PTOLEMY (tŏl'ĕ-mē, Gr. Ptolemaios). The common name of the fifteen Macedonian kings of Egypt whose dynasty extended from the death of b.c. to the murder of the young Caesarion, son of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, at Octavian’s orders in 30. The first Ptolemy, surnamed Soter, 367 to 282, was a distinguished officer of Alexander. He became satrap of Egypt in 323, but converted his command into a kingdom in 305. As a successor of the pharaohs, Ptolemy I took over the ancient administration of Egypt, and especially the theory glimpsed in the OT record of Joseph’s life, the ownership of the land. His vast and highly centralized bureaucracy, which became a permanent feature of Ptolemaic rule, prepared the way for the Roman imperial administration of Egypt and contrasted with the Hellenistic policies of the rival Seleucid regime in Syria.in 323
A mass of papyrological evidence provides a detailed picture of state control in the Ptolemaic system. In passing, it may be mentioned that Ptolemy I wrote a history of Alexander, which is most unfortunately lost. The second Ptolemy, surnamed Philadelphus, 308 to 246 b.c., consolidated the organization of the land. He was responsible for much of his government’s remarkable financial system, including the most highly developed banking system of ancient times; a rigid machinery of control in commerce and industry; and a nationalized, planned, and budgeted economy.
In the reign of Ptolemy II there first erupted the long rivalry with the Seleucids of Syria over the Palestinian frontier. Ptolemy II also instituted the cult of the divine ruler, a simple enough graft on old indigenous beliefs, a preparatory factor for Caesar worship. The great city of Alexandria grew apace during this reign. Ptolemy II built the amazing Pharos lighthouse outside the twin harbors, and the Museum, the most notable center of culture and literature in the ancient world. He established the famous library of Alexandria and cut a canal from the Red Sea to the Nile. This was the Golden Age of Ptolemaic Egypt.
The next reign, that of Ptolemy III, surnamed Euergetes I, 288 to 221 b.c., saw the high tide of expansion and the first symptoms of decline. These symptoms were in full view under the fourth Ptolemy, surnamed Philopator, 244 to 205, whose reign saw some significant native uprisings and the loss of Nubia for a generation. There followed a century of dynastic strife, palace intrigue, anarchic minorities, and decline, during which Egypt survived through the strength of its natural defenses and its strategic isolation rather than through the worth and enlightenment of its leadership. Ptolemy XI, surnamed , 100 to 80 b.c., was the last of the male line of Ptolemy I. He was killed by rioting Alexandrians, notoriously an unruly populace.
Ptolemy XII, surnamed Auletes or the Fluteplayer, 116 to 51 b.c., fled to Rome in the face of Alexandrian lawlessness. His restoration to his tottering throne by Gabinius, at the Senate’s orders, was Rome’s first significant intervention in the land, which the Republic (no less than Napoleon nearly nineteen centuries later) saw to be the strategic key to the Middle East. The wife of Ptolemy XIII was Cleopatra VII, the famous bearer of the name. Domestic, and consequently political and dynastic, strife between husband and wife led to Caesar’s intervention, after his rival Pompey had met his death in Egypt. Ptolemy XIV was an insignificant brother of Cleopatra, and Ptolemy XV was her ill-fated son by Caesar.
The great achievement of the Ptolemies was Alexandria, with all that its immense cultural institutions signified in the ancient world. Alexandria was creative and conservative. It preserved much of the literature of Greece and, but for the plague of Islam that engulfed the land, would have preserved more. It produced great writers and scientists. It fathered the Septuagint. It created “Alexandrianism,” which means much in the literature of Rome. Alexandria always stood apart from Egypt. It was a Greek city, and its peculiar contribution to Hellenism was the gift to history and civilization of the first Ptolemies.——EMB
PTOLEMY tŏl’ ə mĭ (Πτολεμαΐος). The dynastic name of the Macedonian Hellenistic kings who ruled Egypt after until the Rom. conquest. Some of these kings are mentioned in the Apoc., and their conflicts with their Seleucid rivals in Syria appear to be shadowed in Daniel.
Soter I, who began his Egyp. career as Ptolemy son of Lagus, was one of Alexander’s generals. After Alexander’s death (323 b.c.), he obtained the post of satrap, or governor, of Egypt. At first he ruled in the name of Alexander’s half-brother Philip Arrhidaeus and of Alexander’s young son of Macedon until the deaths of both. Probably in late 305 b.c., Ptolemy finally took the title of king of Egypt, after the retreat of his opponent Antigonus, retaining his realm until his death in 282 b.c. That realm included not only Egypt but also Pal. (including Judea) and S Syria, plus various footholds in southern Asia Minor and the Aegean. Ptolemy inaugurated a new period of Egyp. power in the Near E, but as a Hel. monarchy—he was Pharaoh not to the outer world, but only in Egypt and that in office only. On the cultural plane, he founded the Library and Museum at Alexandria, his capital, and instituted the cult of the Graeco-Egyp. god Serapis (q.v.), perhaps to provide a religious link for his Egyp. and Gr. subjects. In Upper Egypt, he founded just one Gr.-constituted city of his own—Ptolemais, modern El-Menshieh, ten m. S of Akhmim. This king and his Syrian contemporary, Seleucus I, may be the kings of
Philadelphus (284-246 b.c.) was the younger son of Ptolemy I, and ruled for the last two years of his father’s life. He organized the Alexandrian Library inaugurated by his father. Alexandria itself developed apace; the Pharos lighthouse was erected. Ptolemy II established Gr. settlers from his forces to cultivate the Fayum oasis, and in the name of his deceased favorite wife, Arsinoë II, he transformed the revenues of the wealthy Egyp. temples to be under closer control of the state and the royal power. The Egyp. priest Manetho wrote his Aegyptiaca (History of Egypt) in Gr. about this time, and the tradition of the LXX coming from this reign reflects the need of the important community of Gr.-speaking Jews in Alexandria to have the OT in their adopted everyday speech. Abroad, Ptolemy II was in intermittent conflict with the Seleucids, until eventually he made alliance with them by giving his daughter Berenice in marriage to of Syria. She and her son, however, were murdered just before Ptolemy’s own decease (cf.
Euergetes I (246-222 b.c.) promptly marched against Syria to avenge his sister’s death, gaining great spoils but not attempting to hold or eliminate the rival kingdom (cf.
The Ptolemaic Dynasty
Ptolemy I, Soter I 305-282 B.C.
Ptolemy II, Philadelphus 284-246 B.C.
Ptolemy III, Euergetes I 246-222 B.C.
Ptolemy IV, Philopator 222-205 B.C.
Ptolemy V, Epiphanes 204-180 B.C.
Ptolemy VI, Philometer 180-145 B.C.
Ptolemy VII, Neos Philopater 145 B.C.
Ptolemy VIII, Euergetes II 145-116 B.C.
Ptolemy IX, Soter II 116-110, 109, 88-80 B.C.
Ptolemy X, Alexander I 110-109, 108/7-88 B.C.
Ptolemy XI,80 B.C.
Ptolemy XII, Auletes 80-51 B.C.
Cleopatra VII, 50-30 B.C.
4. Ptolemy IV,Philopator (222-205 b.c.) was a pleasure-loving prince who largely left the reins of government in the hands of unscrupulous ministers of the crown. At the battle of Raphia (217 b.c.), however, the young king showed leadership; allusion is made to his Syrian activity in 3 Maccabees 1:1-5. In this reign native Egyptians were taken into the armed forces and gave a good account of themselves in the Syrian fighting. This had the effect of reawakening Egyp. self-respect, resentment at exclusion from high executive office (confined to Greeks), and feelings for real independence; this departure was thus a seedbed for the subsequent internal revolts under Ptolemies IV, V, and IX. Late in this reign such a revolt broke out in Upper Egypt, and was not suppressed until the next reign; building construction at Edfu, for example, halted for twenty years.
Epiphanes (204-180 b.c.) was a mere child at his accession. Thus, within a few years, of Syria was able to seize Pal. from Egypt (202-198 b.c.), so that the Jews now had a change of masters, but at first without much immediate difference. Subsequently, Antiochus III gave his daughter in marriage to Ptolemy V and ceased to threaten Egypt, done in some measure through pressure from Rome. His wars and Egyp. marriage alliance may be reflected in
Neos Philopator was but a child at his father’s death (145 b.c.), and he was speedily supplanted by his uncle.
Euergetes II (145-116 b.c.). In the classical writers, this monarch appears in a very unfavorable light, not directly reflected by contemporary records or in the reasonably settled state of his kingdom. His activity in Syria is reflected in
Soter II (116-110, 109, 88-80 b.c.) had a checkered career. He was ousted from Egypt in 110 b.c. in favor of his younger brother Ptolemy X, Alexander I (110-109, 108/7-88 b.c.), and returned to power briefly in 109/8 b.c., and permanently in 88 b.c. The queens of the period, e.g., Cleopatra III, were of base and ruthless character. Late in Soter II’s reign, a severe local revolt broke out in Upper Egypt, whose suppression brought devastation upon ancient Thebes, whose bygone splendors were long a focus for nationalistic aspirations (in 85 b.c.).
Alexander II lasted only nineteen days, being murdered by the soldiery after having first murdered his stepmother Berenice III.
“Auletes” (80-51 b.c.) was an illegitimate son of Ptolemy IX, and a man of ill character. He ruled under the shadow of potential Rom. interference with Egyp. independence, eventually obtaining Rom. recognition of his sovereignty by a vast bribe. This and similar “expenses” strained the economy of his realm. A revolt in Alexandria drove him into exile during the years 58-55 b.c., the rule passing to a daughter, Berenice IV. By bribing the Rom. governor of Syria, Auletes regained his throne amid bloodshed, including the murder of Berenice IV. In this reign, the Gr. traveler Diodorus Siculus visited Egypt, compiling a useful account of what he saw, but, regrettably, compounded with other observations obtained from earlier writers but unacknowledged.
At the death of Ptolemy XII, the throne was designated to pass to his daughter Cleopatra VII and son Ptolemy XIII, they having been associated with their father for a year. But rivalry broke out between Cleopatra—most famous of all the Ptolemies—and her brother. Julius Caesar was officially to arbitrate between the two, but his attachment to Cleopatra weighed the scales against Ptolemy, whose armed resistance was of no avail (killed, 47 b.c.). Thereafter, a younger brother became Cleopatra’s nominal co-ruler as Ptolemy XIV, but she poisoned him at Rome, in 44 b.c. By Julius Caesar she had a son, Caesarion, and had him recognized in Egypt (41 b.c.) and then raised him to the rank of nominal coruler (36-30 b.c.), with an eye to the future succession, as Ptolemy XV. Cleopatra, whatever her other charms (still debated), was an ambitious woman and clever politician. Rome feared her intentions to dominate the Near Eastern world. Antony fell under her dominance, to his undoing, but Octavian (Augustus) was not to be overcome by her armies, intrigues, or personality. Cleopatra took her own life rather than be made a spectacle in the victor’s triumphal procession. With her death and the murder of her son, Egypt finally passed, in August of 30 b.c., under the domination of Rome.
Under the earlier Ptolemies, esp. Ptolemy I-III, Egypt was subjected to a revised and more intensive economic system, but good management supported a considerable prosperity. This administrative machine was kept going fairly well for another cent., but from before the time of Ptolemy VIII, corruption in local administration aggravated a growing economic burden on the Egyp. populace, and helped to fan their discontents into intermittent rebellions. Egypt was run by the Ptolemies—foreigners—entirely for their own interests, as if it were simply a large private estate, without any real concern for the welfare of their Egyp. subjects. However, the Ptolemies could not dispense with the support (or at least, acquiescence) of the populace, and so sought to keep their loyalty by favoring their most influential element—the priesthoods; hence, the spectacular rebuilding of major temples such as Dendera, Edfu, Esna, Kom Ombo and Philae, and additions to other venerable temples. The Egyptians remained fundamentally unimpressed, and the priests remained covertly the guardians of the national spirit (traceable in various subtleties of temple decoration) as well as of ancient religious tradition. The hieroglyphic script was deliberately developed to a far higher degree of elaboration, so that the despised foreigner might not penetrate the secret lore of the texts inscribed in profusion upon the walls of the new temples. This treasury is only gradually being unlocked, and these relatively late Ptolemaic hieroglyphic texts contain a vast deposit of data on Egyp. religion often going back to far earlier times in origin and throwing needed light on scantier sources from preceding epochs.
A different picture obtains of the Jews in Ptolemaic Egypt. Their most important community was at Alexandria, where they formed a very notable part of the whole. As noted, the need for a Gr. VS of the Scriptures found its expression in the LXX from the 3rd cent. b.c. onward. The history of the Palestinian Jews under Ptolemaic rule in the 3rd cent. b.c. is little known, apart from internal rivalries over the succession to the high priesthood in Jerusalem.
E. Bevan, A History of Egypt under the Ptolemaic Dynasty (1927), and CAH, VII (1928); H. I. Bell, Egypt, from Alexander the Great to the Arab Conquest (1948); H. I. Bell, Cults and Creeds in Graeco-Roman Egypt (1953); H. W. Fairman, “Worship and Festivals in an Egyptian Temple,” BJRL, XXXVII (1954), 165-203; T. C. Skeat, The Reigns of the Ptolemies (1954); W. W. Tarn and G. T. Griffith, Hellenistic Civilization (1959); A. E. Samuel, Ptolemaic Chronology (1962).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
The name Ptolemy is rather common from the days of, but is best known as the dynastic name of the 13 (14) Macedonian kings of Egypt (323-43 BC) (as Pharaoh in the ). Those of interest to the Biblical student are:
(1) Ptolemy I, surnamed Soter, (Soter, "Savior"), called also Ptolemy Lagi, was born circa 366 BC, the son of Lagus and Arsinoe, a concubine of Philip of Macedon. He was prominent among the officers of Alexander the Great, whom he accompanied in his eastern campaigns. On the death of Alexander, Ptolemy seized the satrapy of Egypt as his share (1 Macc 1:6 ff). Now commenced the long hostilities between Egypt and Syria, Ptolemy on more than one occasion invading Syria. In 316 he joined in a war against Antigonus during which Coele-Syria and Phoenicia were lost, but in 312 regained from Demetrius the son of Antigonus. It was most probably in this year (312) that Ptolemy captured Jerusalem on a Sabbath day (Josephus, Ant, XII, i, 1), and by force or persuasion induced many Jews to accompany him to Egypt as colonists or mercenaries. His kind treatment of them induced others to leave Syria for Egypt. In 306 Ptolemy was defeated in the great naval fight off Salamis in Cyprus by which Cyprus was lost to Egypt. About this date Ptolemy assumed the title of "king," following the example of the Syrian ruler. In 305-304 he defended the Rhodians against Demetrius Poliorcetes, forcing the latter to raise the siege--hence, the title "Savior." In 285 BC Ptolemy abdicated in favor of his youngest son Philadelphus--the son of his favorite wife Berenice--and died in 283 BC. According to the usual interpretation this Philadelphus is "the king of the south" in
(2) Ptolemy II, surnamed Philadelphus (Philadelphos, "Brother(sister?)-loving"), the youngest son of Ptolemy I; born 309 BC in Cos; succeeded his father in 285 BC and died 247. Like his father, he was actively engaged in two Syrian wars until peace was made about 250 BC, Berenice, the daughter of Philadelphus, being given in marriage to Septuagint). At any rate, he was favorably disposed toward his Jewish subjects, and in his reign Jewish wisdom and Greek philosophy began to blend. Philadelphus is supposed to be "the king of the south" of
(3) Ptolemy III, surnamed Euergetes (Euergetes, "Benefactor"), son of Philadelphus, whom he succeeded in 247 BC. In 246 he was provoked to a Syrian war to avenge the murder of his sister Berenice at Antioch; in the course of this campaign he met with remarkable success, overran Syria, plundered Susa and Babylonia, penetrated to the shores of India and captured the important stronghold of Seleucia (1 Macc 11:8). Euergetes was, however, prevented from reaping the fruits of his victories by being recalled by internal troubles in Egypt. He brought back with him from the East the Egyptian gods that Cambyses had carried away 300 years before, thus earning from the Egyptians the title of "Benefactor." Two traditions obtain as to his death: the more probable is that of Polybius (ii.71), according to which he died a natural death (222 BC), or, according to another (Justin xxix.1), he was murdered by his son. Some regard this king as the Euergetes mentioned in the Prologue to Sir, but the reference must rather be to Euergetes II (Ptolemy VII). The "shoot" who "shall enter into the fortress of the king of the north" and prevail is Euergetes I (
(4) Ptolemy IV, surnamed Philopator (Philopator, "Lover of his father"), or Tryphon (Truphon), the eldest son of Euergetes whom he succeeded in 222 BC. Antiochus the Great of Syria declared war against Egypt about 219 BC, but, after conquering Coele-Syria and Phoenicia, he was defeated by Philopator at the battle of Raphia near Gaza (217 BC). On his victorious return to Alexandria, Philopator assumed a very anti-Jewish attitude, and indeed caused discontent generally among his subjects. In spite of the victory of Raphia, Egypt began to decline under his weakness. He was as dissolute as Nero, while his domestic tragedies are as dark as those of Herod the Great. He died in 205 BC.
(5) Ptolemy V, surnamed Epiphanes (Epiphanes, "Illustrious"). He was only 5 years old when his father Philopator died. Taking advantage of the king’s minority, Antiochus the Great leagued with Philip of Macedon against Egypt. Philip took the Cyclades and some cities in Thrace, while Antiochus defeated the Egyptian general Scopas at Paneas on the Jordan in 198 BC, and thus Palestine passed to the Seleucid dynasty. The Romans now interfered to make Antiochus surrender his conquests. Not daring to disobey Rome, Antiochus compromised by making peace with Ptolemy and betrothing to him his daughter Cleopatra, who was to receive as her dower the revenues of the conquered provinces Coele-Syria, Palestine and Phoenicia (Josephus, Ant, XII, iv, 1; Polyb. xxviii.17), but the control of these provinces seems to have been retained by Antiochus. The marriage took place in 193 BC. After the dismissal of his faithful minister, Aristomenes, Epiphanes’ character and reign deteriorated. At last he bestirred himself to recover the lost provinces from Seleucus, the successor of Antiochus, but was poisoned before his plans materialized, in 182 (181) BC (Josephus, Ant, XII, iv, 11).
(6) Ptolemy VI, surnamed Philometor (Philometor, "Fond of his mother"), eider son of Ptolemy V whom he succeeded in 182 (181) BC. For the first 7 years of his reign his mother Cleopatra acted as queen-regent, and peace was maintained with Syria till 173 BC.
(7) (On the death of Philometor his young son was proclaimed king as Ptolemy Eupator ("of a noble father"), but after reigning but a few months was put to death by his uncle Euergetes II (Just. xxxviii.8). His reign being so brief he need hardly be numbered among the Ptolemies.)
(8) Ptolemy VII (VIII), surnamed Euergetes (II) and called also Physcon (Phuskon, "Big-paunch"), became sole ruler in succession to his brother Philometor (or to his murdered nephew) in 146 BC, and reigned till 117 BC. His reign was characterized by cruelty, tyranny and vice, so that he was hated by his subjects, especially by the people of Alexandria, who on one occasion expelled him during an insurrection. It is uncertain whether Physcon was an enemy and persecutor of the Jews or their patron. Some authorities refer the persecutions mentioned in 3 Maccabees to this reign, but most modern authorities are disposed to date them in the reign of the anti-Jewish Ptolemy IV Philopator. The statement, "in the 38th year of King Euergetes," in the Prologue to Sirach refers to Physcon Euergetes II and = 132 BC, since he dated his reign from the year of joint kingship with his brother (170 BC).
The other Ptolemies of Egypt require no mention here.
The following are the apocryphal Ptolemies:
(1) Ptolemy Macron.
(2) Ptolemy, son of Abubus, son-in-law of Simon the Maccabee. He treacherously assassinated Simon and two of his sons in the stronghold of Dok near Jericho, 135 BC (1 Macc 16:15).
(3) Ptolemy, the father of Lysimachus (Apocrypha) (11:1).
(4) Ptolemy, son of a Dositheus; he and his father were bearers of the "epistle of Phrurai" (Additions to Esther 11:1).
J. P. Mahaffy, Empire of the Ptolemies, is the best account for English readers. A long list of Ptolemies will be found, e.g. in Smith’s Classical Dictionary. The ancient authorities are Josephus, Polybius, Justin, Pausanias, Plutarch (Cleom.), Livy, Diodorus, Jerome (Commentary to