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Alexander Helios

Alexander Helios

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Alexander Helios was a Ptolemaic
Ptolemaic dynasty
The Ptolemaic dynasty, was a Macedonian Greek royal family which ruled the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt during the Hellenistic period. Their rule lasted for 275 years, from 305 BC to 30 BC...

 prince and was the eldest son of Greek Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Roman
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 triumvir Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

. His twin was Cleopatra Selene II. He was of Greek and Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 heritage. Cleopatra named him Alexander in honour of her Macedonian
Ancient Macedonians
The Macedonians originated from inhabitants of the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, in the alluvial plain around the rivers Haliacmon and lower Axios...

 heritage, and after her maternal grandfather
Ptolemy X Alexander I
Ptolemy X Alexander I was King of Egypt from 110 BC to 109 BC and 107 BC till 88 BC.He was the son of Ptolemy VIII Physcon and Cleopatra III. In 110 BC he became King with his mother as co-regent, after his mother had deposed his brother Ptolemy IX Lathyros. However, in 109 BC he was deposed by...

. His second name in Ancient Greek means "Sun"; this was the counterpart of his twin sister’s second name Selene, meaning "Moon".

Life


Alexander Helios was born and educated in Alexandria. In late 34 BC, at the Donations of Alexandria
Donations of Alexandria
The Donations of Alexandria were a religio-political statement by Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony in which they distributed lands held by Rome and Parthia amongst Cleopatra's children, and granted them many titles, especially for Caesarion, son of Julius Caesar...

, he was given the title of "King of Kings". His parents also made him ruler of Armenia, Media
Atropatene
Atropatene was an ancient kingdom established and ruled under local ethnic Iranian dynasts first with "Darius" of Persia and later "Alexander" of Macedonia, starting in the 4th century BC and includes the territory of modern-day Iranian Azarbaijan and Iranian Kurdistan. Its capital was Gazaca...

, Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

 and any countries yet to be discovered between the Euphrates and Indus Rivers, despite the fact that most of this territory stood outside of their control at that time. These areas were, in fact, already ruled by Artaxias II
Artaxias II
Artaxias II was a king of Armenia, the eldest son of Artavasdes II. He ascended the throne when his father was taken prisoner and executed by Triumvir Mark Antony, and after his own skirmish with the Romans was forced to flee to Parthia...

 of Armenia (who had been elected King that same year after Antony captured his father Artavasdes II
Artavasdes II of Armenia
King Artavasdes II ruled Armenia from 53 to 34 BC. He succeeded his father, Tigranes the Great. Artavasdes was an ally of Rome, but when Orodes II of Parthia invaded Armenia following his victory over the Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC, he was forced to...

), Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene
Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene
Artavasdes I was a king of Media Atropatene. As an enemy of Artavasdes II of Armenia and his son Artaxias II, Artavasdes I was mentioned in diplomatic affairs of Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Mark Anthony.- Biography :...

 and Phraates IV of Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

. In 33 BC, Alexander was engaged to his distant relative Iotapa, a Princess of Media and daughter of Artavasdes I of Media Atropatene. However, Mark Antony and Cleopatra were defeated by Octavian at the Battle of Actium
Battle of Actium
The Battle of Actium was the decisive confrontation of the Final War of the Roman Republic. It was fought between the forces of Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII. The battle took place on 2 September 31 BC, on the Ionian Sea near the city of Actium, at the Roman...

 in 31 BC
31 BC
Year 31 BC was either a common year starting on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday or a leap year starting on Tuesday or Wednesday of the Julian calendar and a common year starting on Tuesday of the Proleptic Julian calendar...

. The next year, they committed suicide as Octavian and his army invaded Egypt. Iotapa left Egypt to return to her father and later married her maternal cousin King Mithridates III of Commagene
Mithridates III of Commagene
Mithridates III Antiochus Epiphanes was a King. The son and successor of King Mithridates II of Commagene and Queen Laodice, he was of Armenian and Greek descent....

, who was of Armenian and Greek descent.
When Octavian conquered Egypt, he spared Alexander, but took him, his sister and his brother Ptolemy Philadelphus
Ptolemy Philadelphus (Cleopatra)
Ptolemy Philadelphus was a Ptolemaic prince and was the youngest and fourth child of Greek Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, and her third with Roman Triumvir Mark Antony. Ptolemy was of Greek and Roman heritage. He was born in Antioch, Syria...

 from Egypt to Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. Octavian celebrated his military triumph in Rome by parading the children in heavy golden chains in the streets behind an effigy of their mother clutching an asp to her arm. It is unclear whether Ptolemy Philadelphus survived the journey to Rome, as Cassius Dio History of Rome only mentions the twins. The children were given to Octavia Minor
Octavia Minor
Octavia the Younger , also known as Octavia Minor or simply Octavia, was the sister of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus , half-sister of Octavia the Elder, and fourth wife of Mark Antony...

 to be raised in her house in Rome under her guardianship. They were generously received by Octavia Minor, who educated them with her own children. Octavia Minor was Octavian's second elder sister and was Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

's former wife.

The fate of Alexander Helios is unknown. Plutarch, Cassius Dio and Suetonius state that Octavian killed Antony’s son Marcus Antonius Antyllus
Marcus Antonius Antyllus
Marcus Antonius Antyllus was known as Marcus Antonius Minor to distinguish him from his famous father, the Roman Triumvir Marc Antony . He was also called Antyllus — a nickname given to him by his father...

 and Cleopatra's son with Julius Caesar, Caesarion
Caesarion
Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar , better known by the nicknames Caesarion and Ptolemy Caesar , was the last king of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, who reigned jointly with his mother Cleopatra VII of Egypt, from September 2, 44 BC...

. The only further mention of Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus comes from Cassius Dio, who states that when their sister Cleopatra Selene II married King Juba II
Juba II
Juba II or Juba II of Numidia was a king of Numidia and then later moved to Mauretania. His first wife was Cleopatra Selene II, daughter to Greek Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Roman triumvir Mark Antony.-Early life:Juba II was a prince of Berber descent from North Africa...

, Octavian (then named Augustus) spared the lives of Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus as a favor to the couple. The ancient sources do not mention any military service, political career, involvement in scandals, marriage plans or descendants; if he had survived to adulthood, it is thought at least one of these would probably have been noted. The sources also do not mention when Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus died. If Octavian spared their lives when he conquered Egypt to seem generous, he could have had them killed later. Both boys would have been a threat to Octavian's rule when they grew older. It is highly likely that both Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus died from illness, although it is unknown whether they died before their sister married or after.

In fiction


Alexander Helios is a main character in the book Cleopatra's Daughter, by Michelle Moran
Michelle Moran
Michelle Moran is an American novelist. She was born in California's San Fernando Valley. She took an interest in writing from an early age, purchasing Writer's Market and submitting her stories and novellas to publishers from the time she was twelve...

, which is about his twin sister Cleopatra Selene.

Similarly, he is followed in Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray, another novel that follows him and his young sister from the tragic fall of Alexandria to the cusp of her marriage to Juba II
Juba II
Juba II or Juba II of Numidia was a king of Numidia and then later moved to Mauretania. His first wife was Cleopatra Selene II, daughter to Greek Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Roman triumvir Mark Antony.-Early life:Juba II was a prince of Berber descent from North Africa...

 of Numidia
Numidia
Numidia was an ancient Berber kingdom in part of present-day Eastern Algeria and Western Tunisia in North Africa. It is known today as the Chawi-land, the land of the Chawi people , the direct descendants of the historical Numidians or the Massyles The kingdom began as a sovereign state and later...

.

He and his sister appear briefly in the television series Rome
Rome (TV series)
Rome is a British-American–Italian historical drama television series created by Bruno Heller, John Milius and William J. MacDonald. The show's two seasons premiered in 2005 and 2007, and were later released on DVD. Rome is set in the 1st century BC, during Ancient Rome's transition from Republic...

.

Other sources

  • Plutarch
    Plutarch
    Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

     - Antony
    Parallel Lives
    Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, commonly called Parallel Lives or Plutarch's Lives, is a series of biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings, written in the late 1st century...

  • Cleopatra Selene II & Juba II

External links