, the restoration of the temples at Karnak, Luxor and other places partially destroyed by the Persians. Ptolemy”s exceptionally intelligent management soon succeeded in attracting the Egyptians to him, so that in the wars that followed they never once betrayed him. The kings of his neighborhood were favored by him through various favors and services.
Ptolemy I”s conquests outside Egypt began with his invasion of Cyrenaica in 322 BC. In the days of turmoil after Alexander”s death a civil war broke out in those places; one side was led by the Spartan mercenary Fibron, the other by the Cretan Mnasicles. Refugees belonging to the defeated side went to Egypt to beg the satrap to intervene. Ptolemy sent a land and sea force to Cyrene, under the command of the Ophellian in his service, who were to occupy the country. The two mercenaries joined forces to fight against him. Ophellus defeated them, captured Fibron and crucified him. Then in late 322 (or, at the latest, in 321 B.C.), Ptolemy himself also came to Cyrene to see to it that order was restored. Ophelles was left at Cyrene as governor.
The conquest of a state so outstanding, with more than a century”s tradition of republican freedom since the fall of the former Greek dynasty of its rulers, by a Macedonian leader made a tremendous impression on the Greek world. The Cyrenians never accepted the role of a dependent province. In the future they were often not a help to the Macedonian kings of Egypt, but a thorn in their side. Yet Cyrene gave Hellenistic Egypt a whole list of brilliant personalities, such as the poet Callimachus, the geographer Eratosthenes, and also supplied Egypt with many warriors. Judging from the papyri, there was a significant proportion of Cyrenian warriors among the colonists of Fayum and Upper Egypt.
In the same year 322 B.C. Alexander”s body was brought to Egypt with great pomp, but by that time it had not yet found its final resting place. Alexander himself wished to be buried in the shrine of Amon in the oasis of Siva, but this wish was never fulfilled. Perdiccas wanted to send the king”s body to the distant Aegis (in Macedonia), the city of the ancient Macedonian kings and the location of their tombs. However, Arrideus, who had been commissioned to transport the king”s body, refused to carry out this order. Ptolemy realized that the prestige of his state, which he had already mentally created for himself in Egypt, would increase infinitely if it possessed the body of the great Macedonian hero, which as an object of worship had an extraordinary influence on the minds of men. So he, accompanied by an impressive military escort, met the motorcade back in Syria and persuaded Arridaeus to transport Alexander”s body to Egypt.
Pausanias reports that the body was first buried in the ancient coronation center, Memphis, until Ptolemy”s son transported it to Alexandria some forty years later. Diodorus and other ancient authors say that it was the first Ptolemy who laid Alexander”s body in the so-called Seme (“tomb”) in Alexandria. Perhaps this is true, and Pausanias” statement in such a case would be explained simply by the fact that the body had been in Memphis for several years, until the tomb in Alexandria was ready to receive it. Alexander was the founder of the city, and Ptolemy ordered that the highest honors be accorded him. Henceforth Alexander was the patron and patron of the Ptolemaic power for as long as it existed. At his tomb for the worship of the late king were Alexander”s special priests. They came from noble families belonging to the Macedonian aristocracy, and on occasion this position was replaced by the Ptolemies themselves.
The Wars of the Diadochians
Arridaeus” unauthorized appearance, his meeting with Lagis in Syria, and their further actions contrary to the orders given, were acts of manifest indignation against the highest authority in the state, deserving the same punishment. In the same year Ptolemy was visited by envoys of Antigonus and Crater, offering to make an alliance against Perdiccas. Ptolemy, who had been an enemy of Perdiccas before, and was now even more concerned about his increased power, agreed. On learning of the alliance formed against him, Perdiccas decided to march with his main forces against Egypt, leaving Eumenes” army in Asia to hold back Antigonus and Crater.
In the spring of 321 B.C. the king”s troops, led by Perdiccas and Philip III Arridaeus, approached the Nile and stood close to Pelusium. By this time, Perdiccas” rude ways, his exorbitant overbearing and cruelty, as well as his completely open desire for royal power, had become known to all. Many old friends deserted him and fled to Ptolemy, who was generous, just, and considerate to his friends. To the old veterans he resembled Alexander in some way. They were eager to serve under his banner and to do his bidding.
“Men, owing to his mercy and noble heart, eagerly flocked from all sides to Alexandria and gladly signed up to take part in the campaign, though the royal army was determined to fight against Ptolemy; and, though the risk was obvious and great, they all readily assumed, as their own risk, the security of Ptolemy. The gods also rescued him unexpectedly from the greatest dangers because of his courage and honesty toward all his friends.”
When Perdiccas sensed the danger of Ptolemy”s charm, he tried to soften his temper somewhat, and to buy his lack of affection with rich gifts and tempting promises. Having thus strengthened his popularity, he besieged Ptolemy in a fortified point called the Camel Fort. When the Macedonians marched in for an assault, Ptolemy, armed with a long spear, blinded one of the elephants from the rampart himself, and then killed many of the Macedonians and threw them down the wall. Having exhausted his forces in fruitless assaults, Perdiccas decided to begin crossing the Nile. But as the army was wading across the broad river, the water level suddenly began to rise rapidly. Many Macedonians drowned, were killed by the enemy or were eaten by crocodiles. More than 2,000 people died, and this was the last straw that broke the Macedonians” patience. At night, complaints and curses were heard throughout the Macedonian camp. In this atmosphere of general anger several commanders conspired against Perdiccas. Python was at its head. Approaching Perdiccas” tent, they suddenly attacked and killed him (July 321 B.C.). After this, the whole army went over to Ptolemy”s side. Only the few who remained loyal to Perdiccas fled to Tyre. It was there that Attalus, Perdiccas” navarch, sailed with his fleet from Pelusium. After Perdiccas” death Ptolemy I was offered the place of imperial regent. But Ptolemy was always aware of the extraordinary difficulties of governing and maintaining the unity of the empire and refused. In the fall of 321 B.C. the victorious leaders, belonging to the party opposed to Perdiccas, met at Triparadis, a city somewhere in the north of Syria, to agree again on the division of power in the empire. Ptolemy”s right to rule Egypt and Cyrenaica was confirmed. Probably during this same period Ptolemy strengthened his alliance with the new regent Antipater by marrying his daughter Eurydice.
However, in the next year, 320 BC, Ptolemy realized that Phoenicia and Caesarea were a convenient springboard for an attack on Egypt and wished to add these regions to his possessions. He first tried to persuade the local satrap Laomedontes to cede Syria and Phoenicia to him for a large sum of money, but he would not agree to it. Then, in a direct violation of the agreements, he sent his general Nicanor, who conquered Syria and Phoenicia in a short time, and took Laomedontes prisoner, but he, bribing the guards, fled to Caria. After securing the cities of Phoenicia and stationing garrisons there, Nicanor returned to Egypt. According to Josephus Flavius, it was at this time that Ptolemy cunningly seized Jerusalem. After learning about Jewish customs, he entered Jerusalem on the Sabbath, under the pretext of offering a sacrifice, and took the city easily. He sent many of the Jews into Egypt. However, when Ptolemy became convinced that they had kept their oaths, he accepted the Jews into his army as well as the Macedonians.
The death of Antipater in 319 B.C. caused a great change in the balance of power of the Macedonian leaders; Ptolemy was now forced to maintain an alliance with Cassander and Antigonus against Eumenes, on whose side were the new regent Polyperchon and Alexander the Great”s mother Olympias. Ptolemy first equipped a fleet with which he sailed to the coast of Cilicia and began operations against Eumenes, with little result; Eumenes, in turn, began to threaten Phoenicia unjustly held by Ptolemy, also, however, without success. Since the war eventually moved to the upper provinces of Asia, Ptolemy had to content himself with a passive role as an observer. Ptolemy did not participate in further war, but by the end of summer 316 BC remained an ally of Antigonus, who by that time had conquered the whole of Asia. Finally, the decisive victory of Antigonus over Eumenes raised the former ally to such heights of power that he became hardly less dangerous to his own than his former enemies.
The situation changed when Seleucus, the satrap of Babylonia, fled to Egypt. Ptolemy received Seleucus very favorably. Seleucus spoke much about the power of Antigonus, saying that Antigonus had decided to remove from the satraps all men of high standing and in particular those who had served under Alexander; he cited the murder of Python, the removal of Peucestus from Persia, and his own experiences as examples of this. He also made a survey of Antigonus” vast military forces, his incalculable wealth, and his recent successes, and concluded that as a result he had become arrogant and cherished in his ambitious plans to acquire the entire Macedonian kingdom. Ptolemy was imbued with his arguments and sent ambassadors on his behalf to Cassander and Lysimachus to raise a war against Antigonus as well. When the coalition was formed, Ptolemy, Cassander and Lysimachus sent their ambassadors to Antigonus, demanding that he share his conquered provinces and treasures. Otherwise they threatened war. Antigonus sternly replied that he was already ready for war with Ptolemy. The ambassadors left with nothing.
In the spring of 315 B.C. Antigonus began hostilities by invading Syria, quickly regained his power in Phoenicia, and laid siege to Tyre, the most important of all the Phoenician cities. Since Ptolemy prudently kept all the ships from Phoenicia and their crews in Egypt, he undoubtedly had the upper hand at sea. Antigonus, on the other hand, did not even have a few ships. While besieging Tyre he assembled the kings of the Phoenicians and the governors of Syria and instructed them to assist him in building ships, intending to have 500 ships by the summer. Continuing the siege of Tyre, Antigonus simultaneously advanced southward and stormed the cities of Joppa and Gaza. He distributed the captured soldiers of Ptolemy in his ranks and garrisoned each city.
Having lost the Phoenician ports on the Syrian coast, Ptolemy sent his generals to Cyprus, which he needed as a naval base in the struggle against Antigonus. The island of Cyprus, with its mixed Greek-Phoenician population, was not united. Several regions of Cyprus were ruled by independent kings. Some of them sided with Antigonus; the dynasties of Sol, Salamis, Paphos, and Cythera supported Ptolemy. With the arrival of Ptolemy”s army his authority over the whole island began to be established. At the same time Ptolemy sent to the Peloponnesus with fifty ships his naval commander, Polyklemus, who was to fight there against the supporters of Antigonus and to draw the Greeks to his side, promising them freedom. He sent Myrmidon, an Athenian in his service, with mercenaries to Caria to help Asandrus, the satrap there, an ally of Ptolemy I, who had been attacked by Ptolemy”s strategist, Antigonus” nephew. Seleucus and Menelaus, the king”s brother, remained in Cyprus with King Nicocreon and other allies, and had to wage war against the hostile Cypriot cities. They soon captured the cities of Cyrene and Lapitha, secured the support of Stasioicus, king of Marion, forced the governor of Amathus to bail, and conducted a persistent siege with all their forces of the city of Sityene, whom they were unable to force to join them.
But Polycletus, learning that the Peloponnesus had voluntarily passed into the hands of Cassander, sailed to Aphrodisias in Cilicia, for he knew that the naval commander Antigonus Theodotus was sailing to meet him, and that Perilaus and his army accompanied him ashore. Disembarking his soldiers, he concealed them in a suitable place, where it was inevitable that the enemy should pass, and he himself with his fleet took refuge behind the cape. Perilaus” army was first ambushed; Perilaus was taken prisoner, some were killed during the battle, and others were taken prisoner. Then Polycletus, with his fleet built for battle, suddenly sailed out in front of Theodotus and easily defeated the discouraged enemy. The result was that all the ships were captured and also a considerable number of men, among them Theodotus himself, who was wounded and died a few days later.
In 314 B.C. Tyre finally fell into the hands of Antigonus. He, using the ships already built, besieged Tyre from the sea, cut off the supply of bread and stood under the city for a year and three months. Ptolemy”s soldiers were forced to conclude a treaty under which they were freely released with their belongings, and Antigonus brought his garrison into the city and from that moment he became the undisputed master of Syria and Phoenicia. When Antigonus learned that Cassander was strongly pressuring his commanders in Asia Minor, he left his son Demetrius in Caesarea with a considerable army to cover a possible attack by Ptolemy from Egypt, while he himself hurried northward.
But Ptolemy could not move to liberate his Asian provinces; he was prevented by the revolt of his subjects in Cyrenaica. After nine years of submission to a foreign Macedonian ruler, the city of Cyrene revolted in the summer of 313 BC and besieged the citadel with an Egyptian garrison, and when ambassadors from Alexandria arrived and told them to stop the revolt, they killed them and continued to attack the citadel with more energy. Enraged at them, Ptolemy sent the strategist Agis with a land army and also sent a fleet to take part in the war, entrusting Epaenetus in command. Agis vigorously attacked the rebels and took the city by storm. Those who were guilty of sedition he chained and sent to Alexandria, and then, stripping others of their arms and ordering the affairs of the city in some way that seemed best to him, he returned to Egypt. But the rebellion in Cyrenaica did not stop there, but on the contrary, it became even more heated, and the rebellion was led by Ofella himself (perhaps he had led it from the beginning). Ophella soon achieved full independence. How this happened, we do not know, but later we see Ofella as an independent ruler.
In the same year Ptolemy personally crossed to Cyprus with a large army and completed the conquest of the island. When he discovered that Pygmalion (Pumaiyaton), the Phoenician ruler of Cithion, had negotiated with Antigonus, he sentenced him to death. He also arrested Praxippus, king of Lapithia and ruler of Kerinia, whom he suspected of ill treatment, as well as Stasioicus, ruler of Marion, by destroying the city and relocating the inhabitants to Paphos. After completing these affairs he appointed Nicocreon as strategist of Cyprus, giving him both the cities and the revenues of the kings who had been banished. Then he sailed with his army to what is called Upper Syria, captured and plundered Posedion (at the mouth of the Orontes) and Potam Caron. Then he did not hesitate to go to Cilicia, where he took Maly and sold into slavery whom he captured there. He also plundered neighboring lands, and after saturating his army with booty, sailed for Cyprus. His actions were so swift that Demetrius, who rushed to the rescue of Malachi, made his way from Caesarea to Cilicia in only six days, but did not find anyone there.
Then he went to Egypt for a short time, but at the instigation of Seleucus he drew troops from everywhere and in the spring of 312 B.C. marched from Alexandria to Pelusium with 18,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry. His army included some Macedonians and some mercenaries, but most were Egyptians. He intended to bring Caesarea back under his rule. When Demetrius I Polyorket learned of the Egyptian movement, he also drew troops to Gaza from everywhere. His friends advised him not to engage in battle against such great commanders as Ptolemy and Seleucus, but he did not listen. On the left flank, where Demetrius himself was going to be, he put 200 men of selected cavalry, 500 Tarentians with spears and 30 elephants, with light infantry in between. In the center was a phalanx of 11,000 men (but the Macedonians were only 2,000). On the right flank was the remaining cavalry of 1,500 men. In front of the phalanx were 13 elephants and light infantry. Ptolemy and Seleucus, aware of Demetrius” plans, tried to strengthen their right wing. They themselves were going to fight here with 3,000 of the best cavalry. Against the elephants they prepared special soldiers with iron slingshots bound in chains. Many light infantry were also here to fight the elephants.
When the battle began, the main events unfolded on Demetrius” left flank. The battle here was very fierce, and the commanders fought as hard as anyone else. The elephants at first brought confusion into Ptolemy”s ranks, but when they reached the slings, they stopped. Almost all the Indians were slaughtered by Ptolemy”s peltasts. The elephants were thus left leaderless. Demetrius” cavalry then turned to flight. Demetrius himself begged his men to stand still, but they would not obey him. Restoring what order he could, Demetrius retreated with his cavalry to Gaza. The infantry retreated after him. The cavalry rushed to Gaza for their supplies. The crowds of people and cattle crowded the gates. It was impossible to close them, so Ptolemy”s warriors who came up managed to rush in and take the city. Demetrius, without entering Gaza, retreated northward all night and reached Azotus by morning. In this battle many of his friends fell, and in all he lost 8000 prisoners of war and 5000 killed. His enemies captured Demetrius” tent, his treasury, and all his servants. Ptolemy, however, returned the goods and servants, as well as Demetrius” captured friends, and kindly explained that the object of their struggle must be only glory and power. The whole of Phoenicia again fell back to Egypt. Only Andronicus, chief of the Tyre garrison, alone refused to surrender the city to Ptolemy, but soon a rebellion of soldiers began there, and Andronicus, seized by his own soldiers, was handed over to Ptolemy. Contrary to expectation, Ptolemy richly rewarded the prisoner, glorifying his loyalty, and accepted him among his friends.
The Battle of Gaza marks a whole epoch in history, for it was after this defeat of Demetrius that Seleucus saw that the road to return to Babylon was opening before him, and the birth of the Seleucid Empire in Asia dates from this year. Taking 1,000 soldiers (about 800 infantrymen and about 200 horsemen) from Ptolemy, Seleucus moved of his own accord with this small detachment to Babylon and in a short time conquered Mesopotamia and all the distant eastern satrapies
Then fate took an unexpected turn, as it often did in those stormy days. After the victory at Gaza, Ptolemy remained in Caesarea. Against Demetrius, who was camped in Upper Syria, he sent Cyllus the Macedonian, giving him enough troops, and ordered him to expel Demetrius entirely from Syria or to capture and destroy him. Demetrius, learning from his spies that Cyllus had camped carelessly at Mius, left his convoy in the rear, and with his lightly-armed soldiers made a reinforced march, and then, suddenly attacking the enemy at dawn, he captured the army, including the strategist himself, without a fight. Soon news came that Antigonus, with his entire army, had crossed the Taurus and joined his son. Ptolemy assembled the generals and began to hold a council with them. Most of them told him that the enemy was too numerous, and Antigonus himself too wise and experienced to fight in Syria, so far from Egypt, and not to risk everything at stake. Ptolemy agreed, ordered a retreat from Syria, and destroyed the most important cities he had captured; Akiah in Phoenician Syria, Joppa, Samaria, and Gaza. All the booty that could be taken away or carried away was taken to Egypt. Antigonus, on the other hand, restored his power in Syria and Phoenicia in a short time. At the same time Cyrene again revolted, this time not against Ophelles, but under his leadership. These were hard times for Ptolemy.
The following year, 311 B.C., Cassander, Ptolemy, and Lysimachus came to an agreement with Antigonus and concluded a peace treaty. In it were the terms that Cassander would be strategist of Europe until Alexander, son of Roxana, came of age; that Lysimachus ruled Thrace, and that Ptolemy ruled Egypt and the cities adjoining it in Libya and Arabia, that Antigonus was in charge in all Asia; and, that the Greeks had autonomy. But in reality they did not observe all these agreements; instead, each of them, offering plausible excuses, continued to seek to increase their possessions.
Nothing is known of the motives that led to the peace treaty of 311 BC, but probably all sides saw it as no more than a truce. It was only a brief respite from a long struggle, and soon the war continued as before. In the same year 311 B.C. the heir to the power, Alexander IV, son of Alexander the Great, was killed in Macedonia, which henceforth made Egypt an independent state and its satrap a full-fledged ruler. Ptolemy seems to have been the first to resume hostilities. From then on Ptolemy”s efforts were mainly directed toward the establishment of maritime domination. Ptolemy used the years that followed to establish strongholds for himself on the southern and western coasts of Asia Minor, as well as in Greece. In 310 B.C. he, under the pretext that Antigonus, in accordance with the treaty, had not withdrawn his troops from the Greek cities and granted them autonomy, sent a fleet, headed by Leonidas, to subdue the cities in mountainous Cilicia which belonged to Antigonus; and he also sent to the cities which were under Cassander and Lysimachus to cooperate with him and prevent the too strong ascendancy of Antigonus. But Demetrius waged a mighty campaign, defeated the strategists of Ptolemy and recovered the cities of Cilicia.
In 309 B.C. Ptolemy personally sailed with a large fleet to Lycia and landed at Phaselis and took that city. He then stormed Xanthos, where Antigonus was garrisoned. He went on to Caria, where he seized the city of Cavnus, as well as the other cities of that region. He also besieged Halicarnassus, but was driven back by the sudden arrival of Demetrius. He stormed Heracleum, but gained possession of Persicum when the soldiers there surrendered. Meanwhile, the Ptolemaic fleet operated from the island of Cos. Here, Ptolemy had a son – later Ptolemy II, nicknamed Philadelphus by his descendants. Ptolemy, Antigonus” nephew and one of his leading military leaders, also arrived there. Because of disagreements with his uncle, he left him and offered his services to the Egyptian king. Ptolemy received him kindly at first, but then, learning that he had become presumptuous and was trying to win the chiefs to his side by talking to them and lavishing them, fearing that he might form some conspiracy, he prevented this by arresting him and making him drink a drink of hemlock, while he lured his soldiers to his side with generous promises and distributed them among the soldiers of his army.
In the spring of 308 BC Ptolemy sailed with a strong fleet from Minda in Caria through the islands to the Peloponnese. By expelling the enemy garrison from Andros, Ptolemy took the first step toward establishing his protectorate over the Cycladic islands in the Aegean, which was to become an important factor in the Mediterranean region in the following years. Delos, the political center of the Cycladic archipelago, apparently because of its religious importance, was also wrested by Ptolemy around the same time from the power of Athens, to whom Delos had been subject for nearly two centuries. An inventory of temple property found on Delos mentions a vase with a dedication: “From Ptolemy, son of Lagus, to Aphrodite.” Having landed on Isthmus, he took possession of Sikion, Megara, and Corinth, planning to liberate other Greek cities as well, thinking that the kind attitude of the Greeks would give him great gain in his own enterprise, but when the Peloponnesians, having agreed to contribute with food and money, contributed nothing of what they had promised, the rulers in anger made peace with Cassander, by the terms of which each was to remain master of those cities which he held, and after providing Sikion and Corinth with garrisons, Ptolemy set out for Egypt. In this way he did not achieve much, but he was still able to secure the cities of Corinth, Sikyon, and Megara by garrisoning them. They were placed under the command of the strategist Cleonidas. However, these cities were the only possessions that Ptolemy then acquired in Greece, but they were under his power only for a short time, in any case, not later than 302 BC, when Antigonus and Demetrius, founding the Panhellenic Union at Corinth, created a new system of relations in Greece. This change, however, as we know, was very short-lived.
It is not known whether Ptolemy”s foreign policy in Greece had any far-reaching plans, or whether he, like the other Diadochi, simply wanted to make reckoning with himself. The Greek possessions could only be withheld from Egypt with great difficulty, and so after a few years they had to be abandoned. In any case the Greek policy of Lagidae remained a mere episode. It shows, however, that Ptolemy did not hesitate to abandon his enterprises if he knew that they were not altogether feasible. His forces were still insufficient to dominate most of Greece because they were needed elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Ptolemy attempted to establish a relationship with Cleopatra, the sister of Alexander the Great, who was then in Sardis, but Antigonus thwarted Ptolemy”s plans by ordering him to kill Cleopatra without hesitation. The marriage bond between Ptolemy and Cleopatra would undoubtedly have contributed greatly to the prestige of Lagis, for he would thus have been accepted into Alexander”s family. The image of the late king still had not lost its magical power then. It is true that Cleopatra was already about 47 years old at the time (she was born in about 355 B.C.), but that did not matter – the name of her great brother added value to her personality.
These successes at sea were matched by an important acquisition on Egypt”s western frontier: by 308 BC, it was possible to regain Cyrenaica, which had fallen away five years earlier. The ruler of Cyrenaica, Ophella, decided to expand the borders of his possessions at the expense of Carthage territory, allied with Agathocles, king of Syracuse, and with a strong army marched on Carthage. However, when Agathocles and Oephella joined him, the unsuspecting tyrant was killed by the Syracuse tyrant, and his entire army took the side of Agathocles, who lured him with generous promises. Taking advantage of the lack of troops in Cyrenaica, Ptolemy sent his stepson Maga to Cyrena and he easily brought the province back under Egyptian rule. Maga was made viceroy in Cyrene and was dependent on his stepfather for all purposes.
In 307 B.C. Demetrius succeeded in establishing his authority over most of Greece. He expelled Demetrius of Phalera from Athens and he fled to Egypt to Ptolemy. Demetrius Poliorchetus sent his man to Ptolemy”s general Cleonides, the chief of the guard detachments at Sikion and Corinth, and offered him money if he would free these cities, but Cleonides refused. Ptolemy seems to have remained indifferent to matters on the Greek mainland, and concentrated all his efforts on the defense of Cyprus, as Antigonus worked hard to wrest that important island from the hands of his rival. Antigonus” agents tried to entice the dynastes of Cyprus to his side. With one of them they succeeded – or at least Ptolemy thought they had – but it is not clear whether it was Nicocles, king of Paphos (as Diodorus writes), or whether it was Nicocreon, the dynast of Salamis, who served as governor of the province under Ptolemy – and he was forced by Ptolemy to commit suicide. In spite of the enemy intrigues, Ptolemy, for the time being, managed to retain power over Cyprus.
In 306 BC, having taken ships and an army from Cilicia, Demetrius Poliorchetus set out for Cyprus, with 15,000 infantry, 400 cavalry and 110 warships and 53 heavy transport ships. First he encamped near Carpasia, diverted the ships to safety, and fortified the camp with a moat and rampart. Then has won Ourania and Karpasiya, has left guards for protection of courts and has gone on Salamin. Here was Ptolemy”s brother Menelaus with the main forces. He came out to meet Demetrius with 12 thousand infantry and 800 cavalry, but was defeated. Demetrius pursued him as far as the city, slaughtered 1,000 and captured 3,000 men. He then brought out craftsmen from Asia with iron, timber, and other necessities, and ordered a siege tower to be built. His soldiers used battering rams to break down part of the wall of Salamis, but at night the besiegers made a sortie, surrounded the tower with brushwood, and set it on fire. The siege continued. Meanwhile, Ptolemy and his fleet arrived at Paphos in Cyprus and from there sailed to Kition. He had 140 ships and 12,000 infantry with him. Menelaus had another 60 ships of his own. Demetrius left some troops for the siege, put the rest on ships, put out to sea and began to wait for the battle, trying to prevent the two fleets from joining. He knew that Menelaus had received orders from his brother to attack Demetrius from behind in the midst of the battle and disrupt his fighting order. Against these 60 ships Demetrius put only 10, but it was enough to close the narrow exit from the harbor. Infantry and cavalry he placed on all far out in the sea headlands, and himself with 108 ships moved against Ptolemy. On the left flank he positioned his striking force – 30 Athenian triers under the command of Midius, in the center he positioned small ships, and the right flank he entrusted Plistius, the supreme helmsman of the entire fleet.
At dawn the battle began. Demetrius, after a stubborn battle, defeated Ptolemy”s right wing and put it to flight. Ptolemy himself in the meantime defeated Demetrius” left wing, but then his entire fleet began to retreat, and Ptolemy sailed to Cytium, with only eight ships. Demetrius gave chase to Neon and Burichus, and returned to the camp himself. Meanwhile Menelaus” nearchus Menetius was struggling to make his way out of the harbor, but it was too late. 70 Egyptian ships surrendered to Demetrius with their sailors and soldiers, the rest were sunk. As for the cargo ships anchored with innumerable crowds of slaves, women and Ptolemy”s cronies, with weapons, money and siege machines, Demetrius seized every last one of these ships.
After the sea battle Menelaus resisted briefly, he surrendered to Demetrius both Salamis and the fleet, as well as the land army – one thousand two hundred horsemen and twelve thousand infantrymen. Menelaus himself, as well as Ptolemy”s son Leontiscus – from one of his many mistresses – together with many of the commanders-in-chief fell into the hands of the victor. Demetrius, with the ostentatious nobility that befell the Macedonian aristocrats during their strife with each other, sent all the noble prisoners to Ptolemy without ransom. After this defeat Ptolemy was now forced to give up Cyprus, and his naval power was undermined for many years, with the consequence that dominance of the sea passed to Demetrius. Antigonus and Demetrius used this victory to justify their assumption of royal titles.
Encouraged by Demetrius” exploits in Cyprus, Antigonus moved against Ptolemy without delay. He summoned Demetrius from Cyprus, intending to launch a campaign into Egypt. According to Diodorus, he had 80,000 infantry, 8,000 cavalry, and 83 elephants with him. He entrusted the fleet to Demetrius, who had 150 triers and another 100 transport ships with supplies and weapons (but do not give too much credence to the figures quoted by ancient historians in this connection). But like the previous campaign undertaken by Perdiccas, this one too ended in failure. In terms of physical conditions, it would have been better for Antigonus to postpone the offensive until summer. The Nile floods in winter and navigation along the coast becomes difficult and dangerous because of the strong northwesterly winds. But the existence of the struggle for world domination, the consciousness of the need to strike at Ptolemy while he was still weak because of his losses in Cyprus, certainly did not allow Antigonus to drag out his enterprise.
Demetrius sailed from Gaza and sailed for a few days in calm weather, but then was caught in a fierce storm. Many ships sank, others returned to Gaza, and with only a small number of ships Demetrius reached Cassius. It was impossible to moor here. The storm continued, and supplies and fresh water were completely out. Soon Antigonus approached with an army, and the army, continuing its journey, came to the shore of the Nile. Ptolemy”s men, sailing along the shore, offered a reward to the defectors, a private two mines and a talent to the commander. Many of Antigonus” soldiers were seduced by this offer and defected to Ptolemy. Demetrius tried to land troops in one of the branches of the Nile, but met strong Egyptian units and catapults that prevented him from approaching. Attempts were made to land on the other arm, but also to no avail. Demetrius returned to the great annoyance of Antigonus, who could do nothing to help his son, being cut off by the full-flowing Nile. Soon the vast army began to feel hunger. Gathering a council, Antigonus listened to the opinions of the generals. All advised going back to Syria. And so they had to do so.
King of Egypt
This victory over Antigonus at the eastern border of Egypt seems to have served as the immediate occasion for Ptolemy to proclaim himself king. Prior to this he had been officially satrap to the kings Philip Arrideus and Alexander, but Arrideus was assassinated in 317 and Alexander in 309 BC. After that, it could no longer be pretended that there was a unified Macedonian empire. But the rival Macedonian chieftains did not immediately call themselves kings after the death of the boy king. Antigonus first did so in 306 BC after his victory at Salamis. The known written sources tell us that Ptolemy immediately followed the example of both rulers – Antigonus and Demetrius, seeking, no doubt, to show that in everything he was equal to them. However, according to the royal list of Alexandria, Ptolemy”s reign as king did not begin until November 305 BC, and this is confirmed by many demotic papyri as well as the Chronicle on Paros marble. Up to that time official documents in Egypt were still dated from the years of young Alexander”s reign even after his death. After Ptolemy accepted the royal title, the years of his reign in the official dating of documents after 305 B.C. began to be counted not from the moment of accepting the title, but from 324323 B.C.
Ptolemy himself no longer tried to claim the lands of Antigonus in the Peloponnese, but when in 304 BC the island city of Rhodes was besieged by Demetrius both by sea and by land, Ptolemy greatly assisted in the staunch defense of the Rhodesians. The citizens of Rhodes have not forgotten this service: they bestowed divine honors on Ptolemy I and called him Soter (“Savior”).
For the next two years the Egyptian king seems to have been only a passive spectator in the theater of hostilities in Greece, although in the course of them he lost Corinth and Sikyon, which Demetrius had seized from him. At the same time, Ptolemy and the other Diadochians realized that Antigonus would defeat each of them one by one until they united. In 302 B.C. a new great coalition was formed against Antigonus. Almost all the influential Diadochians were now gathered here: Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy. Having exchanged letters, they appointed the place, time and conditions of the meeting, and together they began to prepare for war. Ptolemy invaded Caelesiria for the third time, while the other three were concentrating forces against Antigonus in Asia Minor. Then news came that Antigonus had won a decisive victory and was marching on Syria. Ptolemy left the territory of Keleuciria for the third time. But the news turned out to be false. At the battle of Ipsus (301 B.C.), not far from Sinnada, in Asia Minor, Antigonus” army suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Lysimachus and Seleucus. Antigonus himself was killed and Demetrius fled.
The Allied victory at Ipsus raised a new controversial question in the political field – the Palestinian question, which was not resolved throughout the subsequent history of Hellenistic Egypt. According to the treaty concluded by the allies before the last battle with Antigonus, Palestine (Kelesiria) was apparently destined to Ptolemy in the event of victory. But it was only natural that the kings, who had actually borne the brunt of the battle of Ipsos, should have decided that the Egyptian king, who had not appeared at the decisive battle and had hastily fled from Caelysiria because of a false rumor, had no right to claim anything. According to the new treaty made by the victorious kings, Kelesiria was joined to Seleucus” Asian empire. Ptolemy refused to recognize the new treaty; Seleucus refused to honor the original treaty, believing it was no longer valid. Thus a conflict arose between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid dynasties that caused wars between them for many generations to come. After the battle of Ipsus, Ptolemy reoccupied Kelesiria for the fourth time.
“As for Seleucus, after the division of Antigonus” kingdom, he took his army and went to Phoenicia, where, in accordance with the terms of the agreement, he tried to annex Keleucia. But Ptolemy had already occupied the cities of that region, and condemned Seleucus, because, although he and Ptolemy were friends, Seleucus approved of assigning to himself the areas that belonged to Ptolemy; besides, he accused the kings of not giving him any part of the conquered lands, although he was an accomplice in the war against Antigonus. To these charges Seleucus replied that only those who had won on the field of battle should dispose of the spoils; but in the matter of Kelesiria, for the sake of friendship he would not quarrel yet, but would consider later how best to deal with friends who encroached on another”s rights.”
The Ptolemies managed to hold on to southern Syria (Kelessiria) and the Phoenician coast until 200 B.C.. In the coastal zone the boundary was between Calamus and Tripoli, so that the city of Arad was outside the Ptolemaic possessions. Away from the sea, however, the frontier turned sharply to the south; it ran roughly in a north-south direction between the mountains of Lebanon and Antiliwan, with Damascus retained by the Seleucids. In any case, however, the possession of southern Syria meant for Ptolemy an important extension of his power. It served as a kind of prelude (glacis) to the defense of Egypt and could easily be cleared away in case of need. It was also of great value economically, primarily because of the Lebanese cedar, since Egypt itself was a very poor country in forests.
In the years of relative peace that followed the battle of Ipsus, the three old men, Alexander”s three surviving companions, Ptolemy, Seleucus and Lysimachus, together with the second-generation kings – Cassander in Macedonia, Pyrrhus in Epirus and Demetrius, as yet wandering, deprived of the throne for the time being, conducted between them a complex game of diplomatic intrigue, now impossible to trace, in which tensions between the parties, friendship and enmity alternated with each other depending on the circumstances of the moment. The tension always turned into a new war, as when Demetrius seized the Macedonian throne in 294 B.C. after the death of Cassander, or when he attacked the kingdom of Lysimachus in 287 B.C. These new wars were already far from the limits of Ptolemy”s power, and did not require from him the tension that before, so the second half of his reign passed in relative repose. Since then Ptolemy practically ceased to interfere in the affairs of Asia Minor and Greece. He only took part in the diplomatic game and supported one or the other according to changing circumstances. Diplomatic marriages from time to time give us an indication of the state of affairs. Seleucus joined forces with Demetrius and Ptolemy with Lysimachus. Seleucus married Stratonica, daughter of Demetrius, and Lysimachus (between about 300 and 298 B.C.) married Arsinoe, daughter of Ptolemy. Then Alexander, son of Cassander, married another daughter of Ptolemy, Lysandra. Demetrius marries a third daughter, Ptolemais (wedding in 296 B.C.). Antigone, daughter of Ptolemy”s wife Berenice in her first marriage, is betrothed to Pyrrhus (another daughter of Berenice, Theoxena, marries Agathocles, ruler of Syracuse (about 300 BC). Finally, another Agathocles, son of Lysimachus, marries Ptolemy”s daughter Lysandra.
The conclusion of these marriages was due to Ptolemy I”s desire for domination of the sea. In general, Ptolemy”s special concern was the realization of an intelligent and far-sighted marriage policy with the help of his daughters, and if we look at the impressive number of his sons-in-law, we must give credit to Lagida – his marriage policy was successful. In it, as in other political fields, the wise prudence of Ptolemy I is evident.
After marrying Ptolemy”s stepdaughter, Pyrrhus, who had previously dwelt at the Egyptian court as a hostage, was supplied with money and sent with an army to Epirus to reclaim his kingdom, where the young prince quickly established himself on the throne, becoming an ally of Ptolemy in his struggle against Demetrius. When Demetrius besieged Athens (his fleet of a hundred and fifty ships stood off Aegina, but did nothing to prevent the fall of the city.
In 295-294 B.C., Ptolemy regained Cyprus. Cyprus was still under Demetrius” rule for six years after the battle of Ipsos. However, taking advantage of the fact that Demetrius was busy subjugating Greece, Ptolemy attacked the island and quickly captured it, with the exception of Salamis. The defense of the city against Ptolemy was led by Demetrius” courageous wife Phila, daughter of Antipater. She withstood the siege for a long time, but in the end she had to surrender. Demetrius, who faced the prospect of becoming a Macedonian king, could do nothing to help her. Ptolemy responded with the same generosity that Demetrius had expressed in 306 B.C. and sent Phila and her children to Demetrius in Macedonia “with gifts and honors. The island henceforth became an integral part of the Egyptian power.
By 288 BC Demetrius had gained such strength that Seleucus, Ptolemy, and Lysimachus were forced to unite against him again. They also brought Pyrrhus into the alliance, even though he had previously made a peace treaty with Demetrius. Ptolemy again sent a large fleet to the Greek coast and persuaded the cities to betray Demetrius. But apparently, on this role of the Egyptian king in this war and was limited, and the rapid transition of Demetrius” army on the side of Pyrrhus, made his presence in Greece quite unnecessary. In 287 B.C., when Athens rebelled against Demetrius, Ptolemy sent them 50 talents and some coins; but his fleet again did nothing to prevent Demetrius.
By about 287 B.C. the Egyptian fleet was once again dominant in the Aegean Sea and had returned to Ptolemy the protectorate over the league of the Cyclades Islands. For a time (between 294 and 287 B.C.) Ptolemy maintained close friendly relations with Miletus, which had come under Lysimachus” rule; apparently Ptolemy used his influence over his ally to secure tax exemption for the city. The end result of this policy was the creation of a maritime power in the eastern Mediterranean basin, whose main strongholds were the great coastal cities of Phoenicia, Cyprus, and the numerous Cycladic islands. King Philocles of Sidon was a zealous follower of both of the early Ptolemies.
Antique authors tell us something about the role Ptolemy played in the struggle between the world powers for forty years after Alexander”s death. But the available documents do not provide material for a coherent narrative about what was happening in Egypt during this time. We can only draw conclusions about the events taking place according to the conditions that subsequently developed in the country. In domestic politics, the reign of Ptolemy I signified a new phase. This was true not only of the local population of Egypt, but also of the other peoples who inhabited the Ptolemaic power. It is probable that Ptolemy further developed some of the principles of the policy of Alexander the Great. His particular task was to establish some modus vivendi (way of life) between the Greco-Macedonian ruling class and the natives. It would be a great delusion to think that the Egyptians were merely objects of ruthless exploitation. Ptolemy knew well what they meant to him: they were an invaluable labor force. The income of taxes in Egypt depended ultimately on the income of agriculture, which provided the livelihood of most of the indigenous population.
Ptolemy was indefatigable in developing and demonstrating the main features of the Hellenistic ideal of royal power: the king was the benefactor, savior and protector of his subjects. In principle, no distinction was made between Greeks and non-Greeks. For the most part, this view goes back to purely Greek ideas. However, the world of the pharaohs could not help but be touched by Ptolemy I. That is why in the depictions of the king on ancient monuments Greek and ancient Egyptian features are closely intertwined, and the latter come through under his successors the more clearly the longer the reign of the Ptolemaic dynasty lasted.
Ptolemy got on well with the local major landowners, but they had no decisive influence on the government of the country. In this respect he differed markedly from his idol, Alexander, who involved the Persian aristocracy in the affairs of government. Ptolemy moved the seat of government from Memphis to Alexandria for external reasons: Alexandria had an incomparable location for communications with Syria and the Aegean Sea basin and was one of the best sea harbors of the ancient world, second only to Carthage. By founding the city of Ptolemaida in Upper Egypt, Ptolemy created a special center that assumed the functions of the province”s main city. Unlike the Seleucids, the Egyptian ruler had a wise limitation when founding new cities: he was not interested in creating autonomous or at least semi-autonomous urban centers, as this would have created new problems in the governance of the country.
The power of Ptolemy I was based on the army and taxes. With their help he was able to carry out a very successful foreign policy, which was quite in the interests of the country and the dynasty. Ptolemy needed a constant influx of Macedonians and Greeks to replenish his army. Egypt was a country where power belonged to a minority of foreigners, and the native Egyptians, more than ten times the number of Greeks and Macedonians, were executors of duties in favor of a foreign dynasty, a condition to which, however, they had long been accustomed. In order to attract Greek soldiers, Ptolemy distributed plots of land to the newcomers, which they cultivated in peacetime and, in case of war, went to serve in the army. When one Macedonian leader in those days defeated another in battle, the warriors of the defeated side were often ready to en masse to serve the victor. In the end, for the Macedonians, the victor was also the national leader. Part of Perdiccas” defeated army in 321 BC may have found a new home in Hellenistic Egypt. Diodorus reports that after the battle of Gaza in 312 BC, Ptolemy sent more than 8,000 soldiers of the defeated army to Egypt and distributed them to certain areas. In all probability, the promised plot of Egyptian land soon attracted many Macedonian warriors to Egypt, tying them to this country with such ties that not even defeat in battle could break them. When Demetrius captured Ptolemy”s army in Cyprus in 306 B.C., many soldiers tried to return to Egypt, where they had families and possessions, instead of joining Demetrius.
The advisors of Ptolemy I belonged above all to Demetrius of Phaler, who gave the idea of founding a Museum in Alexandria, and also to the Egyptian priest Manethon of Sebennitus. To him we owe the history of the pharaohs, written in Greek. Unfortunately, it has reached us only in a few fragments.
Under Ptolemy I the cult of Serapis was introduced, originally intended to give a patron god to the new capital, Alexandria, and at the same time, according to Egyptian notions, to the Ptolemaic dynasty and their state in general. This interesting fact is told by various ancient authors with many variants, chiefly by Plutarch and Tacitus. The introduction of the cult is shrouded in a veil of mystery. To Ptolemy a handsome young man of great stature appeared in a dream and commanded to deliver himself from Pontus. The Egyptian priests know nothing of this country, and Ptolemy forgets his dream. A second apparition causes him to question the Delphic oracle, and on instructions he sends to Sinop, whose king does not give up the idol. Ptolemy increases the gifts, various signs incline the Sinop king, but his subjects remain adamant and surround the temple. Then the colossal idol goes himself to the ship and reaches Alexandria in three days (according to Plutarch he is kidnapped). At Rakoth, where the temple of Osorapis and Isis was, a new great temple is built in his honor. Some consider the newly arrived god as Asclepius, others as Osiris or Zeus, but Emvolpides, who later compiled the “sacred tale” transmitted by Tacitus and Plutarch, and Timothy, written out of Eleusis, and the historian Manephon Sebennite declare that it is Pluto, and convince Ptolemy “that it is not the image of another god, but of Sarapis”. Sarapis is none other than the Egyptian Osiris-Apis (in the later days of Egyptian culture its veneration was, as we know, especially popular. Why the two most authoritative representatives of the two religions – the Eleusinian and the Egyptian high priest – declared as identical with him the arrived Asian deity is not quite clear for us; maybe, as the Sinop Pluto he, as the god of death, approached Osiris the closest and moreover in the most chthonic form and connected with the afterlife; the usual form of Osiris at that time already received a more general meaning and even came closer to the solar types. In addition, the great popularity of the Osorapis cult guaranteed the new deity a good reception among the population. The calculation was indeed successful, and Sarapis became one of the most important deities of Egypt, worshipped outside Egypt as well: already in the inscription of 3086 he, in a triad with Isis and Ptolemy, is mentioned in Halicarnassus.
The founding of the Museum at Alexandria was of great importance. By establishing this center of scholarship and research, Alexandria became the center of Hellenistic science and a model for other similar institutions. Ptolemy used the first years of his reign to build and expand the new capital. The architect Sostratus of Cnidus built a lighthouse on the island of Pharos, which was later ranked among the Seven Wonders of the World. The city plan was created by Dimocrite of Rhodes. Alexandria was shaped like a chlamydia, that is, a parallelogram cut at all four corners. Almost nothing has survived of the buildings, as the city was rebuilt many times.
It was hardly a coincidence that among the first scientists in Alexandria were two physicians, Erasistratus and Herophilus, the first of whom was a disciple of Theophrastus. These two names are associated with the brilliant beginnings of medical science in Alexandria. It is said that Herophilus was even engaged in vivisections performed on criminals, who were put at his disposal for this purpose. Also famous is the mathematician Euclid, who allegedly told Ptolemy, “For a king there can be no special way to mathematical knowledge.” This, however, is highly doubtful, but nevertheless the anecdote accurately characterizes both Euclid”s bold candor and the king”s inquisitiveness, qualities that are no doubt historically quite authentic. The philologist Philo, who was appointed tutor to the heir to the throne, later Ptolemy II, was a native of the island of Cos. He combined a scholar and a poet in one person. Among his students was Zenodotus, who entered the history of philology as a strict critic of Homer. It is true that contemporaries made sarcastic jokes about these “fattened papermen in the Museum”, but this did not prevent the later Ptolemies from expanding and equipping this scientific institution, with which a large library was united. The importance of this vast library was great: it contained several hundred thousand papyrus scrolls, which were at the disposal of scholars for their studies.
Ptolemy found pleasure in developing these pursuits, for he himself had a great interest in literary work, if not in poetry, then at least in historiography. In him lived the memory of the great king Alexander, whose associate he had been in the Asian campaign. After Ptolemy ordered Alexander”s body to be transported to Egypt, he was determined to narrate the deeds of the king to succeeding generations in a special historical work, and to this end he took notes for himself. Apparently, Alexander”s Ephemerides were also available to him. But it was not until his old age that Ptolemy was able to proceed with his plan. It is doubtful, however, that it happened only in the very last years of his life, as argued in a number of recent studies, because we must take into account that after the battle of Ipsus (301), when the king was over sixty, he probably already had the necessary leisure for this. It is difficult for posterity to appreciate this work on its own merits, for, with the exception of very few fragments surviving under the name of Ptolemy, this work has to be reconstructed from the Anabasis of Alexander by Arrian of Nicomedia. The legend of Alexander had already begun to take shape during the king”s lifetime, and after his death it grew immensely. The work of King Ptolemy should be seen as a reaction to these romantic stories about Alexander. This does not mean that Ptolemy completely excluded romantic elements from his work. The opposite is confirmed by the stories about Alexander”s campaign to the oasis of Siva, during which – according to the testimony of Ptolemy – as if two snakes served him as guides. And all the same, by and large, objectivity dominated in Ptolemy”s work, we may even say, sobriety, which was just for a soldier-songwriter. About demonic essence of Alexander in this work not a word was spoken. However, nobody will reproach Ptolemy in unwillingness in this work to crown with glory other diadochs, his rivals and opponents. On the contrary, it is not surprising that he posthumously reproaches his rival Perdiccas for being too little concerned about the discipline of his soldiers, and Ptolemy”s sworn enemy Antigonus One-Eyed, as far as we can judge, was altogether silent in Alexander”s Ptolemaic history.
Of course, because of the large number of children from different marriages there were difficulties, which extended to the field of politics as well, but in general Ptolemy was quite able to cope with them. Anyway, in Berenice”s son, later Philadelphus, Ptolemy I found a worthy successor. In 285 B.C. he appointed this son as his co-ruler. The reasons for his action he announced to the people, and so the people received the new king with the same favor as his father had given him power. Among other examples of the mutual respect of father and son, what especially attracted the people”s love to the young king was the fact that the father, having given the kingdom to his son by popular vote, further served as a private man among the king”s retainers, saying that being the father of a king was better than owning any kingdom himself. Eurydice”s son Ptolemy, later nicknamed Keravn, remained in Egypt, still hoping to succeed his father. Demetrius of Phaler used the influence he had over the old king to sway him in favor of his eldest son. There is no doubt that the influential Macedonian party preferred the grandson of old Antipater to the son of Berenice. But the king was attached to Berenice and her children and would not yield to any persuasion.
Ptolemy died at the end of 283 B.C. or perhaps not until the following year (he was definitely alive in September 283 B.C. and probably died in June or July 282 B.C.). He was the only one of all the great Macedonian leaders fighting for Alexander”s empire who died his own death in bed.
When Ptolemy I Soter passed away, Egypt, together with its adjoining regions of Cyrenaica, Cyprus, and Caesarea, was indisputably the best governed state among those monarchies that arose out of Alexander the Great”s world empire. Among the later kings of the house of Ptolemy there were rulers (and rulers) more or less significant, but for all of them the founder of the dynasty remained a model, the worship of whom was elevated to a cult, and whose memory was honored at all times. Ptolemy had statues erected not only in Egypt, but also in Athens and Olympia.
“Ptolemy, son of Lagus, often ate and slept with his friends; and when he happened to serve them, he took tables, bedspreads, and dishes from them, because he himself had nothing but the necessities: a king, he said, was more fit to enrich not himself, but others.”
Eusebius of Caesarea, from the words of Porphyry of Tyre, says in his Chronicle that Ptolemy was satrap for 17 years, and then he was king for 23 years, so that in all he ruled for 40 years, until his death. However, while he was still alive, he abdicated the throne in favor of his son Ptolemy, called Philadelphus, and he lived for two more years after his son took over, and so the reign of the first Ptolemy, called Soter, is considered to be 38 years, not 40. Josephus Flavius states that this Ptolemy ruled for 41 years.
Ptolemy I was married three times:
Ptolemy had no lawful wives in Egypt except Eurydice and Berenice. Whether he divorced Eurydice before he married Berenice, or whether after 315 B.C. he had two wives at the same time, our sources are silent. Subsequently, the kings of this dynasty never had more than one lawful wife at the same time. But apparently the Macedonian kings before Alexander were polygamous, and among his successors Demetrius and Pyrrhus had more than one wife. So it is not surprising if the first Ptolemy could have had two wives. In any case, Eurydice lived in Egypt until 286 BC and only after that she moved to Miletus with her daughter Ptolemais. It was there that Demetrius, banished from the Macedonian throne, appeared with his fleet and married Ptolemais, whom Ptolemy had promised him some thirteen years before.
In addition to the children mentioned, there were two other sons whose names were Meleagrus and Argeus, whose mothers we do not know. Since Meleagrus later joined Ptolemy Keravn in Macedonia, we can assume that he was the son of Eurydice. Subsequently, he briefly succeeded in capturing the throne of Macedonia.
If Ptolemy had followed the example of Alexander and the ancient Egyptian pharaohs who founded new dynasties, he would have married an Egyptian woman of royal blood in order to legitimize his rule in the eyes of his native subjects. He did not. We hear only once that Ptolemy had an Egyptian woman among his mistresses.