Ptolemy II Philadelphus
: , Ptolemaĩos Philádelphos
309 BC–246 BC), was the king of Ptolemaic Egypt
from 283 BC to 246 BC. He
was the son of the founder of the Ptolemaic kingdom Ptolemy I Soter
, and was educated by Philitas of Cos
. He had two half-brothers,
, both of whom became kings of
(in 281 BC and 279 BC
respectively). Both died in the Gallic invasion of 280-279 BC (see
As did the Ptolemy's III through V, Ptolemy II erected a
commemmorative stele, the Great Mendes Stela.
his reign as co-regent with his father Ptolemy I from ca. 290 BC–ca. 283 BCE, 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
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.
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
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
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
—an Egyptian custom—which
brought him her Aegean possessions.
The material and literary splendour of the Alexandrian court was at
its height under Ptolemy II. Pomp and splendor flourished. Ptolemy
deified his parents and his sister-wife, after her death (270 BC).
Ptolemy staged a procession in Alexandria in honor of Dionysus led
by 24 chariots drawn by elephants and a procession of lions,
leopards, panthers, camels, antelopes, wild asses, ostriches, a
bear, a giraffe and a rhinoceros. According to scholars, most of
the animals were in pairs - as many as eight pairs of ostriches -
and although the ordinary chariots were likely led by a single
elephant, others which carried a 7 foot tall golden statue may have
been led by four.
, keeper of the library,
, 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
translation of the Old
Testament into Greek with his patronage is probably overdrawn.
However, Walter Kaiser says, "There can be little doubt that the
Law was translated in Philadelphus's time since Greek quotations
from Genesis and Exodus appear in Greek literature before 200 B.C.
The language of the Septuagint is more like Egyptian Greek than it
is like Jerusalemite Greek, according to some." Ptolemy had many
brilliant mistresses, and his court, magnificent and dissolute,
intellectual and artificial, has been compared with the Versailles
of Louis XIV
Ptolemy was of a delicate constitution. Elias Joseph Bickermann
(Chronology of the Ancient World
, 2nd ed. 1980) gives the
date of his death as January 29.
Relations with India
recorded by Pliny the Elder as
having sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Mauryan court at Pataliputra in India, probably to
- "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
He is also mentioned in the Edicts of
as a recipient of the Buddhist
proselytism of Ashoka, although no Western historical record of
this event remain.
- Scullard, H.H The Elephant in the Greek and Roman
World Thames and Hudson. 1974 pg 125 "At the head of an
imposing array of animals (including...)"
- Theocritus: Encomium of Ptolemy Philadelphus
- Walter Kaiser: A History of Israel, p. 467
- Pliny the Elder, "The Natural History", Chap.