Ptolemy Apion

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Portrait of a Ptolemaic ruler, maybe Ptolemy Apion, 1st century BC, from the temple of Apollo at Cyrene, British Museum

Ptolemy Apion or simply known as Apion (Ancient Greek: Πτολεμαῖος Ἀπίων, between 150 BC & 145 BC - 96 BC) was the last Greek Cyrenaean King and was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Ptolemy was Greek and native Egyptian in descent. His second name Apion is a name of ancient Egyptian origin and could be a name from his maternal ancestry.

Ptolemy was a son and was the first child among the children of Egyptian Greek prince, Cyrenaean King and future Pharaoh of Egypt Ptolemy VIII Physcon. Ptolemy’s paternal uncle was the Egyptian Greek Pharaoh Ptolemy VI Philometor and his paternal aunt was the Egyptian Greek princess and queen Cleopatra II of Egypt. His paternal grandparents were Egyptian Greek Pharaoh Ptolemy V Epiphanes and Egyptian Greek Queen who was a Greek princess of the Seleucid Empire Cleopatra I of Egypt.

Ptolemy’s mother was a native Egyptian woman called Eirene (Irene) or according to the Roman Jewish historian Josephus her name was Ithaca. Eirene originated from Cyrenaica and not much is known on her origins. She was a mistress of Physcon’s and was among his concubines. Eirene served as Physcon’s mistress from 150 BC til 127 BC. Eirene accompanied Physcon in 145 BC to Egypt when he became pharaoh and succeeded his brother Ptolemy VI.

Ptolemy was most probably born in Cyrene, the capital of Cyrenaica, however was raised and educated in his father’s court in Egypt. Until 116 BC, he most probably lived in Egypt. Ptolemy never held a royal Egyptian title. In 116 BC, Ptolemy’s father had died. From Physcon’s will, Ptolemy inherited Cyrenaica and in that year, he became king of Cyrenaica. When he became king, Ptolemy succeeded without any political opposition.

Unfortunately, little is recorded of Ptolemy’s reign of Cyrenaica. Ptolemy died in 96 BC and he implemented the terms of his father’s will for Cyrenaica. He never married and had no heirs. In Ptolemy’s will, he left Cyrenaica and his ancestral royal estates to the rule of the Roman Republic. Physcon had planned this for Cyrenaica after Ptolemy’s death.

Ptolemy’s ancestral estates were occupied by locals in the 1st century. The occupiers of the estates, needed assistance from the Roman Emperor Nero to legalise the land title through their occupations, so they could own the estates.

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