Agathoclea (mistress of Ptolemy IV)

Agathoclea (Greek: Ἀγαθόκλεια; c. 247 BC/mid-230s BC – 203/202[1]) was the favourite mistress of the Egyptian Greek Pharaoh Ptolemy IV Philopator who reigned 221–205; sister of Ptolemy IV’s minister Agathocles[2] and through her father was a distant relation of the Ptolemaic dynasty.

Agathoclea was an Egyptian Greek noblewoman. She was one of the daughters born to Oenanthe of Egypt from her first husband Agathocles.[1] Her paternal grandmother Theoxena of Egypt, was a Syracusan Greek Princess and Theoxena’s mother, also named Theoxena was a Greek Macedonian noblewoman, who was the second older maternal half-sister of the Greek Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus,[3] who reigned 283 BC-246 BC. Polybius states Agathoclea had relatives who served the Ptolemaic dynasty: Nico or Nicon a nauarch under Ptolemy IV;[4] Philo[5] and Philammon appointed libyarch of Cyrene by her brother.[6]

Agathoclea may have been an owner of a grain boat.[7] Agathoclea and her brother, who both exercised almost unlimited influence over the Pharaoh, were introduced to him by their ambitious mother. Polybius (15.31.13), states that Agathoclea claimed to have a wet-nurse to the son of Ptolemy IV. Despite Ptolemy IV marrying his sister Arsinoe III in 220 BC, Agathoclea continued to be his favourite. In late c. 210 BC, Agathoclea may have given birth to a son from her affair with Ptolemy IV, who may have died shortly after his birth.[8]

On the death of Ptolemy IV in 205, Agathoclea and her friends kept the event secret, that they might have an opportunity of plundering the royal treasury. They also formed a conspiracy with Sosibius aimed at placing Agathocles on the throne or at least making him regent for the new boy king, Ptolemy V Epiphanes. With the support of Sosibius, they murdered Arsinoe III. Agathocles then acted as guardian to the young king Ptolemy V.

In 203/202, the Egyptians and Greeks of Alexandria, exasperated at Agathocles' outrages, rose against him, and the military governor Tlepolemus placed himself at their head. They surrounded the palace in the night, and forced their way in. Agathocles and his sister begged for mercy, but in vain. Agathocles was killed by his friends, to avoid an even more cruel fate. Agathoclea with her sisters, and Oenanthe, who had taken refuge in a temple, were dragged out, and in a state of nakedness exposed to the fury of the multitude, who literally tore them limb from limb. All their relations and those who had had any share in the murder of Arsinoe III were likewise put to death.[9][10][11][12]

There was another Agathoclea, the daughter of a man named Aristomenes, who was by birth an Acarnanian, and rose to great power in Egypt.[13]



  1. ^ a b Ptolemaic Genealogy: Agathoclea Archived November 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Mason, Charles Peter (1867), "Agathoclea", in Smith, William (ed.), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, p. 63
  3. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Berenice I Archived 2011-10-05 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Polybius 15.25.37, 15.33.7
  5. ^ Polybius 15.30.5
  6. ^ Polybius 15.33.11
  7. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Agathoclea, Footnote 3 Archived November 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Possible child of Ptolemy IV Archived November 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Polybius v. 63, xiv. 11, xv. 25—34
  10. ^ Justin, xxx. 1, 2
  11. ^ Athenaeus, vi. p. 251, xiii. p. 576
  12. ^ Plutarch, Cleom. 33
  13. ^ Polybius l.c.