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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 (1937) 7 et passim; E. Ball, Egypt in the Classical Geographers (1942) 85.


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