Ptolemaic dynasty

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This article is about the royal family. For the territorial state over which it ruled, see Ptolemaic Kingdom.

The Ptolemaic (/ˌtɒləˈmɪk/) dynasty (Ancient Greek: Πτολεμαῖοι, sometimes also known as the Lagids[pronunciation?] or Lagides,[pronunciation?] Ancient Greek: Λαγίδαι, from the name of Ptolemy I's father, Lagus), was a Macedonian Greek[1][2][3][4][5] royal family which ruled the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt during the Hellenistic period. Their rule lasted for 275 years, from 305 BC to 30 BC. They were the last dynasty of ancient Egypt.

Ptolemy, one of the six somatophylakes (bodyguards) who served as Alexander the Great's generals and deputies, was appointed satrap of Egypt after Alexander's death in 323 BC. In 305 BC, he declared himself King Ptolemy I, later known as "Soter" (saviour). The Egyptians soon accepted the Ptolemies as the successors to the pharaohs of independent Egypt. Ptolemy's family ruled Egypt until the Roman conquest of 30 BC.

All the male rulers of the dynasty took the name Ptolemy. Ptolemaic queens, some of whom were the sisters of their husbands, were usually called Cleopatra, Arsinoe or Berenice. The most famous member of the line was the last queen, Cleopatra VII, known for her role in the Roman political battles between Julius Caesar and Pompey, and later between Octavian and Mark Antony. Her apparent suicide at the conquest by Rome marked the end of Ptolemaic rule in Egypt.

Ptolemaic rulers and consorts[edit]

Dates in brackets represent the regnal dates of the Ptolemaic pharaohs. They frequently ruled jointly with their wives, who were often also their sisters. Several queens exercised regal authority, but the most famous and successful was Cleopatra VII (51–30 BC), with her two brothers and her son as successive nominal co-rulers. Several systems exist for numbering the later rulers; the one used here is the one most widely used by modern scholars. Dates are years of reign.

Simplified Ptolemaic family tree[edit]

Many of the relationships shown in this tree are controversial. The issues are fully discussed in the external links.

EgyptianPtolemies2.jpg

Other members of the Ptolemaic dynasty[edit]

Medical analysis[edit]

Contemporaries describe a number of the Ptolemaic dynasty as extremely obese, whilst sculptures and coins reveal prominent eyes and swollen necks. Familial Graves' disease could explain the swollen necks and eye prominence (exophthalmos), although this is unlikely to occur in the presence of morbid obesity.

In view of the familial nature of these findings, members of this dynasty likely suffered from a multi-organ fibrotic condition such as Erdheim–Chester disease or a familial multifocal fibrosclerosis where thyroiditis, obesity and ocular proptosis may have all occurred concurrently.[6]

Artwork during this dynasty[edit]

King with Sistra (Rattles) before Hathor, 3rd century B.C.E., 62.46, Brooklyn Museum

When Ptolemy I Soter made himself king of Egypt, he created a new god, Serapis, which was a combination of two Egyptian gods: Apis and Osiris plus the main Greek gods: Zeus, Hades, Asklepios, Dionysios, and Helios. Serapis had powers over fertility, the sun, corn, funerary rites, and medicine. Many people started to worship this god.

In the time of the Ptolemies, the cult of Serapis included the worship of the new Ptolemaic line of pharaohs. Alexandria supplanted Memphis as the preeminent religious city. The wealthy and connected of Egyptian society seemed to put more stock in magical stela during the Ptolemaic period. These were religious objects produced for private individuals, something uncommon in earlier Egyptian times. Most of the Ptolemaic magical stele were connected with matters of health. They were commonly of limestone; the Greeks tended to use marble or bronze for private sculpture. The most striking change in depiction of figures is the range from idealizing to nearly grotesque realism in portrayal of men. Previously Egyptian depictions tended toward the idealistic but stiff, not with an attempt at likeness. Likeness was still not the goal of art under the Ptolemies. The influence of Greek sculpture under the Ptolemies was shown in its emphasis on the face more than in the past. Smiles suddenly appear. Toward the end of the Ptolemaic period, the headdress sometimes gives way to tousled hair.

One significant change in Ptolemaic art is the sudden re-appearance of women, who had been absent since about the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. Some of this must have been due to the importance of women-such as the series of Cleopatras-who acted as co-regents or sometimes occupied the throne by themselves. Although women were present in artwork, they were shown less realistically than men in the this era. Even with the Greek influence on art, the notion of the individual portrait still had not supplanted Egyptian artistic norms during the Ptolemaic Dynasty.

The wife of Ptolemy II, Arsinoe II was often depicted in the form of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, but she wore the crown of lower Egypt, with ram's horns, ostrich feathers, and other traditional Egyptian indicators of royalty and/or deity. She wore the vulture headdress only on the religious portion of a relief.

The traditional table for offerings disappeared from reliefs during the Ptolemaic period. Male gods were no longer portrayed with tails in attempt to make them more humanlike.

Ways of presenting text on columns and reliefs became formal and rigid during the Ptolemaic Dynasty.

Cleopatra VII, the last of the Ptolemaic line, was often depicted with characteristics of the goddess Isis. She often had either a small throne as her headdress or the more traditional sun disk between two horns.[7]

Gallery of images[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jones, Prudence J. (2006). Cleopatra: A Sourcebook. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 14. "They were members of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Macedonian Greeks, who ruled Egypt after the death of its conqueror, Alexander the Great." 
  2. ^ Pomeroy, Sarah B. (1990). Women in Hellenistic Egypt. Wayne State University Press. p. 16. "while Ptolemaic Egypt was a monarchy with a Greek ruling class." 
  3. ^ Redford, Donald B., ed. (2000). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. "Cleopatra VII was born to Ptolemy XII Auletes (80–57 BCE, ruled 55–51 BCE) and Cleopatra, both parents being Macedonian Greeks." 
  4. ^ Bard, Kathryn A., ed. (1999). Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Routledge. p. 488. "Ptolemaic kings were still crowned at Memphis and the city was popularly regarded as the Egyptian rival to Alexandria, founded by the Macedonian Greeks." 
  5. ^ Bard, Kathryn A., ed. (1999). Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Routledge. p. 687. "During the Ptolemaic period, when Egypt was governed by rulers of Greek descent..." 
  6. ^ Ashrafian, Hutan (2005). "Familial proptosis and obesity in the Ptolemies". J. R. Soc. Med. 98 (2): 85–86. 
  7. ^ Antiquities Experts. "Egyptian Art During the Ptolemaic Period of Egyptian History". http://antiquitiesexperts.com/egypt_ptol.html. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Susan Stephens, Seeing Double. Intercultural Poetics in Ptolemaic Alexandria (Berkeley, 2002).
  • A. Lampela, Rome and the Ptolemies of Egypt. The development of their political relations 273-80 B.C. (Helsinki, 1998).
  • J. G. Manning, The Last Pharaohs: Egypt Under the Ptolemies, 305-30 BC (Princeton, 2009).

External links[edit]