Ptolemy IX Lathyros

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Ptolemy IX Lathyros
Pharaoh from the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt
PtolemyIX-StatueHead MuseumOfFineArtsBoston.png
Probable bust of Ptolemy IX
Ptolemaic King of Egypt
Predecessor Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra III of Egypt
Successor Berenice III of Egypt
Born143/2 BC [1] or 140/39 BC [2]
Died81 BC (aged 60–62)
IssueBy Cleopatra Selene:
Two legitimate sons
Berenice III
By unknown consorts:
Ptolemy XII
Ptolemy of Cyprus
perhaps Cleopatra V
Full name
Ptolemy IX Soter II
Dynasty Ptolemaic
FatherPtolemy VIII
MotherCleopatra III

Ptolemy IX Soter II [note 1] (Greek : Πτολεμαῖος Σωτήρ, Ptolemaĩos Sōtḗr "Ptolemy the Saviour"), commonly nicknamed Lathyros (Λάθυρος, Láthuros "chickpea"), [3] reigned twice as king of Ptolemaic Egypt. He took the throne after the death of his father Ptolemy VIII in 116 BC, in joint rule with his mother Cleopatra III.

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning at least 3500 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Soter derives from the Greek epithet σωτήρ (sōtēr), meaning a saviour, a deliverer; initial capitalised Σωτήρ; fully capitalised ΣΩΤΗΡ; feminine Soteira (Σώτειρα) or sometimes Soteria (Σωτηρία). Soter has been used as:

Chickpea species of plant

The chickpea or chick pea is an annual legume of the family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. Its different types are variously known as gram or Bengal gram, garbanzo or garbanzo bean, Egyptian pea, chana, and chole. Chickpea seeds are high in protein. It is one of the earliest cultivated legumes, and 7500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East.


He was deposed in 107 BC by his mother and brother, Ptolemy X. He ruled Egypt once more from his brother's death in 88 BC to his own death in 81 BC. The legitimate Ptolemaic line in Egypt ended shortly after the death of Ptolemy IX with the death of his nephew Ptolemy XI. Ptolemy IX's illegitimate son Ptolemy XII then took the throne of Egypt.

Background and early life

Wall relief of Cleopatra III, her mother Cleopatra II and Ptolemy VIII before Horus at Kom Ombo Wall relief Kom Ombo15.JPG
Wall relief of Cleopatra III, her mother Cleopatra II and Ptolemy VIII before Horus at Kom Ombo

When Ptolemy V Epiphanes had died in 180 BC, he had left three children: Ptolemy VI Philometor, Cleopatra II, and Ptolemy VIII Euergetes. All three ruled together from 169 BC until 164 BC, when Ptolemy VIII expelled his brother from power. In 163 BC, he was expelled in turn and forced to withdraw to Cyrene. However, when Ptolemy VI died in 145 BC, Ptolemy VIII was invited back to Egypt to serve as king, marrying his sister Cleopatra II (who had previously been married to Ptolemy VI). The relationship between Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra II rapidly deteriorated, especially when Ptolemy VIII took Cleopatra III (the daughter of Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra II), as a second wife. The conflict eventually led to a civil war with Cleopatra II on one side and Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra III on the other (132-126 BC). Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra III were victorious, but reconciled with Cleopatra II and restored her as co-regent in 124 BC. [4]

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 July/August 204 to September 180 BC.

Ptolemy VI Philometor Egyptian pharaoh

Ptolemy VI Philometor was a king of Egypt from the Ptolemaic period. He reigned from 180 to 164 BC and from 163 to 145 BC. The eldest son of Ptolemy V Epiphanes and Cleopatra I of Egypt, he came to the throne as a very young child in 180 BC and the kingdom was governed by regents: his mother until her death in 178 or 177 BC and then two of her associates, Eulaeus and Lenaeus until 169 BC. From 170 BC, his sister-wife Cleopatra II and his younger brother Ptolemy VIII Euergetes were co-rulers alongside him.

Cyrene, Libya ancient Greek and Roman city near present-day Shahhat, Libya

Cyrene was an ancient Greek and later Roman city near present-day Shahhat, Libya. It was the oldest and most important of the five Greek cities in the region. It gave eastern Libya the classical name Cyrenaica that it has retained to modern times. Located nearby is the ancient Necropolis of Cyrene.

Ptolemy IX was the son of Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra III of Egypt. The exact date of his birth is a bit unclear. As Pharaoh, his Horus name was "Distinguished through his birth together with the living Apis; twin in his birthplace with the son of Isis" which seems to indicate that he was born in the same year as an Apis bull, i.e. 143/2 BC. [1] This would put his birth two years before his parents' marriage, which took place in 141 BC. [5] Some historians, like Günther Hölbl, consider this insuperable and propose to place his birth in 140 or 139 BC instead. [2]

Cleopatra III of Egypt queen of Egypt

Cleopatra III was a queen of Egypt. She ruled at first with her mother Cleopatra II and husband Ptolemy VIII from 142 to 131 BC and again from 127 to 116 BC. She then ruled with her sons Ptolemy IX and Ptolemy X from 116 to 101 BC.

Horus name

The Horus name is the oldest known and used crest of Ancient Egyptian rulers. It belongs to the "Great five names" of an Egyptian pharaoh. However, modern Egyptologists and linguists are starting to prefer the more neutral term: the "serekh name". This is because not every pharaoh placed the falcon, which symbolizes the deity Horus, atop his serekh.

Initially, Ptolemy IX was not the heir to the throne - that was Ptolemy Memphites, the son of Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra II, who was roughly the same age as him. In 134/3, Ptolemy IX served as the annual Priest of Alexander the Great, the year after Memphites had done the same. [6] [1] However, during the civil war, in 130 BC, Cleopatra II attempted to have Memphites crowned as her co-ruler, so Ptolemy VIII had him murdered, leaving Ptolemy IX as the heir.

The Ptolemaic cult of Alexander the Great was an imperial cult in ancient Egypt in the Hellenistic period, promoted by the Ptolemaic dynasty. The core of the cult was the worship of the deified conqueror-king Alexander the Great, which eventually formed the basis for the ruler cult of the Ptolemies themselves. The head priest of the cult was the chief priest in the Ptolemaic Kingdom, and years were dated after the incumbents.

Around 117 BC, Ptolemy IX was sent to Cyprus, reportedly at his mother's request, where he served as governor of the island (strategos, nauarchos, archiereus, archikynegos). [7] Shortly before this he had married his sister, Cleopatra IV, who probably gave birth to two sons while the couple was on Cyprus: the future Ptolemy XII in 117 BC and the future Ptolemy of Cyprus around 116 BC. [8]

Ptolemy of Cyprus was the king of Cyprus c. 80-58 BC. He was the younger brother of Ptolemy XII Auletes, king of Egypt, and, like him, an illegitimate son of Ptolemy IX Lathyros. He was also the uncle of Cleopatra VII.

First reign (116–107 BC)

Coronation of Ptolemy IX depicted at Kom Ombo Coronation of Pharaoh Ptolemy IX - Kom Ombo Temple.jpg
Coronation of Ptolemy IX depicted at Kom Ombo

On 28 June 116, Ptolemy VIII died. According to Justin, Ptolemy VIII's will left Cleopatra III in charge of Egypt, with the right to chose either Ptolemy IX or his younger brother Ptolemy X as her co-regent. Cyrene was left to a third son, Ptolemy Apion. Justin further claims that Cleopatra III wanted to choose Ptolemy X, but the people of Alexandria rioted and forced her to choose Ptolemy IX. [9] Pausanias implies that Cleopatra III's request to send Ptolemy IX to Cyprus in 117 BC had been intended to get him out of the way in order to enable Ptolemy X's succession. [10]

Some historians have found this account plausible. [11] However, Chris Bennett argues that it is a false story that was invented by Cleopatra III at a later date. He points out that Justin's story assumes that Cleopatra III was the only living queen at the time of Ptolemy VIII's death. Documentary evidence shows that Cleopatra II was still alive in 116 BC, which makes it unlikely that Cleopatra III would have been allowed sole power to decide who would be king. [12]

At any rate, Cleopatra II, Cleopatra III, and Ptolemy IX (in that order) are listed together as co-rulers in surviving papyrus documents from October 116 BC. Ptolemy IX received the epithet Philometor Soter (Mother-loving Saviour). This was the same epithet that Cleopatra II and taken on during her civil war with Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra III, which suggests that she played a controlling role in the new regime. [11] Ptolemy X was sent to Cyprus to serve as governor of Cyprus soon after Ptolemy IX's accession.

Cleopatra II died some time before April 115 BC and at this point Cleopatra III became the dominant force in the government. Ptolemy IX was forced to divorce his sister-wife Cleopatra IV, who went off and married the Seleucid king Antiochus IX Cyzicenus (r. 115–95 BC), whose mother Cleopatra Thea [13] was Cleopatra III's sister. [14] Her new husband was waging a war against his half-brother Antiochus VIII Grypus (r. 125–96 BC), who was married to Cleopatra IV's elder sister Tryphaena. On the way to meet Antiochus IX, Cleopatra IV stopped in Cyprus, where she recruited an army and seized control of the Cypriot fleet, in order to aid Antiochus IX. [15] Perhaps as a result of this, in 114/113 BC, Ptolemy X proclaimed himself 'King of Cyprus', openly declaring his opposition to Ptolemy IX. [16] [11]

Meanwhile, Ptolemy IX married his younger sister, Cleopatra Selene, with whom he soon had a daughter, Berenice III. [1] Cleopatra Selene was not made co-regent with her new husband, as would have been normal. Instead, in documents from this period, the royal couple were Cleopatra III and Ptolemy IX, who were integrated into the Ptolemaic dynastic cult as the Theoi Philometores Soteres (The Mother-loving Saviour Gods). [17]

Ptolemy IX supported Antiochus IX Cyzicenus in his conflict with Antiochus VIII Grypus. In 114 BC, Cleopatra IV had been captured and murdered by Antiochus VIII's wife Tryphaena, who was murdered in turn by Antiochus IX in 111 BC. [17] In 109 BC, he sent Antiochus IX fresh troops to aid him in a campaign against the Jewish ruler Hyrcanus I of the Hasmonean dynasty. [18]

In autumn 107 BC, a new conflict broke out between Cleopatra III and Ptolemy IX. Pausanias claims that Cleopatra III wounded a number of her own eunuch servants and displayed them to the people as evidence that her son had attempted to have her assassinated, causing the Alexandrians to riot and expel Ptolemy IX from the city. While this was taking place, Ptolemy X had left Cyprus and sailed to Pelusium. Cleopatra III then had him brought to Alexandria and placed on the throne as her new co-regent. [19] [3] [17] Ptolemy IX had left his two sons behind when he fled Alexandria. He also abandoned Cleopatra Selene, who now seems to have been married to Ptolemy X. [20]

King of Cyprus (107–88 BC)

After his expulsion from Alexandria, Ptolemy IX went to the isle of Cyprus. There forces loyal to Cleopatra III and Ptolemy X rebuffed him, forcing him to retreat to Seleucia in Pieria. From there he mounted another invasion of Cyprus in 106 BC, which succeeded in conquering the island. [21] He initially maintained control of Cyrene, but it seems to have come under the control of his half brother Ptolemy Apion some time after 105 BC. Apion protected his position by publishing a will which left all his territories to Rome in the event that he died without heirs, a method which was often used by Hellenistic kings to prevent rivals from attempting to depose or assassinate them. However, he actually died without heirs in 96 BC, meaning that Rome inherited the territory. [22] [18]

In 103 BC, the new Hasmonean King Alexander Jannaeus led an army to conquer Ptolemais Akko. The city appealed to Ptolemy IX for help and he sailed over and caused Jannaeus to lift his siege. He then invaded Galilee, defeated Jannaeus in a battle at Asophon nearthe river Jordan, and despoiled Judaea with impunity. [23] Fearing that Ptolemy IX was planning to use Judaea as a springboard for an invasion of Egypt, Cleopatra III and Ptolemy X invaded Judaea themselves. Ptolemy X invaded Phoenicia by see and then marched inland to Damascus, while Cleopatra III besieged Ptolemais Akko. Ptolemy IX attempted to slip past them and into Egypt, but Ptolemy X managed to rush back and stop him. Ptolemy IX spent the winter encamped at Gaza, before deciding to sail back to Cyprus in early 102 BC. We hear nothing more about his activities until 88 BC. [18]

Second reign (88–81 BC)

Ptolemy X was killed in a revolt in 88 BC. Ptolemy IX then reigned once again, perhaps jointly with his daughter Berenice III. Ptolemy IX died in 81 BC. [3]

Berenice III reigned for about a year after her father's death. She was forced to marry her cousin, Ptolemy X's son Alexander, who reigned under the name Ptolemy XI and had her killed nineteen days later. Shortly afterwards Ptolemy XI was lynched by an enraged Alexandrian mob. [24]

To stave off invasion or annexation by other powers, those with influence ensured the throne passed to Ptolemy IX's remaining, illegitimate children. Ptolemy XII and his younger brother were recalled from the Kingdom of Pontus. Ptolemy XII was placed on the throne and given Cleopatra V as queen. [24] [25] The younger Ptolemy was given the rule of Cyprus, the last external territory Egypt possessed. [24]


In August 115 BC, Ptolemy IX personally travelled down the Nile to Elephantine in order to celebrate the festival there in honour of the Great God Nile - a traditional Pharaonic duty which was meant to give thanks for the inundation and ensure the success of the next. The fact that Ptolemy IX carried this ritual out personally, rather than letting a local priest carry it out in his stead, shows the extent to which Ptolemy embraced the Pharaonic role. [26]

It is possible that construction of certain buildings occurred during the first reign of Ptolemy IX. This would have included work on the Dendera Temple complex and on the temple in Edfu.

Relationship with Rome

A Roman embassy led by the senator Lucius Memmius, arrived in Egypt in 112 BC. As part of his visit, he was given a tour of the Fayyum region. Papyrus letters survive that instruct all local officials to treat him with the greatest respect and provide him with the most luxurious accommodation. The visit is a sign of the extent to which the Ptolemies now sought to conciliate the Roman Republic. It is also an early example of Roman tourism in Egypt, which would become a major phenomenon in the Roman imperial period. A set of four graffiti at Philae provide evidence for another set of early Roman tourists. Dated to 116 BC, they are the earliest known examples of the Latin language to be found in Egypt. [17]

Issue and succession

Rare drachms of Ptolemy XII minted at Paphos, Cyprus in 53 BC Ptolemy XII Auletes.png
Rare drachms of Ptolemy XII minted at Paphos, Cyprus in 53 BC

Ptolemy IX is only known to have married twice, first to Cleopatra IV from around 119 BC until he was forced to divorce her in 115 BC, and secondly to Cleopatra Selene from 115 BC, until he abandoned her during his flight from Alexandria in 107 BC. Three children are attested for Ptolemy IX, with the birth dates of his two sons being subject of much dispute, between those who think their mother was Cleopatra IV and those who make them the children of an otherwise unknown concubine. [24] [25]

Ptolemy XII Ptolemy XII Auletes Louvre Ma3449.jpg 117 or c. 98 BCFebruary/March 51 BCKing of Egypt (80-58 & 55-51 BC)
Ptolemy of Cyprus 116 or ca. 96 BC?58 BCKing of Cyprus (80-58 BC)
Berenice III Late 115 or early 114 BCApril 80 BCCo-regent with Ptolemy X (101-88 BC), Queen of Egypt (81-80 BC)



  1. Numbering the Ptolemies is a modern convention. Older sources may give a number one higher or lower. The most reliable way of determining which Ptolemy is being referred to in any given case is by epithet (e.g. "Philopator"). Ptolemy IX also took the same title 'Soter' as Ptolemy I. In older references and in more recent references by the German historian Huss, Ptolemy IX Soter II may be numbered VIII.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Bennett, Chris. "Ptolemy IX". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  2. 1 2 Hölbl 2001, p. 203
  3. 1 2 3 Ptolemy Soter II and Ptolemy Alexander I at LacusCurtius (Chapter XI of E. R Bevan's House of Ptolemy, 1923)
  4. Hölbl 2001 , p. 172-203
  5. Bennett, Chris. "Cleopatra III". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  6. Bennett, Chris. "Ptolemy Memphites". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  7. Pausanias 1.9.1; OGIS 143
  8. Bennett, Chris. "Cleopatra IV". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  9. Justin, Epitome of Pompeius Trogus 39.3.1
  10. Pausanias 1.9.1
  11. 1 2 3 Hölbl 2001 , p. 204-205
  12. Bennett, Chris. "Cleopatra II". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  13. Antiochus IX at
  14. Ptolemy VI Philometor and Cleopatra II at
  15. Justin 39.3.2
  16. Bennett, Chris. "Ptolemy X". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  17. 1 2 3 4 Hölbl 2001 , p. 206-207
  18. 1 2 3 Hölbl 2001 , p. 207-210
  19. Justin (historian), Epitome of Pompeius Trogus 39.4.1; Pausanias 1.9.2
  20. Bennett, Chris. "Cleopatra Selene". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  21. Diodorus, Bibliotheca 34/35.39a; Justin 39.4.1-2
  22. Bennett, Chris. "Ptolemy Apion". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  23. Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 13.324-364
  24. 1 2 3 4 Berenice III, Ptolemy XI, Ptolemy XII at LacusCurtius (Chapter XII of E. R Bevan's House of Ptolemy, 1923)
  25. 1 2 Werner Huß, Ägypten in hellenistischer Zeit (Egypt in Hellenistic times). C. H. Beck, Munich 2001, p. 674-675
  26. Hölbl 2001 , p. 205-206
  27. Ioannis Svoronos, Ta nomismata tou kratous ton Ptolemaion, Athens, 1904, vol. I-II, p. 302 (n°1838), & vol. III-IV, plate LXI, n°22, 23.
Ptolemy IX Lathyros
Born: 143/2 BC Died: 81 BC
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Helenus of Cyrene
Governor of Cyprus
117 BC-116 BC
Succeeded by
Ptolemy X
Preceded by
Ptolemy VIII
Pharaoh of Egypt
116 BC–107 BC
with Cleopatra III and Cleopatra IV
Succeeded by
Cleopatra III
Ptolemy X
Preceded by
Helenus of Cyrene
King of Cyprus
105-88 BC
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Berenice III
Ptolemy X
Pharaoh of Egypt
88 BC–81 BC
Succeeded by
Berenice III