previous next

Ptolemaeus Ii. or Ptolemaeus Philadelphus

*Ptolemai=os) king of EGYPT, surnamed PHILADELPHUS, was the son of Ptolemy I. by his wife Berenice. He was born in the island of Cos, whither his mother had accompanied her husband during the naval campaign of B. C. 309. (Theocr. Idyll. 17.58; et Schol. ad loc. ; Callim. H. ad Del. 165-190; Droysen, Hellenism. vol. i. p. 418.) We have scarcely any information concerning the period of his boyhood or youth, though we learn that he received a careful education ; and Philetas, the elegiac poet of Cos, and Zenodotus the grammarian, are mentioned as his literary preceptors (Suid. s.v. Φιλητᾶς and Ζηνίδοτος). But it is probable that his own promising character and disposition combined with the partiality of his father for Berenice, to induce the aged monarch to set aside the offspring of his former marriage in favour of Philadelphus. In order to carry this project into execution, and secure the succession to this his favourite son, the king at length resolved to abdicate the sovereign power, and establish Philadelphus (at this time 24 years of age) upon the throne during his own lifetime. The young prince appears to have been personally popular with the Alexandrians, who, we are told, welcomed the announcement with the utmost joy, and the accession of the new monarch (Nov B. C. 285) was celebrated with festivities and processions of the utmost magnificence. (Just. 16.2 ; Athen. v. pp. 196-203; Porphyr. ap. Euseb. Arm. p. 113.)

It is probable that the virtual authority of king still remained in the hands of Ptolemy Soter, during the two years that he survived this event ; but no attempt was made to disturb his arrangement of the succession. Ptolemy Cerannus and Meleager quitted Egypt, and Philadelphus found himself at his father's death (B. C. 283) the undisputed master of his wealthy and powerful kingdom. His long reign was marked by few events of a striking character, while his attention was mainly directed to the internal administration of his kingdom, and the patronage of literature and science; his foreign policy was essentially pacific, and the few external wars by which his reign was troubled, were not of a nature to affect deeply the prosperity of his dominions. Unfortunately, our historical information concerning his reign is so scanty, that we have the greatest difficulty in arranging and connecting the few notices that have been transmitted to us. Its tranquillity appears to have been first disturbed by hostilities with his half brother Magas, who had governed Cyrene as viceroy under Ptolemy Soter, but on the death of that monarch threw off the yoke, and asserted his independence. Not content with maintaining himself in the possession of the Cyrenaica, Magas even attempted to invade Egypt, and had advanced as far as Paraetonium, when he was recalled to his own dominions by a revolt of the Marmaridae. A formidable mutiny among his Gaulish mercenaries prevented Ptolemy from pursuing suing him (Paus. 1.7. §§ 1, 2; Schol. ad Callim. h. in Del. 170-190). Magas, however, subsequently induced Antiochus II., king of Syria, to make common cause with him against the Egyptian monarch, aud himself undertook a second expedition against Egypt, in which he again advanced to the frontier, and took the fortress of Paraetonium ; but the efforts of Antiochus were paralysed by the address of Ptolemy, and he was able to effect nothing on the side of Syria. At length the war was terminated by a treaty, which left Magas in undisputed possession of the Cyrenaica, while his infant daughter Berenice was betrothed to Ptolemy, the son of Philadelphus. (Paus. 1.7.3; Pulyaen. 2.28; Just. 26.3; Droysen, Hellenism. vol. ii. pp. 244-250.)

It was probably during the continuance of this war that we find Ptolemy also taking an active part in the affairs of Greece, by sending a fleet under Patroclus to the assistance of the Athenians against Antigonus Gonatas [PATROCLUS]. Nor was he inattentive to the events that were passing in more distant countries. After the defeat of Pyrrhus by the Romans, he had hastened to conclude a treaty with the rising republic, and during the subsequent war between Rome and Carthage, he continued faithful to his new allies, and refused to assist the Carthaginians. (Liv. Epit. xiv. Dio Cass. fr. 146; Zonar. 8.6; Just. 18.2 ; V. Max. 4.3.9; Appian. Sic. 1.)

Of the subsequent relations between Egypt and Syria, we know only in general terms that hostilities between them were frequently interrupted or suspended, and as often renewed; but the wars appear to have been marked by no events of a striking character. It must have been towards the close of the reign of Philadelphus that the long protracted contest was terminated by a treaty of peace, by which Ptolemy gave his daughter Berenice in marriage to Antiochus II. The other stipulations of the peace are unknown to us, but it is certain that Phoenicia and Coele-Syria-the never-failing cause of dispute between the two monarchies-remained in the hands of Ptolemy (Hieron. ad Daniel. 11.6; Droysen, vol. ii. p. 316.) In Greece Ptolemy appears to have continued throughout his reign on unfriendly if not directly hostile terms with Macedonia, and lost no opportunity of assisting the party opposed to that power ; but it was not until a few years defore his death that the successes of Aratus and the rise of the Achaean league opened out to his policy fresh prospects in that quarter. He hastened to support Aratus with considerable sums of money, and received him in the most friendly manner when he visited Alexandria in person. (Plut. Arat. 11, 12.)

But while Ptolemy was thus attentive to the events that were passing among the neighbouring potentates, his chief care was directed to the internal administration of his kingdom, and to the encouragement and extension of its foreign commerce. One of the first measures of his reign was to take effectual steps for clearing Upper Egypt from the robbers and banditti by which it was infested (Theocr. Idyll. 15.46-49, and Schol. ad loc.), and he afterwards carried his arms far into Ethiopia, and established friendly relations with the barbarian tribes of that country. He was also the first to derive from those regions a supply of elephants for war, which had been previously procured solely from India, and so important did he deem this resource that he founded a city or fortress named Ptolemais on the confines of Ethiopia, solely with a view to this object (Agatharchides ap. Phot. p. 441b, 453, a; Hieronym. ad Dan. 11.5; Plin. Nat. 6.34; Diod. 3.36). With Ergamenes, the Greek king of Meroe, he appears to have maintained friendly relations. In order to command the important navigation and commerce of the Red Sea, he founded the city of Arsinoie at the head of the gulf (on the site of the modern Suez), and that of Berenice on the coast almost under the tropic. The former he connected with the Nile by renewing and clearing out the canal which had previously been constructed by Necho, while he opened a high road from Berenice to Coptos on the Nile, which continued for ages to be the route by which all the merchandise of India, Arabia, and Aethiopia was conveyed to Alexandria. Not contented with this, we find him sending Satyrus on a voyage of discovery along the western coast of the Red Sea, and founding another city of Berenice as far south as the latitude of Meroe (Strab. xvii. pp. 770, 804, 815; Plin. Nat. 6.34; Diod. 1.33; Droysen, Hellenism. vol. ii. p. 735-738; Letronne, Rec. des Inscr. p. 180-188). It was doubtless also with a view to the extension of his commerce with India that we find him sending an ambassador of the name of Dionysius to the native princes of that country. (Plin. Nat. 6.21.)

But it is more especially as the patron and promoter of literature and science that the name of Philadelphus is justly celebrated. The institutions of which the foundations had been laid by his father quickly rose under his fostering care to the highest prosperity. The Museum of Alexandria became the resort and abode of all the most distinguished men of letters of the day, and in the library attached to it were accumulated all the treasures of ancient learning. The first person who illed the office of librarian appears to have been Zenodotus of Ephesus, who had previously been the preceptor of Ptolemy : his successor was the poet Callimachus. (Suid. s. v. Ζηνόδοτος ; Parthey, das Alex. Museum, p. 71; Ritschl, die Alex. Bibliothek, p. 19.) Among the other illustrious names which adorned the court and reign of Ptolemy, may be mentioned those of the poets Philetas and Theocritus (the last of whom has left us a laboured panegyric upon the Egyptian monarch, which is of some importance in an historical point of view), the philosophers Hegesias and Theodorus, the mathematician Euclid, and the astronomers Timocharis, Aristarchus of Samos, and Aratus. It was not merely by his munificence, or the honours which he bestowed upon these eminent men that Ptolemy was able to attract them to his court : he had himself received a learned education, and appears to have possessed a genuine love of literature, while many anecdotes attest to us the friendly and familiar terms upon which he associated with the distinguished strangers whom he had gathered around him. Nor was his patronage confined to the ordinary cycle of Hellenic literature. By his interest in natural history he gave a stimulus to the pursuit of that science, which gave birth to many important works, while he himself formed collections of rare animals within the precincts of the royal palace. It was during his reign also, and perhaps at his desire, that Manetho gave to the world in a Greek form the historical records of the Egyptians; and according to a wellknown tradition, which, disguised as it has been by fables, may not be without an historical foundation, it was by his express command that the Holy Scriptures of the Jews were translated into Greek (Joseph. 12.2. For the fuller investigation of this subject, see ARISTEAS). Whatever truth there may be in this tale, it is certain that he treated the Jewish colonists, many of whom had already settled at Alexandria under Ptolemy Soter, with much favour, and not only allowed them perfect toleration for their religion, but appears to have placed them in many respects on a par with his Greek subjects. (Joseph. I. c.

The fine arts met with scarcely less encouragement under Ptolemy than literature and science, but his patronage does not appear to have given rise to any school of painting or sculpture of real merit; and we are told that Aratus gained his favour by presents of pictures of the Sicyonic school. (Plut. Arat. 12.) His architectural works, on the contrary, were of a superior order, and many of the most splendid buildings at Alexandria were erected or completed under his reign, especially the museum, the lighthouse on the island of Pharos, and the royal burial place or sepulchre, to which he removed the body of Alexander from Memphis, while he deposited there the remains of his father and mother (Paus. 1.7.1; Strab. xvii. p.791). As a farther proof of his filial piety he raised a temple to the memory of Ptolemy and Berenice, in which their statues were consecrated as tutelary deities of Egypt (Theocr. Id. 17.123). The new cities or colonies founded by Philadelphus in different parts of his dominions were extremely numerous. On the Red Sea alone we find at least two bearing the name of Arsinoe, one called after another of his sisters Philotera, and two cities named in honour of his mother Berenice. The same names occur also in Cilicia and Syria : and in the latter country he founded the important fortress of Ptolemais in Palestine. (Concerning these various foundations, see Droysen, Hellenism. vol. ii. pp. 678, 699, 721, 731, &c.; Letronne, Recueil des Inscr. pp. 180-188.)

All authorities concur in attesting the great power and wealth, to which the Egyptian monarchy was raised under Philadelphus. We are told that he possessed at the close of his reign a standing army of 200,000 foot and 40,000 horse, besides war-chariots and elephants; a fleet of 1500 ships, among which were many vessels of stupendous size; and a sum of 740,000 talents in his treasury; while he derived from Egypt alone an annual revenue of 14,800 talents (Appian. praef. 10; Hieronym. ad Daniel. 11.5). His dominions comprised, besides Egypt itself, and portions of Ethiopia, Arabia, and Libya, the important provinces of Phoenicia and Coele-Syria, together with Cyprus, Lycia, Caria, and the Cyclades : and during a great part at least of his reign, Cilicia and Pamphylia also (Theocrit. Idyll. 17.86-90 ; Droysen, l.c. p. 316). Before his death Cyrene was reunited to the monarchy by the marriage of his son Ptolemy with Berenice, the daughter of Magas.

The private life and relations of Philadelphus are far from displaying his character in as favourable a light as we might have inferred from the splendour of his administration. Almost immediately on his accession he had banished Demetrius Phalereus, the friend and counsellor of his father, who was believed to have advised the latter against altering the succession in favour of his younger son; and it was probably not long afterwards that he put to death his brother Argaeus, who was accused of conspiring against his life. Another of his brothers, who had attempted to excite a revolt in Cyprus, subsequently shared the same fate; and his first wife Arsinoe, the daughter of Lysimachus, was banished to Coptos in Upper Egypt on a similar charge (Paus. 1.7.1; D. L. 5.78; Schol. ad Theocr. Id. 17.128). After her lemy took the strange resolution of marrying his own sister Arsinoe, the widow of Lysimachus ; flagrant violation of the religious notions of the Greeks, and which gave rise to severe animadversions. Though she must have been many years older than himself, he appears to have continued tenderly attached to her throughout her life, and evinced his affection not only by bestowing her name upon many of his newly-founded colonies, but by assuming himself the surname of Philadelphus, a title which some writers referred in derision to his unnatural treatment of his two brothers. After her death he erected a temple to Arsinoe, and caused divine honours to be paid to her memory. (Paus. 1.7. §§ 1, 3; Theocrit. Idyll. 17.130, Schol. ad loc. ; Athen. 14.621.) By this second marriage Ptolemy had no issue : but his first wife had borne him two sons-Ptolemy, who succeeded him on the throne, and Lysimachus; and a daughter, Berenice, whose marriage to Antiochus II., king of Syria, has been already mentioned.

Philadelphus died a natural death before the close of the year B. C. 247; having reigned thirtyeight years from his first accession, and thirty-six from the death of his father (Euseb. Arm. p. 114 ; Clinton, F. H. vol. iii. p. 379). He had been always of a feeble and sickly constitution, which prevented him from ever taking the command of his armies in person; and he led the life of a refined voluptuary, combining sensual and dissolute pleasures with the more elevated gratifications of the taste and understanding. (Strab. xvii. p.789 ; Athen. 13.576.) The great defects of his character as an individual have been already adverted to, but there can be no doubt that his dominions enjoyed the utmost prosperity under his mild and pacific rule, and his skilful policy added as much to the greatness and strength of his empire as could the arms of a more warlike monarch.

The coins of Ptolemy Philadelphus are only to by their dates; none of them bearing the epithet of Philadelphus.


hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
309 BC (1)
285 BC (1)
283 BC (1)
247 BC (1)
hide References (10 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (10):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.7.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.7
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.7.1
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.21
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.34
    • Plutarch, Aratus, 11
    • Plutarch, Aratus, 12
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 1.33
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 3.36
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 4.3.9
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: