A city 525 km S of Cairo on the W bank of the
Nile. It was founded by Ptolemy I Soter to replace the
Egyptian village Souit, which, like Rhacotis in Alexandria,
formed the old quarter that was reserved for the native
Egyptians. Strabo (17.1.42
) described it as the largest
city in the Thebaid nome, as large as Memphis, and
wrote that it had its own constitution like Greek cities.
It is clear from the papyri and inscriptions that Ptolemais
possessed a council and assembly, elected magistrates
and judges, and had a citizenry divided into tribes and
demes. It also had cults of Zeus and Dionysos as well
as Greek temples. It did not, however, have its own
coinage (cf. Naukratis), and its Temple of Isis did not
have the right of asylum (cf. Theadelphia). The city
instituted a special cult for the worship of the Ptolemies.
Ptolemaiskept its Greek characteristics during the
Roman period. It is now believed that Ptolemy, the Alexandrian astronomer and geographer (ca. A.D. 90-168),
was born in this city. Today there is nothing left except
mounds of ruins and part of a quay.
G. Plaumann, Ptolemais in Oberägypten
(1910); I. Noshy, The Arts in Ptolemaic Egypt
7 et passim; E. Ball, Egypt in the Classical Geographers