Oenanthe of Egypt

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Oenanthe (Greek: Οἰνἀνθη, her name means wineflower - from οἶνος wine and ἄνθος flower - flourished 3rd century BC, died 203 BC) was an Egyptian Greek noblewoman and through marriage was a relation of the Ptolemaic dynasty.[1]

Oenanthe was a woman of obscure origins. She had married at an unknown date Agathocles an Egyptian Greek nobleman, the grandson of Agathocles of Syracuse the late Greek Tyrant of Syracuse, who later became King of Sicily[2] and Theoxena of Syracuse a Greek Macedonian noblewoman, who was the second older maternal half-sister of the Greek Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus.[3][4] Oenanthe bore Agathocles four children who were: one son Agathocles of Egypt; one daughter called Agathoclea and another two daughters whose names are unknown.[5]

Agathocles died at an unknown date. Oenanthe later remarried to Theogenes, sometimes known as Theognetos or Diognetos.[6] Theogenes was a prominent Egyptian Greek who was a Dioiketes,[7] a manager of a private estate.

Oenanthe was an ambitious and avaricious character.[8] Oenanthe introduced Agathoclea and Agathocles to the Egyptian Greek Pharaoh Ptolemy IV Philopator reigned 221 BC–205 BC. Through her children she was able to possess the greatest influence in Ptolemaic government in the reign of Ptolemy IV.[9] Agathoclea became the favourite mistress of Ptolemy IV and later, Agathocles became the regent and guardian Ptolemy IV’s child Ptolemy V Epiphanes.

Oenanthe’s influence only lasted until Ptolemy IV died.[10] In 205 BC after the accession of the young Ptolemy V, the citizens of Alexandria rose up against Oenanthe, her family and their party.[11] Oenanthe, her family and their party fled for refuge to the temple of the Thesmophorium. They hoped the aid of the goddesses and their enchantments would drive away the threats and curses. Some noble ladies had come to console her.

The next day Oenanthe, her family and their party, were dragged out from the altar by the Alexandrians and having been brought naked on horse-back to the stadium where they were delivered. The Alexandrians in fury had them all murdered being torn in pieces.[12]



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