The Ptolemaic City
(323 BC - 30 BC)
Then, as now, she belonged not so
much to Egypt as to the Mediterranean.
Upon Alexander's death, no single
successor emerged to claim his kingdom. Rather, the widespread territories were
divided among several rulers. Egypt was the share of the most skilled of these:
Ptolemy. He was Macedonian by birth, but witnessed the birth of Alexandria and
wanted her to be the cultural and intellectual capital of the world. He ruled in
323 BC, reigned in 304 BC, and expanded his kingdom to include Cyrene (Lybia),
Palestine, Cyprus, and others lands. His royal titles included King Soter
(Savior), and Pharaoh. Under the reign of Soter, the golden age of Alexandria,
the new capital of Egypt, started.
His successor, Ptolemy II
Philadelphus (King in 287 BC), was a less ambitious person. Unlike his father,
he turned his back to military campaigns and focused on buiding Alexandria. He
was more "Egyptian" than his father: he married his sister Arsinoe, a
custom, then, widely accepted among Egyptians and despicable in the eyes of the
His son, Ptolemy III Euergetes
(Well-doer), was full of will and motivation. He reigned in 246 BC, and was
praised as a military leader and a supporter of science. He married his cousin
Berenice. Their reign, marked the peak in Alexandria's glamor and fame.
Ptolemy Euergetes was succeeded by
less influential Kings. The list includes:
- Ptolemy IV Philopator (King 221
- Ptolemy V Epiphanes (King 205
- Ptolemy X Alexander I (King 107
- Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysus (King
- Cleopatra VII Philopator (Queen
The reign of the Ptolemaic Dynasty
ended in 30 BC, when Cleopatra lost the famous battle of Actium in the Adriatic.
Egypt then became a Roman province, under the rule of Octavian.
Alexandria thrived during the reign
of the first three Ptolemies and grew into one of the largest, if not the
largest metropolis in the world and became the world's scientific and
intellectual Mecca. The legacy of the Ptolemies is highlighted by major
achievements. The Pharos Lighthouse was built; the Mouseion/Great Library system
was founded; the Palace was constructed; the Heptastadion Dyke was completed;
and the Temple of Serapis was erected.
On the other hand, one must
acknowledge the pitfalls of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Under their rule, common
Egyptians suffered from economical hardships. Except for the earlier period,
taxes imposed were the highest in the Ancient World. The Royal Palace was
frequently the site of family scandals, including Kings executing their parents
and relatives, and Queens killing their step-children. In conclusion, it is fair
to say that the reign of the first three Ptolemies marked Alexandria's golden