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For the son of Cleopatra VII, see Ptolemy Philadelphus (Cleopatra)

Ptolemy II Philadelphus (Greek: Πτολεμαίος Φιλάδελφος, 309–246 BCE), was the king of Ptolemaic Egypt from 281 BCE to 246 BCE. He was the son of the founder of the Ptolemaic kingdom Ptolemy I Soter and Berenice. He had a half-brother, Ptolemy Ceraunus, who became king of Macedonia in 281 BC, and died in the Gallic invasion of 280-79 BC (see Brennus).

Reign

He began his reign as co-regent with his father Ptolemy I from 288 BC – 285 BC, and maintained a splendid court in Alexandria.

Egypt was involved in several wars during his reign. Magas of Cyrene opened war on his half-brother (274 BC), and the Seleucid king Antiochus I Soter, desiring Coele-Syria with Judea, attacked soon after in the First Syrian War. Two or three years of war followed. Egypt's victories solidified the kingdom's position as the undisputed naval power of the eastern Mediterranean; the Ptolemaic sphere of power extended over the Cyclades to Samothrace, and the harbours and coast towns of Cilicia Trachea, Pamphylia, Lycia and Caria.

The victory won by Antigonus II Gonatas, king of Macedonia, over the Egyptian fleet at Cos (between 258 BC and 256 BC) did not long interrupt Ptolemy's command of the Aegean Sea. In a Second Syrian War with the Seleucid kingdom, under Antiochus II Theos (after 260 BC), Ptolemy sustained losses on the seaboard of Asia Minor and agreed to a peace by which Antiochus married his daughter Berenice (ca 250 BC).

Ptolemy's first wife, Arsinoë I, daughter of Lysimachus, was the mother of his legitimate children. After her repudiation he married his full-sister Arsinoë II, the widow of Lysimachus, by an Egyptian custom abhorrent to Greek morality; probably for political reasons in complying with the custom.

The material and literary splendour of the Alexandrian court was at its height under Ptolemy II. Pomps and gay religions flourished. Ptolemy deified his parents and his sister-wife, after her death (270 BC), as Philadelphus. This surname was used in later generations to distinguish Ptolemy II himself, but properly it belongs to Arsinoë only, not to the king.

Callimachus, keeper of the library, Theocritus, and a host of lesser poets, glorified the Ptolemaic family. Ptolemy himself was eager to increase the library and to patronize scientific research. He had exotic animals of far off lands sent to Alexandria. Although an enthusiast for Hellenic culture, he also adopted Egyptian religious concepts, which helped to bolster his image as a sovereign.

The tradition preserved in the pseudepigraphical Letter of Aristeas which connects the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek with his patronage is probably not historical. Ptolemy had many brilliant mistresses, and his court, magnificent and dissolute, intellectual and artificial, has been justly compared with the Versailles of Louis XIV.

Ptolemy was of a delicate constitution. E.J.Bickermann (Chronology of the Ancient World, 2nd ed. 1980) gives the date of his death as January 29.

Relations with India

Ptolemy is recorded by Pliny the Elder as having sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Mauryan court at Pataliputra in India, probably to Emperor Ashoka:

"But [India] has been treated of by several other Greek writers who resided at the courts of Indian kings, such, for instance, as Megasthenes, and by Dionysius, who was sent thither by Philadelphus, expressly for the purpose: all of whom have enlarged upon the power and vast resources of these nations." Pliny the Elder, "The Natural History", Chap. 21 [1]

He is also mentionned in the Edicts of Ashoka as a recipient of the Buddhist proselytism of Ashoka, although no Western historical record of this event remain:

"The conquest by Dharma has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (5,400-9,600 km) away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamaparni (Sri Lanka)." (Edicts of Ashoka, 13th Rock Edict, S. Dhammika).


External links

References

  1. Pliny the Elder, "The Natural History", Chap. 21

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