Ptolemy III Euergetes

Summary

Ptolemy III Evergett is the king of Egypt, ruled from 246245 to 222221 B.C. One of the most powerful rulers of Egypt of the Ptolemaic dynasty.

On November 12 or 13, 247 B.C., young Ptolemy (who at that time was in his early thirties), later known as Ptolemy III Everget, became his father”s co-ruler on the Egyptian throne. By birth he was the son of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe I daughter of Lysimachus, but according to official inscriptions and in the fictions of courtiers he was the son of Ptolemy II and his own sister Arsinoe Philadelphia. Soon everyone was convinced that a strong man had again ascended to the Egyptian throne. In his deeds Ptolemy III resembled his grandfathers Ptolemy I Soter and Lysimachus more than his father Ptolemy II Philadelphus.

Meanwhile, he had a difficult international situation. According to the agreement between Ptolemy II and Antiochus II, the latter was to send his first wife Laodicea and her two sons to Asia Minor, while Ptolemy”s daughter Berenice would rule in Antioch and give birth to heirs of the Seleucid Empire. However, Laodicea forced Antiochus to return to her in Ephesus, and then, after his sudden death in 246 B.C. (not without some suspicion that she had a hand in this), she sent emissaries to Antioch to kill Berenice and her young son. It is known that Berenice tried to defend herself and fought desperately, but in vain. The double murder was accomplished. Laodicea”s son Seleucus II was proclaimed ruler of the Seleucid kingdom. The murder of Ptolemy II”s daughter and grandson was a gross insult to Egypt, which could not but push him into a new war.

“Berenice”s Hair.”

According to Justin, Ptolemy III left Egypt at the head of his army when Berenice was still alive and in besieged Daphne near Antioch, but he was late and failed to save her. Before leaving, he consolidated his position in Egypt by marrying Berenice of Cyrene, whose engagement had taken place a few years before. Cyrenaica rejoined the Ptolemaic kingdom. The place beside Ptolemy III was taken by the queen, in whom the Macedonian strength of will was also manifested. After this he waged war with the Seleucus dynasty, the Third Syrian War, as modern scholars call it; at one time it was apparently called the “Laodicean War,” that is, the war with the murderer Laodicea. Ptolemy himself marched out of Egypt at the head of an army and invaded northern Syria. On the eve of his departure, the young queen dedicated strands of her hair in the temple of Arsinoe Aphrodite in Alexandria. Shortly thereafter, the court astronomer Conon claimed to have seen these strands in the sky, where they turned into a constellation, which he assured her there had been no constellation in that place before. The great poet of that era, Callimachus, wrote a poem about it, which in antiquity must have been admired, for, two centuries later, Catullus translated it into Latin. Although the original has not survived, it can still be read in the Roman poetic version, Coma Berenices, “The Hair of Berenice” (Veronica). According to Catullus, Ptolemy set out to devastate “the territory of Assyria” (as Mesopotamia was called at the time) and “having conquered Asia, added it to the borders of Egypt.

Sources on the Third Syrian War

The campaign with which Ptolemy III went to Asia ended in the greatest military triumph ever achieved by the Ptolemaic dynasty. Unfortunately, the detailed history of this campaign has not survived to this day. All that we know of it is known from four very short and sparse narratives, occasional remarks in Polienus and Appianus, and a curious passage from a letter or report on a sheet of papyrus found in the Gurob of Fayyum.

“The great King Ptolemy, son of King Ptolemy and Queen Arsinoe, Gods of Adelphi, offspring of King Ptolemy and Queen Berenice, Gods of Saviors, descendant on the paternal side of Heracles, son of Zeus, and on the maternal side of Dionysus, son of Zeus, having inherited from his father the kingdom of Egypt, Libya, Syria (that is, Kelesiria), Phoenicia, Cyprus, Lycia, Caria, and Cyclades, went on a campaign to Asia with foot and horse armies and fighting ships and elephants, Troglodytic and Ethiopian, which his father had first captured in those places and, having brought them to Egypt, trained them for use in battle. But having conquered all the country on this side of the Euphrates, as well as Cilicia, Pamphylia, Ionia, Hellespont, and Thrace, and having defeated all the military forces in these countries and the Indian elephants, and having made the native dynasts of all these regions his vassals, he crossed the river Euphrates, and having subdued Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Susiana, Persia, and Midia, and all the other lands as far as Bactria, and having found all the sacred objects taken from Egypt by the Persians, and having brought them back with the rest of the treasures from these countries to Egypt, he sent an army through the channels… “

Here the inscription, as found by Kozma, breaks off.

“…the daughter of the southern king will come to the king of the northern king to establish the right relationship between them; but she will not hold the power in her hands, nor will her clan hold out, but both she and those who accompanied her and those who were born to her and helped her in those times will be betrayed. But the branch shall rise up from her root and come to the army and enter into the fortifications of the king of the north, and shall act in them and increase in strength. Even their gods, their statues with their precious vessels of silver and gold, will take them captive to Egypt, and will stand above the king of the north for a few years. Though this one would make an invasion of the kingdom of the southern king, he returned to his own land.”

“When Berenice was slain, and her father Ptolemy Philadelphus died in Egypt, her brother, himself also Ptolemy, nicknamed Everget, succeeded and became the third king of the trunk from the same root by which he was her brother; and he appeared with a great army and entered the province of the northern king, that is, Seleucus, nicknamed Callinicus, who with his mother Laodicea ruled in Syria, skillfully defeated them and succeeded in taking possession of Syria, Cilicia, the upper lands across the Euphrates, and almost all Asia. And hearing that a revolt had risen in Egypt, he took the spoils in the kingdom of Seleucus and carried off 40,000 talents of silver, precious cups, and images of the gods numbering 2,500, among which were also those which, having taken from Egypt, Cambyses had brought into the country of the Persians. Finally, the Egyptian nation of idolaters nicknamed him Everget, because he brought back their gods after many years. And he kept Syria for himself, but he gave Cilicia to his friend Antiochus to rule there, and he gave Xantippus, another warlord, the provinces beyond the Euphrates.”

“After the death of King Antiochus of Syria, his son Seleucus succeeded him. He began his reign by killing his kinsmen, instigated to do so by his mother Laodicea, who should have kept him from his crimes. Seleucus murdered his stepmother Berenice, sister of the Egyptian king Ptolemy, along with his baby brother born to her. By committing this crime, he disgraced himself and brought a war against Ptolemy upon himself. When Berenice in due course learned that men were sent to kill her, she locked herself away in Daphne. As soon as news spread through the cities of Asia that Berenice and her young son were under siege, they, honoring the memory of her father and her ancestors and lamenting the undeserved reversal of her fate, all sent auxiliary detachments to her aid. Her brother Ptolemy also hurriedly arrived with all his forces, having left his own kingdom, frightened by the danger that threatened his sister. But Berenice was killed before help arrived; she could not be overpowered by force, but by cunning. This crime angered everyone. So all the cities, [previously laid aside, immediately equipped a huge fleet], shocked by such a display of cruelty, sided with Ptolemy to avenge the one they wanted to protect. Had Ptolemy not been recalled to Egypt, where the revolt had begun, he would have captured the whole kingdom of Seleucus.”

“Antiochus, nicknamed Theos, married Laodicea, his paternal sister, and by her son Seleucus was born. He also later married Berenice, daughter of King Ptolemy, by whom he also had a son, but while this son was still a baby, Antiochus himself died, leaving the kingdom to Seleucus. Laodicea felt that her son would not be safe on the throne as long as Berenice”s son was alive, and she sought means to put him to death. Berenice cried out for pity and help from her husband”s subjects – but too late. The assassins, however, showed the people a child very like the one they had killed; they declared that it was the king”s son whom they had spared. A guard was appointed to protect him. Berenice also had a guard of Gallic mercenaries, a fortified citadel was appointed for her residence, and the people swore allegiance to her. On the suggestion of her physician Aristarchus, she already thought she was perfectly safe, and she hoped to win over to her side all who were hostile to her claims. But they swore to her only to alienate her from her guards, and when they succeeded, she was at once secretly put to death. Some of the women who surrounded her died trying to save her. Nevertheless, Panarista, Mania, and Getosina buried Berenice”s body and put another woman in her bed where she had been killed. They pretended that Berenice was still alive, and would probably recover from her wounds. And they convinced her subjects of this, until Ptolemy, her father, arrived (an obvious typo here, it should be brother). He sent letters to neighboring countries on behalf of his daughter and her son, as if they were still alive, and by this cunning of Panarista he obtained for himself the whole country from Taurus to India, without a single battle.”

“Antiochus, to whom the inhabitants of Miletus first gave the name “Theos” (“God”) because he destroyed their tyrant Timarchus. But this god was ruined by his wife with poison. He had wives, Laodicea and Berenice, by love and betrothal–the daughter of Ptolemy Philadelphus. Laodicea killed him, followed by Berenice and her little child. As an avenger for this, Ptolemy, son of Philadelphus, killed Laodicea, invaded Syria, and reached Babylon. And the Parthians then began their falling away, for the royal house of Seleucus was in such disorder.”

Eastern campaign

One thing is clear from the above – that the army of Ptolemy III overcame all obstacles in Asia. Undoubtedly, it had to break any resistance it could meet in Northern Syria, because as long as Northern Syria was not subdued and garrisoned, the Egyptian army could not move across the Euphrates into Mesopotamia. Ptolemy”s march did not meet with much resistance in Asia. This should be explained not so much by the strength of Ptolemy himself, but by the weakness and unpopularity of his enemies, Laodicea and her sons, who had become “famous” for their complicity in the murder of his father, and most importantly, for their involvement in the oppressive policy of the Seleucids in previous years. It is not without reason that Justin writes about the widespread transition of the cities of Asia to the side of Ptolemy, and Polythene points out that Ptolemy seized territories “without war and combat”. Besides, Ptolemy, according to Poliene, resorted to some cunning; he sent letters on behalf of Berenice and her son, as if they were alive, everywhere with the order to go over to the side of the Egyptians. It is possible that in doing so he used the services of a front person, a woman posing as Berenice. A papyrus from Gurob, describing the initial phase of the campaign – the invasion of Syria and Cilicia, may speak of this. It speaks of the capture of Seleucia of Pieria, over which Ptolemy then appointed Epigenes as strategist. What follows is a curious account of how the generals Pythagoras and Aristocles, acting on the orders of a certain person called “Sestro” in the papyrus (probably by order of a false Berenice), went to the Sola of Cilicia, where they helped the people overthrow the Laodicean strategist Aribaz. Aribaz tried to flee and even took the treasury with him to be transported to Ephesus to Laodicea. But Pythagoras and Aristocles seized the money in time and transported it to Seleucia of Pieria: a total of 1500 talents of silver. Aribaz still escaped from the city and approached the Taurus Pass, but there some locals cut off his head and sent him to Antioch. In later parts of the text of the Gurob papyrus the king himself speaks enthusiastically of his arrival by ship to Seleucia, then to Antioch, and of the magnificent reception accorded the conqueror there: “No opportunity was left to be surpassed in favor and friendship to us … Nothing gave us so much pleasure as their diligence.” In Antioch the king performed sacrifices, and about sunset had a rendezvous with “Sestra.

Ptolemy III”s march eastward began in late 246 B.C. or, at the latest, in February-March 245 B.C. One papyrus speaks of “capturing prisoners of war”; the papyrus is dated 24 perity 2 of Ptolemy III (April 245 B.C.). Nevertheless, Ptolemy had not yet reached middle Mesopotamia by July 245 B.C.; for the Babylonian documents of this very month have been found, dated to the Seleucid era, and it is reliably known that Babylon was then under the rule of the supporters of Laodicea and her sons. From a very poorly preserved tablet known as the “Chronicle of the Invasion of Ptolemy III” we can understand that the Egyptians reached Babylonia in the month of kislim (November-December), the siege of Babylon began only in the next month Tebet (December-January). On the 19th day of the month (January 13, 244 BC) Ptolemy”s troops defeated the army of Belat Ninua, who led the defense and took the city itself. The remnants of the garrison took refuge in the heavily fortified palace, which the Egyptians could not take even in the next month of the Sabbath (January-February). At this point the text of the tablet stops and what happened next is unknown.

It is also quite unclear how far east Ptolemy went. If he did cross the Tigris and even took his armies “as far as India,” as Paulienus writes, he must have encountered new powers recently emerging there, namely the Parthians under their Arshakid kings and Bactria, led by the Greek Diodotus. We have no record, however, that these young states were ever subjected to invasion by an Egyptian king. It is unlikely that Ptolemy ventured far into the territory of Iran, and that he remained so long from his base in Egypt. It is possible, however, that in one of the ancient cities of the Persian king, at Ekbatan, Persepolis, or Susa, Ptolemy arranged a sort of palace for solemn receptions, where envoys from the Parthian, Bactrian, and Gundukush dynasties appeared with assurances of allegiance. This alone would have been enough for the courtiers in Egypt to call the king”s actions a conquest of the East as far as Bactria and India. Ptolemy apparently did not penetrate into Asia Minor either, where Seleucus II and his mother were still in power.

Revolt in Egypt

Justin and Jerome report that Ptolemy did not actually finish the campaign. He learned that a rebellion had broken out in Egypt and was forced to turn back. What kind of rebellion this was is anyone”s guess. Some scholars say it was another rebellion in Cyrenaica, others are inclined to believe it was a revolt in Egypt that occurred after the Nile had not sufficiently flooded, when there was a threat of famine. In favor of the latter version is the Canopus Decree, issued in the 9th year of the reign of Ptolemy III, on the 7th day of the month of Appelaya, and in Egyptian, the 17th day of Tibi (March 6, 238 B.C.), that is, dated immediately after the Third Syrian War, and which notes that there was indeed a shortage of bread in Egypt at some point in the initial reign of Ptolemy III.

“When the river once insufficiently overflowed and the whole country was in despair at what had happened, and remembered the calamities that had happened under certain former kings, when it happened that the inhabitants of the land suffered from an incomplete overflow; (i.e., Ptolemy III and Berenice II) with care and foresight protected both those in the temples and other inhabitants, giving up much of their income to save lives by sending for bread for the country to Syria, Phoenicia, Cyprus, and many other lands at high prices, saved the inhabitants of Egypt, thereby bequeathing an immortal beneficence and the greatest example of their dignity to the present and future generations, in reward for which the gods have granted them lasting royal majesty and will grant them all favors for all eternity.”

The results of Ptolemy”s eastern campaign

Despite the untimely termination of the campaign, Egypt”s political successes seemed enormous. In the shortest possible time they succeeded in subjugating a considerable expanse of Asia. But whether Ptolemy intended to hold on to his eastern conquests or whether it was only a raid for the purpose of plundering captured territories is a question on which we do not have any documentary evidence. The Egyptian army, assuming that the Seleucid king could not assemble an army capable of defeating it, might well have moved directly through the vast Seleucid kingdom unhindered. Understandably, the organized assemblage of military power outnumbered any army that could have been raised against it in the places where it arrived, and thus it consistently conquered all countries as long as it remained in them. But to retain what it had conquered when the army moved to a new place was another matter entirely. Even Alexander the Great had difficulty in doing so. The ephemerality of the idea of becoming king of the Seleucid kingdom, being also king of Egypt, and thus uniting most of Alexander”s heritage, Ptolemy himself seems to have understood. Even if Ptolemy had not had to return home prematurely because of “internal rebellion,” it would have taken much more strength and time before his eastern campaign could be considered a real conquest of Media and Persia.

It is true that Ptolemy did take some steps to secure the occupied territories. Jerome reports that the king left his warlord Xanthippus in charge of the provinces beyond the Euphrates and appointed his “friend” Antiochus as governor of Cilicia. Of course, if he had made any plans to retain the regions beyond the Euphrates as provinces of his power, he soon had to abandon the idea. Perhaps the aforementioned Xanthippus is a Spartan mercenary who was hired by the Carthaginians in 256 BC. The “friend” of Antiochus is identified by some scholars with the younger brother of Seleucus II, Antiochus Gierax, then a boy of fourteen, who later became his brother”s enemy. But it is probably more correct to say that this Antiochus was a “friend” in a certain sense, that is, someone close to the court, a Macedonian or a Greek, who served in Egypt and happened to be called Antiochus. He is mentioned in the inscription as a mere viceroy appointed by Ptolemy to Asia Minor.

The statement that Ptolemy returned to Egypt images of Egyptian gods and other sacred objects taken away in earlier times by the Persians is noteworthy. In addition to the mention in the Adulis inscription and Jerome, it is also found in the Canopus Decree:

“And those sacred images which the Persians had taken out of the country, the king, after making a campaign outside Egypt, returned safely to Egypt and returned to the temples whence they had been taken; and he kept peace in the country, defending it with arms against a multitude of nations and their rulers.”

For this good deed he, according to Jerome, received the nickname Everget (“The Benefactor”). The state cult in Alexandria was further developed after the return of Ptolemy from the East. Ptolemy III and Berenice were venerated under the name of the Gods of the Benefactors (Evergetts).

Continuation of the war

The further course of events of the Third Syrian War is described by Justin in the following terms:

“After Ptolemy left, Seleucus built an enormous fleet to fight against the laid-back cities. But suddenly a storm broke out, as if the gods themselves were taking revenge, and Seleucus lost his fleet in a shipwreck. And of all the great equipment fate left him nothing but his naked body, the breath of life, and the few companions that had escaped the shipwreck. It was, of course, a great misfortune, but it proved to be to Seleucus” advantage, for the cities, which had previously sided with Ptolemy out of hatred for him, as if satisfied with the verdict of the gods, suddenly changed their moods, were pity for him in connection with the shipwreck, and again yielded to his rule. So, rejoicing over his calamities and getting rich from his losses, he began a war against Ptolemy as his equal in power. But Seleucus was as if born to be a plaything of fate, and regained royal power only to lose it again. He was defeated and in confusion, accompanied only by as small a bunch as after the shipwreck, fled to Antioch. From here he sent a letter to his brother Antiochus, in which he begged his support, and as a reward for his help promised him a part of Asia bounded by the Taurus range. But Antiochus, though he was fourteen years old, was greedy for power beyond his age, and seized the opportunity that presented itself to him not with the sincerity with which his brother had granted it to him. This boy with the criminal courage of an adult dared to rob his brother of everything. Therefore he was: nicknamed Gierax, for he lived not as a man, but as a kite, always stealing other people”s things. Meanwhile, when Ptolemy learned that Antiochus was coming to the aid of Seleucus, he made peace with Seleucus for ten years in order not to make war with the two at the same time.

So Seleucus II Callinicus achieved between 244 and 242 B.C. a change for the better for himself. The main condition for this new turn was the fragility, the instability of Ptolemy III”s conquests in Asia. Once again the cities turned away from Egyptian patronage, and here the cause was certainly not sentimental compassion for Seleucus, but rather a keen discontent with Ptolemy, who had mercilessly plundered the population of Asia. As it becomes clear, Seleucus regained Northern Syria with Antioch, the capital of his kingdom, although Seleucia Pieria remained in the hands of the Egyptian garrison, cutting off Antioch from communication with the sea. The loss of northern Syria also meant the loss of all the eastern provinces. Having gained a certain economic, territorial, and strategic base for even more decisive action, Seleucus began a war with Ptolemy as his equal in strength. In 242-241 B.C. (3. 134 Olympiad) the Seleucid counteroffensive apparently went so far south that Seleucus, according to Eusebius, was able to liberate Damascus and Orphosia (on the Phoenician coast), besieged by Egyptian forces. But Seleucus” attempt to penetrate further south into Palestine resulted in his crushing defeat and fled to Antioch. Here he sought help from his brother Antiochus Gierax. Ptolemy, learning that Antiochus was coming to the aid of Seleucus and feeling that further struggle was futile, preferred to make peace.

Peace Treaty

There is an account by Eutropius of a Roman embassy to Egypt, with a belated offer of Roman assistance to Ptolemy in the war against the Seleucids. “Ptolemy gratefully received the Romans, but declined their assistance, for the war was already over.” This report is placed by Eutropius between his description of the Roman events of 241 and 237 B.C. A more precise date for the conclusion of peace may be given by a decree of the city of Telmessus in honor of Ptolemy, son of Lysimachus, nephew of Ptolemy III Evertes. This decree states that Ptolemy, son of Lysimachus, was sent by the Egyptian king to Telmessos to govern and received the city from the king in a bad condition because of the war. Lysimachus” son exempted the citizens from taxes and generally heralded a peaceful way of life and prosperity for the city. The decree is dated 2 dist. 7 of Ptolemy III (July 1, 240 B.C.). So the peace was made in 241 or the first half of 240 B.C.

The exact terms of the peace treaty are unknown to us, but in general the Seleucid state was hardly able to regain its pre-war position. Ptolemy expanded his territories at the expense of parts of Asia Minor and even some cities of Syria (e.g., Seleucia Pieria). With these successes Egypt laid the basis for a new stage of its international power in the East. Ptolemy, of course, did not achieve world domination, but he returned his power to the leading position in the Eastern Mediterranean world.

In the remaining almost twenty years of his life, Ptolemy Everget rested on his laurels. The Alexandrian court continued to interfere in politics and conflicts in the Mediterranean. The letter of King Ziael of Bithynia to Kos 241 B.C. shows, in particular, that Ptolemy III was a “friend and ally” of Bithynia and, therefore, controlled a “dangerous” region of northwestern Asia Minor. Ziael, having become king, apparently refocused on Egypt and turned from an enemy of the Ptolemies into a support for their invasive plans. From the same letter it is clear that Ptolemy Evergetus was “friendly concerning” Kos. Having the Cretan Ethan, Ptolemy was able to possess the whole island. An inscription of this city and a decree in honor of Bulgars son of Alexis has reached us. As if summing up the omnipotence of the Egyptians, Memnon writes:

“Ptolemy (III), king of Egypt, having reached the pinnacle of prosperity, bent the cities to his side with brilliant gifts. And to the Herakliots he sent 500 artabas of wheat, and built for them on the acropolis a temple of Heracles of Prokonnesos stone.”

In Greece, after Antigonus Doson became king of Macedonia (229 BC), a three-way rivalry arose between Macedonia, the Achaean alliance, and Sparta. Egypt first supported the Achaeans, then Ptolemy made promises to the king of Sparta, Cleomenes, and persuaded him to send his mother and children to Alexandria as hostages. But in the end Ptolemy let Antigonus defeat the Spartans at the Battle of Sellasia (222 BC) Cleomenes fled to Alexandria. Although Ptolemy Evergetus accorded him all kinds of honors – as a warrior to warrior – and erected him a statue at Olympia, the foundation of which was found, he was in no hurry to send the promised troops to Greece with him. According to one dubious text, Antigonus at the beginning of his reign “subdued Caria,” that is, expelled the Egyptian garrisons from there and replaced them with his own.

But even if there were outbursts of warfare between the armies of Egypt and some other power, Ptolemy III himself no longer went to war. Perhaps after a vigorous youth he got fat and lazy. On the coins his neck looks fat.

Ptolemy III Evertes continued to fill the Library of Alexandria. Manuscripts from all over the Greek world were brought to Alexandria. Cetz attributes to Callimachus himself the statement that at the time of Ptolemy III the library of Alexandria numbered 400,000 “mixed” scrolls and 90,000 “unmixed” scrolls. By “unmixed” probably meant scrolls containing a single work (and by “mixed” scrolls we mean papyri on which two or more works were recorded. Many of these half a million scrolls must have been copies of the same manuscripts, since the total number of works written by Greek authors at that time did not reach that number. It seems probable, therefore, that the Library of Alexandria served not only as a reference library for scholars and students, but as a place where copies of scrolls were made and kept for sale.

Under Ptolemy III attempts were made to reform the calendar. The intention was to introduce a fixed era, by which time could be chronologized, rather than counting time by the years of the kings” reign, which was extremely inconvenient. On the coins of Ptolemy III, the years are counted from 311 B.C. – the year of little Alexander”s death – rather than by the years of Ptolemy III”s reign. Second, a year-round calendar with constant seasons was developed. Until now, the Egyptians had used a 365-day Egyptian year. Since it didn”t have leap years with an extra day, the Egyptian year slipped one day forward every four years, which should have given a whole extra year over a period of 1,460 years. A holiday that was celebrated on some day of the calendar year could first be a winter holiday and 730 years later become a summer holiday. The Coptic decree reads:

“That the seasons of the year may correctly coincide with the structure of the world, and that it may not happen that some of the popular festivals celebrated in winter should fall in summer, since the sun goes a day ahead every four years, and that other festivals celebrated in summer should in the future fall in winter, as has happened before and as will happen if the year continues to consist of 360 and five additional days; It is henceforth enjoined that every four years one day, the feast of the Benefactor Gods, should be added after the five additional days and before the new year, so that everyone may know that the former deficiencies in the counting of the seasons and years and the knowledge of the whole arrangement of the heavens have been corrected and improved by the Benefactor Gods.”

Unlike his father, who left no special mark as a builder or restorer of Egyptian temples, Ptolemy III Everted himself more prominently. He probably built a new temple of Osiris at Canopus. According to tradition, a golden plaque was placed between the foundation stones, which archaeologists later discovered. On it is written in Greek: “King Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy and Arsinoe, Gods of Adelphi, and Queen Berenice, his sister and wife, dedicate the site to Osiris.” The naos of the temple of Isis on the island of Philae, nearly completed under Ptolemy II, was completed by Ptolemy III. On its large northern pylon was a Greek inscription stating that King Ptolemy, Queen Berenice, and their children dedicate the naos to Isis and Harpocrates. There are ruins of a temple on the nearby island of Bigge, on which can be found the name of Ptolemy III, associated with the names of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs. In Aswan, the facade of a small temple dedicated to Isis-Sotis depicts two figures in the form of pharaohs, Ptolemy and Berenice (according to hieroglyphic inscriptions). Another small temple, built by Ptolemy III at Esna, would have been particularly interesting because its walls set forth the scribe”s sacred account of the king”s Asian campaign, an Egyptian version of the Greek monument at Adulis; however, the temple was destroyed in the 19th century by a certain enterprising pasha.

The grandiose pylon at Karnak, which has survived to this day, depicts Ptolemy III, and in this case the artist unusually deviated from the sacred canons and depicted him dressed not as an ancient pharaoh, but clearly in a Greek chiton, which Ptolemy actually wore. But the most imposing monument built during the reign of the third Ptolemy is the huge temple at Apollonopolis Magna (Edfu), which is better preserved than all Egyptian temples. It is dedicated to the local god Horus, whom the Greeks identified with Apollo. Its foundations were laid on the 7th of the month of Epiphy in the 10th year of the king (August 23, 237 BC) in his presence. But such a massive construction could not have been completed during the reign of a single king. Only during the reign of the twelfth Ptolemy, about 180 years later, was the last additions to the temple completed.

Everget”s reign can certainly be seen as a period of prosperity for the Egyptian state. His brilliant military successes in the first years after his accession to the throne not only set back the luster of his entire reign, but added some important and valuable territorial acquisitions. His subjects continued to enjoy the same domestic tranquility as under his predecessors. He also seems to have shown his more favorable disposition toward the native Egyptians than did his two predecessors. He encouraged their religious feelings, and not only returned statues of their gods from Asia, but also produced various architectural works in Egyptian temples.

Among the last acts of his reign, he gave magnificent gifts to the people of Rhodes after their city was struck by a catastrophic earthquake that brought down even the famous Colossus of Rhodes. The number of these gifts is sufficient proof of the wealth and power he possessed.

“Ptolemy also promised them three hundred talents of silver (7.68 tons) and a million artab of bread (10,000 tons), building timber for ten five-deck and for the same number of three-deck ships, namely forty thousand common cubits of four-sided pine beams, a thousand talents of copper coin (almost 26 tons), three thousand talents of bast (77.7 tons), Three thousand sails, for the restoration of the colossus three thousand talents of copper (77.7 tons), one hundred masters and three hundred and fifty workers and on their maintenance he gave fourteen talents annually (in addition to that for the competitions and sacrifices twelve thousand artabs of bread (120 tons), and equally twenty thousand artabs for the ten tires (200 tons). He gave them most of these gifts immediately, and the money a third of the whole amount.

According to some later sources (Pompey Trogus), Ptolemy was nicknamed Tryphon (“luxurious”, “pampered”), and the nickname seems strange for a king who was or at least seemed sober and energetic in comparison with the voluptuous people of his predecessor and successors. Some scholars have expressed a very plausible conjecture that this nickname was given to the second Ptolemy Evergetus (but it has received curious confirmation in a Demotic inscription which speaks of “Ptlumis, who is also Trupnus”. Apparently, the inscription refers to the time when Ptolemy III was still his father”s co-ruler. If so, we may assume that “Tryphon” is not a derogatory epithet given to the king at the end of his reign, but the boy”s personal name even before he was called by the dynastic name Ptolemy.

The wife of Ptolemy III Evergetus was Berenice II, daughter of King Magus of Cyrenaica and Apama. She was also a cousin of Ptolemy III. From her he had four children:

“And since it happened that the daughter born of King Ptolemy and Queen Berenice, the Gods of the Benefactors, and called Berenice, also immediately declared Basilissa, while still a girl, suddenly passed away into eternal peace … It is decreed To lay eternal honors to Queen Berenice, daughter of the Benefactor Gods, in all the temples of the country; and since she went to the gods in the month of Tibi, in which also the daughter of the sun (the Egyptian goddess Tafne), in the very beginning left life, whom her loving father sometimes called his diadem and sometimes the apple of his eye, and to arrange a festival in her honor and a procession with a barque in most of the temples of the first order in that month, in which her deification first took place, to hold a feast in honor of Queen Berenice, daughter of the Gods of the Benefactors, in all the temples of the country in the month of Tibi, a procession with a barca within four days of the 17th day on which the procession and completion of the mourning originally took place; also to make her sacred image in gold and precious stones, and to place it in every temple of the first and second order, and to set it in a sanctuary, which the diviner or those priests who enter the aditon to vest the gods will carry in their hands, when the journeys and festivals to other gods are made, so that all may see them and all may worship and pay homage to Berenice.”

Judging from the fact that the authors who wrote about the court of Ptolemy III tell no scandalous stories, we can conclude that his life was an example of family virtue among the kings of the Ptolemaic dynasty. We do not hear that he had mistresses. Perhaps Berenice of Cyrene had the strength to keep her husband to herself.

Ptolemy III Evergetus died in October 222 or 221 B.C., at the age of just over sixty – a natural death from illness, Polybius emphasizes. Ptolemy IV seems to have been innocent of criminally contributing to his father”s swift death, as this wretched individual was later accused of doing.

Queen Berenice and brother Lysimachus survived him. Apparently both brothers lived in mutual trust. According to a hieroglyphic inscription from Koptos, Lysimachus was governor of a province in Upper Egypt from 241-240 BC.

“Lord of Lake Ishru, grant the life of Lysimachus, the brother of the rulers, the strategist.”

Eusebius of Caesarea, from the words of Porphyry of Tyre, says in one place of his Chronicle that Ptolemy Evergetus reigned for 25 years, and in another for 24 years.

Sources

  1. Птолемей III Эвергет
  2. Ptolemy III Euergetes
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