Ptolemy I Soter

Ptolemy I Soter

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Ptolemy I Soter I also known as Ptolemy Lagides, c. 367 BC – c. 283 BC, was a Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

ian general under Alexander the Great, who became ruler of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 (323 BC – 283 BC) and founder of both the Ptolemaic Kingdom
Ptolemaic Kingdom
The Ptolemaic Kingdom in and around Egypt began following Alexander the Great's conquest in 332 BC and ended with the death of Cleopatra VII and the Roman conquest in 30 BC. It was founded when Ptolemy I Soter declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt, creating a powerful Hellenistic state stretching from...

 and the Ptolemaic Dynasty
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...

. In 305/4 BC he took the title of pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

.

His mother was Arsinoe of Macedon, and, while his father is unknown, ancient sources variously describe him either as the son of Lagus
Lagus
Lagus from Eordaea was the father, or reputed father, of Ptolemy, the founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty. He married Arsinoe, a concubine of Philip II, king of Macedon, who was said to have been pregnant at the time of their marriage, on which account it is told that the Macedonians generally looked...

, a Macedonian nobleman, or as an illegitimate son of Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon "friend" + ἵππος "horse" — transliterated ; 382 – 336 BC), was a king of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.-Biography:...

 (which, if true would have made Ptolemy the half-brother of Alexander). Ptolemy was one of Alexander's most trusted generals, and was among the seven somatophylakes (bodyguards) attached to his person. He was a few years older than Alexander, and had been his intimate friend since childhood.
Ptolemy served with Alexander from his first campaigns, and played a principal part in the later campaigns in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 and India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. At the Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

 marriage festival in 324, Alexander had Ptolemy marry the Persian princess Artakama
Artakama
Artakama was the second wife of Ptolemy I Soter. Artakama married Ptolemy in April 324 BC at the Susa marriage festival as ordered by Alexander the Great. Artakama is called Apama by Plutarch, but this is likely an error. Ptolemy had no known children by Artakama.Artakama was a daughter of...

. Ptolemy also had a consort in Thaïs
Thaïs
Thaïs was a famous Greek hetaera who lived during the time of Alexander the Great and accompanied him on his campaigns. She is most famous for instigating the burning of Persepolis. At the time, Thaïs was the lover of Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander's generals...

, the Athenian hetaera
Hetaera
In ancient Greece, hetaerae were courtesans, that is to say, highly educated, sophisticated companions...

and one of Alexander's companions in his conquest of the ancient world.

Successor of Alexander


When Alexander died in 323 BC Ptolemy is said to have instigated the resettlement of the empire made at Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

. Through the Partition of Babylon
Partition of Babylon
The Partition of Babylon designates the attribution of the territories of Alexander the Great between his generals after his death in 323 BC.-Background:...

, he was appointed satrap
Satrap
Satrap was the name given to the governors of the provinces of the ancient Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as the Sassanid Empire and the Hellenistic empires....

 of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, under the nominal kings Philip Arrhidaeus
Philip III of Macedon
Philip III Arrhidaeus was the king of Macedonia from after June 11, 323 BC until his death. He was a son of King Philip II of Macedonia by Philinna of Larissa, allegedly a Thessalian dancer, and a half-brother of Alexander the Great...

 and the infant Alexander IV
Alexander IV of Macedon
Alexander IV Aegus was the son of Alexander the Great and Princess Roxana of Bactria.-Birth:...

; the former satrap, the Greek Cleomenes
Cleomenes of Naucratis
Cleomenes , a Greek of Naucratis in Egypt, was appointed by Alexander III of Macedon as nomarch of the Arabian district of Egypt and receiver of the tributes from all the districts of Egypt and the neighbouring part of Africa...

, stayed on as his deputy. Ptolemy quickly moved, without authorization, to subjugate Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica is the eastern coastal region of Libya.Also known as Pentapolis in antiquity, it was part of the Creta et Cyrenaica province during the Roman period, later divided in Libia Pentapolis and Libia Sicca...

.

By custom, kings in Macedonia asserted their right to the throne by burying their predecessor. Probably because he wanted to pre-empt Perdiccas
Perdiccas
Perdiccas was one of Alexander the Great's generals. After Alexander's death in 323 BC he became regent of all Alexander's empire.Arrian tells us he was son of Orontes, a descendant of the independent princes of the Macedonian province of Orestis...

, the imperial regent, from staking his claim in this way, Ptolemy took great pains in acquiring the body of Alexander the Great, placing it temporarily in Memphis, Egypt
Memphis, Egypt
Memphis was the ancient capital of Aneb-Hetch, the first nome of Lower Egypt. Its ruins are located near the town of Helwan, south of Cairo.According to legend related by Manetho, the city was founded by the pharaoh Menes around 3000 BC. Capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom, it remained an...

. Ptolemy then openly joined the coalition against Perdiccas. Perdiccas appears to have suspected Ptolemy of aiming for the throne himself, and may have decided that Ptolemy was his most dangerous rival. Ptolemy executed Cleomenes for spying on behalf of Perdiccas — this removed the chief check on his authority, and allowed Ptolemy to obtain the huge sum that Cleomenes had accumulated.

Rivalry and wars


In 321, Perdiccas invaded Egypt. Ptolemy decided to defend the Nile
Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

, and Perdiccas's attempt to force it ended in fiasco, with the loss of 2000 men. This was a fatal blow to Perdiccas' reputation, and he was murdered in his tent by two of his subordinates. Ptolemy immediately crossed the Nile, to provide supplies to what had the day before been an enemy army. Ptolemy was offered the regency in place of Perdiccas; but he declined. Ptolemy was consistent in his policy of securing a power base, while never succumbing to the temptation of risking all to succeed Alexander.

In the long wars that followed between the different Diadochi
Diadochi
The Diadochi were the rival generals, family and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for the control of Alexander's empire after his death in 323 BC...

, Ptolemy's first goal was to hold Egypt securely, and his second was to secure control in the outlying areas: Cyrenaica and Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

, as well as Syria
Coele-Syria
Coele-Syria , or Cœle-Syria or Celesyria, traditionally given the meaning 'hollow' Syria, was the region of southern Syria disputed between the Seleucid dynasty and the Ptolemaic dynasty. Rather than limiting the Greek term to the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon, it is often used to cover the entire area...

, including the province of Judea
Judea
Judea or Judæa was the name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century CE, when Roman Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina following the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt.-Etymology:The...

. His first occupation of Syria was in 318, and he established at the same time a protectorate over the petty kings of Cyprus. When Antigonus One-Eye
Antigonus I Monophthalmus
Antigonus I Monophthalmus , son of Philip from Elimeia, was a Macedonian nobleman, general, and satrap under Alexander the Great. During his early life he served under Philip II, and he was a major figure in the Wars of the Diadochi after Alexander's death, declaring himself king in 306 BC and...

, master of Asia in 315, showed dangerous ambitions, Ptolemy joined the coalition against him, and on the outbreak of war, evacuated Syria. In Cyprus, he fought the partisans of Antigonus, and re-conquered the island (313). A revolt in Cyrene was crushed the same year.

In 312, Ptolemy and Seleucus
Seleucus I Nicator
Seleucus I was a Macedonian officer of Alexander the Great and one of the Diadochi. In the Wars of the Diadochi that took place after Alexander's death, Seleucus established the Seleucid dynasty and the Seleucid Empire...

, the fugitive satrap of Babylonia, both invaded Syria, and defeated Demetrius
Demetrius I of Macedon
Demetrius I , called Poliorcetes , son of Antigonus I Monophthalmus and Stratonice, was a king of Macedon...

 Poliorcetes ("besieger of cities"), the son of Antigonus, in the Battle of Gaza
Battle of Gaza (312 BC)
The Battle of Gaza was a battle of the Third war of the Diadochi between Ptolemy and Demetrius .Ptolemy launched an invasion of Syria...

. Again he occupied Syria, and again—after only a few months, when Demetrius had won a battle over his general, and Antigonus entered Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 in force—he evacuated it. In 311, a peace was concluded between the combatants. Soon after this, the surviving 13-year-old king, Alexander IV, was murdered in Macedonia, leaving the satrap of Egypt absolutely his own master. The peace did not last long, and in 309 Ptolemy personally commanded a fleet that detached the coastal towns of Lycia and Caria from Antigonus, then crossed into Greece, where he took possession of Corinth, Sicyon
Sicyon
Sikyon was an ancient Greek city situated in the northern Peloponnesus between Corinth and Achaea on the territory of the present-day prefecture of Corinthia...

 and Megara
Megara
Megara is an ancient city in Attica, Greece. It lies in the northern section of the Isthmus of Corinth opposite the island of Salamis, which belonged to Megara in archaic times, before being taken by Athens. Megara was one of the four districts of Attica, embodied in the four mythic sons of King...

 (308 BC). In 306, a great fleet under Demetrius attacked Cyprus, and Ptolemy's brother Menelaus was defeated and captured in another decisive Battle of Salamis
Battle of Salamis in Cyprus (306 BC)
The naval Battle of Salamis took place in 306 BC near Salamis, Cyprus between the fleets of Ptolemy I of Egypt and Demetrius, two of the diadochi, the successors to Alexander the Great...

. Ptolemy's complete loss of Cyprus followed.

The satraps Antigonus and Demetrius now each assumed the title of king; Ptolemy, as well as Cassander
Cassander
Cassander , King of Macedonia , was a son of Antipater, and founder of the Antipatrid dynasty...

, Lysimachus
Lysimachus
Lysimachus was a Macedonian officer and diadochus of Alexander the Great, who became a basileus in 306 BC, ruling Thrace, Asia Minor and Macedon.-Early Life & Career:...

 and Seleucus I Nicator
Seleucus I Nicator
Seleucus I was a Macedonian officer of Alexander the Great and one of the Diadochi. In the Wars of the Diadochi that took place after Alexander's death, Seleucus established the Seleucid dynasty and the Seleucid Empire...

, responded by doing the same. In the winter of 306 BC, Antigonus tried to follow up his victory in Cyprus by invading Egypt; but Ptolemy was strongest there, and successfully held the frontier against him. Ptolemy led no further overseas expeditions against Antigonus. However, he did send great assistance to Rhodes
Rhodes
Rhodes is an island in Greece, located in the eastern Aegean Sea. It is the largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of both land area and population, with a population of 117,007, and also the island group's historical capital. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within...

 when it was besieged by Demetrius (305/304). Pausanius reports that the grateful Rhodians bestowed the name Soter ("saviour") upon him as a result of lifting the siege. This account is generally accepted by modern scholars
Academia
Academia is the community of students and scholars engaged in higher education and research.-Etymology:The word comes from the akademeia in ancient Greece. Outside the city walls of Athens, the gymnasium was made famous by Plato as a center of learning...

, although the earliest datable mention of it is from coins issued by Ptolemy II
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy II Philadelphus was the king of Ptolemaic Egypt from 283 BCE to 246 BCE. He was the son of the founder of the Ptolemaic kingdom Ptolemy I Soter and Berenice, and was educated by Philitas of Cos...

 in 263 BC.

When the coalition against Antigonus was renewed in 302, Ptolemy joined it, and invaded Syria a third time, while Antigonus was engaged with Lysimachus in Asia Minor. On hearing a report that Antigonus had won a decisive victory there, he once again evacuated Syria. But when the news came that Antigonus had been defeated and slain by Lysimachus and Seleucus at the Battle of Ipsus
Battle of Ipsus
The Battle of Ipsus was fought between some of the Diadochi in 301 BC near the village of that name in Phrygia...

 in 301, he occupied Syria a fourth time.

The other members of the coalition had assigned all Syria to Seleucus, after what they regarded as Ptolemy's desertion, and for the next hundred years, the question of the ownership of southern Syria (i.e., Judea) produced recurring warfare between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties. Henceforth, Ptolemy seems to have mingled as little as possible in the rivalries between Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 and Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

; he lost what he held in Greece, but reconquered Cyprus in 295/294. Cyrene
Cyrene, Libya
Cyrene was an ancient Greek colony and then a Roman city in present-day Shahhat, Libya, the oldest and most important of the five Greek cities in the region. It gave eastern Libya the classical name Cyrenaica that it has retained to modern times.Cyrene lies in a lush valley in the Jebel Akhdar...

, after a series of rebellions, was finally subjugated about 300 and placed under his stepson Magas
Magas of Cyrene
Magas of Cyrene was a Greek Macedonian nobleman. Through his mother’s second marriage he was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty. He became King of Cyrenaica and he managed to wrestle independence for Cyrenaica from the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty of Ancient Egypt.-Family Background & Early Life:Magas...

.

Successor


In 289, Ptolemy made his son by Berenice
Berenice I of Egypt
Berenice I was a Greek Macedonian noblewoman and through her marriage to Ptolemy I Soter, became the first Queen of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt.-Family:...

 -- Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ptolemy II Philadelphus was the king of Ptolemaic Egypt from 283 BCE to 246 BCE. He was the son of the founder of the Ptolemaic kingdom Ptolemy I Soter and Berenice, and was educated by Philitas of Cos...

-- his co-regent. His eldest (legitimate) son, Ptolemy Keraunos
Ptolemy Keraunos
Ptolemy Keraunos was the King of Macedon from 281 BC to 279 BC. His epithet Keraunos is Greek for "Thunder" or "Thunderbolt".He was the eldest son of Ptolemy I Soter, ruler of Egypt, and his third wife Eurydice, daughter of the regent Antipater. His younger half-brother, also called Ptolemy,...

, whose mother, Eurydice, the daughter of Antipater, had been repudiated, fled to the court of Lysimachus. Ptolemy I Soter died in 283 at the age of 84. Shrewd and cautious, he had a compact and well-ordered realm to show at the end of forty years of war. His reputation for bonhomie and liberality attached the floating soldier-class of Macedonians and Greeks to his service, and was not insignificant; nor did he wholly neglect conciliation of the natives. He was a ready patron of letters, founding the Great Library of Alexandria
Library of Alexandria
The Royal Library of Alexandria, or Ancient Library of Alexandria, in Alexandria, Egypt, was the largest and most significant great library of the ancient world. It flourished under the patronage of the Ptolemaic dynasty and functioned as a major center of scholarship from its construction in the...

. He himself wrote a history of Alexander's campaigns that has not survived. This used to be considered an objective work, distinguished by its straightforward honesty and sobriety. However, Ptolemy may have exaggerated his own role, and had propagandist aims in writing his History. Although now lost, it was a principal source for the surviving account by Arrian
Arrian
Lucius Flavius Arrianus 'Xenophon , known in English as Arrian , and Arrian of Nicomedia, was a Roman historian, public servant, a military commander and a philosopher of the 2nd-century Roman period...

 of Nicomedia.

Euclid


Ptolemy personally sponsored the great mathematician Euclid
Euclid
Euclid , fl. 300 BC, also known as Euclid of Alexandria, was a Greek mathematician, often referred to as the "Father of Geometry". He was active in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy I...

, but found Euclid's seminal work, the Elements
Euclid's Elements
Euclid's Elements is a mathematical and geometric treatise consisting of 13 books written by the Greek mathematician Euclid in Alexandria c. 300 BC. It is a collection of definitions, postulates , propositions , and mathematical proofs of the propositions...

, too difficult to study, so he asked if there were an easier way to master it. According to Proclus
Proclus
Proclus Lycaeus , called "The Successor" or "Diadochos" , was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major Classical philosophers . He set forth one of the most elaborate and fully developed systems of Neoplatonism...

 Euclid famously quipped: "Sire, there is no Royal Road
Royal Road
The Persian Royal Road was an ancient highway reorganized and rebuilt by the Persian king Darius the Great of the Achaemenid Empire in the 5th century BC. Darius built the road to facilitate rapid communication throughout his very large empire from Susa to Sardis...

 to Geometry
Geometry
Geometry arose as the field of knowledge dealing with spatial relationships. Geometry was one of the two fields of pre-modern mathematics, the other being the study of numbers ....

."

Fiction Portrayals

  • Ptolemy was played by Vergilio Teixeira in the film Alexander the Great
    Alexander the Great (1956 film)
    Alexander the Great is a 1956 America sword and sandal epic film written, directed and produced by Robert Rossen with Gordon S. Griffith as executive producer...

    (1956) and by Robert Earley, Elliot Cowan
    Elliot Cowan
    Elliot Cowan is an English actor, known for portraying Corporal Jem Poynton in Ultimate Force, Mr Darcy in Lost in Austen and Ptolemy in the 2004 film Alexander.-Background:...

    , and Anthony Hopkins
    Anthony Hopkins
    Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins, KBE , best known as Anthony Hopkins, is a Welsh actor of film, stage and television...

     in the Oliver Stone
    Oliver Stone
    William Oliver Stone is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. Stone became well known in the late 1980s and the early 1990s for directing a series of films about the Vietnam War, for which he had previously participated as an infantry soldier. His work frequently focuses on...

     film Alexander
    Alexander (film)
    Alexander is a 2004 epic film based on the life of Alexander the Great. It is not a remake of the 1956 film which starred Richard Burton. It was directed by Oliver Stone, with Colin Farrell in the title role...

    (2004).

  • L. Sprague de Camp
    L. Sprague de Camp
    Lyon Sprague de Camp was an American author of science fiction and fantasy books, non-fiction and biography. In a writing career spanning 60 years, he wrote over 100 books, including novels and notable works of non-fiction, including biographies of other important fantasy authors...

    's novel The Bronze God of Rhodes
    The Bronze God of Rhodes
    The Bronze God of Rhodes is an historical novel by L. Sprague de Camp, first published in hardcover by Doubleday in 1960, and in paperback by Bantam Books in 1963...

    features Ptolemy as a minor character. He also appears in Harry Turtledove
    Harry Turtledove
    Harry Norman Turtledove is an American novelist, who has produced works in several genres including alternate history, historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction.- Life :...

    's novel The Gryphon's Skull
    The Gryphon's Skull
    The Gryphon's Skull is a historical fiction novel written by H. N. Turteltaub. It follows the adventures of Menedemos and his cousin, Sostratos...

    .

  • Duncan Sprott
    Duncan Sprott
    Duncan Sprott is the author of The Clopton Hercules and Our Lady of the Potatoes, both historical reconstructions, published in the United Kingdom. He lives in Ireland.-Novels:*The Clopton Hercules *The Rise of Mr...

    's novel The Ptolemies features Ptolemy as a central character and founder of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.

  • Ptolemy appears as a character in Mary Renault
    Mary Renault
    Mary Renault born Eileen Mary Challans, was an English writer best known for her historical novels set in Ancient Greece...

    's novels Fire From Heaven
    Fire From Heaven
    Fire from Heaven is a 1969 historical novel by Mary Renault about the childhood and youth of Alexander the Great. It reportedly was a major inspiration for the Oliver Stone film Alexander. The book was nominated for the “Lost Man Booker Prize” of 1970, "a contest delayed by 40 years because a...

    , The Persian Boy
    The Persian Boy
    The Persian Boy is a 1972 historical novel written by Mary Renault and narrated by Bagoas, a young Persian from an aristocratic family who is captured by his father's enemies, castrated, and sold as a slave to the king Darius III, who makes him his favorite...

    , and Funeral Games. He also appears in her non-fictional The Nature of Alexander
    The Nature of Alexander
    The Nature of Alexander is the only nonfiction work by novelist Mary Renault .-Summary:The book is a biography of King Alexander the Great, , ruler of Macedon, Egypt and Persia...

    .

  • Ptolemy is one of the minor characters in the historical novel Roxana Romance by A.J. Cave with the Hellenic spelling of Ptolemaios.

See also

  • Ptolemaic kingdom
    Ptolemaic Kingdom
    The Ptolemaic Kingdom in and around Egypt began following Alexander the Great's conquest in 332 BC and ended with the death of Cleopatra VII and the Roman conquest in 30 BC. It was founded when Ptolemy I Soter declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt, creating a powerful Hellenistic state stretching from...

  • History of Ptolemaic Egypt
  • Ptolemais
    Ptolemais
    Ptolemais, an Ancient Greek place name and feminine personal name, may refer to:Places*Acre, Israel, once named Antiochia Ptolemais after Ptolemy I Soter*Crocodilopolis, an Egyptian city renamed Ptolemais Euergetis by Ptolemy III Euergetes...

  • Library of Alexandria
    Library of Alexandria
    The Royal Library of Alexandria, or Ancient Library of Alexandria, in Alexandria, Egypt, was the largest and most significant great library of the ancient world. It flourished under the patronage of the Ptolemaic dynasty and functioned as a major center of scholarship from its construction in the...


External links