Ptolemy II Philadelphus in Tour Egypt
PTOLEMY II PHILADELPHUS,
THE SECOND KING OF EGYPT'S GREEK PERIOD
by Jimmy Dunn --
In about 285 BC, Ptolemy I Soter probably took as his co-ruler one of his sons by Berenice, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who became
the sole ruler of Egypt and the rest of his father's empire upon the elder king's death in about 282 BC. He took the Egyptian
name, Meryamun Setepenre, which means "Beloved of Amun, Chosen of Re". His reign can only be described as successful,
considering the expansion of his possessions around the Mediterranean, the internal stability in Egypt, and the fulfillment of
many of his father's imaginative projects, such as the Pharos Lighthouse and the Alexandrian University and Library.
However, it is important to put into perspective many of these accomplishments, and to understand the basis for the future of
the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt that flowed from this early period.
Ptolemy II was actually not born in Egypt but in Cos in about 309 BC. As a youth, he enjoyed the best tutors. The practice of
getting the best scholars or poets available to educate the crown prince was something that Ptolemy I had the occasion to
observe in Macedonia, where the young Alexander was taught by no less a figure than Aristotle himself. Ptolemy II would need
this training, as well as the natural attributes of his family, in order to rule during an age of intrigue amidst international
ambitions. Indeed, the Ptolemies were known for their seemingly natural ability to live in greed, luxury and intrigue while
other members of the diadochi (the followers) of Alexander the Great, who split his empire amongst themselves, suffered from
these follies. When he took the throne of Egypt, he was known as Ptolemy II Philadelphus was, like his father before him, not
simply the ruler of Egypt. Indeed, he specifically wanted control over the Aegean, the eastern Mediterranean trade routes and
the sea passage through the Black Sea. He was in fact making headway on his ambitions in this regard when Macedonia made a
resurgence under Antigonus Gonatas. Greece and the Aegean had been Macedonia's natural sphere of influence ever since the days
of Philip II, and Gonatas showed no signs of abandoning that role. When Gonatas began to restore the naval supremacy that
Macedonia had once enjoyed, nothing could have been more alarming to Ptolemy II. Therefore, the Egyptian king began to actively
subsidize any and all of Macedonia's enemies in the area.
Athens, under Macedonian control, was one such enemy. Ptolemy II was already supplying much of Athens' wheat, and he
concentrated his efforts there. He knew that most Athenians longed for freedom and autonomy from Macedonia, and that they had a
dream of regaining control of Piraeus. However, he also worked anti-Macedonian allies, such as the Sparetan king Areus, into a
coalition. Eventually, when he felt the time was ripe, Ptolemy II, through his agents, encouraged the Athenian to declare war on
Antigonus. The patriotic notion of war was made in Athens by an idealistic and handsome Athenian citizen named Chremonides, who
also gave his name to the war.
However, this war backfired on Ptolemy II and the Greeks. Ptolemy actually did very little to support the efforts of the
Athenians, even though Chremonidean had claimed that Ptolemy "conspicuously shows his zeal for the common freedom of the
Greeks". When the Spartan king Areus met Antigonus outside Corinth during this war, he died on the battlefield, leaving
Antigonus to lay siege to Athens. There was no rescue by Ptolemy II, and in the end, the Greeks were much worse off than before.
However, it must be said that, through all of this, Ptolemy seems to have been gaining ground in the region, and he continued to
spark conflicts between Macedonia and its enemies. This was a time of intrigue amongst all parties, and sometimes Ptolemy II
expanded his region of control, only to lose it again and these types of conflicts outside of Egypt appear to have been ongoing
through his reign.
At home, this was a period of considerable achievement for Egypt's new capital, Alexandria, which grew so fast during the reign
of Ptolemy II and his predecessor that it had to be divided into three governable districts. By the end of his reign, it
consisted of Rhakotis, the native Egyptian quarter, Bruchium, the royal Greek-Macedonian quarter and the Jewish Quarter, that
was almost as large as the Greek.
However, Alexandria did not only grow quantitatively, but in quality as well. It was Ptolemy II who called upon the most learned
men in all fields to come to Alexandria and to the new university to lecture. He managed to integrate them into the Alexandrian
society and provided these scholars with a life free from want and from taxes, allowing them to study write, collate
manuscripts, research lecture and theorize in their respective disciplines. Together with is father, the new king of Egypt
established the foundations upon which Alexandria's fame would be based. Not that all of this arose completely from Ptolemy II's
pure passion for intellectualism. Much of his policy was one of cultural ostentation and self-advertisement.
To a certain extent, offering patronage to Hellenistic scholars such as poets was a brilliant step, not unlike the powerful men
of today that harness the power of print and television. These scholars were well cared for by Ptolemy II, but in return, at
intervals, were also expected to glorify their patrons with palpable flattery and hints of divine status. In his first hymn,
Callimachus associates, indeed virtually equates Ptolemy II with Zeus, and with the second, Apollo. He writes, "From Zeus come
kings, for than Zeus's princes nothing is more divine... We can judge this from our lord (Ptolemy II) since he has outstripped
the rest by a wide margin. What he thinks in the morning he accomplishes by evening - by evening the greatest projects, but the
lesser one the moment he thinks of them." Thus, through Callimachus and many others that he supported, there arose a viable
catalog of works exhorting the king. Manetho even dedicated his history of Egypt to him, though it was Ptolemy II who had
ordered him to write the history in the first place.
Of course, this sort of advertisement did not very well reach the Egyptian people outside of those in Alexandria. Egypt was
really two lands at this point, and through much of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Many of the Greeks never bothered to even learn the
local language, and indeed it is claimed that the famous and last Ptolemy, Cleopatra, was the only Ptolemaic ruler ever to learn
the Egyptian. Therefore, the Greeks worked through an army of translators to communicate with the priests and bureaucracy that
actually ran the remainder of Egypt. Ptolemy ran Egypt as a private estate, and much of the bureaucracy, which had a
stranglehold on Egypt, was simply to insure that he received what was due him.
The dynastic cult of the Ptolemies was a Greek cult with a Greek hierarchy, and with worshippers drawn from the Greek speaking
population of the country. Though they borrowed from pharaonic cult practices, this made no fundamental difference to this basic
fact. The nearest the Ptolemies came to any kind of integration was the imposition of themselves, and their cult, for political
reasons, on the native theocracy. They treated Egyptian priests with some amount of respect, and in return they enjoyed
pharaonic privileges and honors. Nevertheless, it is clear that the priests, particularly of Upper Egypt, still regarded them
privately as foreign interlopers, not unlike the Hyksos, to be expelled when the time was right. That never happened.
Nevertheless, Egypt is said to have attained its greatest height under Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
Though perhaps most famous for completing his father's great works in Alexandria, he is also credited with other
accomplishments. For example, he completing the canal from the Pelusiac branch of the Nile River. The construction of this canal
was begun under Necho and continued by Darius who abandoned it when he was told that the Red Sea was at a higher level than
Egypt. Ptolemy II provided the canal with a lock and after its completion, the canal was named the Ptolemy River in his honor.
And even though Ptolemy II's buildings and many of his accomplishments have been lost to us through time, one of his most
enduring contributes to Egypt is readily visible to us today. He was the first to import camels to Egypt.
Interestingly, one of Ptolemy II's claims to fame was his marriage to his full sister. At first, he made a dynastic marriage
with Arsinoe, the daughter of the powerful Lysimachus of Thrace, who had been one of Alexander the Great's foremost generals. By
her, he had three children. However, when his sister, another Arsinoe, who was bored with sanctuary on Samorthrace, finally
returned to Egypt, she cultivated her brother who was her junior by eight years. Ptolemy II ended up repudiating his existing
wife, after some rumors of treason associated with her arose and she was banished to Coptos in Southern Egypt. He then married
his full sister. She promptly adopted his first wife's children, and began to appear with her brother and now husband on his
gold and silver coinage. In fact, by some sexist oddity, it was his sister and wife, who while they both lived, and not Ptolemy
II who was known as Philadelphus. The date of this marriage is uncertain, but it must have taken place before 274/3 BC, when
Arsinoe appears as regnant queen on the Pithom stele.
It is not always certain that the more ancient Egyptian pharaohs who also married their sisters had sexual relations with them,
but Arsinoe was undeniably beautiful, as well as determined, and therefore her incestuous marriage to her brother seems to have
been more than a mere act of calculated policy. Nevertheless, calculation undoubtedly entered into it. Ptolemy I had already
been deified, and the more divinity that hedged the royal succession the better. Ptolemy II probably figured on playing Osiris
to Arsinoe's Isis for the benefit of his Egyptian subjects, and Zeus to her Hera for the Greeks.
Sailors were already praying to Arsinoe during her lifetime, a sign that she was regarded in some sense as the avatar of Isis,
and she was promptly deified after her death. It has often been thought that she held considerable influence over Ptolemy,
though her role as the political power behind the throne has probably been exaggerated. Ptolemy could be a forceful enough ruler
when force was called for.
All was not perfect, though. By now, the very intellectualism in Alexandria established by the first two Ptolemies had created
satirists in the city, and no great man seems to have escaped them. When Ptolemy II married his full sister, the Greek poet
Sotades published a lampoon that included the stinging line, "You are pushing the prong into an unholy fleshpot". This landed
him in prison, and later Ptolemy II had him hunted down by his admiral, Patroclus, who drowned him in a lead coffin.
Ptolemy seems to have died a relatively peaceful death and been buried in Alexandria as was probably his father. he was
succeeded by Ptolemy III Euergetes, a product of his first wife who had been brought up by his stepmother.
Ptolemy II Philadelphus in Wikipedia
Ptolemy II Philadelphus (Greek: Πτολεμαῖος Φιλάδελφος, Ptolemaĩos Philádelphos" 309 BCE–246 BCE), 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. He had
two half-brothers, Ptolemy Keraunos and Meleager, both of whom became kings of Macedonia (in 281 BCE and 279 BCE respectively). Both died in
the Gallic invasion of 280-279 BCE (see Brennus).
As did the Ptolemies III through V, Ptolemy II erected a commemmorative stele, the Great Mendes Stela.
He began his reign as co-regent with his father Ptolemy I from ca. 290 BCE–ca. 283 BCE, and maintained a splendid court in Alexandria.
Egypt was involved in several wars during his reign. Magas of Cyrene opened war on his half-brother (274 BCE), and the Seleucid king Antiochus
I Soter, desiring Coele-Syria with Judea, attacked soon after in the First Syrian War. Two or three years of war followed. Egypt's victories
solidified the kingdom's position as the undisputed naval power of the eastern Mediterranean; his fleet (112 ships) bore the most powerful
naval siege units of all time, guaranteed the king access to the coastal cities of his empire. The Ptolemaic sphere of power extended over the
Cyclades to Samothrace, and the harbours and coast towns of Cilicia Trachea, Pamphylia, Lycia and Caria.
The victory won by Antigonus II Gonatas, king of Macedonia, over the Egyptian fleet at Cos (between 258 BCE and 256 BCE) did not long
interrupt Ptolemy's command of the Aegean Sea. In a Second Syrian War with the Seleucid kingdom, under Antiochus II Theos (after 260 BCE),
Ptolemy sustained losses on the seaboard of Asia Minor and agreed to a peace by which Antiochus married his daughter Berenice (c. 250 BCE).
Ptolemy's first wife, Arsinoe I, daughter of Lysimachus, was the mother of his legitimate children:
Ptolemy III Euergetes, his successor.
Berenice Phernopherus, married Antiochus II Theos, king of Syria.
After her repudiation he married his full sister Arsinoe II, the widow of Lysimachus-an Egyptian custom-which brought him her Aegean
Ptolemy had several concubines. With a woman named Bilistiche he had an (illegitimate) son named Ptolemy Andromachou 
Other mistresses include: Agathoclea (?), Aglais (?) daughter of Megacles, the cupbearer Cleino, Didyme, the Chian harp player Glauce, the
flautist Mnesis, the actress Myrtion, the flautist Pothine and Stratonice. 
The material and literary splendour of the Alexandrian court was at its height under Ptolemy II. Pomp and splendor flourished. Ptolemy deified
his parents and his sister-wife, after her death (270 BCE). Ptolemy staged a procession in Alexandria in honor of Dionysus led by 24 chariots
drawn by elephants and a procession of lions, leopards, panthers, camels, antelopes, wild asses, ostriches, a bear, a giraffe and a
rhinoceros. According to scholars, most of the animals were in pairs - as many as eight pairs of ostriches - and although the ordinary
chariots were likely led by a single elephant, others which carried a 7-foot-tall (2.1 m) golden statue may have been led by four.
Callimachus, keeper of the library, Theocritus, and a host of lesser poets, glorified the Ptolemaic family. Ptolemy himself was eager to
increase the library and to patronize scientific research. He had exotic animals of far off lands sent to Alexandria. Although an enthusiast
for Hellenic culture, he also adopted Egyptian religious concepts, which helped to bolster his image as a sovereign.
The tradition preserved in the pseudepigraphical Letter of Aristeas which connects the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek
with his patronage is probably overdrawn. However, Walter Kaiser says, "There can be little doubt that the Law was translated in
Philadelphus's time since Greek quotations from Genesis and Exodus appear in Greek literature before 200 B.C. The language of the Septuagint
is more like Egyptian Greek than it is like Jerusalemite Greek, according to some."  Ptolemy had many brilliant mistresses, and his court,
magnificent and dissolute, intellectual and artificial, has been compared with the Versailles of Louis XIV.
Ptolemy was of a delicate constitution. Elias Joseph Bickermann (Chronology of the Ancient World, 2nd ed. 1980) gives the date of his death as
Relations with India -
Ptolemy is recorded by Pliny the Elder as having sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Mauryan court at Pataliputra in India, probably to
"But [India] has been treated of by several other Greek writers who resided at the courts of Indian kings, such, for instance, as Megasthenes,
and by Dionysius, who was sent thither by Philadelphus, expressly for the purpose: all of whom have enlarged upon the power and vast resources
of these nations." Pliny the Elder, "The Natural History", Chap. 21 
He is also mentioned in the Edicts of Ashoka as a recipient of the Buddhist proselytism of Ashoka, although no Western historical record of
this event remain.