Ptolemy X Alexander I

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Ptolemy X Alexander I [note 1] (Greek : Πτολεμαῖος Ἀλέξανδρος, Ptolemaĩos Aléxandros) was King of Egypt from 107 BC till his death in 88 BC, in co-regency with his mother Cleopatra III as Ptolemy Philometor Soter until 101 BC, and then with his niece-wife Berenice III as Ptolemy Philadelphus. He was a son of Ptolemy VIII Physcon and 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.

Ancient Egypt ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

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.


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. [2]

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 VIII and Cleopatra III of Egypt had two sons and three daughters. The eldest son was Ptolemy IX, who was born around 144/3 BC and became the heir to the throne around 130 BC, during the civil war with Cleopatra II. Ptolemy X was their second son and was born around 140 BC - it is possible that the Horus name that he later assumed indicates that he was born in 140/39 BC. [1] He is referred to as Ptolemy Alexander in a number of ancient sources, but never in documentary sources like papyri. It is likely that Alexander was his birth name.

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.

Governor and king of Cyprus (116-107 BC)

Probable bust of Ptolemy IX. PtolemyIX-StatueHead MuseumOfFineArtsBoston.png
Probable bust of Ptolemy IX.

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 Ptolemy X as her co-regent. Justin further claims that Cleopatra III wanted to choose Ptolemy X, but the people of Alexandria rioted and forced her to choose Ptolemy IX. [3] 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. [4] Some historians have found this account plausible. [5] Others have argued that it is a false account that was invented by Cleopatra III at a later date. [6] At any rate, Cleopatra II, Cleopatra III, and Ptolemy IX became the co-rulers of Egypt. They are listed together (in that order) as co-rulers in surviving papyrus documents from October 116 BC. [5] Meanwhile, Ptolemy X was sent to Cyprus to serve as governor of the island.

Justin (historian) Ancient Roman historian

Justin was a Latin writer who lived under the Roman Empire.

Alexandria Metropolis in Egypt

Alexandria is the second-largest city in Egypt and a major economic centre, extending about 32 km (20 mi) along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country. Its low elevation on the Nile delta makes it highly vulnerable to rising sea levels. Alexandria is an important industrial center because of its natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez. Alexandria is also a popular tourist destination.

Pausanias (geographer) 2nd-century AD Greek geographer

Pausanias was a Greek traveler and geographer of the second-century AD, who lived in the time of Roman emperors Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius. He is famous for his Description of Greece, a lengthy work that describes ancient Greece from his first-hand observations. This work provides crucial information for making links between classical literature and modern archaeology. Andrew Stewart assesses him as:

A careful, pedestrian writer...interested not only in the grandiose or the exquisite but in unusual sights and obscure ritual. He is occasionally careless or makes unwarranted inferences, and his guides or even his own notes sometimes mislead him, yet his honesty is unquestionable, and his value without par.

Cleopatra II died some time before April 115 BC and at this point Cleopatra III became the dominant force in the government of Egypt. 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 [7] was Cleopatra III's sister. [8] 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. [9] Perhaps as a result of this, in 114/113 BC, Ptolemy X proclaimed himself 'King of Cyprus', openly declaring his opposition to Ptolemy IX. [1] [5]

Antiochus IX Cyzicenus Antiochus IX Eusebes Cyzicenus

Antiochus IX Eusebes Cyzicenus was a ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid kingdom. He was the son of Antiochus VII Sidetes and Cleopatra Thea. He left the kingdom in 129 BC and went to the city of Cyzicus, but he returned in 116 BC to challenge his half-brother Antiochus VIII for power.

Cleopatra Thea Egyptian Queen

Cleopatra Thea surnamed Eueteria was the ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. She was queen consort of Syria from 150 to about 125 BC as the wife of three Syrian kings: Alexander Balas, Demetrius II Nicator, and Antiochus VII Sidetes. She ruled Syria from 125 BC after the death of Demetrius II Nicator, eventually in co-regency with her son Antiochus VIII Grypus until 121 or 120 BC.

Antiochus VIII Grypus Antiochus VIII Callinicus/Philometor

Antiochus VIII Epiphanes/Callinicus/Philometor, nicknamed Grypus, was the ruler of the Syrian Seleucid Empire from 125 to 96 BC. He was the younger son of Demetrius II and Cleopatra Thea. He may have spent his early life in Athens and returned to Syria after the deaths of his father and brother Seleucus V. At first he was joint ruler with his mother. Fearing her influence, Antiochus VIII had Cleopatra Thea poisoned in 121 BC.

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. [10] [11]

Eunuch castrated male human

The term eunuch generally refers to a man, typically from antiquity, who had been castrated to serve a specific social function.

King of Egypt (107-88 BC)


While this conflict was taking place, Ptolemy X had left Cyprus and sailed to Pelusium. Cleopatra III had him brought to Alexandria and placed on the throne as her new co-regent in September 107 BC. [12] Cleopatra III seems to have dominated the new government even more thoroughly than she had during the reign of Ptolemy IX. Because of the means by which he came to the throne, he was given the derisory nickname Pareisactus ('smuggled in'). [13] [1] Another nickname given to him ho Cocces (the son of Cocce), seems to refer to his mother's dominance, but the exact meaning of the name thereby given to his mother, Cocce, is unclear. It may mean cuckoo, in which case this nickname too refers to the way in which his mother had brought him to the kingship. Other interpretations are 'son of the scarlet lady' or 'son of the cunt'. [1] In general, Ptolemy X was slotted into the role that his brother had previously held. He married his brother's wife, Cleopatra Selene, who was also his sister. [14] He assumed the epithet that had previously been borne by his brother, Philometor Soter (Mother-loving Saviour) and took his brother's place in the dynastic cult, in which he and his mother were worshipped as the Theoi Philometores Soteres (Mother-loving Saviour Gods). [1] Ptolemy X served as the annual Priest of Alexander and the Ptolemies for 107/106 BC and 106/105 BC - as his brother had for every year since 116 BC. [1] In 105/104 BC, Cleopatra III assumed the priesthood for herself. [12]

War with Ptolemy IX and intervention in Judaea

After his expulsion from Alexandria, Ptolemy IX had gone to Cyprus. Forces loyal to Cleopatra III and Ptolemy X expelled him, but he mounted another invasion of Cyprus in 106 BC, which succeeded in conquering the island. [15] Cyrene had initially remained under Ptolemy IX's control, but some time after 105 BC and before 100 BC, a third brother, Ptolemy Apion gained control of the region. Justin claims that the territory had originally been left to Apion in Ptolemy VIII's will, but it is not clear whether this was true or a post facto invention. [16] It is unclear whether Apion was aligned with either Ptolemy IX or Ptolemy X. One sign that he was a free agent may be the will which he published. This will 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. He actually did die without heirs in 96 BC, meaning that Rome inherited the territory. [17] [18]

In 103 BC, the new Hasmonean King of Judaea, Alexander Jannaeus, attacked Ptolemais Akko. Ptolemy IX responded by invading Judaea. [19] 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 sea 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. [18] During this conflict, Cleopatra III and Ptolemy X made an alliance with the Seleucid king Antiochus VIII Grypus. He was still waging his own civil war against his brother Antiochus IX Cyzicenus, who had previously received support from Ptolemy IX. To seal the alliance with Antiochus VIII, Cleopatra forced Ptolemy X to divorce his sister-wife, Cleopatra Selene, and remarried her to Antiochus. [20] [14]

Reign with Berenice III

In September 101 BC, Cleopatra disappears from official documents. Justin reports that Ptolemy X had her murdered, when he realised that she was intending to kill him. [20] In October of the same year, Ptolemy married his niece Berenice III, daughter of Ptolemy IX and Cleopatra Selene and appointed her co-regent. [1] Ptolemy X changed his own epithet to Philadelphus (sibling-lover) and the couple were brought into the dynastic cult as the Theoi Philadelphoi (Sibling-loving gods). [21] [18]

In 91 BC, a rebellion broke out in Upper Egypt. This rebellion forms part of a series of native Egyptian uprisings in the region, like those of Hugronaphor (205-185 BC) and Harsiesi (131-130 BC). We do not know the name of the rebellion's leader or if he claimed the title of Pharaoh, as earlier rebel leaders had. The rebels gained control of Thebes and were supported by the Theban priests. Their forces are also attested in Latopolis and Pathyris. The rebellion also meant that the Ptolemies lost contact with the Triacontaschoenus region (Lower Nubia). Meroe took control of the region and retained it until the Roman period. [22]

Around May 88 BC, Alexandrians and the army turned against Ptolemy X and expelled him. Porphyry reports that the rebellion was a result of anger at Ptolemy's friendliness with the Jews. [23] Strabo says that Ptolemy X was expelled because he melted down the golden sarcophagus of Alexander the Great and replaced it with one made out of glass. [24] The Alexandrians invited Ptolemy IX to return to Alexandria and retake the throne, which he did. Ptolemy X and Berenice gathered a naval force to recapture the kingdom, but were defeated in battle. Ptolemy X recruited a second force at Myra, invaded Cyprus, and was killed. [25] [1] [26]

In the process of recruiting this final force, Ptolemy X had taken out a loan from the Roman Republic. It seems that providing collateral for this loan involved producing a will, which left Egypt to the Roman Republic in the event of his death without an heir. [27] The Romans chose not to take advantage of this will after Ptolemy's death, but did not outright reject it, either. The possibility of Roman intervention hung over Ptolemy IX for the rest of his reign and forced him to adopt a highly deferential posture with the Romans. [26]

Marriage and issue

Ptolemy X probably married his sister Cleopatra Selene on taking the throne in 109 BC. She had previously been married to Ptolemy IX. They probably had one son, Ptolemy XI before she was remarried to Antiochus VIII in 103/02 BC. [28] [14] After he murdered Cleopatra III, Ptolemy X married Berenice III, who was probably the daughter of Ptolemy IX and Cleopatra Selene (thus, Ptolemy X's step-daughter and niece), in October 101 BC. [29] They probably had one daughter, Cleopatra V. [21]

Ptolemy XI c. 105 BCApril 80 BCCo-regent with his mother Berenice III for a few days in April 80 BC.
Cleopatra V c. 100-95 BC57 BCMarried her cousin Ptolemy XII and co-regent with him from 79-69 BC, co-regent with her daughter Berenice IV 58-57 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").

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Tryphaena was a Ptolemaic princess. She married the Seleucid king Antiochus VIII Grypus and was queen of Syria.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Bennett, Chris. "Ptolemy X". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  2. Hölbl 2001 , p. 172-203
  3. Justin, Epitome of Pompeius Trogus 39.3.1
  4. Pausanias 1.9.1
  5. 1 2 3 Hölbl 2001 , p. 204-205
  6. Bennett, Chris. "Cleopatra II". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  7. Antiochus IX at
  8. Ptolemy VI Philometor and Cleopatra II at
  9. Justin 39.3.2
  10. Justin (historian), Epitome of Pompeius Trogus 39.4.1; Pausanias 1.9.2
  11. Hölbl 2001 , p. 206-207
  12. 1 2 Bennett, Chris. "Cleopatra III". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  13. Strabo, Geography 17.1.8
  14. 1 2 3 Bennett, Chris. "Cleopatra Selene". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  15. Diodorus, Bibliotheca 34/35.39a; Justin 39.4.1-2
  16. Justin, Epitome of Pompeius Trogus 39.3.1
  17. Bennett, Chris. "Ptolemy Apion". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  18. 1 2 3 Hölbl 2001 , p. 207-210
  19. Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 13.324-364
  20. 1 2 Justin 39.4.1-2
  21. 1 2 Bennett, Chris. "Berenice III". Egyptian Royal Genealogy. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  22. Pausanias 1.9.3
  23. Porphyry FGrH 260 F2.9
  24. Strabo Geography 17.1.8
  25. Porphyry FGrH 260 F2.8-9; Justin Epitome of Pompeius Trogus 39.5; Pausanias
  26. 1 2 Hölbl 2001 , p. 211
  27. Cicero, Agr. 1.1, 2.41-42
  28. C. J. Bennett, Anc. Soc. 28 (1997) 39, 55
  29. Porphyry 165
  30. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Aidan Dodson, Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, 2004


Ptolemy X Alexander I
Born: ? Died: ca. 88 BC
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ptolemy IX
Pharaoh of Egypt
110 BC–109 BC
with Cleopatra III
Succeeded by
Ptolemy IX
Pharaoh of Egypt
107 BC–88 BC
with Cleopatra III and Berenice III