Ancient Egypt
Pharaohs Behaving Badly The Machinations Of Pot Belly Image Credit: Ancient Egypt
Pharaohs Behaving Badly The Machinations Of Pot Belly Image Credit: Ancient Egypt

Pharaohs Behaving Badly: The Machinations Of ‘Pot Belly'

In the fourth in her series on the final pharaonic dynasty, Sarah Griffiths describes the destructive sibling rivalry of Ptolemy VI and Ptolemy VIII.

Sarah Griffiths

Egypt in 180 BC was a mere shadow of its former glory under the first three Ptolemy kings. Of the once-extensive Mediterranean empire, only Cyprus and Cyrenaica (Libya) remained. Conflict within the royal family led to a severe weakening of royal power, compounded by the actions of powerful self-seeking Greek courtiers and increasing intervention by Rome, by now the dominant Mediterranean power. Within Egypt, famine, rampant inflation and the corrupt and repressive administration pushed the native population into revolt; workers downed tools, villages were attacked by bands of brigands, temples were plundered, and rival cities waged war against each other, as in the case of Hermonthis (Armant) and Krocodilopolis, during the reign of Ptolemy VIII.

Ptolemy VI Philometor (‘Mother-loving’) 180-145 BC

Now, more than ever, Egypt was in need of strong rule; instead it was a boy of six who came to the throne in 180 BC following the murder of his father Ptolemy V. The first four years of Ptolemy VI’s reign were relatively stable under the rule of his regent and mother Cleopatra I who, as sister to Seleucus IV, was able to bring an end to hostilities with Syria. However, her sudden death in 176 BC left Egypt again at the mercy of greedy and incompetent Greek officials. Lenaeus, a former Syrian slave, and a eunuch called Eulaeus seized power, married the young king to his sister Cleopatra II and also declared the young brother Ptolemy [


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