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 In Worship of The Ptolemies

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Posts : 81
Join date : 2009-12-18
Age : 60
Location : Alexandria---Arsinoea Sarione Ptolemy

PostSubject: In Worship of The Ptolemies   Fri Jan 01, 2010 2:38 am


§ 7. The State Worship of the King and Queen

Under the second Ptolemy the state worship of the human rulers had
further development. One of Ptolemy II's first acts was to declare his
father and mother to be gods, and erect temples for their worship.
Ptolemy I had been worshipped, as we have seen, by some Greek states
and individuals as "Saviour" during his lifetime. The new thing now was
that his worship was established officially in Egypt as an act of the
king's. Shrines in which Ptolemy I and Berenice were worshipped with
incense and the sacrifice of bulls were erected by royal order,
probably in connexion with the place where their bodies rested, near
that of Alexander, in the Sema. The surname conferred upon Ptolemy by
the Rhodians became permanently attached to him as an immortal. He and
Berenice were coupled together as the "Saviour Gods" (θεοὶ Σωτῆρες).
The cult of dead men as "heroes" was, as we have seen, nothing new in
the Greek world; the cult of a man recently dead as a god was seen in
the case of Alexander; but Theocritus says that Ptolemy II was the
first person to institute a worship of his deceased parents as gods.

In honour of the deified Ptolemy Soter, a festival with games was
instituted at Alexandria — the Ptolemaeia. The festival was a
"penteteric" one, i.e. took place, like the Olympic games, every four years; and, as in the case of the great games of Greece, envoys (theōroi)
were sent to it by Greek city-states overseas, and athletes came from
many Greek lands to compete. It seems probable that the first
institution of the festival took place in June or July 278, on the
fourth anniversary of the first Ptolemy's death. The celebrated
description by Callixenus of a festival procession in Alexandria101 refers, almost certainly, to the second celebration of the festival in 274, when the deified Berenice had been

p128associated with her husband. "The details are so voluminous, and have so often been given elsewhere,102
that it will not here be necessary to do more than appreciate the
general character of the display . . . The whole feast has a distinctly
Bacchic tone. It reminds us strongly of the poetical story of
Alexander's triumphal return through Karamania to Babylon after he had
escaped the horrors of the Gedrosian desert. . . . In general the whole
pomp has a non-Egyptian air, discounting the small detail that some of
the gilded pillars of the banqueting-room had floral capitals, and even
this might be in accordance with Dionysiac ornament. If we except the
curious products of Nubia and Ethiopia in ivory, giraffes, antelopes,
hippopotami, etc., there is nothing Egyptian in the whole affair. We
seem to see a Hellenistic king spending millions upon a Hellenistic
feast" (M.). Callixenus says that the festival took place "on that occasion" (τότε)
in the middle of winter. Ernst Meyer reconciles this with the theory
that the normal time for the festival was June or July by supposing
that, in 274, the time had been put off till midwinter because of the
troubles consequent upon the attack of Magas during the summer of 274.103

The Papyrus Halensis gives us the name of another festival with games
celebrated at Alexandria under Ptolemy II in honour of Ptolemy I — the
Basileia — commemorating probably Ptolemy's assumption of the style of
king. This festival was already known from an Attic inscription in
honour of the athlete Nicocles, who won a prize in it.104
The name of a third Alexandrine festival with games mentioned in the
Papyrus Halensis is torn away; the editors conjecture that it was a
festival in honour of Alexander, the deified Founder.

Towards the end of the lifetime of Arsinoe, the Egyptian court took the
further step of establishing a cult of the living, the reigning king
and queen. Ptolemy II is deified, it is true, only in association with
the goddess Arsinoe, who
p129dominated him in
his lifetime, and whose surname of Philadelphus was later on extended
to him in popular speech in the 2nd century B.C.,
when people wanted some way of distinguishing the second Ptolemy in the
roll of kings, the one king of the dynasty who had no surname of his
own. Ptolemy II and Arsinoe were worshipped together as the
"Brother-and‑Sister Gods" (θεοὶ ἀδελφοί).
The worship must have been instituted before Arsinoe's death, since the
earliest papyri discovered which refer to it belong to the month of
June 270 B.C.,105
and Arsinoe did not die till the month of July 269. This cult of the
"Brother-and‑Sister Gods" was combined with the cult of Alexander at
Alexandria, one priest having now the title "Priest of Alexander and of
the Theoi Adelphoi." Curiously, the cult of the Theoi Sotēres
(Ptolemy I and Berenice) remained for the present distinct; the priest
of it does not appear as yet in the dating of documents. That a special
temple was erected at Alexandria to the Theoi Adelphoi is shown by Herodas (I.30).

When Arsinoe Philadelphus died in 269, a worship of her as "the goddess
Philadelphus" was established as a state institution, with a special
priestess, who had the title of kanēphoros (from the basket, kaneon, which the priestess carried in the ritual processions). The kanēphoros of Arsinoe appears in the dating of documents, together with that of the priest of Alexander and the Theoi Adelphoi,
from January 266 onwards. Arsinoe had her special temple at Alexandria,
in which she was identified with Aphrodite — Arsinoe Aphrodite. This is
the first instance known to us in Ptolemaic Egypt of a practice of
which we find numerous other instances, not only in Ptolemaic Egypt,
but in the house of Seleucus and in the case of Roman Emperors — the
practice of identifying some deified human being with one or other of
the old classical deities.106
In the case of Arsinoe Philadelphus the honour may have lost some of
its distinction from the fact, noted in the last chapter, that the
king's mistress, Bilistiche, was also deified at Alexandria as
Aphrodite. It was probably the state temple of Arsinoe at Alexandria
p130Pliny speaks of as
having an image of Arsinoe in topaz, four cubits high, and an old
Pharaonic obelisk in its precinct, which Ptolemy had had specially
brought from the quarry where it had lain since the time of Nekhtnebf.107 A scholiast tells us that Ptolemy also established a cult of his other sister Philotera,108 but this cannot have had the same importance, since it was never used for the official dating of documents.

In Alexandria, Arsinoeia, i.e. shrines of Arsinoe, were probably numerous.109 Strabo mentions a small shrine (naīskos) of Arsinoe Aphrodite on the promontory called Zephyrion (near the modern Abukir).110 A slab from a temple in the Thebaid is inscribed, "Satyrus to Arsinoe, the goddess Philadelphus."111
In the Fayûm especially, which bore the name of the Arsinoite nome, the
worship of Arsinoe by individual Greeks must have been common. In the
following reign, a soldier, a Hellenized Libyan, is found bequeathing
in his will a shrine he has consecrated to Berenice and Aphrodite

Distinct from the Greek worship of Arsinoe was her establishment by the king's order as an associated deity (synnaos)
in all the Egyptian temples of the land. Hieroglyphic evidence of this
Egyptian cult has come to light at Mendes, Thebes, Saïs, Memphis,
Hermonthis, and in the Fayûm.113

With the official deification of the rulers was connected the use of
their names in the "Royal Oath" — that is, the oath prescribed for
legal proceedings throughout the kingdom. Later on the Royal Oath
enumerated all the kings of the house, beginning with the reigning one:
"I swear by king Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy and Arsinoe, Father-loving
p131and by the
Father-loving Gods, and by the Brother-and‑Sister Gods, and by the
Benefactor Gods, and by the Saviour Gods, and by Sarapis and by Isis
and by all the other gods."114
But under Ptolemy II the form was simpler: "I swear by king Ptolemy and
by Arsinoe Philadelphus, Brother-and‑Sister Gods." The earliest form of
oath by the king so far found, belonging to 251‑250, is not an official
oath: it runs, "I swear to you by the daimon of the king and by the daimon of Arsinoe."115

One point, still obscure, regarding the deification of the Ptolemies,
is the origin of their official surnames, by which they were specially
called as gods ("Saviour Gods," etc.). It seems hardly questionable
that the sovereigns themselves decided what surnames they would bear;
yet the king seems in some cases to have taken officially surnames
already attached to him by others. Ptolemy I, for instance, was first
called "Soter," as we have seen, by a voluntary act of homage on the
part of Rhodes. Ptolemy III is said by Jerome to have been hailed as
Euergetes (Benefactor) by his subjects, after he had brought back the
captured images to Egypt. In the case of Ptolemy IV there is some
indication that he bore the name of Philopator before his accession, as
the heir-apparent, though this appears hardly credible.116

As has been pointed out, all worship offered to kings and queens of the
house of Ptolemy in Greek forms by Greeks must be regarded as quite
distinct from the worship offered in Egyptian temples by Egyptians. The
deification of Arsinoe affected the Egyptian worship principally in the
matter of the apomoira, of which we shall have to speak more particularly in the next chapter.
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