Smith's Bible DictionaryPtolemaeus or Ptolemy
was the common name of the Greek dynasty of Egyptian kings. PTOLEMAEUS I. SOTER, the son of Lagus, a Macedonian of low rank, distinguished himself greatly during the campaigns of Alexander; at whose death he secured for himself the government of Egypt, where he proceeded at once to lay the foundations of a kingdom, B.C. 323. He abdicated in favor of his youngest son, Ptolemy II. Philadelphus, two years before his death which took place in B.C. 283. Ptolemy Soter is described very briefly in Daniel, (Daniel 11:6) as one of those who should receive part of the empire of Alexander when it was "divided toward the four winds of heaven." PTOLEMAEUS II. PHILADELPHUS, B.C. 285-247, the youngest son of Ptolemy I., was made king two years before his father's death, to confirm the irregular succession. The conflict between Egypt and Syria was renewed during his reign in consequence of the intrigue of his half brother Magas. Ptolemy bestowed liberal encouragement on literature and science, founding the great library and museum at Alexandria, and gathered about him many men of learning, as the poet Theocritus, the geometer Euclid and the astronomer Aratua. This reign was a critical epoch for the development of Judaism, as it was for the intellectual history of the ancient world. The critical faculty was called forth in place of the creative, and learning in some sense supplied the place of original speculation. It was impossible on the Jew who was now become us true a citizen of the world as the Greek, should remain passive in the conflict of opinions. It is enough now to observe the greatness of the consequences involved in the union of Greek language with Jewish thought. From this time the Jew was familiarized with the great types of western literature, and in some degree aimed at imitating them. A second time and in new fashion Egypt disciplined a people of God. It first impressed upon a nation the firm unity of a family and then in due time reconnected a matured people with the world from which it had been called out. PTOLEMAEUS III. EUERGETES, B.C. 247-222, was the eldest son of Ptolemy Philadelphus and brother of Berenice the wife of Antiochus II. The repudiation and murder of his sister furnished him with an occasion for invading Syria, cir. B.C. 246. (Daniel 11:7) He extended his conquests as far as Antioch, and then eastward to Babylon, but was recalled to Egypt by tidings of seditions which had broken out there. His success was brilliant and complete. He carried "captives into Egypt their gods of the conquered nations, with their princes and with their precious vessels of silver and of gold." (Daniel 11:8) This capture of sacred trophies earned for the king the name Euergetes -- "Benefactor." After his return to Egypt, cir. B.C. 243 he suffered a great part of the conquered provinces to fall again under the power of Seleucus. PTOLEMAEUS IV. PHILOPATOR, B.C. 222-205. After the death of Ptolemy Euergetes the line of the Ptolemies rapidly degenerated. Ptolemy Philopator, his eldest son, who succeeded him, was to the last degree sensual, effeminate and debased. But externally his kingdom retained its power and splendor and when circumstances forced him to action. Ptolemy himself showed ability not unworthy of his race. The description of the campaign of Raphia (B.C. 217) in the book of Daniel gives a vivid description of his character. (Daniel 11:10-12) cf. Macc. 1:1-3. After offering in the temple at Jerusalem sacrifices for the success they achieved, he attempted to enter the sanctuary. A sudden paralysis hindered his design; but when he returned to Alexandria he determined to inflict on the Alexandrine Jews the vengeance for his disappointment. He was succeeded by his only child, Ptolemy V. Epiphanes who was at the time only four or five years old. PTOLEMAEUS V. EPIPHANES, B.C. 205-181. The reign of Ptolemy Epiphanes was a critical epoch in the history of the Jews. The rivalry between the Syrian and Egyptian parties, some time divided the people, came to an open rupture in the struggles which marked his minority. In the strong language of Daniel "The robbers of the people exalted themselves to establish the vision." (Daniel 11:14) The accession of Ptolemy and the confusion of a disputed regency furnished a favorable opportunity for foreign invasion. "Many stood up against the king of the south" under Antiochus the Great and Philip III of Macedonia, who formed a league for the dismemberment of his kingdom. "So the king of the north [Antiochus] came, and cast up a mount, and took the most fenced city [Sidon], and the arms of the south did not withstand" [at Paneas B.C. 198]. (Daniel 11:14,15) The Romans interfered, and in order to retain the provinces of Coele-Syria, Phoenicia and Judea, Antiochus "gave him [Ptolemy] a young maiden" [his daughter Cleopatra as his betrothed wife]. (Daniel 11:27) But in the end his policy only partially succeeded. After the marriage of Ptolemy and Cleopatra was consummated B.C. 193, (Cleopatra, did "not stand on his side," but supported her husband in maintaining the alliance with Rome. The disputed provinces, however remained in the possession of Antiochus and Ptolemy was poisoned at the time when he was preparing an expedition to recover them from Seleucus, the unworthy successor of Antiochus. PTOLEMAEUS VI. PHILOMETOR, B.C. 181-145. On the death of Ptolemy Epiphanes, his wife Cleopatra held the regency for her young son, Ptolemy Philometor, and preserved peace with Syria till she died, B.C. 173. The government then fell into unworthy hands, and an attempt was made to recover Syria. Comp. 2 Macc. 4:21. Antiochus Epiphanes seems to have made the claim a pretext for invading Egypt. The generals of Ptolemy were defeated near Pelusium, probably at the close of B.C. 171, 1 Macc. 1:16 ff; and in the next year Antiochus, having secured the person of the young king, reduced almost the whole of Egypt. Comp. 2 Macc. 5:1. Meanwhile Ptolemy Euergetes II., the younger brother of Ptolemy Philometor, assumed the supreme power at Alexandris; and Antiochus, under the pretext of recovering the crown for Philometor, besieged Alexandria in B.C. 169. By this time, however, his selfish designs were apparent: the brothers were reconciled, and Antiochus was obliged to acquiesce for the time in the arrangement which they made. But while doing so he prepared for another invasion of Egypt, and was already approaching Alexandria when he was met by the Roman embassy led by C. Popillius Laenas, who, in the name of the Roman senate insisted on his immediate retreat (B.C.168), a command which the late victory at Pydna made it impossible to disobey. These campaigns, which are intimately connected with the visits of Antiochus to Jerusalem in B.C. 170, 168, are briefly described in (Daniel 11:25,30) The whole of Syria was afterward subdued by Ptolemy, and he was crowned at Antioch king of Egypt and Asia. 1 Macc. 11:13. Alexander, a rival claimant, attempted to secure the crown, but was defeated and afterward put to death by Ptolemy. But the latter did not long enjoy his success. He fell from his horse in the battle and died within a few days. 1 Macc. 11:18. Ptolemy Philometor is the last king of Egypt who is noticed in sacred history, and his reign was marked also by the erection of the temple at Leontopolis.
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