North Africa

Egypt History – The Ptolemaic Age Part IV

He began to reign under the tutelage of his mother. The queen, while assuming the defense of Egypt of which she had become sovereign, even against her homeland, managed to keep Egypt in peace, but on the other hand her regency was very short-lived: Cleopatra The Siras did not take long to follow her husband into the tomb. The direction of the affairs was assumed by two ministers, Euleus and Leneo, both of barbarian origin and ex-slaves. Even under Philomethor the possession of Celesiria, Phenicia and Palestine provoked a new war. During the unfolding of this, for the first time after Alexander, Egypt suffered an enemy invasion. Antiochus IV (v.), Penetrated with a cunning to Pelusio, took possession of Memphis and besieged Alexandria, but had to abandon the enterprise (169) before having conquered it. He evacuated Egypt in the hope of permanent discord between Philometore and his younger brother, Ptolemy VII Evergete II, meanwhile proclaimed king by the Alexandrians. Instead, and probably thanks to the energetic sister of both and Philometore’s wife, Cleopatra II, the two brothers united against the common enemy, starting the system of collective sovereignty or correction of two or even three, a system that has become then very frequent, certainly not to the advantage of the moral and political strength of the state. Antiochus invaded Egypt again and his fleet occupied Cyprus. Only the direct intervention of Rome succeeded in obtaining that he induced himself to give up the enterprise (168). Moreover, as was to be expected, the resurrected anxieties of the Egyptian nationalists were soon favored by the very serious discords that did not take long to arise between the two brothers, one and the other always forced to make new concessions. Filometore, dethroned by the Alexandrians for the benefit of his brother, went to the Roman Senate. Since already under the second Ptolemy (273) Egypt had made contact of friendly relations with Rome, the ties with it had grown more intimate and had assumed, as we have seen, a character of particular protection during the minority of Epiphanes and, above all, in the recent Syrian invasion. The step taken by Philometore was to tie the future of Egypt even more to the destiny of expansion of the influence and, later, of the dominion of Rome in the East. For the meddling of the Senate, Filometore, having come to Rome, returned Egypt. During this new phase of the reign, the queen begins to be officially associated with power in protocol formulas. Evergete had been assigned the Cyrenaica (163), but since he also aspired to Cyprus he intrigued in turn in Rome, to win the Senate in his favor; but he did not succeed in his attempt, which lasted many years, because Philometore found a powerful ally in Cato (153).

According to, when in 145 Philometore perished in Syria, Evergete, after the brief ephemeral reign of a Eupator, was able to reunite Egypt, Cyrenaica and Cyprus under one scepter. He married the widow queen who was also his sister, but soon got tired of it for her young daughter, Cleopatra III. Not all the measures taken by this sovereign, nicknamed, due to his corpulence, Fiscone, justify the fame of monster and madman (Κακεργέτης) decreed to him by tradition and many reveal a wise and prudent policy; but undoubtedly he was cruel and strange, so much so that the Alexandrians rebelled and forced him to flee in 131. Cleopatra II reigned alone for a short time, and when Evergete soon returned to the capital with the favor of her partisans, it was her turn to seek refuge in Syria.

Forced by the Alexandrians to silence their preferences for the cadet Ptolemy IX Alexander I and to call on the throne the major Ptolemy VIII nicknamed Lathyros, whom she hated, forced him to repudiate Cleopatra (IV) whom he loved, and to marry the other sister Cleopatra V Selene. It is easy to understand how the causes of turmoil and confusion and instability of power were thus accumulating. Shortly after we find Lathyros exiled to Cyprus and his brother Alexander reigning in Egypt; he desecrated the tomb of the Great Macedonian, and also murdered his mother. He became so hateful and unbearable that he was dethroned and massacred. Lathyros then returned to Alexandria (88-80), but immediately had to quell a revolt in Upper Egypt and this he did with such cruelty that Thebes was destroyed and reduced to scattered villages. L’ Egypt is by now so exhausted that it can say that it does not have a policy of its own, and is starting to suffer more and more the influence and dominance of Rome. The daughter of Lathyros, Berenice III was soon killed by her husband and cousin Ptolemy X Alexander II, and when he was massacred in the revolt that followed the crime, a bastard of Lathyros, Ptolemy Auletes, came to the throne.

Egypt History - The Ptolemaic Age 4