Ptolemaic dynasty

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Ptolemaic Dynasty
Ptolemaic dynasty
Ptolemaic dynasty
Ptolemaic dynasty
Ptolemaic dynastyPtolemaic dynasty
Ptolemaic dynasty
Ptolemaic dynastyPtolemaic dynastyPtolemaic dynasty
Ptolemaic dynasty
Country Ancient Egypt, Macedonia, Mauretania
Founded305 BC
Founder Ptolemy I Soter
Final ruler Ptolemy XV (Egypt),
Cleopatra VIII (Cyrenaica, Libya)
Titles Pharaoh, King of Macedonia, King of Mauretania
Estate(s)Egypt, Cyrenaica, Cyprus, Canaan

The Ptolemaic dynasty ( /ˌtɒlɪˈmɪk/ ; Ancient Greek : Πτολεμαῖοι, Ptolemaioi), sometimes also known as the Lagids ( /ˈlæɪdz/ ) or Lagidae ( /ˈlæɪdi/ ; Λαγίδαι, Lagidai, after Lagus, Ptolemy I's father), was a Macedonian Greek [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] royal family, which ruled the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt during the Hellenistic period. Their rule lasted for 275 years, from 305 to 30 BC. [6] They were the last dynasty of ancient Egypt.

Lagus from Eordaea was the father, or reputed father, of Ptolemy, the founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty. He married Arsinoe, a concubine of Philip II, king of Macedon, who was said to have been pregnant at the time of their marriage, on which account it is told that the Macedonians generally looked upon Ptolemy as in reality the son of Philip; but it is possible that this is a later myth fabricated to glorify the Ptolemaic dynasty. From an anecdote recorded by Plutarch, it is clear that Lagus was a man of obscure birth; hence, when Theocritus calls Ptolemy a descendant of Heracles, he probably means to represent him as the son of Philip. Lagus is believed by some to have subsequently married Antigone, niece of Antipater, by whom he became the father of Berenice, afterwards the wife of Ptolemy, but this is based on a misreading of a corrupt scholium; her father's name was almost certainly Magas.

Ancient Macedonians Ancient ethnic group from the northeastern part of mainland Greece

The Macedonians were an ancient tribe that lived on the alluvial plain around the rivers Haliacmon and lower Axios in the northeastern part of mainland Greece. Essentially an ancient Greek people, they gradually expanded from their homeland along the Haliacmon valley on the northern edge of the Greek world, absorbing or driving out neighbouring non-Greek tribes, primarily Thracian and Illyrian. They spoke Ancient Macedonian, a language closely related to Ancient Greek or a Doric Greek dialect, although the prestige language of the region was at first Attic and then Koine Greek. Their religious beliefs mirrored those of other Greeks, following the main deities of the Greek pantheon, although the Macedonians continued Archaic burial practices that had ceased in other parts of Greece after the 6th century BC. Aside from the monarchy, the core of Macedonian society was its nobility. Similar to the aristocracy of neighboring Thessaly, their wealth was largely built on herding horses and cattle.

Ancient Greece Civilization belonging to an early period of Greek history

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the period of Classical Greece, an era that began with the Greco-Persian Wars, lasting from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Due to the conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedon, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenistic period came to an end with the conquests and annexations of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, which established the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.


Ptolemy, one of the seven somatophylakes (bodyguards) of Macedon who served as Alexander the Great's generals and deputies, was appointed satrap of Egypt after Alexander's death in 323 BC. In 305 BC, he declared himself Ptolemy I, later known as Sōter "Saviour". The Egyptians soon accepted the Ptolemies as the successors to the pharaohs of independent Egypt. Ptolemy's family ruled Egypt until the Roman conquest of 30 BC.

Ptolemy I Soter Macedonian general

Ptolemy I Soter was a companion and historian of Alexander the Great of the Kingdom of Macedon in northern Greece who became ruler of Egypt, part of Alexander's former empire. Ptolemy was pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt from 305/304 BC to his death. He was the founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty which ruled Egypt until the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC, turning the country into a Hellenistic kingdom and Alexandria into a center of Greek culture.


Somatophylakes, in its literal English translation from Greek, means "bodyguards".

Alexander the Great King of Macedonia

Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (basileus) of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty. He was born in Pella in 356 BC and succeeded his father Philip II to the throne at the age of 20. He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign through Asia and northeast Africa, and by the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history's most successful military commanders.

All the male rulers of the dynasty took the name Ptolemy. Ptolemaic queens regnant, some of whom were married to their brothers, were all called Cleopatra, Arsinoe or Berenice. The most famous member of the line was the last queen, Cleopatra VII, known for her role in the Roman political battles between Julius Caesar and Pompey, and later between Octavian and Mark Antony. Her apparent suicide at the conquest by Rome marked the end of Ptolemaic rule in Egypt.

A queen regnant is a female monarch, equivalent in rank to a king, who reigns in her own right, as opposed to a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king, or a queen regent, who is the guardian of a child monarch and reigns temporarily in the child's stead. An empress regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right over an empire.

Cleopatra Last active pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt

Cleopatra VII Philopator was the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, nominally survived as pharaoh by her son Caesarion. As a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, she was a descendant of its founder Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general and companion of Alexander the Great. After the death of Cleopatra, Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire, marking the end of the Hellenistic period that had lasted since the reign of Alexander. Her native language was Koine Greek and she was the first Ptolemaic ruler to learn the Egyptian language.

Caesars Civil War Civil war between factions of the Roman Republic from 49 to 45 BC

The Great Roman Civil War, also known as Caesar's Civil War, was one of the last politico-military conflicts in the Roman Republic before the establishment of the Roman Empire. It began as a series of political and military confrontations, between Julius Caesar, his political supporters, and his legions, against the Optimates, the politically conservative and socially traditionalist faction of the Roman Senate, who were supported by Pompey and his legions.

Like the earlier dynasties of ancient Egypt, the Ptolemaic dynasty practiced inbreeding including sibling marriage. This did not start in earnest until nearly a century into the dynasty's history. Ptolemy I was not closely related to any of his wives, and the first Ptolemaic ruler born from incest wasn't until Ptolemy V, born 210 BC. (Ptolemy II was married to his sister, but the marriage did not produce any children). [7]

Inbreeding Production of offspring from the mating of individuals of a breed who are more closely related than the average members of the breed.

Inbreeding is the production of offspring from the mating or breeding of individuals or organisms that are closely related genetically. By analogy, the term is used in human reproduction, but more commonly refers to the genetic disorders and other consequences that may arise from expression of deleterious or recessive traits resulting from incestuous sexual relationships and consanguinity.

Incest is human sexual activity between family members or close relatives. This typically includes sexual activity between people in consanguinity, and sometimes those related by affinity, adoption, clan, or lineage.

Ptolemy V Epiphanes fifth ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt

Ptolemy V Epiphanes, son of the siblings Ptolemy IV Philopator and Arsinoe III of Egypt, was the fifth ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty from 204 to 181 BC. He inherited the throne at the age of five, and under a series of regents, the kingdom was paralyzed. The Rosetta Stone was produced during his reign in 196 BC. He was a son of Ptolemy IV of Egypt and Arsinoe III of Egypt.

Ptolemaic rulers and consorts

Ptolemy I Soter was the founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty, and the first ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Ptolemy I Soter Louvre Ma849.jpg
Ptolemy I Soter was the founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty, and the first ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom.
Posthumous portrait of Cleopatra VII, from Roman Herculaneum, mid-1st century AD. Posthumous painted portrait of Cleopatra VII of Egypt, from Herculaneum, Italy.jpg
Posthumous portrait of Cleopatra VII, from Roman Herculaneum, mid-1st century AD.

Dates in brackets represent the regnal dates of the Ptolemaic pharaohs. They frequently ruled jointly with their wives, who were often also their sisters. Several queens exercised regal authority. Of these, one of the last and most famous was Cleopatra ("Cleopatra VII Philopator", 51–30 BC), with her two brothers and her son serving as successive nominal co-rulers. Several systems exist for numbering the later rulers; the one used here is the one most widely employed by modern scholars.

A coregency or co-principality is the situation where a monarchical position, normally held by only a single person, is held by two or more. It is to be distinguished from diarchies or duumvirates such as ancient Sparta and Rome, or contemporary Andorra, where monarchical power is formally divided between two rulers.

Thaïs Greek hetaera

Thaïs was a famous Greek hetaera who accompanied Alexander the Great on his campaigns. She is most famous for instigating the burning of Persepolis. At the time, Thaïs was the lover of Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander's generals. It has been suggested that she may also have been Alexander's lover, on the basis of Athenaeus's statement that Alexander liked to "keep Thaïs with him", but this may simply mean he enjoyed her company. She is said to have been very witty and entertaining. Athenaeus also says that after Alexander's death Ptolemy married Thaïs, who bore three of his children.

Artakama was a Persian noblewoman and the second wife of Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian general under Alexander the Great and the first Pharaoh of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt.

Eurydice was a Queen of Egypt by marriage to Ptolemy I Soter.

Ptolemaic family tree

Other notable members of the Ptolemaic dynasty

A seated woman in a fresco from the Roman Villa Boscoreale, dated mid-1st century BC. It likely represents Berenice II of Ptolemaic Egypt wearing a stephane (i.e. royal diadem) on her head. Wall painting from Room H of the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale MET DP105943.jpg
A seated woman in a fresco from the Roman Villa Boscoreale, dated mid-1st century BC. It likely represents Berenice II of Ptolemaic Egypt wearing a stephane (i.e. royal diadem) on her head.

Inbreeding and health

In continuation of the tradition established by previous dynasties, the Ptolemies engaged in sibling marriage, with many of the pharaohs being married to their siblings and often co-ruling with them. The early rulers of the dynasty were not married to their relatives, the childless marriage of siblings Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II [13] being an exception. The first child-producing incestuous marriage in the Ptolemaic dynasty was that of Ptolemy IV and Arsinoe III, who were succeeded as co-pharaohs by their son Ptolemy V. The most famous Ptolemaic pharaoh, Cleopatra VII, was at different times married to and reigning with two of her brothers (Ptolemy XIII until 47 BC and then Ptolemy XIV until 44 BC), and their parents were likely siblings or possibly cousins as well. [7]

Contemporaries describe a number of the Ptolemaic dynasty members as extremely obese, [14] whilst sculptures and coins reveal prominent eyes and swollen necks. Familial Graves' disease could explain the swollen necks and eye prominence (exophthalmos), although this is unlikely to occur in the presence of morbid obesity. This is all likely due to inbreeding within the Ptolemaic dynasty. In view of the familial nature of these findings, members of this dynasty likely suffered from a multi-organ fibrotic condition such as Erdheim–Chester disease or a familial multifocal fibrosclerosis where thyroiditis, obesity and ocular proptosis may have all occurred concurrently. [15]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos Theos Philopator Theos Philadelphos was a pharaoh of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He was commonly known as Auletes, referring to the king's love of playing the flute in Dionysian festivals. He was the ostensibly illegitimate son of Ptolemy IX, possibly by Cleopatra IV. His grandmother, Cleopatra III, sent Ptolemy XII and her other grandchildren to Kos in 103 BC. Thus, he spent much of his obscure early life outside of Egypt.

Berenice IV Epiphaneia was a Greek Princess and Queen of the Ptolemaic dynasty.

Cleopatra V Tryphaena of Egypt was a Ptolemaic Queen of Egypt. She is the only surely attested wife of Ptolemy XII. Her only known child is Berenice IV, but she was also probably the mother of Cleopatra VII.

Ptolemy IX Lathyros king of Egypt

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  1. Jones, Prudence J. (2006). Cleopatra: A Sourcebook. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 14. They were members of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Macedonians, who ruled Egypt after the death of its conqueror, Alexander the Great.
  2. Pomeroy, Sarah B. (1990). Women in Hellenistic Egypt. Wayne State University Press. p. 16. while Ptolemaic Egypt was a monarchy with a Greek ruling class.
  3. Redford, Donald B., ed. (2000). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. Cleopatra VII was born to Ptolemy XII Auletes (80–57 BCE, ruled 55–51 BCE) and Cleopatra, both parents being Macedonian Greeks.
  4. Bard, Kathryn A., ed. (1999). Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Routledge. p. 488. Ptolemaic kings were still crowned at Memphis and the city was popularly regarded as the Egyptian rival to Alexandria, founded by the Macedonians.
  5. Bard, Kathryn A., ed. (1999). Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Routledge. p. 687. During the Ptolemaic period, when Egypt was governed by rulers of Greek descent...
  6. Epiphanius of Salamis, however, puts the total number of years of the Ptolemy dynasty at 306. See: Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, p. 28 (note 104), or what was from 306/5 BCE to 1 CE.
  7. 1 2 Move over, Lannisters: No one did incest and murder like the last pharaohs on The A.V. Club
  8. Walker, Susan; Higgs, Peter (2001), "Painting with a portrait of a woman in profile", in Walker, Susan; Higgs, Peter (eds.), Cleopatra of Egypt: from History to Myth, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press (British Museum Press), pp. 314–315, ISBN   9780691088358.
  9. Fletcher, Joann (2008). Cleopatra the Great: The Woman Behind the Legend. New York: Harper. ISBN   978-0-06-058558-7, image plates and captions between pp. 246-247.
  10. Wasson, Donald (February 3, 2012). "Ptolemy I". Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  11. Tunny, Jennifer(2001)The Health of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. The Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists/ Vol.38(1/4), pp.119-134
  12. Pfrommer, Michael; Towne-Markus, Elana (2001). Greek Gold from Hellenistic Egypt . Los Angeles: Getty Publications (J. Paul Getty Trust). ISBN   0-89236-633-8, pp. 22–23.
  13. Ptolemy II Philadelphus on Encyclopædia Britannica
  14. "Morbid obesity and hypersomnolence in several members of an ancient royal family"
  15. Ashrafian, Hutan (2005). "Familial proptosis and obesity in the Ptolemies". J. R. Soc. Med. 98 (2): 85–86. doi:10.1258/jrsm.98.2.85-a. PMC   1079400 . PMID   15684370.

Further reading