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Cleopatra the Ptolemies and the Hellenistic Era

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Classics Lecture 1: The Ptolemies and the Hellenistic Era


  • BCE/BC
  • BCE go backwards
  • 700BCE – 600 BCE – 500 BCE – 400 BCE
  • 6th century BCE = 599-500 BCE

Cleopatra VII: Sources

  • 1. Traditional Greek and Roman writers
  • Find in Jones source books, mostly men in Greek and Latin
  • 2. Egyptian and African writers
  • Can be slotted in w Roman bc they mostly all write in Latin and Greek and write when under Roman rule
  • 3. Early Christian and Moslem Egyptian historians
  • Later sources… She’s a diff person here… appears as a doctor, woman of strength and political aspects.. Muslims give her a diff picture
  • 4. Alternative sources: visual
  • Coins, aritechture, inscriptions, etc

  • 7th Cleopatra is the OG one (there are a bunch of Cleopatras)
  • Mythology of Cleopatra begins in her lifetime
  • B/c of her presence in Greek and roman, she’s viewed as a euro monarch even tho she was Egyptian

Hellenistic Period

  • 323 BCE – 31 BCE
  • Begins with the death of Alexander the Great
  • Alexander the Great is the conqueror of the East
  • He doesn’t leave a successor
  • His generals carve the empire amongst themselves
  • Ptomlemoy is one of the generals 🡪 produces Cleopatra
  • Cleo lives in this period
  • 323: Alexander the Great dies in this year and he loves Greek culture
  • Hellenistic kingdoms spread Greek culture widely
  • As did Alexander himself, always travelled with Iliad
  • Literature, cities, art, etc.
  • The Hellenistic period came to an end with the arrival of who? (2nd C BCE) .. Acc ends earlier than Cleopatra bc Romans come and conquer
  • Hellenistic era produced many things as well
  • Test: ends in the 2nd C BCE but the last person ruling Hellenistic dies in 30 (Cleopatra)

[pic 1][pic 2]

The Death of Alexander III

  • From fever, drinking, and a broken heart in 323 BCE
  • Who died the year before 323 BCE? Hiphistion (one of his generals, boyfriend)
  • ‘Toi kratistoi’ (said this while he was dying?) /Perdicaas (passed his ring to this general?)
  • Only 33, when he dies, he gave his kingdom to the strongest
  • Everyone’s tries to grab a piece of the kingdom
  • Dissention and rivalry
  • Why did his empire disintegrate so fast?
  • His empire fell apart without him
  • His empire is carved up by his generals and successors
  • The generals/ the Successors

Funeral Cortege of Alexander III

  • In a coffin of gold in a huge opulent carriage
  • Ppl are arguing over his body and all
  • Alexander the Great is Macedonian, takes two years to get him back
  • Ptolemy
  • The coffin is sidetracked and stolen by Ptolemy (one of his generals)
  • He seizes is by force and takes it to city of Alexandria (never makes it to Macedonia)
  • The resting place of Alexander’s sarcophagus
  • Alexander the Great lay in his sarcophagus but we don’t know where it was and it’s never been discovered
  • Strabo (geographer) saw it

[pic 3]

  • Rams horns curling out of his head bc Alexander thought he was the son of Zeus
  • Ammon had horns (the son)

[pic 4]

  • Alexandria (Egypt) is where we will be
  • Ptolemy controls the yellow part

The Ptolemies

  • Ruled Egypt 305 – 30 BCE
  • Hard time establishing himself as Egypt
  • They don’t really want him as King
  • He doesn’t really solidify his power until 305
  • Wealthy and prosperous
  • Egypt was hella rich
  • Ptolemy did well getting Egypt for himself
  • Geographically favorable, easy to defend itself
  • Late Dynastic period in Egypt 1087- 322 BCE
  • Foreign occupation: Libyans, Nubians, Persians
  • + brief periods of national resurgence (when its invaded by diff groups)

[pic 5]

  • Ptolemy
  • Missing: paint
  • Stone is sturdy but paint is fragile and tends to slide off so none of statues now have paint on them

[pic 6]

  • Ptolemoy the first on left side
  • All of them have this weird popped out eyes
  • Prob bc Alexander the Great is also shown with the big eyes?

[pic 7]

Ptolemy I (Ruled 305-285 BCE)

  • Murder of family members
  • Rules for about 20 years and gets it through murder of family members
  • There are other ppl in his family that want to be King too so he murdered them (that’s why rule started later)
  • Married his full sister Arsinoe
  • Egyptian habit of full brother-full sister marriage
  • Married full sister lmao bc of the Egyptian habit
  • Adv: wealth stays in the family + blood line stays clean and pure + less people trying to take over the throne (less law issues)
  • Changed Egypt as necessary
  • Changed Egypt only as necessary:
  • Local expertise
  • All the Ptolemies really liked to leave things as they were and relied on local expertise (person at the tax clinic stayed etc)
  • Royal admin was cultural as well
  • Royal administration based on the traditional divisions or nomes of Egypt
  • The Greek language: administration
  • Before: Egyptian, now Greek
  • Now the language of admin is GREEK
  • Egyptians were not as privileged
  • Greeks privileged socially AND in the tax structure
  • Greek status was now ‘acquired’
  • You could ACQUIRE Greek status lmao through employment/education/indispensable to the King 🡪 you would pay less taxes and could own more land
  • Employment and education
  • The Ptolemaic army:
  • Relied on army for security
  • Land-grants to veterans (army)
  • The importance of native temples, native cults
  • Religion was getting imp….Ptolemy didn’t follow religion but they kept the temples to keep people happy and not rise against them
  • Egyptian pharaohs AND Greek monarchs
  • They speak GREEK
  • But— many wars with the other Successor-Generals
  • and dynastic intrigues, murders, civil wars
  • Ptolemy manages to hold everyone off who’s tryna get Egypt

Ptolemy VIII Euergetes (182-116BCE)

  • Son of Cleopatra I (215-176 BCE, who was a Seleucid) and Ptolemy V (ruled 210-180 BCE)
  • PTO8 (charitable/kind) son of CLEO1 (from another Hellen period) and PTO5
  • PTO 6, 7 are the older brothers (prob murdered)
  • Ruled jointly 170–164
  • PTO8 rules joint with PTO6 and sister CLEO2 from 170-164
  • 164–163 alone
  • PTO8 rules 164-163 ALONE bc PTO6 has died
  • In Cyrene from 163 until 145
  • PTO8 rules in Cyrene from 163-145 (in 145 manages to get back to Egypt and climb back on throne there)
  • Married Cleopatra II (185-116 BCE) in 145 BCE
  • PTO8 married CLEO2 (sister) ((with whom he ruled))
  • While they were ruling together, she was married to PTO6
  • He replaced Cleo II with Cleopatra III (d. 101 BCE), daughter of Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra II
  • They married in 140/139 BCE
  • PTO8 wants to marry niece (Cleopatra3) (rape from uncle therefore had to marry)
  • He divorces Cleopatra2 and takes up with her daughter the Cleopatra3
  • In continual conflict with the Alexandrians
  • Didn’t have an easy reign bc of destruction
  • Alexandrians were hostile to Ptolemy8, they wanted one of this other brothers but he ended up getting it therefore they weren’t happy
  • Civil war 132 -124 BCE
  • War w the Alexandrians
  • Destruction, persecutions, expulsions
  • Joint reign 124 -116 BCE with Cleo II and III
  • Makes peace at 124
  • Euergetes and Cleo II die 116 BCE
  • Cleo III ruled 116-101 BCE, first with her elder then her younger son (Ptolemy IX and X)
  • Cleopatra3 + Cleopatra2 fought a lot
  • Joint reign of Ptolemy8 + Cleopatra2, Cleopatra3
  • Cleopatra3 rules for a while with her son (Ptolemy9, then Ptolemy10)
  • 101BCE: Cleopatra3 had her son put her to death
  • She met a violent end in 101 BCE

[pic 8] Cleopatra I

[pic 9]Ptolemy 8, looks like Ptolemy 1

[pic 10]

  • Egyptians depict ppl as stylized so you cant rlly tell who is who (no specific features)
  • Left: Horus
  • Right: PTO8 bringing an offering to him

[pic 11] Ptolemy 8

[pic 12] Cleopatra II

[pic 13] Cleopatra II and III 🡪 can’t tell who’s who (only from top part)

Languages of Egypt

  • The Ptolemies did not speak Egyptian
  • They are GREEK therefore speak GREEK
  • Until…
  • Cleopatra7 is the first person to learn Egyptian (everyone before her in royal palace spoke Greek)
  • The Rosetta Stone (196 BCE)
  • Rosetta Stone carved in 196 BCE --> decree of Ptolemy5
  • A decree of Ptolemy V
  • Two languages and three scripts:
  • Greek and Egyptian /Greek, demotic, hieroglyphs
  • It’s written in 2 languages and 3 scripts (3 ways of writing 1 for 1 and 2 for other)
  • Greek: Greek
  • Egyptian: demotic (the one that the people read), hieroglyphics (priests/high class language)

[pic 14]



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