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 Enter The Ptolemies

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PostSubject: Enter The Ptolemies   Sun Dec 20, 2009 8:12 pm





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The Ptolemaic dynasty was a Hellenistic royal family
that ruled over
Egypt for nearly 300 years, from 305 BC to 30 BC. Ptolemy, a Macedonian
and one of Alexander the Great's generals, was appointed satrap (a Persian
title for the ruler of Egypt)
after Alexander's death in 323 BC. In 305 BC, he declared himself King
Ptolemy I, later known as "Soter" (saviour). The Egyptians soon accepted
the Ptolemies as the successors to the pharaohs of independent Egypt.
Ptolemy's family ruled Egypt until the Roman conquest of 30 BC.



All the male rulers of the dynasty took the name Ptolemy. Ptolemaic
queens, some of whom were the sisters of their husbands, were usually
called Cleopatra, Arsinoe or Berenike. The most famous member of the line
was the last queen, Cleopatra VII, known for her role in the Roman
political battles between Julius Caesar and Pompey, and later between
Octavian and Mark Antony. Her suicide at the conquest by Rome marked the
end of Ptolemaic rule in Egypt.



Whilst Ptolemy I
and Cleopatra VII are perhaps the best-known rulers, most of the Ptolemaic
kings and queens emerge as distinctive individuals. Ptolemaic Egypt was
one of the two great powers of the Hellenistic East for most of its
existence. During this period Egyptian armies ranged further east and
further north than at any other time in Egyptian history. The
mediterranean city of Alexandria,
founded by Alexander the Great, was
the centre of the Hellenistic intellectual world. The period also saw the
final flowering of pharaonic Egyptian art and architecture. Many of the
great temples we see today, including those at Edfu, Esna, Kom Ombo, Dendera, Philae,
bear the hallmarks of the Ptolemies.

Alexander
the Great had initiated a policy in which he portrayed himself as an Egyptian ruler,
effectively grafting the new administration on to the existing political and
religious structure, and this policy appears to have been continued by his
Ptolemaic successors with varying degrees of enthusiasm and success.


Which
Ptolemy?

Ptolemy I Soter I (ruled 305-285
BC) was the founder of the Ptolemaic line, and he took the Egyptian throne after
the death of Alexander IV. Known as Ptolemy of Lagos, he had originally
administered Egypt as a general since the death of Alexander the Great.


Ptolemy I Soter 305 BC - 282 BC Married first (probably) Thais, secondly Artakama, thirdly
Eurydice and finally Berenike I.
Ptolemy II Philadelphus 284 BC - 246 BC Married Arsinoe
I, then Arsinoe II Philadelphus; ruled jointly with Ptolemy the
Son
(267 BC - 259 BC).
Ptolemy III Euergetes 246 BC - 222 BC Married Berenike
II.
Ptolemy IV Philopator 222 BC - 204 BC Married Arsinoe
III.
Ptolemy V Epiphanes 204 BC - 180 BC Married Cleopatra I.
Ptolemy VI Philometor 180 BC - 164 BC Married Cleopatra II,
briefly ruled jointly with Ptolemy Eupator
in 152 BC.
163 BC - 145 BC
Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator

-
Never reigned.
Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II (Physcon) 170 BC - 163 BC Married Cleopatra II
then Cleopatra III; temporarily expelled from Alexandria by
Cleopatra II between 131 BC and 127 BC, reconciled with her in 124
BC.
145 BC - 116 BC
Cleopatra II Philometora Soteira 131 BC - 127 BC In opposition to
Ptolemy VIII
.
Cleopatra III Philometor Soteira Dikaiosyne Nikephoros (Kokke) 116 BC - 101 BC
116 BC-107 BC Ruled jointly with
Ptolemy IX
107 BC-101 BC Ruled jointly with
Ptolemy X
Ptolemy IX Soter II (Lathyros) 116 BC - 107 BC Married Cleopatra IV
then Cleopatra Selene; ruled jointly with Cleopatra III
in his first reign.
88 BC - 81 BC as
Soter
II
Ptolemy X Alexander I
107 BC - 88 BC Married Cleopatra
Selene then Berenike III; ruled jointly with Cleopatra III
until 101 BC.
Berenike III Philopator 81 BC - 80 BC
Ptolemy XI Alexander II 80 BC Married and ruled
jointly with Berenike III before murdering her; ruled alone for 19 days after
that.
Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos (Auletes) 80 BC - 58 BC Married Cleopatra V Tryphaena (58 BC - 57 BC) ruled jointly
with Berenike IV Epiphaneia (58 BC - 55 BC).
55 BC - 51 BC
Cleopatra VII Thea Neotera 51 BC - 30 BC Ruled jointly with her
brother Ptolemy XIII (51 BC - 47 BC), then
younger brother Ptolemy XIV
(47 BC - 44 BC) and Ptolemy XV Caesarion her son, (44 BC -
30 BC).


The
Macedonians and Greeks were already familiar to the Egyptians long before the
arrival of Alexander the Great, since the Egyptian army in the Late Period had
invariably included large numbers of Greeks as mercenaries. Ptolemaic rule did
not remain popular, and there were revolts in the area of Thebes in 208-186 BC
and 88-86 BC.

As Ptolemaic rule
weakened, so the Ptolemies tended to rely ever more heavily on Rome. Eventually,
a propaganda campaign by Octavian and the
actions of Cleopatra VII, the daughter of
Ptolemy XII, and the sister-wife of Ptolemy XIII, provided an ideal pretext for
the Romans to conquer Egypt. Octavian, the future Emperor Augustus, led the
campaign, and on 30th August 30 BC, proclaimed himself "Pharaoh of Egypt".


New temples and a new capital

Many
Egyptian temples were either rebuilt, repaired or built as new during the
Ptolemaic Period, including those listed below:

DENDERA EDFU ESNA KOM OMBO PHILAE

<blockquote>

Dendera, the main temple,
dedicated to the local goddess Hathor,
dates from the Ptolemaic and the Roman Period.


Edfu, the temple of
Horus,
founded on the site of an earlier pharaonic temple, dating to the period between
the reigns of Ptolemy III and Ptolemy XII 246-51 BC.


Esna, the greco-roman
temple of Khnum, only partly excavated by Augustus Mariette, the rest of the
temple remains buried under the modern town.



Kom Ombo, whose surviving
temple buildings were dedicated to the deities Sobek and Haroeris and date
mainly to the Ptolemaic and Roman periods.


Philae, the temple of
Isis,
dating from the 30th Dynasty to the late Roman Period, and mostly constructed
between the reigns of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BC) and Diocletian (284
AD-305 AD). During the early 1970's, the temple was transferred to the nearby
island of Agilka in order to save it from the rising waters of Lake
Nasser.
</blockquote>

The main pharaonic administrative and religious centres at
Thebes, Memphis and Tanis were replaced by Alexandria, the new capital on the
shores of the Mediterranean, built on the site of an earlier Egyptian settlement
called Raqote.

During the Ptolemaic period and the
subsequent Roman period, Alexandria was a thriving and cosmopolitan city, and by
the mid-first century BC had a population of around half a million, including
substantial numbers of Greeks and Jews.


Related pages:

Find
out more about the Ptolemaic city of Alexandria.
Find out more
about Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt - discover the truth behind the myth.
Find out more about
pharaoh's royal names, and the importance of the name in Ancient Egypt.
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PostSubject: Enter The Ptolemies   Sun Dec 20, 2009 10:47 pm

Alexandria: The

Ptolemaic Dynasty
The

achievements of the Greeks in the ancient world, by no

means few, may have reached their peak in the city of
Alexandria. No less a ruler than its

namesake, Alexander III of Macedonia (Alexander the

Great), Alexandria dominated the eastern Mediterranean

world culturally, politically, and economically for more

than nine hundred years, the latter three hundred of

which it competed with even the eastern capital of the

Byzantine Empire, the famous Constantinople. Few cities

in the world can claim success of this magnitude for

close to millenium, and even fewer still flourish to this

day. Part of the reason for Alexandria's success was its

location, both geographically as well as politically.

Situated on the coast of the Mediterranean, it was the

true bridge between Europe and Africa while still being a

world all to itself. It was largely separate from the

political upheavals of the Hellenistic kingdoms, and then

later shaded by the
Pax Romanum, as well

as being quite far from the chaos of the barbarian

invasions that contributed to the fall of the Roman

Empire. Freed from many of the fetters that chafed

against its peers, and enriched by both maritime trade

and its Greek intellectual tradition, Alexandria soon

earned the title "Queen of the Mediterranean."

Part of Alexandria's power and majesty came from its

status as the new capital of Egypt. In 320 BC it replaced

Memphis as the seat of rulership for the Ptolemaic

dynasty and it remained so throughout the Byzantine

period. The rest was largely due to its monopoly on the

papyrus industry for the

entire Mediterranean world, as well as its hold on the

manufacture and export of medicines, perfumes, jewelry,

and art. Additionally, many materials and goods prized by

the ancient world from the east came into Alexandria and

were exported from there.


The arrival of the Greeks

brought an unprecedented amount of change in Egypt as

they overlaid the existing society with that of their

own. At first glance, the Græco-Macedonian period seems

to lack the romance and awe of the Pharaohs who came

before, but it was during this time, between Alexander's

conquest and the Arab takeover of Alexandria in AD 642

that Egypt made some of its most significant

contributions to the classical world, as well as

absorbing its influences. Change came in many sectors of

Egypt and Egyptian life. A new system of roads and canals

was created which, coupled with the Nile travel already

mastered by the Egyptians, resulted in the ability to

move goods and people all over the Nile Valley and the

Delta like never before. Better travel resulted in better

communications across Egypt, which in turn resulted in

greater military security as well as the faster spread of

new cultural and social patterns.


Alexander the Great took

Egypt from the Persians in 332 BC and made it a part of

the the Greek Empire. In the first part of 331 BC,

shortly after being crowned Pharaoh in Memphis, he sailed

northwards down the Nile and there, prompted by a dream,

he began his most lasting contribution to civilization.

On the natural harbor near Rhacotis he built a fortified

port and named it, in a moment of egotism, Alexandria.

Alexander then connected the island of Pharos, located in

the center of the bay, to the mainland with a 1,300-meter

causeway, the
Heptastadion. Thus two great harbors were

created for his city and towering over it all, the Pharos

Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient

World. Yet Alexander, true to his nature, did not say

long enough to see a single building built of his new

city. Instead, he traveled to
Siwa and then back to Memphis before

setting out on his conquest of Asia. He never returned,

dying in Babylon at the age of 38.


Following Alexander's

death, his generals divided the Empire, each setting up

their own kingdoms. One of them, Ptolemy, took Egypt as

his share and made Alexandria his capital, ruling as
Ptolemy I

Soter
and thus

established the last dynasty that would rule Egypt with

the title of Pharaoh. He brought Alexander's body with

him to be buried in the city, reuniting the famed

conqueror with the city that bore his name. For the next

two-and-a-half centuries, the Ptolemaic dynasty of the

Greeks would successfully rule Egypt, mingling Hellenic

traditions with the mighty legacy of the Pharaohs.


It was under the Ptolemaic Dynasty that Alexandria

truly became the cultural and economic center of the

ancient world. Egypt was ruled from Alexandria by

Ptolemy's descendants until the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 BC. The early

Ptolemies raised the quality of Egyptian agriculture by

reclaiming cultivatable land through irrigation and

introduced crops such as cotton and better wine-producing

grapes. In addition, they increased the wealth of their

population by increasing foreign trade, making more

luxury goods available to more people. In return, Egypt

enriched their lives as the new rulers absorbed their

adopted culture. Egypt had enchanted the Ptolemies, as it

had all its foreign rulers before them. Ptolemy and his

descendants adopted Egyptian royal trappings and added

Egypt's religion to their own, worshipping the gods of

Eternity and building temples to them, and even being

mummified and buried in sarcophagi covered with

hieroglyphs.

This adoption of Egyptian culture was really the

secret to Ptolemy's rule (and

that of his descendants). Alexander came and left,

burning with the desire to bring the rest of the world

under his influence, but Ptolemy saw a need to become one

of the people he intended to rule. Indeed, the famed

Satrap Stele, on which is carved a decree from Ptolemy

from the same period as his installation as ruler reads,

"I Ptolemy, the satrap,

restore to Horus, the avenger of

his father, the territory of Patanut [Egypt], from this

day forth for ever..." In addition to showing

respect for the Egyptian religion and beliefs (something

previous conquerors had failed to do), this inscription

reminded the people exactly who it was who had liberated

Egypt from the Persian Empire, thus ensuring much support

for the new ruler and the dynasty that would follow him.

This was quite literally a golden age for the citizens

of Alexandria, and for Egypt as a whole. Although

Alexander never lived to see its glory, it nevertheless

became the racial melting pot he is said to have wanted

for his capital city. Ptolemy decided early on that

Alexandria would be not just another port capital, but

the home of a new age in Greek science and art. It may

seem surprising to find such an impulse in a military

man, but Ptolemy was more than just another general. He

was a great writer of histories, including detailed

accounts of Alexander's campaigns, and this love for

learning did not die with him. Ptolemy's son and heir, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, for

instance, had a passion for science, and Ptolemy III as we shall see, was a

manic collector of books. The Greeks had long had a

tradition of enlightened rulers, and despite being on

foreign soil, the Ptolemies would be no exception.

Ptolemy invited scholars and artists from all over the

known world to come to Alexandria, not to be mere court

window dressing, but to foster the learning culture of

Alexandria. The arrival of many of these learned people,

and later the successors they found amongst the citizens

of their new home, resulted in one of the most famous

images of historic Alexandria: the Library.

The Library at Alexandria was conceived largely as an

attempt to bring together in Alexandria the whole of the

earlier Greek science, art, and literature. Ptolemy I,

though respectful as he was of the Egyptian culture,

nevertheless believed the Greek culture to be superior in

many respects, and thus the preservation of it in

Alexandria was of utmost importance. The models for this

project may very well have been the research center

created by Aristotle at the Lyceum, as well as Plato's

Academy. Between these two centers of learning, later

joined by the Library, something very close to the modern

university was being created, for these centers did not

just archive information, they made it accessible to

those who sought it, and in return, added to it. And add

to it they did. At one point the Library held close to

fifty thousand books, not much when compared to the

university libraries of today, but for the ancient world

it is an astonishing number.

It was the mission of the librarians, as well as of

those rulers who supported it, to rescue and archive all

Greek knowledge and to obtain copies of every known work.

Stories abound about Ptolemy III Euergetes I, grandson of

Ptolemy I, who seized cargoes of books from ships docked

at Alexandria, had copies made of each volume, returned

the copies to the shipmasters and kept the originals for

the library. He also borrowed the complete works of

Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles from the Athenian

collections and never returned them. Yet this is not to

say that the Ptolemies hoarded knowledge. The libraries

were open to all those who could read and who wished to

learn. And learning was easy indeed thanks to the

widespread teaching of the Greek alphabet. With only

thirty symbols, as compared with the multitudes of

hieroglyphs, virtually anyone could learn it, and almost

everyone did. A new age of learning had dawned, and

Alexandria stood at the bulwark of it.

The eventual fate of the Library is unknown. A

significant portion of it is said to have been destroyed

during Julius Caesar's war against Pompey, though how

significant this portion was, or even the size of it, is

not certain. The Library may have perished during the

270s, along with the palace quarter. At the very least,

it does not appear to have existed at the time of the

Arab conquest in the seventh century AD. Stories do

abound, as they always will, that part of the library was

rescued and remains hidden, waiting to be discovered.

For the next three centuries the Ptolemaic Dynasty

would hold sway over Egypt, surviving both family feuds

and external conflicts while living an unusual

combination of Hellenic and Egyptian life. And under them

Alexandria grew mighty and prosperous, the center of an

empire that extended around the coast of Syria to the

Aegean Sea. In fact, if Alexandria had been any more

prosperous, it might have replaced Rome as the center of

the world, as Rome was neither as strategically located

nor as culturally diverse. But all this is not to say

that Alexandria was a city completely at peace with

itself. With the large numbers of people and cultures

coming through the city, it was inevitable that conflict

would arise. Certainly racial tensions, by no means an

invention of the twentieth century, played a strong part.

Additionally, a number of more tradition-minded Egyptians

resented the presence of the Greeks, nations brought

their feuds with them to the streets and businesses of

Alexandria, and there was always the wildly unpredictable

Alexandrian Mob to lend spice

to things.

Little by little however, the glory days of the early

Ptolemies came to an end. The later successors to the

throne did not live up to the standards set by their

forebears and moreover, internal strife took its toll.

The Egyptians grew more restless year by year and

finally, beginning in 206 BC, Upper Egypt openly

rebelled. Suppressing these revolts took more out of the

treasury than the Ptolemies could afford and this,

combined with the less-than-sound foreign policy of the

later Ptolemies, brought Egypt increasingly under the

influence of Rome.
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