Arsinoe I

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Arsinoe I

Arsinoe I (Greek: Αρσινόη Α’, 305 BC[1] – after c. 248 BC[2]) was Queen of Egypt by marriage to Ptolemy II Philadelphus.


She was the second daughter and youngest child born to King Lysimachus and Nicaea of Macedon.[3][4] Arsinoe I had two older siblings: a brother called Agathocles and a sister called Eurydice.[3][4]

Arsinoe's paternal grandfather was Agathocles of Pella,[5] a nobleman who was a contemporary to King Philip II of Macedon who reigned 359-336 BC, while her maternal grandfather was the powerful Regent Antipater.[6] Arsinoe I was named in honor of an unnamed grandmother,[7] who may have been the mother of Lysimachus or the mother of Nicaea whose both names of these women are unknown.[2] Little is known of her life prior to her marriage.


Between 289/28[8] and 281 BC,[9] Arsinoe became the first wife of Ptolemaic Greek Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who was also her distant maternal cousin. Arsinoe I married Ptolemy II as part of an alliance between her father and Ptolemy II, against Seleucus I Nicator.[10]

Arsinoe I was, by marriage, Queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Arsinoe I bore Ptolemy II three children; two sons: Ptolemy III Euergetes, Lysimachus of Egypt and a daughter called Berenice.[11] At an unknown date between after 279-274/3 BC, a sister of Ptolemy II called Arsinoe II arrived in Egypt, who was the last wife of Lysimachus and had fled from her half-brother-husband Ptolemy Keraunos. Probably at the instigation of Arsinoe II, charges of conspiring to assassinate Ptolemy II were soon brought against Arsinoe I.[10]

As a result of the charges, Ptolemy II convicted Arsinoe I of plotting against him. He ended his marriage to Arsinoe I and divorced her. Ptolemy II then exiled Arsinoe I to Coptos in southern Egypt.[10] It is chronologically plausible that these events were also connected to the banishment of Ptolemy II’s niece, Theoxena of Egypt as Theoxena was sent to the Thebaid,[12] perhaps to Coptos. Afterwards Ptolemy II married his sister Arsinoe II and after the death of Arsinoe II, Ptolemy II’s children with Arsinoe I were officially regarded as the children of Arsinoe II.

Later life[edit]

Arsinoe I lived in exile for twenty years. During her exile, Arsinoe I lived in great splendour and exercised considerable power, since she was the wife of a former pharaoh. Her first son with Ptolemy II succeeded his father after his death.[8]

A surviving Stele has been found at Coptos which refers to Arsinoe I.[10] The Stele is of Senu-sher, a steward of Arsinoe I and the Stele is assigned to Arsinoe I’s exile.[13] The stele calls Arsinoe I the ‘king’s wife’, but her name is not enclosed in the royal Cartouche, as it is customary for an Egyptian Queen.[10] Another piece of surviving evidence connected to Arsinoe I, is a Phoenician inscription found at Lapithos, Cyprus,[14] which is dated in the 11th or 12th year in the reign of Ptolemy II. The inscription refers to a sacrifice instituted by Yatonba’al on behalf of ‘the legitimate scion and his wife’,[14] hence refers to Arsinoe I. As Arsinoe I was disgraced as a traitor, the fact the person who did the sacrifice on her behalf strongly suggests that the news of her disgrace had not yet reached him.[14]



  1. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Arsinoe I, Footnote 4
  2. ^ a b "Arsinoe I". Ptolemaic Genealogy. , Footnote 10
  3. ^ a b Bengtson. Griechische Geschichte von den Anfängen bis in die römische Kaiserzeit. p. 569. 
  4. ^ a b Heckel. Who’s who in the age of Alexander the Great: prosopography of Alexander’s empire. p. 175. 
  5. ^ Lysimachus’ article at
  6. ^ Lightman, A to Z of ancient Greek and Roman women, p.233
  7. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Arsinoe I, Footnote 3
  8. ^ a b Lightman. A to Z of ancient Greek and Roman women. p. 43. 
  9. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Arsinoe I
  10. ^ a b c d e "Arsinoe I". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. 
  11. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Arsinoe I, Footnote 7
  12. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Theoxena, Footnote 6 Archived November 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Arsinoe I, Footnote 8
  14. ^ a b c "Arsinoe I". Ptolemaic Genealogy. , Footnote 9


  • Bengtson, Hermann (1977). Griechische Geschichte von den Anfängen bis in die römische Kaiserzeit. C.H.Beck. 
  • "Ptolemaic Genealogy: Arsinoe I". Tyndale House. 
  • "Arsinoe I". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. 
  • "Ptolemaic Genealogy: Theoxena". Tyndale House. Archived from the original on 2011-11-26. 
  • "Lysimachus". 
  • Heckel, Waldemar (2006). Who’s who in the age of Alexander the Great: prosopography of Alexander’s empire. Wiley-Blackwell. 
  • Lightman, M.; Lightman, B. (2007). A to Z of ancient Greek and Roman women. Infobase Publishing (Google eBook).