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Dynasties of Ancient Egypt

The Ptolemaic dynasty, (Ancient GreekΠτολεμαῖοι, sometimes also known as the Lagids, Ancient GreekΛαγίδαι, from the name of Ptolemy I's father, Lagus) was a Greek[1][2][3][4] 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.

Ptolemy, a somatophylax, one of the seven 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 suicide at the conquest by Rome marked the end of Ptolemaic rule in Egypt.


Ptolemaic rulers and consorts

     Kingdom of Ptolemy Other diadochi      Kingdom of Cassander      Kingdom of Lysimachus      Kingdom of Seleucus      Epirus Other      Carthage      Rome      Greek colonies

The dates in brackets are regnal dates for the kings. 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 BC-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

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


Other members of the Ptolemaic dynasty

Medical analysis

A number of the Ptolemaic dynasty are described as being 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.[5]


  • J. G. Manning The Last Pharaohs - Egypt Under the Ptolemies, 305-30 BC, 2009

See also


  1. ^ Cleopatra: A Sourcebook (Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture) by Prudence J. Jones (Author) page14“They were members of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Macedonian Greeks, who ruled Egypt after the death of its conqueror, Alexander the Great.”
  2. ^ Women in Hellenistic Egypt By Sarah B. Pomeroy page 16 “while Ptolemaic Egypt was a monarchy with a Greek ruling class."
  3. ^ the Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. “,Cleopatra VII was born to Ptolemy XII Auletes (80–57 BCE, ruled 55–51 BCE) and Cleopatra, both parents being Macedonian Greeks.
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt by Kathryn Bard page 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.” Page 687” During the Ptolemaic period, when Egypt was governed by rulers of Greek descent…”
  5. ^ Ashrafian H. (2005) Familial proptosis and obesity in the Ptolemies. J. R. Soc. Med. 98(2):85-86

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PTOLEMIES, a dynasty of Macedonian kings who ruled in Egypt from 323 to 30 B.C.

Missing image

The founder, Ptolemy (IlToXE,uc os), son of Lagus, a Macedonian nobleman of Eordaea, was one of Alexander the Great's most trusted generals, and among the seven "body-guards" attached to his person. He plays a principal part in the later campaigns of Alexander in Afghanistan and India. At the Susa marriage festival in 324 Alexander caused him to marry the Persian princess Artacama; but there is no further mention of this Asiatic bride in the history of Ptolemy. When Alexander died in 323 the resettlement of the empire at Babylon is said to have been made at Ptolemy's instigation. At any rate he was now appointed satrap of Egypt under the nominal kings Philip Arrhidaeus and the young Alexander. He at once took a high hand in the province by killing Cleomenes, the financial controller appointed by Alexander the Great; he also subjugated Cyrenaica. He contrived to get possession of Alexander's body which was to be interred with great pomp by the imperial government and placed it temporarily in Memphis. This act led to an open rupture between Ptolemy and the imperial regent Perdiccas. But Perdiccas perished in the attempt to invade Egypt (320.. In the long wars between the different Macedonian chiefs which followed, Ptolemy's first object is to hold his position in Egypt securely, and secondly to possess the Cyrenaica, Cyprus and Palestine (Coele-Syria). His first occupation of Palestine was in 318, and he established at the same time a protectorate over the petty kings of Cyprus. When Antigonus, master of Asia in 315, showed dangerous ambitions, Ptolemy joined the coalition against him, and, on the outbreak of war, evacuated Palestine. In Cyprus he fought the partisans of Antigonus and reconquered the island (313). A revolt of Cyrene was crushed in the same year. In 312 Ptolemy, with Seleucus, the fugitive satrap of Babylonia, invaded Palestine and beat Demetrius, the son of Antigonus, in the great battle of Gaza. Again he occupied Palestine, and again a few months later, after Demetrius had won a battle over his general and Antigonus entered Syria in force, he evacuated it. In 311 a peace was concluded between the combatants, soon after which the surviving king Alexander was murdered in Macedonia, leaving the satrap of Egypt absolutely his own master. The peace did not last long, and in 309 Ptolemy commanded a fleet in person which detached the coast towns of Lycia and Caria from Antigonus and crossed to Greece, where Ptolemy took possession of Corinth, Sicyon and Megara (308). In 3 06 a great fleet under Demetrius attacked Cyprus, and Ptolemy's brother, Menelaus, was defeated and captured in the decisive battle of Salamis. The complete loss of Cyprus followed. Antigonus and Demetrius Rhamphorhynchus phyllurus: restoration by O. C. Marsh, showing extent of flying membranes ('y nat. size). - Upper Jurassic (Lithographic stone); Bavaria.

birds, with well-fitting articulations, quite different from those of ordinary reptiles. The head is large and remarkably birdlike in shape, while it is fixed on the neck at the same angle as in birds. The brain is small, but resembles that of birds in its general conformation. The trunk is relatively small, with few slender ribs and a keeled breastbone (sternum). The forelimbs are always a pair of wings, the fifth digit or "little" finger being enormously elongated for the support of a smooth flying membrane (seen in specimens from the lithographic stone of Bavaria). The wings are thus constructed on the same plan as those of a bat, but instead of four fingers, only one is elongated to bear the membrane. The hind-limbs are comparatively feeble, and must have been of very little use for walking.

The remains of pterodactyles are found chiefly in marine deposits, so that these reptiles must have frequented the coastlines. They probably fed partly on fish, partly on insects; but no traces of food have hitherto been observed within the fossil skeletons. The oldest satisfactorily known member of the group is Dimorphodon from the Lower Lias of Dorsetshire. The typical species has a skull about 20 centim. in length, with large teeth in front, smaller teeth behind: its tail is much elongated and slender. Equally fine skeletons of Campylognathus have been found in the Upper Lias of Wurttemberg. Other long-tailed pterodactyles occur well preserved in the Upper Jurassic (lithographic stone) of Bavaria and Wurttemberg, which is so fine-grained as to show impressions of the wing-membrane. In Rhamphorhynchus there is also a rhomboidal expansion of membrane at the end of the tail. The short-tailed Pterodactylus itself, sometimes no larger than a sparrow, is also found in the same formation. It was originally described by Collini in 1784 as an unknown sea-animal, and its true nature was first determined by Cuvier in 1809, when he named it "Pterodactyle." The Pterosaurians of the Cretaceous period, just before their extinction both in Europe and in North America, were of enormous size, and some became toothless. A pair of wings of the toothless Pteranodon from the Chalk of Kansas, now in the British Museum, measures about five and a half metres in span. Fragments of equally large pterodactyles with teeth are found in the English Chalk.

See H. G. Seeley, The Ornithosauria (Cambridge, 1870) and Dragons of the Air (London, 1901); S. W. Williston, paper in Kansas University Quarterly (1897), vi. 35; G. F. Eaton, papers in Amer. Journ. Science (1903-1904), 4th series, vols. xvi., xvii.

(A. S. Wo.) now assumed the title of kings; Ptolemy, as well as Cassander, Lysimachus and Seleucus, answered this challenge by doing the same. In the winter (306-5) Antigonus tried to follow up the victory of Cyprus by invading Egypt, but here Ptolemy was strong, and held the frontier successfully against him. Ptolemy led no further expedition against Antigonus overseas. To the Rhodians, besieged by Demetrius (305-4), he sent such help as won him divine honours in Rhodes and the surname of Soler (" saviour"). When the coalition was renewed against Antigonus in 302, Ptolemy joined it, and invaded Palestine a third time, whilst Antigonus was engaged with Lysimachus in Asia Minor. On a report that Antigonus had won a decisive victory, for a third time he evacuated the country. But when news came that Antigonus had been defeated and slain at Ipsus (30r) by Lysimachus and Seleucus, Ptolemy occupied Palestine for the fourth time. The other members of the coalition had assigned Palestine to Seleucus after what they regarded as Ptolemy's desertion, and for the next hundred years the question of its ownership becomes the standing ground of enmity between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties. Henceforth, Ptolemy seems to have mingled as little as possible in the broils of Asia Minor and Greece; his possessions in Greece he did not retain, but Cyprus he reconquered in 295-4. Cyrene, after a series of rebellions, was finally subjugated about 300 and placed under his stepson Magas (Beloch, Griech. Gesch. III. [ii.], p. 134 seq.). In 285 he abdicated in favour of one of his younger sons by Berenice, who bore his father's name of Ptolemy; his eldest (legitimate) son, Ptolemy Ceraunus, whose mother, Eurydice, the daughter of Antipater, had been repudiated, fled to the court of Lysimachus. Ptolemy I. Soter died in 283 at the age of 84. Shrewd and cautious, he had a compact and well-ordered realm to show at the end of fifty years of wars. His name for bonhomie and liberality attached the floating soldier-class of Macedonians and Greeks to his service. Nor did he neglect conciliation of the natives. He was a ready patron of letters, and the great library, which was Alexandria's glory, owed to him its inception. He wrote himself a history of Alexander's campaigns, distinguished by its straightforward honesty and sobriety.

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