Ptolemy of Egypt

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It is plain that Perdiccas was determined to act as supreme regent of the empire, and that he was the most powerful person in Babylon, when an agreement was come to amongst the chiefs assembled there for a fresh assignment of the satrapies. In that moment of doubt and confusion, Ptolemy saw quickly and decidedly the thing he wanted for himself — Egypt. Perdiccas, or the council of chiefs, gave him, in the imbecile king's name, the appointment he desired, and Ptolemy withdrew as speedily as he could to a safe position outside the mellay he foresaw.

The most natural place in which to bury Alexander would have been the royal city of the Macedonian kings, Aegae, in the homeland of the dynasty, and possibly this, and not burial in the Oasis, had been the original plan. At any rate, this sooner or later became the plan of Perdiccas.

But Ptolemy forestalled him. If the body were to be taken to Siwah, it would in any case unless it went to Paraetonium by sea have to go first to Memphis; it is likely that Arrhidaeus, on leaving Babylon, gave out the Oasis as his destination. When it reached Memphis, it proceeded no farther towards the Oasis. Whether Ptolemy had already determined that Alexandria should be Alexander's ultimate resting-place, we do not know. Pausanias says that the body remained at Memphis till it was transferred to Alexandria by Ptolemy's son, some forty years later.

Possibly this is the truth, and the fact behind the statement of Pausanias would then be simply that the body reposed for some years at Memphis, till the sepulchre at Alexandria was ready for it. The regular road from Syria to Alexandria went, as Mahaffy pointed out, not across the Delta, but by way of Memphis. The priesthood is held in two documents by the king's brother Menelaus, and since, later on, the eponymous priest of the state-cult is the priest of Alexander, it is probable though not stated that Menelaus was priest of Alexander. This is nonsense. We know at any rate that Ptolemy as a boy had belonged to the corps of pages basilikoi paides at the court of Philip, and was an intimate friend of Alexander before his accession.

Lagus must have belonged to the petite noblesse of the country. Ptolemy's mother was called Arsinoe: the official genealogy later on represented her as related to the royal family, possibly with truth.

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In the campaigns of Alexander, Ptolemy had won distinction as a commander. He had become one of the seven Bodyguards of the king. In India especially he had taken a leading part. Such was the man who now came to Egypt as satrap for king Philip Arrhidaeus, and the joint-king, baby Alexander, the posthumous son of Alexander the Great.

Ptolemy's age was then about forty-four. According to the arrangement made in Babylon, Cleomenes was to remain in power in Egypt, as Ptolemy's assistant hyparchos. Cleomenes could act as a check only so long as Ptolemy was afraid of breaking openly with Perdiccas. Now he had broken; and Ptolemy caused Cleomenes to be arraigned on some charge, condemned, and put to death.


Of course he had now to expect to be attacked by Perdiccas with his whole power, as soon as Perdiccas could get his hands free. Meantime Ptolemy extended his dominion along the African coast by possessing himself of the ancient Greek colony of Cyrene and its daughter towns. Civil war had broken out in that country in the days of confusion after the death of Alexander, one faction led by the Spartan condottiere Thibron, and another by the Cretan Mnasicles.

Refugees of the defeated party came to Egypt to entreat the satrap to intervene. Ptolemy dispatched a force, military and naval, under Ophellas, an Olynthian in his service, to occupy the country, and the two condottieri joined forces against him. Ophellas beat them down, captured Thibron, and had him crucified.

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The subjugation of a state so illustrious, with more than a century's tradition of republican freedom, since the fall of its old Greek dynasty, by a Macedonian ruler made a powerful impression upon the Greek world. The Cyrenaeans never acquiesced in the position of a subject province. They were destined to be often in the future, not an accession of strength to the Macedonian kings of Egypt, but a thorn in their side.

Yet Cyrene furnished to Ptolemaic Egypt, as Ireland has done to England, a roll of illustrious men like Callimachus the poet and Eratosthenes the geographer, and numbers of soldiers. For the moment Ptolemy left Ophellas in the country as governor. It was then seen how wise Ptolemy had been in securing for his power a territorial basis hard to assail.

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Perdiccas failed to get across the eastern branch of the Nile, and was assassinated in his own camp. Ptolemy might have stepped into his place.

Egypt in the Ptolemaic Period

But he knew that it was safer to be ruler of Egypt than to be regent of the Empire. Ptolemy was confirmed in the possession of Egypt and the Cyrenaica.

Assassin's Creed: Origins - Ptolemy XIII

Through the forty years of struggle which followed between the great Macedonian chiefs — the men who had learnt war under Alexander — Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, remained in his African province, safe as a tortoise in his shell, while armies marched to and fro across Asia and rival fleets battled in the Aegean. To some extent, indeed, he stretched forth out of his shell to mingle in the mellay, for the power ruling Egypt was now one of Hellenistic character, having various connexions, political, economic, cultural, with the other states of the Greek world.

It looked northwards, seawards, from Alexandria, with an interest which could not have been felt by one of the old native Pharaohs. And while Ptolemy wished to have the safe seat and centre of his power in the country of the Nile, he wished to have certain other neighbouring countries attached as appendages to his principality, and to have points d'appui for his sea-power in the islands and on the coasts of the Levant.

Ptolemaic Egypt was more of a Mediterranean, and less of an African, power than the old Pharaonic Egypt had been, which sometimes extended its power far into the Sudan. The Ptolemies never cared to make conquests up the Nile much beyond the First Cataract. But Ptolemy did aspire to hold Southern Syria, like the conquering Pharaohs before him — an appendage on the east to his principality as the Cyrenaica was on the west. If Egypt, in the new days of world politics and world commerce, was to be a strong and prosperous state, it could not be altogether self-enclosed and self-sufficing.

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Large timber, for instance, for shipbuilding was not to be found in the country of the Nile, but was furnished by the Lebanon and the hills of Cyprus. The line of commercial traffic which went along the Nile, to and from Alexandria, had a rival in the line which went from the Persian Gulf across Arabia to Gaza, and it was to the advantage of the ruler of Egypt to control both.

Since this is a history of Egypt, rather than of the house of Ptolemy, it lies outside its scope to trace the activity of Ptolemy and his successors, in war and diplomacy, as a power of the Greek world. We have, however, to note the vicissitudes of world-politics so far as they affected the internal history of Egypt.

In the two years 11 following the settlement of Triparadisus, Ptolemy possessed himself of Syria from Lebanon southwards, the country we now call Palestine, commonly called by the Greeks of those days Coele-Syria "Hollow Syria," from the depression of the Jordan Valley.

Ptolemy II Philadelphus - Wikipedia

The governor of this region, according to the settlement of Triparadisus, was a Greek of Amphipolis, called Laomedon. Ptolemy tried first to buy the country of him, and when Laomedon refused, occupied it by force. It was on this occasion, according to the common view, that Ptolemy seized Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, when the Jews felt that their religion forbade them to offer any resistance. Seleucus, the satrap of Babylonia, had fled to Egypt, and a new league of chiefs was constituted against Antigonus.

Antigonus occupied the cities of the Syrian coast as far as Gaza. But Ptolemy's navy, under the command of Seleucus, was meanwhile carrying on the war against Antigonus at sea. Ptolemy threw a force into Cyprus. That island, with its mixed Greek and Phoenician population, was in a divided condition. With the arrival of the Ptolemaic force, Ptolemy's ascendancy began to be established in the island as a whole.

The city, after nine years' subjection to a foreign Macedonian ruler, broke into revolt and besieged the Ptolemaic garrison in the citadel. Ptolemy, however, could spare a new expeditionary force which beat down this revolt and brought Cyrene again under the hand of his governor Ophellas. During the same year Ptolemy went to Cyprus in person and completed the conquest of the island.

Antigonus had left his son Demetrius, then a boy of twenty, in command there. For the second time Ptolemy occupied Palestine and obtained command over the cities of Phoenicia. For the second time Ptolemy withdrew from Palestine into his shell. Simultaneously Cyrene again revolted, not against Ophellas this time, but under the leadership of Ophellas. It was a bad moment for Ptolemy. This was only a breathing-space in the long struggle, and soon the war was going on just as before. The efforts of Ptolemy were now mainly bent to establishing his power on the seas.

He had lost Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, but he still held Cyprus. The Macedonian chiefs all professed to adhere to the principle expressed in the phrase "autonomy of the Hellenes," and on this pretext each might turn his rival's garrison out of any Greek city it happened to hold, and install his own garrison — as a guardian of the city's liberty — in its place. Agents of Antigonus, on the other hand, tried to buy over to his cause the dynasts of Cyprus.

They succeeded in the case of one of them — or Ptolemy believed at any rate that they had succeeded — whether it was Nicocles, the prince of Paphos as Diodorus says , or Nicocreon, the prince of Salamis, who acted as Ptolemy's lieutenant-governor in the island, is uncertain 15 — and the dynast in question was compelled by Ptolemy to commit suicide. Ptolemy retained for the present his hold on Cyprus in spite of his enemy's intrigues. In the same year he took the first step, by liberating Andros from a hostile garrison, towards establishing the Ptolemaic protectorate over the Cyclad group of islands in the Aegean, which was to be an important factor in the Mediterranean in years to come.

An inventory of temple possessions found at Delos mentions a vase bearing the dedication: "Ptolemy, son of Lagos, to Aphrodite. Demetrius swept down with a fleet upon Cyprus, and in a naval battle off the Cyprian Salamis inflicted upon Ptolemy as severe a defeat as Ptolemy had inflicted upon him at Gaza six years before.

Jews in Ptolemaic Egypt

Demetrius, with the showy chivalry which was proper for Macedonian aristocrats in their dealings with each other, sent back all his noble prisoners to Ptolemy without a ransom. But there was an end for the present to Ptolemaic rule in Cyprus and to Ptolemaic sea-power.

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  5. The things which Ptolemy had striven during sixteen years to gain outside Africa — Palestine, Cyprus — he had now lost them all. But Egypt and Cyrene remained to him. He was still absolute lord in the rich and populous country of the Nile, shut off by its desert frontiers and its almost harbourless coast from the rest of the world. Here, in spite of all disasters, he could await the turn of fortune, drawn safely in from the outside storm.

    The sagacity of his first choice was more than ever apparent. His official position had then been that of satrap of the kings Philip Arrhidaeus and Alexander. There was then no longer any pretence of one Macedonian Empire. But the rival Macedonian chieftains did not immediately after the boy king's death assume the title of kings.