Ptolemy II Philadelphus


Ptolemy II Philadelphus (c. 308 BC – 245 BC) – King of Egypt in the Ptolemaic Dynasty, ruled 285 – 24645 BC. son of Ptolemy I Soter and Berenice I.

Ptolemy II was born in 309 or 308 B.C. (the official birthday according to the Macedonian calendar is 12 dystros, that is, February 10) on the island of Kos, where his father”s fleet was based. He received the throne bypassing the eldest sons of Ptolemy I from his first marriage with Eurydice I, daughter of Antipater, and began to rule the country from 285 BC, while his father was still alive. And in 283 or 282 B.C., after his father”s death, he became sole ruler of Egypt, at the age of twenty-five. Eurydice”s eldest son Ptolemy Keravnus, henceforth considered Egypt an unsafe place for himself and took refuge in the court of Lysimachus, who had become king of Macedonia.

Ptolemy II is now known in history as Ptolemy Philadelphus (“Loving Sister”), but he never bore this nickname in his lifetime. To his contemporaries he was known simply as Ptolemy the son of Ptolemy. Ptolemy the son was very different in character from Ptolemy the father. The softening of temper, which was more marked in some of the kings of later times, was already apparent in the son of the old Macedonian commander, who was characterized by a cool temper. His educators and teachers were the poet Philo of Cos and the Peripatetic philosopher Straton of Lampsacus, one of the chief representatives of the Aristotelian school, and doubtless the attention which Aristotle and his pupils paid to scientific pursuits contributed to Ptolemy II”s lively interest in geography and zoology. Suda claims that the grammarian Zenodotus was also the teacher of the children of the first Ptolemy, although it seems more likely that he must have taught the children of Ptolemy II himself. Ptolemy II”s closest advisor to his father, Demetrius of Phaler; it was he who advised the young Ptolemy to obtain and read books on royalty and the art of ruling, for “in books is written what friends dare not tell kings to their faces.”

Ptolemy II was fair-haired, obviously European in appearance, probably fat and ruddy; kings of this dynasty definitely had a hereditary tendency to get fat in the second half of life. Some bodily weakness, or perhaps too much care for his health, inspired him with an aversion to physical exertion. According to Strabo, Ptolemy was inquisitive and, because of his bodily infirmity, was constantly seeking new amusements and entertainments. Elyanus argues that Ptolemy II was made an educated man by illness. During his reign, Egypt often waged war, but Ptolemy”s generals and naval commanders fought. Only during the expedition up the Nile did Ptolemy II himself go to war.

In Asia Minor and Northern Syria Antiochus I, son of Seleucus, managed to take his father”s royal throne, although he could only assert his power in Asia Minor in conflict with other new powers – local principalities, Persian dynasties, the Greek state centered at Pergamum and the nomadic hordes of Galatians. In the end, after half a century of turmoil following Alexander”s death, a relatively stable group of powers emerged in the eastern Mediterranean – the Antigonus dynasty ruled in Macedonia; the Seleucus dynasty in Northern Syria, most of Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Babylonia and Persia; new local dynasties in other parts of Asia Minor; the Ptolemy dynasty in Egypt, Palestine, Cyrene and Cyprus. In Greece itself, on the islands and coasts of the Aegean Sea, the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, the old Greek polities still retained some degree of freedom, depending on circumstances which gave them an opportunity to postpone the need to submit to any monarchical power.

Between all these states there was active political and military action throughout the reign of Ptolemy II. Hellenistic Egypt was at the height of its power and glory. However, historical sources that could tell us what this king, his commanders and ambassadors had done have not survived. Only from fragmentary mentions in the works of later authors, occasional references and a few isolated inscriptions can we try to describe the events that took place at that time.

Because of the ambition of the Ptolemies to extend their possessions beyond Egypt to parts of Asia, to have dominion over the sea, and to interfere successfully in the politics of the Greek world, they could not remain uninvolved in foreign affairs. For a time, between 279 and 269 B.C., the policy of the Alexandrian court was governed by a stronger will than that possessed by Ptolemy II. His sister Arsinoe, deprived of the slightest prospect of becoming queen of Macedonia, arrived in Egypt, perhaps with clear intentions of becoming queen in her father”s house. There was already a queen in Egypt, another Arsinoe, daughter of Lysimachus and wife of Ptolemy II. However, this was not an obstacle for such a powerful and intelligent woman as Arsinoe, daughter of Ptolemy I, who had passed a splendid school of intrigue at the court of Lysimachus. In Macedonia, a few years before, she had driven Agathocles out of her way by forcing her father to kill him on false accusations. The other Arsinoia had borne her husband three children – two sons, Ptolemy and Lysimachus, and a daughter, Berenice. Now she was accused of conspiracy and attempt on her husband”s life. Two of her alleged accomplices – a certain Aminta and a Rhodesian named Chrysippus, her physician – were put to death, and the queen herself was exiled to the upper Egyptian Koptos (there is a memorial stele by the Egyptian Sennuhrud, where he says he was her servant and rebuilt and decorated the sanctuary for her).

Having thus got rid of Arsinoe, daughter of Lysimachus, Arsinoe, daughter of Ptolemy I, took her brother as husband and became an Egyptian queen. The marriage of half-brothers and half-sisters was previously unheard of in the Greek world, though quite common among the Egyptians and consistent with Pharaonic tradition. Many were shocked. Arsinoe was about forty at the time; in any case she was about eight years older than her brother-husband. The Greek Sothad, the famous author of obscene poems at the time, referred to the marriage in crude terms as incest. According to one fragment of Athenaeus” work, the poet fled from Alexandria immediately after reciting his poems, but was seized by King Patroclus” naval commander off the coast of Caria and thrown into the sea in a leaden coffin.

Arsinoe adopted, or was given the nickname Philadelphia (“Loving Brother”). She probably no longer hoped to have more children and most likely adopted her husband”s children from another Arsinoe. Apparently the Greek world understood that the course the Egyptian court would henceforth follow in international politics was guided by the steady hand of the Arsinoe of Philadelphia. What Ptolemy himself thought of all this, no one will ever know. After Arsinoe”s death he expressed his devotion to her in every possible way, but this proves little. Even if he had no love feelings for his sister, he may have sincerely mourned the loss of her powerful guiding mind. It is possible that the marriage between Arsinoe and Ptolemy II was necessary not only for Arsinoe, but also for the king of Egypt himself, who hoped through this marriage to acquire “legal” rights to the legacy of Lysimachus – to the vast territories where Arsinoe had once been the unlimited ruler.

If we are guided by the summary of events contained in the work of Pausanias, it was under the cool regime of Arsinoe of Philadelphia that inconvenient members of the royal family began to be eliminated. Ptolemy”s brother Argeus was put to death on charges of conspiracy against the king. With Arsinoe in charge, no one knew whether the charges were true or trumped up. Then another half-brother, the son of Eurydice (we are not told his name) was accused of fomenting unrest in Cyprus and executed. Demetrius of Phaler, the old advisor of Ptolemy I Soter, after the death of the latter, also fell into disfavor and was imprisoned, pending clarification and a special decision. The reason was that he had once advised Ptolemy Lagus to place the throne in the hands of his eldest son, Ptolemy Keravne. So he lived out his life in a decline of mental strength, until in his sleep he was bitten in the arm by a poisonous snake and gave up the spirit.

First successes

The great dangers and disasters that befell Greece and Asia Minor hardly touched Egypt at all. At the beginning of his reign Ptolemy II turned all efforts to use the difficulties of his rivals for the benefit of Egypt. Since 301 BC Egypt claimed Kelesiria, with its rich cities and an important strategic position, but here the Ptolemies met with the unyielding determination of the Seleucids to hold Kelesiria for themselves. Therefore, only the weakening of Antiochus Soter”s position in the international arena in the early years of his reign suggests that the Egyptians had an opportunity to strengthen in Kelesiria as well. It probably came to a real war in the spring of 276 B.C. when Ptolemy, according to a Babylonian cuneiform inscription, invaded Syria. Modern historians have called it the “First Syrian War. It is impossible to make a history of it. An indistinct ray of light only picks up individual fragments here and there. Pausanias reports briefly: “Ptolemy sent to all the nations over which Antiochus ruled as plunderers passed through the lands of the weaker; those who were stronger he desired to detain by military action, so as to prevent Antiochus from marching against Egypt.” Unfortunately, we have at our disposal only two contemporary references to the actions undertaken by Ptolemy: one hieroglyphic inscription from Sais, consisting mainly of traditional phrases inherited from the time of Pharaonic invasions of Asia, and the other an excerpt from a poem written by Theocritus, composed in order to gain favor in Alexandria.

Little more information can be gleaned from the Greek poet”s panegyric than from the stelae of the Egyptian priests. When Theocritus mentions the peoples of the coasts of Asia Minor and the Aegean Islands as subordinate to Ptolemy, this must indeed mean that the military actions of the Egyptian fleet were successful and many coastal cities of Cilicia, Pamphylia, Lycia and Caria were forced to recognize the authority of Ptolemy. These were the conquests of Ptolemy II in a region where the Egyptian forces operating from the sea could meet the Seleucid forces advancing from the interior. On the other hand, Ptolemy”s supremacy over the confederation of the Cyclades was nothing new; Ptolemy II had inherited it from his father; only the accession of Samos to the league around 280 B.C. signified an extension of Ptolemy”s dominance at sea. But this expansion of Egyptian domination was not without struggle. For example, Stephen of Byzantium speaks of a struggle that the kings of Pontian Cappadocia, Mithridates and Ariobarzan, with the help of Galatian mercenaries, fought against the Egyptians, the Pontic kings won, chased their enemies to the sea and captured ship anchors as trophies. It is possible that in this case Mithridates and Ariobarzanus acted as allies of Antiochus.

It is incomprehensible the silence of Theocritus about the Egyptian domination in Ionia in the late 270s B.C. It is difficult to imagine that Egypt did not try to seize this area of Asia Minor, one of the richest parts of the former power of Lysimachus. Miletus, then still a significant port on the coast of Asia Minor, apparently went under the power of Ptolemy before the First Syrian War, in 279-278 BC. e. In the sanctuary of Didyma, located nearby, there was a statue of Ptolemy”s sister Philothera, erected by Miletus demos. That Egypt claimed dominion in Ionia is evidenced by a letter from Ptolemy II to Miletus outlining the many benefits and privileges bestowed on the Miletians by the Egyptian king: “Also now, since you guard firmly our city and our friendship and union, – for my son and Callicrates (commander of the fleet in the Aegean Sea from about 274 to 266 BC. and other friends have written to me of the demonstration of goodwill which you have shown towards me-we, knowing this, value you highly and will endeavor to repay your people with favors …” The Seleucids and their allies probably undertook some countermeasures in Ionia, in order to prevent the Egyptians from strengthening their position there.

It seems that Ptolemy was also able to gain a firm foothold in Phoenicia. At Sidon Ptolemy placed on the royal throne his chief naval commander, apparently a Hellenized Phoenician, Philocles. On Delos this Philocles held lavish festivals, the Ptolemaiae. There is a casual reference in Poliene to the capture of Cavnus by Philocles, the commander of Ptolemy.

“Philocles, the strategist of Ptolemy, encamped at Caunus, and, having bribed with money the sithophilacs (overseers of the distribution of bread), made them his accomplices. And they proclaimed in the city that they would give the soldiers bread; and they, leaving the guard of the walls, began to measure out the bread for themselves. Philoctus, at the same time attacked the unguarded city and seized it.

Tyre, which because of the calamities that had fallen upon it in the last sixty years, went so far as to fall into dependence on Sidon, begins a new era as an independent city in 274-273 B.C., indicating some changes resulting from the Phoenician policy of Ptolemy, during the First Syrian War. Ptolemy captured Tripoli in 258-257 BC.

Antiochus I Retaliated

The military actions of Antiochus are attested by the Babylonian Cuneiform Chronicle, where under the year 36 of the Seleucid era (275274 B.C.) the following is indicated: “In that year the king left his court, his wife, and his son in Sardas (Sapardu) to provide a strong protection. He appeared in the province of Ebirnari (Zarek, that is, Syria) and marched against the Egyptian army, which was encamped at Ebirnari. The Egyptian army fled from him (?). In the month of adar on the 24th the governor of Akkad sent to Ebirnari to the king much silver, cloth, furniture and machinery from Babylonia and Seleucia, the king”s city, and 20 elephants which the governor of Bactria sent to the king. In this month the commander-in-chief mobilized the king”s troops, which were stationed at Akkad, and went to the king in the month of Nisan to help at Ebirnari…” So, the main military clashes between Antiochus and Ptolemy took place in the spring months of 274 BC and seem to have ended in Antiochus” victory. Antiochus I”s success in Syria may not have been limited to the operation described in the chronicle. Antiochus probably also suddenly seized Damascus, which had been occupied by the Egyptians under the strategist Dion.

“Antiochus, wishing to seize Damascus, which Ptolemy”s strategist Dion was defending, announced to his army and the whole region the celebration of the Persian feast, ordering all his subjects to make preparations for a great feast. Since Antiochus was celebrating with everyone and everywhere, Dion, too, learning of the scope of the feast, let his guard down. And Antiochus, commanding him to take dry rations for four days, led his army through the desert and through the mountain trails, and suddenly appeared and took Damascus, for Dio was not able to resist the sudden appearance of Antiochus.”

Egypt clearly feared an attack. The Pythian stele informs us that in the month of Hatira in the 12th year of his reign (November 274 BC) Ptolemy II appeared at Heronopolis on the Isthmus of Suez “with his wife (she was also his sister) to protect Egypt from foreigners”. Maybe from this inscription it follows that the invasion of Antiochus” armies into Egypt was expected and the presence of Ptolemy and Arsinoe was needed to organize the defense.

The Threat from Cyrenaica

Egypt”s troubles over the Syrian war were exacerbated by a new uprising in Cyrenaica.

Ptolemy II”s maternal brother Magas, who had obtained a governorship in Cyrene in 308 BC thanks to Berenice, declared himself independent and launched an attack on Egypt (summer 274 BC). He captured Paraitonion, reached Chios, about 50 kilometers from Alexandria. Here, however, Magus received news that a Libyan nomadic tribe of Marmarids had rebelled in his rear. The Cyrenian ruler turned back. Trying to pursue him, Ptolemy II suddenly found himself in the same position as his hapless opponent: in Egypt, 4000 Galatians sent by Antigonus revolted against Ptolemy. The aims of the rebellious Galatians are not quite clear: some sources report that they wanted to seize Egypt, others say that they were simply going to rob the Egyptian treasury.

On his return, Ptolemy II severely punished them; the Galatians were driven to a deserted island in the Nile delta, cut off from the outside world and left to starve to death. What role the non-belligerent king played in all this we do not know, but later the court poet Theocritus was able to attribute this single venture alone to the second Ptolemy as a brilliant military feat.

Magus married the daughter of Antiochus I Apamea and exchanged the title of viceroy for the title of king. This meant a military alliance between Magus and the Seleucids against Ptolemy.

End of the First Syrian War

The end of the war is entirely unknown to us. It ended no later than Theocritus wrote his Idyll, i.e. either in 273 or 272 B.C. It is difficult to assess the overall outcome of the war. The success of the Seleucids is very probable, but it is hardly possible to speak of their victory. It is more likely that the prolonged hostilities resulted in reconciliation with a fair amount of compromise on both sides. Antiochus” decision may have been influenced by the plague, which apparently affected Babylonia at the time.

In July 269 B.C., Arsinoe Philadelphias died. The hieroglyphic inscription, in typical priestly language, states that in the month of Pahon of the fifteenth year of King Ptolemy “the goddess went to heaven, she was reunited with the members of Ra. Arsinoe was a power whose favor many at the time thought prudent to seek. No other queen had so many monuments erected in various parts of the Greek world. Statues were erected in her honor at Athens and Olympia. The honors accorded to her in Samothrace and Boeotia, where there is the city of Arsinoe, may have been accorded to her during her lifetime as queen of Thrace. Apparently there was a statue of her in the form of a figure sitting on an ostrich in Greek Thespians. Inscriptions made in fulfillment of vows in her honor from Delos, Amorgos, Thera, Lesbos, Cyrene, Oropus and many others have survived. Numerous dedications to Arsinoe have been found in Egypt, and this is only a formal part of the many exceptional honors her husband piled around her. Although Arsinoe was not a co-ruler in the sense that later queens were, in all titles she was related to the king. Egyptian priests even ascribed her a throne name in addition to the usual cartouche (Pythian inscription), giving the queen a rather rare honor. Many coins have survived with just her image, as well as those depicting Arsinoe along with her brother-king as gods Adelphus (“Brother and Sister”). She was deified with him and was eventually declared “venerated in the same temple” as the gods of the great sanctuaries of all Egypt. In “Arsinoem,” the temple of Arsinoe in Alexandria, there was her statue of topaz almost two meters high (4 cubits), and on the temple grounds there was an ancient pharaonic obelisk, which Ptolemy specially brought from the quarry, where it had been lying since the time of Nektaneb. The statue of the brother and sister that stood near the Odeon theater in Athens is mentioned by Pausanias.

Also under Ptolemy II Philadelphus his parents were deified and their cult was founded. They became known as the Savior Gods. In honor of the deified Ptolemy Soter a festival with games was held in Alexandria – the Ptolemies. It was celebrated every four years. It was probably first instituted in June or July 278 B.C., on the fourth anniversary of the death of the first Ptolemy. Callixen”s famous description of the festive procession in Alexandria almost certainly refers to the second celebration in 274 BC.

Scholiast reports that Ptolemy also established a cult of his second sister Philothera, but it is unlikely that it was of the same importance, since it was never used in official dating documents.

After the death of Arsinoe, Ptolemy”s reign enters a new era. About two and a half years later (first mentioned from 26 January 266 B.C.) a young Ptolemy, the “son” of Ptolemy II, appears in the sources and becomes his father”s co-ruler. One could say with confidence that it is his son by another Arsinoia, the future king Ptolemy Everget, if it were not for the fact that the name of this young co-emperor disappeared from the records sometime between May and November 258 BC. Hence a problem arises which is still controversial among historians. Different hypotheses have been suggested:

Ptolemy”s entry into the war

The next war in which Egypt was involved is called the Hremonid War after the Athenian Hremonides, who led the Greek revolt against Macedonia. This time the opponent of Ptolemy was the dynasty of Antigonus in the person of Antigonus Gonatus, king of Macedonia. Many ancient glorious cities of Greece joined the anti-Macedonian alliance, led by Athens and Sparta, who saw an opportunity to regain the freedom lost a century ago. Ptolemy also joined this alliance. In the decree of Chremonides, in connection with listing all the participants in the anti-Macedonian coalition, it is stated that “King Ptolemy, according to the direction of his ancestors and sister … cares for the common freedom of the Hellenes.” Even after her death Arsinoe”s mind continued to rule the Alexandrian court. Having received no definite results in the First Syrian War, Ptolemy II shifted the center of gravity of the struggle for the revival of Lysimachus” power to Greece.

The course of military operations

Athens began the war after throwing off the Macedonian yoke (at the end of 266 B.C.). No doubt the Greeks had high hopes, counting on the support of Egypt, whose fleet dominated the Aegean Sea. The further course of events is reproduced from the brief accounts of Pausanias and Justin, as well as from other disparate sources. Paul tells us that “Antigonus, son of Demetrius, moved on to Athens with the army on foot and in fleet… Patroclus arrived from Egypt to aid the Athenians… and the Lacedaemonians acted as a nationwide militia, entrusting the main command to King Ares. But Antigonus surrounded Athens with a tight ring so that the forces allied with the Athenians had no way to enter the city. Thus Antigonus besieged Athens and held off the Spartans at Isthmus. And all this time the Egyptian fleet under the command of the Egyptian naval commander Patroclus sailed near an islet, later called Patroclus Island, not far from the coast of Attica and did nothing useful. Patroclus, himself of Macedonian origin, justified himself by saying that his naval forces were drawn from only native Egyptians and that it was inconvenient for them to fight as infantry. It is possible, however, that the Egyptians landed on the eastern shore of Attica, on the peninsula Koroni, where the remains of temporary defensive walls, utensils and many coins of Ptolemy II have been found. Therefore, Pausanias is very skeptical about the contribution of Ptolemy II in the war of Chremonides: “This Ptolemy … sent a fleet to help the Athenians against Antigonus and the Macedonians, but it did not bring much benefit to the Athenians in the rescue. Nor were the tactics of the Spartans, who positioned themselves near Corinth and tried to break through the Isthmian barriers, successful. At such a critical moment for the anti-Macedonian coalition in Megara, the hired detachments of Galatians, who were standing as a garrison here, revolted against Antigonus Gaonatus. Whether the mutiny was the result of the Galatians” own initiative, or whether it was inspired by the Spartans and Egyptians, is not known. But the benefit of the new situation to the enemies of Macedonia is quite evident. Antigonus had to take urgent measures to remedy the situation. The Macedonian king, according to Justinus, “leaving a small detachment in a supposedly fortified camp for protection from other enemies, … with the main forces he advanced against the Galatians”. The course of Antigonus” battle with the barbarians is not stated, and only at the end is reported with some exaggeration: “The Galatians were cut down every last one of them”. It is known that some Galatians were sent to Antigonus I. Whether they were the same Galatians who rebelled in Megara, or whether it was an entirely different contingent, it is difficult to say. In any case, it is clear from the epigram in honor of the Galatian leader Bricco that he fought heroically against Areus and seems to have been loyal to Antigonus.

Egypt”s withdrawal from the war

The victory of Antigonus Gonatus over the Galatians caused confusion among his opponents. Patroclus negotiated with Areas and tried to “induce the Lacedæmonians and Areas to start a battle against Antigonus”. Areas was very cold to these proposals. He “believed that it was necessary to save the courage of the soldiers for his own interests, and not waste it so uncalculatedly for others. But not wishing to quarrel with the Egyptians, Araeus withdrew his army under the pretext that he had run out of food. Patroclus also sailed with his fleet from Attic waters and since then, until the end of the war, the Egyptians do not seem to have appeared in Greece. The results of the excavations on the Coroni Peninsula show that the retreat of the Egyptians was more like the flight of the vanquished. “Ptolemy and the Spartans,” writes Justin, “evading the encounter with the victorious enemy army, retreated to safer areas.

Victory for Macedonia

Perhaps the invasion of Macedonia by Alexander of Epirus, son and heir of Pyrrhus, was a success of Ptolemaic diplomacy at the time; but if so, this success was of no avail, for the Egyptian forces proved unable to take advantage of it. Antigonus succeeded in recovering Macedonia and defeating Epirus, without lifting the siege of Athens. The king of Sparta, who tried to break through to help Athens, fell on the battlefield. Athens eventually had to surrender (261 BC). Chremonides and his brother Glaucus took refuge in Egypt. The war of Chremonides demonstrated in the most pathetic way the inconsistency, indecision, or incompetence of Ptolemy. The consequence of the Cresmonid War was the loss by Egypt of the influential position it had formerly occupied on the Aegean Sea, and the considerable strengthening of Macedonia. Immediately after the signing of the peace, an anti-Egyptian coalition was formed which included Antigonus Gonatus, Antiochus II and Rhodes.

The struggle between the cities of Crete did not develop without Egypt”s participation. It may be that Egypt and Sparta acted as accomplices in Crete, with such cities as Falasarna, Polirinia (Polyrrhea), Apthera, Gortyna on their side. Ptolemy firmly held power over Crete, where he apparently had particularly close ties with the city of Ithanus. Patroclus is mentioned in the inscription as the strategist of the island.

The Battle of KosAndros

The years between the War of Chremonides and the accession of Antiochus III to the Seleucid throne in 223 B.C. are one of the most obscure periods of Greek history, for not a single historical work has survived which speaks of them, and we can only piecemeal some general picture of what happened from occasional references in later authors and a few unofficial inscriptions and papyri. In the Aegean region, the most prominent event of the years immediately following the Cresmonid War was the struggle between Egypt and Macedonia for supremacy on the sea. There is an interesting historical anecdote given in connection with this by Athenaeus:

“I am also familiar with Philarchus” account of the huge fish and green figs sent as a riddle to King Antigone by Ptolemy”s general Patroclus. Patroclus sent figs and fish, as Philarchus says in Book III of his Histories. They were delivered to the king for drink, and all around were embarrassed by such gifts, but Antigonus laughed and told his friends that he understood: either possess the sea, says Patroclus, or gnaw the green figs (the food of beggars).”

It is known that two major naval battles took place – the battles of Cosa and Andros – and that in the first of them Antigonus Gonatus defeated the Egyptian fleet. In addition, there was a naval battle at Ephesus, in which the Egyptian fleet under Chremonides was defeated by the Rhodesian fleet; presumably Rhodes was in alliance with Macedonia. But who fought at Andros, Antigonus Gonatus or his nephew Antigonus Doson, and who was king of Egypt when both battles took place, Ptolemy II or Ptolemy III, what was the battle of Andros for Egypt: defeat or victory – and when did the battle of Ephesus occur – are all questions on which there is no general opinion.

The main source of information about these battles is Plutarch. He tells the same story three times, in different works: on the eve of a naval battle, a certain junior commander asked Antigonus, “Can”t you see that the enemy fleet is stronger?” – To which Antigonus supposedly replied boastfully, “And how many ships do you count me for?” Plutarch”s account in all three versions of this story has differences that lead to confusion, contradictions, and have given rise to many hypotheses. Thus, in one account Plutarch says that the battle took place at Kos, in another that it took place at Andros; in the third, the place of the battle is not specified at all. The name of the king is also presented in different manners: either Antigonus the Second, or simply Antigonus, or Antigonus the Old Man. Athenaeus also tells a rather strange story concerning the battle of Kos: Antigonus, after defeating the commanders of Ptolemy at Cape Leucolla on the Kos, donated his flagship to Apollo here. In the 27th prologue of Pompey Trogues it is glimpsed that “Antigonus defeated Sophrones at Andros in the battle of Moses”. Finally, Diogenes of Lares also speaks of some sort of naval victory of Antigonus the Gonatus, but does not name the place of the battle.

Based on this fragmentary information, we can assume that there were not two battles, but only one, in the waters between the nearby islands of Andros and Keos. “Kos” is an error of the manuscript scribes. Besides, there is no Cape Leucolla on Kos, and it was not Apollo who was worshipped here in antiquity, but Asclepius. Indeed, the repetition of the same story by Plutarch for the battle of Kos and the battle of Andros is far from accidental: it can only indicate that there was one battle, not two. Besides, it is absolutely fantastic that the weak Macedonian fleet could cross the entire Aegean Sea without any obstacles, reach Kos and here be able to give a decisive battle to a powerful Egyptian squadron; on the contrary, the battle in the waters of Andros and Keos, lying close to Attica, it is most likely.

As for the time of this naval battle – it is more preferable to date it to 260 BC, which is indirectly substantiated by the data of a historical anecdote of Plutarch. In this anecdote we read that celery, the plant of the Isthmian wreath, sprouted by itself from the hull of Antigone”s flagship, for which the ship was named “Isthmia.” It is most probable that this is the same ship that Antigonus donated to Apollo; from this we may conclude that the battle took place during the Istmian games, which took place once every two years. Since Athens had apparently not yet been taken by Antigonus before the fall of 262 B.C., and about 259 B.C. Demetrius the Beautiful from Macedonia reached Cyrene completely unhindered, which he could hardly have done easily if the Egyptian fleet still ruled over the sea, the conclusion suggests itself – the naval battle in which the Egyptians suffered a crushing defeat occurred in the spring of 260 BC during the Istmi games.

The “son” of the king

An Egyptian papyrus was found containing fragments of some Ptolemaic chronicle, one of the sections of which was entitled: “Life of Ptolemy, nicknamed Andromache”. The papyrus is poorly preserved, but you can still make out about the following: “…And fought on the sea… Androsa… Became the victim of a conspiracy from… in Ephesus was slain… by malice…”. The most curious thing about this text was the coincidence of its contents with one report of Athenaeus; according to the latter, Ptolemy, son of Philadelphus, was in command at Ephesus, but was maligned by the Thracian mercenaries against him, from whom he fled to the temple of Artemis, where he was slain along with his mistress. The same son is apparently named in the above-mentioned inscription from Miletus.

Some historians see him as the son of Lysimachus and Arsinoe of Philadelphia, adopted by King Ptolemy. Allegedly he, with the help of the Egyptian navy, was supposed to win back the possessions of his father, Lysimachus, and become king there, subject to Egypt. He took part in the battle of Andros, for which he probably received the nickname “Andromache.” Here Ptolemy Andromakh witnessed the demise of his designs and aims, for the Egyptian fleet was defeated, Antigonus Gonatus gained dominion at sea, and all hopes of overthrowing his power collapsed. It was in this environment that his break with his adopted father must have occurred, leaving him to declare himself independent ruler of Ionia. He was eventually murdered at Ephesus by Thracian mercenaries. Other scholars see him as the co-ruler son of Ptolemy Philadelphus by his first wife Arsinoia I, older brother of Ptolemy Evergetus, whose death in Ephesus explains why he disappeared from Egyptian sources in 258 BC. A third possibility: Ptolemy Andromach, son of Lysimachus and co-ruler son of Ptolemy Philadelphus were different people with the same name, and it just so happened that they died around the same time. Chris Bennett considered this Ptolemy the son of Ptolemy II Philadelphus by his concubine Blisticha and he was distinguished from Ptolemy “the Son” and Ptolemy the son of Lysimachus.

Events in Cyrenaica

Unfortunately for Ptolemy Philadelphus, Magus, the old, unusually obese ruler of Cyrene, died during these years after fifty years of reign. With him the Egyptian king had developed a relationship that suited the Egyptians above all. Before his death he had arranged with his half-brother, the king of Egypt, that his daughter and heiress Berenice would marry the son of Ptolemy, the heir to the throne of Egypt. This could have been a successful way to reunite Cyrene and Egypt. The anti-Egyptian-minded widow Maga Apama found a suitable excuse to break with Ptolemy Philadelphus: she denied his son the honor of being Berenice”s husband. Cyrene thus became once more in a position of open hostility to Egypt. In search of allies, Apama turned first to Macedonia, which had just successfully fought the Ptolemaic power at sea. Justin tells us that Apama proposed Berenice to Demetrius, nicknamed the Beautiful, the half-brother of Antigonus Gonatus, as his wife. Demetrius, son of Ptolemy”s half-sister Ptolemais, hurried to Cyrene, was pampered here, and seems to have been proclaimed king. According to Eusebius, Demetrius wasted no time: he fought many wars in Cyrene and “conquered all Libya. It is unlikely that his enemies were only Libyan nomads; it is more likely that Eusebius refers directly to Demetrius” war with the Egyptians. It was to Macedonia”s great advantage to gain a foothold in Cyrenaica and to inflict upon Egypt such blows as might prove fatal to it. Demetrius was undoubtedly successful; and this must have caused Ptolemy Philadelphus to change his tactics. Justin depicts further events this way: “However, confident of his beauty, which more than he should have begun to like his future mother-in-law, he (Demetrius), proud of nature, began to behave too haughtily towards the royal family and army, and at the same time tried to please not so much the girl as her mother. This seemed suspicious first to the girl herself, then to the population and the soldiers, and aroused hatred for him. So the general opinion tilted in favor of Ptolemy”s son, and a plot was formed against Demetrius.” During the mutiny, which the young Berenice herself allegedly led, Demetrius was killed in the bedroom of Apama (259258 BC), and the widow of Magus herself, at the insistence of Berenice, the mutineers preserved her life.

After the end of the First Syrian War, the internal problems of the Seleucid kingdom prevented it from taking any decisive action in the Mediterranean. In 261 BC Antiochus I Soter fell in battle against Eumenes I of Pergamon and was replaced on the throne by his son Antiochus II Theos. The new Seleucid king, some time after ascending the throne, considered himself strong enough to try to take from Ptolemy II what his dynasty had lost in the First Syrian War. A war broke out between Egypt and Syria, which modern scholars have decided to call the Second Syrian War. We know even less about the dates, course and duration of this war than we do about the dates, course and duration of the First. Jerome of Stridon is indefinite in saying that Antiochus “fought with all the military power of Babylon and the East” and “waged war for many years.” But he certainly did not succeed in tearing Kelesiria away from Egypt; perhaps he did not even penetrate into the coveted province. Surely on the coast of Asia Minor, where the Egyptian fleet could no longer operate with the same success, having lost its superiority at sea, there was a tangled struggle consisting of military action and diplomatic intrigue. Antiochus II appears to have formed an alliance with Antigonus of Macedon, with whom he was bound by two dynastic marriages. The Rhodesians, who had long been weighed down by Ptolemy”s hegemony, were also considered allies.

Antiochus II and the Rhodesians jointly besieged Ephesus, which, apparently, after the murder of Ptolemy Andromache by the Thracians temporarily passed into the hands of Egypt. The Egyptian fleet, according to Polianus, was commanded in the harbor of Ephesus by the Athenian Hremonides.

“The Rhodesians, who were at war with King Ptolemy, were near Ephesus; Chremonides the navarch of Ptolemy, put out to sea to engage in a naval battle. Agathostratus lined up the Rhodesians one ship at a time, and, evidently appearing to his enemies, turned back, and after a little time returned to his anchorage. But the enemies, thinking that they did not have the courage to fight at sea, chanting paeans themselves, returned to the harbor; Agathostratus, turning and closing the fleet on two flanks, sailed at the enemies, who came out on land near the tenor of Aphrodite, and suddenly attacked, and won.”

After this victory the Rhodesians and Antiochus attacked the city from two sides – land and sea – and took Ephesus (from the inscription we know that by 253 BC Ephesus was in the hands of the Seleucids). Ptolemy was forced to surrender Kavn to the Rhodesians for 200 talents.

Probably, then Antiochus besieged Miletus and, having seized the city, “destroyed the tyrant Timarchus”, for which he was nicknamed “grateful Miletians” by God (“Theos”). This Timarchus was hardly in alliance with Egypt, for before that he had supported the rebellion of the “son” of Ptolemy II known as Ptolemy Andromacheus.

On the basis of the fact that Cilicia and Pamphylia, which according to Theocritus were subject to Ptolemy II, are not mentioned in the inscription from Adulis among the possessions inherited by Ptolemy III from his father, it has been concluded that the lands conquered in this region during the First Syrian War were lost in the Second. Antiochus seems to have gained possession of Samothrace as well. Antiochus coins were minted at Kizik, Lampasas, Alexandria of Troas, Abydos, Skepsis, Cyprus, Mytilene, Phocaea, Ephesus, Theos, Magnesia of Meander, Alabanda, Cnida, and others. Arwad of Phoenicia received about 259 B.C. “autonomy” from the Seleucids, but remained in de facto dependence on them. There are also traces of Seleucid penetration to the Aegean islands, in particular possibly to Samos. From the accounts of Libanius it can be seen that Antiochus II intervened in the affairs of Cyprus and took statues of the gods from there to Antioch. Two of Antiochus” closest associates, Aristos and Themyson, were natives of Cyprus. But the inscription from Adulis mentions Cyprus as belonging to Egypt even before the accession of Ptolemy III; it seems that the Seleucids had to fight against the Ptolemies for power in Cyprus, and perhaps Ptolemy II had the victory. The same struggle unfolded in Crete; the decree of Antiochus” alliance with the Cretan city of Littus is known. Finally, with the help of his Rhodesian allies Antiochus sought to gain a foothold in the Cyclades.

Peace Treaty

Eventually Ptolemy II and Antiochus II made peace (late 252 BC). This was probably considered a triumph of Ptolemaic diplomacy in Alexandria. Antiochus agreed to marry Ptolemy”s daughter Berenice and make her his queen. He already had a wife, Laodicea, who bore him two sons, but he agreed to give her a divorce or keep her in Sardis or Ephesus in Asia Minor while Berenice was queen in Antioch. The elderly king escorted his daughter with pomp all the way to Pelusium. This fact, taken by itself, might seem to indicate that Kelesiria was included in Berenice”s dowry, so Pelusium became a frontier city in Egypt. However, there survives a letter from the archive of Zeno, sent by the butler of Apollonius” dioclet (governor) from Phoenicia in the spring of 251 BC, stating that Apollonius was approaching Sidon with an entourage “accompanying the queen to the border”, which was therefore north of Kaelesiria. If the dowry included any ceded territory, we do not know. At any rate, because of the size of this dowry, Berenice was nicknamed “Fernophora” (“Bringer of a Dowry”). Ptolemy, as we know, regularly supplied his daughter with Nile water after the wedding, which was thought to promote fertility. When Berenice in due course brought Antiochus a son, Ptolemy could consider the Seleucid dynasty firmly tied to Egypt. The future king of Asia would be his grandson. Now it seems probable that he lived to see the day when the tragedy that happened to his daughter and grandson derailed his plans.

In Greece, Ptolemy seems to have maintained an unfriendly, if not hostile, relationship with Macedonia throughout his reign, and he did not pass up opportunities to assist parties opposed to that power. Thus, a few years before his death, the successes of Aratus and the strengthening of the Achaean alliance opened up new prospects for his policy in this direction. He hastened to support Aratus with considerable sums of money, and gave him a most friendly reception when he visited Alexandria in person.

The sources contain information about other directions of foreign policy during the reign of Ptolemy II. In 273 BC, when Rome was at war with Pyrrhus of Epirus, an embassy from Alexandria arrived in Italy to offer Rome friendship with Ptolemy. Then, for the first time, a new power rising in the West appeared on the Egyptian horizon. Through this alliance Italian harbors became accessible to Egyptian trade, especially since almost all the Greek cities had fallen into disrepair as a result of the wars of recent years. It was very important for Egyptian production to obtain raw materials from Italy, especially wool. Appianus tells us a remarkable story that during the First Punic War between Rome and Carthage, when the two warring powers were extremely exhausted because of the new fleets being sent to sea time and again, the Carthaginians tried to borrow 2000 talents (almost 52 tons of silver) from Ptolemy. But maintaining friendly relations with both powers, the king tried to reconcile them. When this failed, he objected to the Carthaginian proposal: “To our friends we must help against our enemies, but not against our friends. Being in alliance with both, the king quite enjoyed the benefits of neutrality, so that his ships sailed unhindered in the waters under the control of both sides.

The Ptolemies did not, unlike the earlier pharaohs, seek to annex Ethiopia (Nubia) to their dominions. Being Greeks, they were rather interested in the Mediterranean world to the north and were quite content with Egypt”s southern frontier being at or slightly beyond the first threshold. Ptolemy II, however, paid great attention in encouraging and expanding his foreign trade, especially with the countries of the Red Sea basin and India. One of the first measures of his reign was to take effective steps to clear Upper Egypt of robbers and bandits, who were especially numerous there. Not limiting himself to this, Ptolemy, as Diodorus writes, went on a campaign to Ethiopia with a Greek army, and thus discovered for the Greeks a country hitherto unknown. One gets the impression that among the motives of Ptolemy II was rather geographical curiosity and a desire for unusual beasts; at any rate, we hear nothing about attempts to annex Ethiopia. He apparently established friendly relations with the barbarian tribes of that country and was also the first to try to establish a supply of elephants from those regions for the purpose of their subsequent training for use in the war effort, for before him fighting elephants had been delivered exclusively from India.

“The second Ptolemy, who was a passionate lover of elephant hunting and gave great rewards to those who succeeded in capturing the most valiant of these animals, spending large sums of money on this passion, not only gathered vast herds of fighting elephants, but also brought to the attention of the Greeks other species of animals never before seen, and which became objects of amazement.”

And he considered this cause so important that he founded a city or fortress called Ptolemais on the borders of Ethiopia, solely to achieve these ends. With Ergamen, the Greek king of Meroe, he seems to have maintained friendly relations. In order to have complete control of navigation and trade on the Red Sea, he founded the city of Arsinoe at the northern end of the gulf (at the site of modern Suez), as well as Berenice on the seashore almost under the tropic. He cleared and thoroughly renovated the canal linking the Nile to the Red Sea, which at one time had begun to be dug by Pharaoh Necho II and King Darius I of Persia. At the same time, he resumed the great caravan road, in operation for centuries in the time of the pharaohs, which connected by the shortest route through the desert the city of Koptos on the Nile with the port of Berenice on the Red Sea. Thus he directed the movement of most of the goods from India, Arabia, and Ethiopia to the countries of the Greek and Roman world through Alexandria. Not content with this, he sent a certain Satyr on a journey to explore the western coast of the Red Sea, and he founded another city, Philothera, which took its name from the sister of Ptolemy II. Doubtless also with the purpose of expanding his trade with India, Philadelphus sent an ambassador there named Dionysius to establish contacts with the local kings.

Despite some foreign policy failures during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, Egypt”s political and economic position strengthened. This is aided by the king”s rather successful pragmatic domestic policy. Ptolemy Philadelphus continued his father”s course in national politics. One of the first acts of Ptolemy Philadelphus on the throne (still during his joint reign) was the liberation of about 100 thousand Jews, who had been captured and relocated to Egypt during the reign of Ptolemy I Soter, as well as the organization of the translation into Greek of the sacred books of the Jews – the Septuagint. This translation was carried out under the direction of Demetrius of Phaler.

He continued his father Ptolemy I Soter”s course to make the capital city of Alexandria one of the major centers of trade and crafts of the Hellenistic world. To achieve this goal in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus the construction of port facilities was completed, including the famous Faros Lighthouse, which was soon ranked as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. In the economic sphere the role of the state was extremely great, with land and crafts as its monopoly. There was also a policy of distributing plots of land to the great nobles. The revenues of the royal treasury were truly fabulous. The second Ptolemy, at the end of his reign, when southern Syria and the southern coast of Asia Minor belonged to his possessions, had an army of 200,000 infantrymen and 40,000 horsemen, 300 elephants, 2,000 chariots, a supply of arms for 300,000 men; 2,000 small warships, 1,500 warships partly about five rows of oars, and material to the double number, 800 yachts with gilded bows and sterns; and in his treasury there was an extraordinary sum of 740,000 Egyptian talents (his annual income was said to extend to 14,800 talents (571.5 tons of silver) and 1,500,000 artabs (15,000 tons) of bread. Much of it was spent on the maintenance of the magnificent court, the army, the navy, the colossal bureaucratic apparatus, and on subsidies to the priests and temples.

At the same time, Ptolemy Philadelphus paid great attention to the development of sciences and arts. It was during his reign that the Museion of Alexandria and the Library flourished, for the maintenance of which considerable sums were allocated. The king took a personal interest in enlarging the book fund of the Library of Alexandria, which by the beginning of the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus amounted to about 200 thousand books, and later it reached as many as half a million copies. He personally wrote to the kings, many of whom he was related to, to send him everything available from the works of poets, historians, orators, physicians. Ptolemy Philadelphus commissioned him to catalog the Library of Alexandria, the famous “Tables” of Callimachus in 120 scroll books. Tsetz reports that Ptolemy II founded an auxiliary library at Serapeum containing 42,800 scrolls.

Under Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the Museion of Alexandria included an observatory, an anatomical theater, a zoo, and a botanical garden. Scholarly pursuits were fully promoted, and the staff of the Museion of Alexandria made significant advances in philology and poetry, mathematics, astronomy, mechanics, and medicine. For the first time cadavers were allowed to be dissected for scientific purposes. Moreover, Erasistratus from the island of Cos was given to dissect criminals alive. During the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the philologists and poets Philemon, Theocritus, Callimachus, Zenodotus of Ephesus, Timon of Fliunt, the mathematicians Euclid and Aristarchus of Samos, the doctors Herophilus and Erasistratus, the mechanic and mathematician Archimedes worked or collaborated with the Alexandrian scientists in Alexandria.

Ptolemy II Philadelphus was not only a patron of the arts and sciences, but he himself took part in some scientific disputes and discussions, one of which was a philosophical feast attended by Greek philosophers and Jewish interpreters who came to Alexandria to translate the books of the Old Testament into Greek.

On November 12 or 13, 247 B.C., the young Ptolemy, known later as Ptolemy III Evergett, became his father”s co-ruler on the Egyptian throne. Perhaps in fact he himself ruled the country.

In 246 or 245 B.C., on the 25th of the Macedonian month of Dios, that is, on January 27, Ptolemy II Philadelphus died at the age of nearly sixty-three. Before his death he had become mentally ill, suffered greatly from illness, and was disillusioned with life. Athenaeus relates that one day after a severe attack of gout he looked out the window of his palace and saw by one of the canals a group of Egyptians of the poorest class eating the scraps they had collected and lounging carelessly on the hot sand, and cried in grief that he had not been born one of them.

Eusebius of Caesarea, from the words of Porphyry of Tyre, says in his Chronicle that Ptolemy Philadelphus reigned for two years during his father”s lifetime and then for another 36 years after his death, so that his reign was 38 years, the same length as his father. Josephus Flavius states that this Ptolemy reigned for 39 years.

Later Greek authors tell us the names of many of his mistresses. One was an Egyptian-born woman, though she was called Didyma by her Greek name (her house, after she won the king”s favor, became famous as one of the most exquisite in Alexandria. Mnesida and Pophina were flutists and were also known for the splendor of their houses. Another was Clino, and statues and statuettes, certainly in demand in Alexandria, depict her dressed in a single chiton with a horn of plenty in her hands, like the goddess Arsinoe. The Delos inscription mentions “two silver piglets” which Clino dedicated to the deity. Stratonica, another mistress, is known from an imposing tomb in Egyptian Eleusin near Alexandria, where her body was laid to rest. Stratonica is identified by some scholars with the wife of the same name of Arhagath, the epistate of Libya. The most famous was Bilisticha, whose name does not sound Greek, though in all likelihood it is still Greek. Plutarch reports that she was a barbarian, a “market prostitute”; Pausanias, that she came from the Macedonian coast; according to Athenaeus, she came from a noble Argos family descended from Atreus. At present it is impossible to say which of these versions is true: the gossip of inferior origin might have been fabricated out of spite, or the story of the nobility of the royal mistress out of flattery. In 268 BC, Bilisticha drove a chariot at Olympia during a two-horse chariot race and won the prize. She was probably the same “Bilisticha, daughter of Philo” who was a canephora (from the word kaneon, “basket”, which the priestess carried in ritual procession) of the Arsinoe goddess in 260-259 BC. Ptolemy tried to have her declared a goddess. She was erected sanctuaries and sacrifices were made to her as to Aphrodite Bilisticha.


  1. Птолемей II Филадельф
  2. Ptolemy II Philadelphus