Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Ptolemy II Philadelphus (Greek: Πτολεμαῖος Φιλάδελφος, Ptolemaîos Philádelphos "Ptolemy Beloved of his Sibling"; 308/9–246 BCE[2]) was the king of Ptolemaic Egypt from 283 to 246 BCE. He was the son of the founder of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, Ptolemy I Soter and Berenice I, and was educated by Philitas of Cos. He had two half-brothers, Ptolemy Keraunos and Meleager, who both became kings of Macedonia (in 281 BCE and 279 BCE respectively), and who both died in the Gallic invasion of 280–279 BCE.

Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Born c. 308/9 BCE
Died 28 January 246 BCE
Issue With Arsinoe I:
Ptolemy III Euergetes
Berenice Phernopherus
With Bilistiche:
Ptolemy Andromachou
Dynasty Ptolemaic
Father Ptolemy I Soter
Mother Berenice I
Ptolemy Philadelphus bust, excavated at the Villa of the Papyri.
Ptolemy II Philadelphus (front), and his sister and wife Arsinoe II
A younger Ptolemy II Philadelphos and Arsinoe II.

Ptolemy was first married to Arsinoe I, daughter of Lysimachus, who was the mother of his legitimate children; after her repudiation, he married his full sister Arsinoe II, the widow of Lysimachus.[3] During Ptolemy's reign, the material and literary splendour of the Alexandrian court was at its height. He promoted the Museum and Library of Alexandria, and he erected a commemorative stele, the Great Mendes Stela.



Ptolemy began his reign as co-regent with his father, Ptolemy Soter, from c. 285 to c. 283 BCE, and maintained a splendid court in Alexandria.

Egypt was involved in several wars during his reign. His half-brother through his mother Berenice, Magas of Cyrene, had declared himself king of Cyrene in 276 and began a war against Ptolemy's government in 274 BCE. Magas managed to keep Cyrenaica independent of the Ptolemies until his death in 250 BCE.

Magas' attack on the Ptolemies began when their armies were in the east; Seleucid emperor Antiochus I Soter had attacked Coele-Syria with Judea 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 of 112 ships bore the most powerful naval siege units of the time, guaranteeing 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. In 275/4, Ptolemaic forces invaded Nubia and annexed the Triakontaschoinos.

In 270, Ptolemy hired 4000 Gallic mercenaries (who in 279 BCE under Bolgios killed his half-brother Ptolemy Keraunos). According to Pausanias, soon after arrival the Gauls plotted "to seize Egypt," and so Ptolemy marooned them on a deserted island in the Nile where “they perished at one another’s hands or by famine.”[4]

The victory won by Antigonus II Gonatas, king of Macedonia, over the Egyptian fleet at Kos (between 258 BCE and 256 BCE) did not long interrupt Ptolemy's command of the Aegean Sea. In the Second Syrian War with the Seleucid Empire of Antiochus II Theos (after 260 BCE), Ptolemy sustained losses on the seaboard of Anatolia and agreed to a peace by which Antiochus married Ptolemy's daughter Berenice Phernopherus (c. 250 BCE).

Ptolemy was of a delicate constitution. Elias Joseph Bickerman gives the date of his death as 29 January.[5]


Ptolemy's first wife, Arsinoe I, daughter of Lysimachus, was the mother of his legitimate children:

After he repudiated Arsinoe, he married his full sister Arsinoe II, widow of Lysimachus, which brought him her Aegean possessions.

He also had several concubines. With a woman named Bilistiche he had an (illegitimate) son named Ptolemy Andromachou[6]

This granite statue depicts Ptolemy II in the traditional canon of ancient Egyptian art. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

He had many mistresses, including Agathoclea (?), Aglais (?) daughter of Megacles, the cup-bearer Cleino, Didyme, the Chian harp player Glauce, the flautist Mnesis, the actress Myrtion, the flautist Pothine and Stratonice,[7] and his court, magnificent and dissolute, intellectual and artificial, has been compared with the Palace of Versailles of Louis XIV of France.

Ptolemy deified his parents and his sister-wife after their deaths.


"Cameo Gonzaga", Hermitage

The material and literary splendour of the Alexandrian court was at its height under Ptolemy II. Pomp and splendor flourished. He had exotic animals of far off lands sent to Alexandria, and 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.[8] Although an enthusiast for Hellenic culture, he also adopted Egyptian religious concepts, which helped to bolster his image as a sovereign.

Callimachus, keeper of the library, Theocritus,[9] and a host of lesser poets, glorified the Ptolemaic family. Ptolemy himself was eager to increase the library and to patronize scientific research.

The tradition preserved in the pseudepigraphical Letter of Aristeas which connects the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible 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 BCE The language of the Septuagint is more like Egyptian Greek than it is like Jerusalemite Greek, according to some." [10]

Relations with IndiaEdit

Ptolemy is recorded by Pliny the Elder as having sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Mauryan court at Pataliputra in India,[11] probably to Emperor Ashoka:

"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 [12]

He is also mentioned in the Edicts of Ashoka as a recipient of the Buddhist proselytism of Ashoka.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Clayton (2006) p. 208
  2. ^ "Ptolemy II Philadelphus". 
  3. ^ "Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt". Ancient Egypt Online. Retrieved May 22, 2013. 
  4. ^ Hinds, Kathryn (September 2009). Ancient Celts: Europe's Tribal Ancestors. Marshall Cavendish. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-7614-4514-2. 
  5. ^ (Chronology of the Ancient World, 2nd ed. 1980)
  6. ^ Ptolemy Andromachou by Chris Bennett
  7. ^ Ptolemy II by Chris Bennett
  8. ^ Scullard, H.H The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World Thames and Hudson. 1974 pg 125 "At the head of an imposing array of animals (including...)"
  9. ^ Theocritus: Encomium of Ptolemy Philadelphus
  10. ^ Walter Kaiser: A History of Israel, p. 467
  11. ^ Mookerji 1988, p. 38.
  12. ^ Pliny the Elder, "The Natural History", Chap. 21 Archived 2013-07-28 at the Wayback Machine.



External linksEdit

Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Born: 309 BCE Died: 246 BCE
Preceded by
Ptolemy I Soter
Pharaoh of Egypt
283–246 BC
Succeeded by
Ptolemy III Euergetes