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Ptolemaic Dynasty

The road to kingship over Egypt was not easy for Ptolemy. However, he successfully established his authority in 305 BC. This started the Ptolemaic Dynasty, which lasted until 204 BC according to the Biblical Timeline with World History. Despite this, his family ruled Egypt for almost 300 years with the famous Cleopatra VII as the last queen of Egypt in 30 BC. All of them were Macedonians, and all male rulers used the name Ptolemy (with variations such as Philadelphos, Eurgetes, etc.) while the female rulers used either Arsinoe, Berenice, or Cleopatra as their names.

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Alexander the Great in Babylon threw his large empire into chaos when he died without an heir. Although he had an unborn child by his wife Roxana, his empire, which spanned from Greece to the borders of India, were divided among his trusted generals (diadochi): Seleucus I over Asia, Cassander over Macedonia and Greece, Lysimachus over Trace and Asia Minor, and Ptolemy I over Egypt.

Before Ptolemy ruled Egypt, Alexander first appointed the unpopular Cleomenes of Naucratis as governor of Egypt. Perdiccas, upon Alexander’s death, stood as regent for Philip III (Alexander’s half-brother who had mild learning difficulties). Perdiccas appointed Ptolemy as governor over Egypt instead. When Perdiccas sent Alexander’s remains from Babylon to Macedonia, Ptolemy prevented its return. He then diverted Alexander’s remains to Egypt as a way to legitimize his rule. This made Perdiccas angry, and he raised an army to invade Egypt. He was was unsuccessful in this quest after he was killed by his own officers.

“Antony and Cleopatra, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema”

It was the practice of the Ptolemaic dynasty to marry within their own family as it was the tradition of the native Egyptian pharaohs. It started with Ptolemy II (Philadelphos) who married his sister Arsinoe II. This practice continued until Cleopatra VII’s reign. The Macedonian rulers used the Egyptian religion and culture to legitimize their rule over the territory. They allowed the native Egyptians freedom to worship their own gods and styled themselves as gods after the Egyptian practice. Their queens were even proclaimed as goddesses after their death.

What made the Ptolemaic dynasty unique was that they allowed women to rule either alone or as coregent with their husbands. They also gave lands to Greek and Macedonian veterans so they could settle in Egypt. Many of them married native Egyptians, but they set themselves apart by using the Greek language, laws, and culture. The Ptolemies even refused to learn the Egyptian language which made them unpopular with the people.

The native Egyptians were not influential during this period, and the country was plagued with rebellions against the Macedonian rulers. The Ptolemies also dealt with conflicts within their own family. This started between Ptolemy VIII and Ptolemy VI and spilled over to mother and daughter who were both named Cleopatra. Finally, a civil war broke out between Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra II.

The Ptolemaic dynasty continued to rule Egypt until it became a Roman province in 30 BC. The last monarch from the Ptolemaic dynasty was Cleopatra VII, who died from a bite from an asp after Octavian (Augustus) defeated her and her lover, Mark Antony.

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