Ptolemaeus Viii. or Ptolemaeus Philometor or Ptolemaeus LATHYRUS or Ptolemaeus LATHURUS or Ptolemaeus Soter
), king of EGYPT, surnamed SOTER II., and also PHILOMETOR, both of which titles he bears on inscriptions, but more often distinguished by historians by the appellation of LATHYRUS or LATHURUS (Λάθουρος
He was the eldest son of Ptolemy Physcon, by his niece Cleopatra, and was already of full age at the time of his father's death, B. C. 117. Cleopatra, however, who had been appointed by the will of her late husband to succeed him on the throne, was desirous to associate with herself her younger son, Ptolemy Alexander, to the exclusion of his brother.
But the latter was popular with the Alexandrians, and the queen was obliged to give way.
She accordingly sent Alexander to Cyprus, while she declared Lathyrus king, with the titles of Soter and Philometor.
But, in order to retain her influence over him undivided, she compelled him to repudiate his sister Cleopatra, to whom he had been previously married and was tenderly attached, and marry his younger sister Selene in her stead (Just. 39.3
; Paus. 1.9.1
This arrangement seems to have in some degree produced its intended effect; at least the mother and son were able to rule conjointly for near ten years before they came to any open rupture.
But they were on many occasions opposed to one another, in their foreign as well as domestic policy, and we find Ptolemy sending assistance to Antiochus Cyzicenus in his wars against the Jews, in direct opposition to the will of his mother, who had uniformly favoured the latter, and had placed two officers of that nation at the head of her army. But Cleopatra could ill brook such resistance to her authority: and by accusing Ptolemy of a design against her life, she excited such an insurrection in Alexandria that the king was forced to seek safety in flight, B. C. 107. (Just. 39.4
; Paus. 1.9.2
; J. AJ 13.10
. §§ 2, 4 ; Porphyr. apud Euseb. Arm.
His brother Alexander now assumed the sovereignty of Egypt, in conjunction with his motherwhile Lathyrus was able to establish himself in the possession of Cyprus. Cleopatra indeed attempted to dispossess him of that island also, but without success, and Ptolemy held it as an independent kingdom for the eighteen years during which Cleopatra and Alexander reigned in Egypt. His wars in Syria are the only events which have been recorded to us of this period. In B. C. 103 he landed in Syria with a large army, in order to support the citizens of Ptolemais and Gaza against Alexander Jannaeus, king of the Jews, defeated that monarch in a great battle on the banks of the Jordan, and made himself master of Ptolemais, Gaza, and other cities. Hereupon Cleopatra hastened with an army to oppose him, and reduced Phoenicia and Ptolema'is, while Lathyrus, after an unsuccessful attempt to march upon Egypt itself, retired to Gaza, and the following spring withdrew to Cyprus, B. C. 101 (J. AJ 13.12
In the subsequent disputes of the Syrian princes he and his mother, as was to be expected, took opposite sides, Ptolemy being in close alliance with Antiochus Cyzicenus, while Cleopatra supported his brother Antiochus Grypus (Just. 39.4
), At a later period (in B. C. 94) we find Ptolemy again taking part in the civil wars which followed the death of Antiochus Grypus, and setting up Demetrius Eucaerus, the youngest son of that monarch, as a claimant to the throne. (J. AJ 13.13.4
After the death of Cleopatra and the expulsion of Alexander in B. C. 89 [PTOLEMAEUS IX.], Ptolemy Lathyrus was recalled by the Alexandrians and established anew on the throne of Egypt, which he occupied thenceforth without interruption till his death in B. C. 81 (Just. 39.5
; Porphyr. l.c.
The most important event of this period was the revolt of the once mighty city of Thebes, in Upper Egypt, which was still powerful enough to hold out for nearly three years against the arms of Ptolemy, but at the end of that time was taken and reduced to the state of ruin in which it has ever since remained (Paus. 1.9.3
With this exception the eight years of the second reign of Ptolemy Lathyrus appear to have been a period of internal tranquillity, while his prudent policy regained for him in some degree that consideration abroad which Egypt had nearly lost. We find the Athenians, in return for some benefits which he had conferred upon them, erecting statues to him and his daughter Berenice (Paus. l.c.
); and during the Mithridatic war, B. C. 87, Lucullus was sent by Sulla to request from him the assistance of the Egyptian fleet. But Lathyrus was desirous to remain neuter during that contest, and, while he received Lucullus with every demonstration of honour he declined to furnish the required assistance. (Plut. Luc. 2
The character of Lathyrus appears to have been mild and amiable, even to a degree bordering upon weakness: but it shows in a favourable light when contrasted with those of his mother and brother, and he appears to have been free from the vices which degraded so many of the Egyptian kings.
He reigned in all thirty-five years and a half; ten in conjunction with his mother (B. C. 117-107), eighteen in Cyprus (107-89), and seven and a half as sole ruler of Egypt (Porphyr. apud Euseb. Arm.
After his restoration in B. C. 89 he appears to have assumed the additional title of Philadelphus, whence he is sometimes distinguished as PTOLEMY PHILADELPHUS II. (Letronne, Rec. des Inscr.
pp. 64-66; Clinton, F. H.
vol. iii. p. 393.)
He left only one daughter Berenice, called also Cleopatra, who succeeded him on the throne: and two sons, both named Ptolemy, who, though illegitimate, became severally kings of Egypt and Cyprus.