Ancient Egypt
The Ptolemies Raphia And Civil War Image Credit: Ancient Egypt
The Ptolemies Raphia And Civil War Image Credit: Ancient Egypt

The Ptolemies: Raphia And Civil War

In the third of her series tracing the history of the House of Ptolemy, Sarah Griffiths reaches a turning point in the dynasty’s fortunes, as the native Egyptians reassert their rights and Rome begins to cast a long shadow over Egypt’s independence.

The death of Ptolemy III Euergetes in 221 BC marked the beginning of the long slow decline of the House of Ptolemy. Continued conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean led to the erosion of Egyptian possessions abroad while at home famine, heavy taxation and an oppressive administration led to seething resentment; it was only a matter of time before the native Egyptians began to rebel against their Greek masters. At a time when strong central control was vital, the Ptolemaic dynasty began to implode, leaving power in the hands of self-seeking Greek courtiers and the violent Alexandrian mob.

This internal strife was played out against a backdrop of continued power struggles in the Mediterranean, with a new rising power emerging from the West. By 273 BC, Rome was in full control of the Italian peninsula, having ousted the Greek colonies there. Although Rome was not seen as a direct threat to Egypt at that time, Ptolemy II Philadelphus was still keen to exchange diplomatic envoys. Beginning with this treaty of friendship, Rome became increasingly involved in Egypt’s dynastic disputes, first as an ally providing support when asked, later imposing the will of the Senate on the Egyptian people.

Ptolemy IV Philopator 221–205 BC

Philopator (‘Father Loving’) began his reign with a murderous purge of all potential rivals, including his brother Magas (who according to one source was scalded to death in his bath) and his mother Berenice II, who was poisoned. The only family member left standing was the king’s fourteen year-old sister, Arsinoë III Philadelphia,presumably spared to become his consort and provide


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