XVIII. Last Hours of Persian Rule. — Alexander. — Ptolemy I. — The God Serapis. — Alexandreian School of Philosophy. — Ptolemy Philadelphos. — Ptolemy Euergetes. — Ptolemy IV. — Decline of the Dynasty. — Ptolemy V. — Egypt under Roman Tutelage.
Okhos returned to Persia in the full glory of success. All the provinces were reduced to submission as they had not been since the reign of Xerxes and Dareios Hystaspis. He had rewarded his foreign soldiers richly and disbanded them, and had appointed Mentor, the Rhodian, to whose prowess and sagacity so much was due, satrap over the western coast of Asia Minor. He could now enjoy his own power in peace.
Philip of Macedonia was at this very time actively prosecuting his designs to subvert the independence of the Grecian States; and many patriotic Greeks, including the orator Demosthenes, were conscious that only Persia could prevent this consummation. Okhos was not reluctant to answer such an appeal. Accordingly, when Philip was besieging Perinthus in Thrace, a place in alliance with Athens, a body of Grecian troops in Persian pay was sent against him from Asia Minor, and compelled him to withdraw from the place. It was an opportunity for him to establish a foothold in Greece, but he took no such advantage of it. But what was done served Philip afterward as a pretext to invade the Persian dominions. The famous march of Xenophon had shown the conquest feasible, and Philip was actively preparing for it when his own career was cut short by the assassin.
Okhos had already expiated the insults which he had offered to the religion of Northern Egypt. He had mortally offended his minister Bagoas by the sacrilege. Historians tell us differently in regard to the method by which the Egyptian eunuch executed his revenge. The statement is more generally accepted that the monarch was poisoned, but AElianus affirms that he was murdered by his servants, and that Bagoas struck the first blow. He cut the body to pieces, as Typhon discerpted the body of Osiris, feeding the flesh to the cats (1) and making sabre handles of the bones.
Several of the sons of Okhos were also murdered, but the youngest, Arses, was spared to mount the throne. His reign hardly exceeded two years, when the fears and jealousy of Bagoas led to his assassination and that of his children. Kodomannos, a friend of Bagoas, and a descendant of Osthanes and Dareios II., was then made king and took the name of the founder of the Empire. But as in the case of Romulus Augustus in a later era, the third Dareios found no virtue in a great name to avert imminent peril. Bagoas soon became displeased with him, and had again mingled a cup of poison, but the king was wary and compelled the regicide to drink it himself.
Egypt, meanwhile, was prostrate under the hated dominion. Sebek, the satrap, was not a gentle master. Now, however, the new lord of Asia was on his way to receive his kingdom. Alexander crossed the Hellespont, and won the battle of Granikos. Dareios met him with another army at Issus, near Antioch. Sebek had taken away the Persian garrisons to add to his forces, leaving Masdaka in Egypt in possession of the office of satrap without soldiers for its defense. Alexander, after having routed the forces of Dareios turned to the south that he might have no enemies behind him. After the conquest of Phoenicia and Palestine he entered Egypt in the month of October, eight years after the flight of Nektanebos II. His progress might not inaptly be compared to the fabled progress of Dionysos in India. It was certainly Bacchic. Every city, as he came to it, opened its gates. When he arrived at Memphis, the satrap himself hastened to surrender the place, together with all the public treasure, amounting to eight hundred talents. Alexander made no delay in conforming to the Egyptian worship, offering sacrifices to Apis, and paying homage to Ptah. He also received the various religious titles, as a son of the gods, like the kings before him. Finally, having duly honored the tutelary divinities of Northern Egypt, he set out for the Oasis of Amun. As many stories of miracle were told of this expedition, as of other personages of the classic period. When he had arrived at the Northern Oasis, the high priests met him in procession, and saluted him as the "Son of Amun-Ra." Despite the incredulity of his Grecian followers and others, it is apparent that Alexander did believe that he was of divine descent. Indeed, there was a legend extant, that his mother Olympias, herself a Bacchic votary, declared him a son, not of Philip, but of the Dionysiac Serpent. As the gods were regarded not as so many individuals, but as personifications of certain attributes of the One Supreme Being, this notion is not wonderful.
All Egypt was now in his possession. He had already sent an expedition to Upper Egypt, and received the acceptance of his authority. The Egyptians generally welcomed him as a deliverer from the hated rule of the Persians. He had only to establish a civil government. This he did with little delay. He selected the strip of land between the sea and Lake Mareotis for the new metropolis to bear his name, which became under his successors the capital of Egypt and one of the most famous cities of the civilized world. Two monarchs or chief judges were appointed to watch over the administration of justice, one in each realm; the towns were garrisoned under Greek generals, and each great city had a governor. There were two prefects or viceroys, Apollonios for Libya, and Kleomenes for the Arabian region. He also decreed that the former laws of Egypt should continue in force, and that the religion of the Egyptians should remain the established religion of the country.
A SECTION OF THE TEMPLE OF ISIS ON THE ISLAND OF PHILAE.
After some months, the Libyan viceroy relinquished his office, and Kleomenes became the ruler of all Egypt. He was superior to the Persian satraps, but he flagrantly disobeyed the orders of Alexander. He extorted large sums dishonorably. One of his children having been bitten by a crocodile, he made it a pretext requiring an exorbitant amount from the Egyptians, who revered the crocodile as a sacred animal. Alexander had ordered the market at Kanopos to be removed to Alexandreia as soon as the new city should be ready, but the priests and merchants paid a heavy contribution to keep it at their port. When, however, they did not pay a second exaction he did not scruple to violate his agreement. He also neglected to pay the troops in Egypt promptly, and many complaints came to Alexandreia.
After the death of Hephsestion at Ekbatana, the oracle of Num-Ra in the Oasis declared him a "hero" or demigod. Alexander commanded Kleomenes to build a temple to him in the new city, and added the promise which Kleomenes greatly needed, that if he would obey the orders directed to him, his acts of misgovernment would be pardoned.
This period was the introducing of a new era, and a new state of affairs in the world. From this time history changed its character, and kingdoms arose in new forms and often with new boundaries. The tendency at first was to merge Greece into Asia as an outlying province, yet the result was that Greek influence was felt clear beyond the Indus, and the Greek language became classic in the East. This was not due to Alexander, but to those who came after him, the Seleukids and Ptolemies. Hellenism proper, however, passed into a lethean dormancy.
Eight years after his entry into Egypt Alexander died at Babylon, and not long afterward his lieutenants divided his conquests among themselves, and soon became independent sovereigns. Ptolemy, the reputed son of Lagos, had been a favorite of Alexander. He had accompanied him as his historian as well as general. He had opposed the conferring of all authority upon Perdikkas, and received for himself the government of Egypt and Libya as viceroy under Philip Aridaeos. He purposed, however, to establish at the proper time an independent dynasty.
His first act on taking possession of the government at Memphis, was to put Kleomenes to death. The next was the annexation of the Kyrenaika to Egypt. Perdikkas had ordered the body of Alexander to be carried to Macedonia to be buried with the bodies of his ancestors. Ptolemy met the funeral train in Syria, and brought the coffin to Memphis. Perdikkas led an army against him, but to his own destruction. His haughty and overbearing manner had offended his own soldiers, and after his arrival at Memphis, he was assassinated in his tent. Ptolemy, on the other hand, was attractive in manners and made friends of all. Instead of seizing the princes, the son and brother of Alexander, he sent them safely to Macedonia as the heirs to the throne. Afterward he made himself master of Phoenicia and Palestine, taking possession of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. He transported many thousands of Jews to Alexandreia. He now had the possession of the sea-coast from the Kyrenaika to Antioch, twelve hundred miles. In the governing of Egypt he followed the policy of Alexander. He ruled each people by its own laws, the Greeks as Greeks, while he left Egyptian matters to be administered by priests, giving the latter all the privileges and immunities which they had before enjoyed. The Apis died, and he spent fifty talents (forty thousand dollars) on the funeral. The priests of Thebes were now at liberty to cut out from the inscriptions the names of the usurping divinities, and restore the former ones that had been removed. The inner shrine of the temple at Karnak which had been overthrown by the Persians, was now rebuilt.
COIN OF PTOLEMY PHILOPATOR.
In short everything had the appearance of free government; and with a sovereign like Ptolemy I., it was virtually such. Nevertheless it was a paternalism, and such a mode of administration could easily be made a despotism.
The Greek population never became assimilated to the Egyptian. There were numerous mixed marriages, but the offspring were always counted as Egyptians. Hence the country could not become a Grecian colony. The Egyptians were subjects only.
The building of the new metropolis of Egypt was actively prosecuted. The city was enriched by the commercial advantages which Kanopos had enjoyed. Ptolemy was philosophic, and conscious of the actual unity of religious ideas beyond the external forms and ceremonies. Hence he evidently sought to prepare the way for a future interblending of worships, by accustoming the inhabitants of Egypt of different customs and nationalities to meet on common ground. With the people of Upper Egypt, the genuine Egyptians, the worship of Amun had more or less become at one with that of Num and Khem, and the rites of Isis and Osiris were observed everywhere. A similar commingling was observed among the several populations of Northern Egypt, even including the worship of Semitic divinities. Accordingly, the temple of Poseidon, who was at once a Libyan, Asiatic and Grecian divinity, was built by the harbor, where seamen and others from all nations congregated.
Ptolemy next introduced the god Serapis, or Osir-Apis, as he is termed in the Leyden Papyrus. Various stories were told in regard to this divinity. It was affirmed that the king procured the statue from Sinope in Pontos, but more probably the truth is that it was constructed at Sinopion near Memphis.
The temple was like a pagoda in style, and much resembled that of Siva at Tanjore. Indeed, the Rev. C. W. King describes the divinity as "of Indian origin," and no other than Yama, "the Lord of Hell," attended by his dog Cerberk and his serpent Sesha. As Ptolemy had accompanied Alexander to India and familiarized himself with these things, it is probable that this indicates the actual source from which the new divinity was introduced. The name by which he was known in Egypt shows that he was to be regarded as a human personification of the Apis, which was itself a form of Ptah the Creator and generator, and at the same time also to be identified with Osiris. It would signify, therefore, that he was the Father and Creator of the Universe, and likewise the Judge of the Souls of the dead. He was thus identical also with the Pluto or Hades of Grecian mythology, and the Bacchus or Dionysos-Zagreus who ruled in the Underworld. His symbolic figure was a hierogram expressing all this. He was represented with a human body with the head and horns of Apis, surmounted by the royal serpent, holding the whip and crosier of Osiris and the ansate cross.
Serapis took the place of Osiris at Alexandreia, as the consort of Isis in the Mystic Rites, and gradually absorbed the personality of the other gods into himself as The One. He thus extended into the philosophemes that succeeded at a later period. The Alexandreian philosophy recognized in him the Anima Mundi, the spirit of which the world of Nature is the body. The Gnostics considered him to be the Idea of the Supreme Being, of whom the Christ was the epiphany or manifestation upon the Earth. When the Roman Emperor Hadrian came to Alexandreia in the year 134 he found Serapis revered as the sole and Universal Divine Essence. Writing to Servianus the consul he remarked: "Those who worship Serapis are Christians, and those who call themselves Christian Bishops are devoted (by initiation) to Serapis. There is no ruler of a Jewish Synagogue, no Samaritan, no presbyter of the Christians who is not an astrologist, an augur, and a diviner. The very Patriarch himself, when he came into Egypt, was by some said to worship Serapis, and by others to worship the Christ. There is but one god for them all: Christians, Jews and all nationalities worship him." (2)
The founding of the Alexandreian Museum and School of Philosophy, however, was the act which immortalized the name of Ptolemy I. It was an Academy for the world. Its teachers were maintained by an income provided for the purpose, and they represented all phases of thought and speculation. Science and art were taught and illustrated; astronomy, physics, economics and medicine had their professors, and the aim was to omit nothing that pertained to secular knowledge, art, or the higher wisdom.
Following the example set in the temples of Egypt, (3) Ptolemy also established the Alexandreian Library. It was not, however, a collection solely for the sacerdotal class, but was free to all who read for the sake of knowledge and those who copied for the sake of gain. Demetrios Phalereus had been for ten years the governor of Athens, when he was driven thence by Antigonos, and found shelter in Egypt. He was not only an able ruler, but a philosopher, poet, orator, and a perfect master of style. Immediately upon his retirement the Athenians passed a law that no one might teach philosophy, except by authority of a license specially granted. It had the natural effect of such restrictions. The philosophers left Athens for other cities where there was freedom to teach. Ptolemy made Demetrios superintendent of the Museum and Library, and he performed his duties with judgment and fidelity. Political works in support of freedom, and expressing hatred of tyranny were among those selected. Ptolemy I. was himself a scholar and author, and his love of art was seldom excelled.
Thus Alexandreia became the metropolis of the world; the wisdom and wealth of the nations flowed to it. It was chief over all as the mart of commerce; it gave the world new conceptions of religion, and it was surrounded by an atmosphere of knowledge. India, Persia, Babylonia, Arabia, Judea, Ionia and Greece had their representatives there, to present their wisdom. The effect was to remove external impediments, to trace the similitudes in all philosophies, and to elaborate a system to include what was true and good in all.
Nevertheless a greater boon of Egypt to the world was paper. For unmeasured centuries, the manufacture from the papyrus-plant had been carried on under the direction of the priests, and the rolls of manuscript, frail as they were, proved more durable to preserve knowledge of facts than even the records on stone and metal which had been engraved for the purpose. The manufacture had, however, been restricted by monopoly, but now it became the property of the world. Thus the tall reed which gave the "Sea of Suph" its name, became now the ministrant of the civilization by which it exists, performs its work and extends its province. The general introduction of the article was felt by men of business and literary pursuits to be as important as the invention of printing was afterward regarded in modern Europe.
Ptolemy retained power in Egypt only by vigorous administration and years of almost incessant conflict. Antigonos aimed to possess the whole dominion of Alexander; and when Kleopatra, the sister of the conqueror, set out from Sardis to become the wife of Ptolemy, she was assassinated by his procurement. Afterward he attempted to invade Egypt, but the storm wrecked part of his fleet and drove others of his vessels into the Nile, where they were captured.
All the family and relatives of Alexander, had now been murdered, leaving the viceroys at liberty to assume regal titles. Ptolemy accordingly put on the double crown of Egypt and became the founder of a new dynasty. He had well merited the distinction.
The little island of Rhodes had preserved its liberty and laws against the successors of Alexander. Ptolemy aided them at a critical moment, and they in gratitude conferred upon him the name of Soter or Savior. He now began the coining of money as an independent sovereign and this title was placed on his coins.
His latter years were spent in comparative quiet. He assumed few of the airs of monarchs, especially those of the upstart order, but lived plainly, often dining and sleeping at the houses of friends. He was frequently compelled, when he gave entertainments, to borrow tables and dishes for guests. He explained that it was for a king to enrich others, but not enrich himself. He once asked an antiquary banteringly, who was the father of Peleus. The man replied that he would tell him when he on his part should tell who was the father of Lagos. Ptolemy quietly remarked afterward that if a king could not hear rude answers he must not ask rude questions.
He lived on familiar terms also with the men of learning who thronged Alexandreia. He once asked Euklides — Euclid the geometer — whether there was not some shorter and easier way for him to learn, than the one followed by pupils at the Museum. Euclid, having in mind the King's highway in Persia, so smooth and easy to travel compared with the common roads, replied that there was no Royal Highway to Learning.
Ptolemy was three times married. The third wife, Berenike, had been a member of his second wife's household, and became mother of his successor, Ptolemy II. She possessed the virtues of justice and gentleness which make their possessor deserving. The royal couple lived happily, and were proverbial for their kindness to the unfortunate.
Having reigned seventeen years as viceroy, and twenty-one as king, Ptolemy unexpectedly proclaimed his son king of Egypt, retaining for himself only the office of somatophylax or royal guardsman. He died two years afterward at the age of eighty-four. His writings shared the fate of other books in the Alexandreian Library.
The coronation of Ptolemy II., was one of the most remarkable ceremonies of ancient time. There was a procession beginning by torchlight in the morning and lasting till after sunset. The statues of Isis and Osiris, of Bacchus escaping from Hera, of Amun-Ra and other gods of Upper Egypt, the gods of Alexandreia, and Neith of Sais were conspicuous. Egypt was represented by her priests, nobles, and population generally, and other nations by ambassadors, princes and principal men. One might have supposed the whole performance to belong to Initiatory Rites, or a Royal Triumph.
Ptolemy II. had been selected by his father because he believed him to be the most worthy of his sons. Demetrios had counselled him to name the oldest, as otherwise there would be the wars of disputed succession. He was now accordingly displaced from his office and banished from Alexandreia. He died from the bite of an asp, it was affirmed, at the order of the king; probably, a figure of speech borrowed from the royal serpent upon the cross. Ptolemy also put his two brothers to death. Some writers have ironically deduced from this his name of Philadelphos, but the imputation is malicious. Many years afterward he put away his wife Arsinoe on a charge of misconduct, and married his own sister of the same name. Both were past middle age, but their mutual affection was ardent, and Ptolemy honored her almost as divine. Her former husband had murdered her children and she now adopted the children of Ptolemy with the kindness of a mother.
Magas, another brother, was king of the Kyrenaika and contended for the throne of Egypt. In the army which Ptolemy led against him were four thousand Gauls. Already as early as the reign of Nektanebos I., the Gauls had overrun Italy and almost crushed Rome. Afterward they had hired their services as soldiers to the successors of Alexander. In this way they had become able to establish themselves in Asia minor and found the province of Galatia. Ptolemy found reason to believe that those in his army were plotting against him. He immediately turned back and led them into the marsh country of the Delta, and there caused them to be put to death.
In his administration, Ptolemy II. was an energetic and beneficent ruler. Egypt from the Persian period had been as notorious for brigandage as Italy for the two thousand years before Victor Emanuel. No Greek traveller since Hekataeos had been able to go southward as far as Elephantina or Syene. Ptolemy put an end effectually to this disgraceful condition.
He also completed the public works which his father began. The royal burial-place of Alexander was finished, and the golden sarcophagus brought from Memphis. Pilgrims resorted to Alexandreia in multitudes to pay their homage.
Ptolemy also dedicated the light-house on the island of Pharos to the "Divine Saviors" or "Soteres," his father and mother. He also established a port on the Red Sea to facilitate commerce, naming it Berenike in honor of his mother; he built four inns or watering-places for the refreshment of caravans, travelling between that port and Koptos.
Another significant measure was the introducing of the Mysteries of Demeter and her Daughter into Alexandreia. They were copied after the Initiatory Rites of Eleusis, but were modified by Egyptian features.
The temple of the two goddesses was built by him, in the southeastern part of the city, in a district known as the Eleusinis; and at the celebration of the Rites, a troop of girls carried the Sacred Basket of Symbols, singing hymns and warning away the unintiated. The hierophant in the temple wore the dress and mask of Num; the torchbearer the robe of Ra, the priest at the altar the emblem of the moon, and the crier, the mask of Thoth.
A temple of Isis was built at Philae on the site of the shrine that had been destroyed by the Persians. The statues of the goddess were likenesses of Queen Arsinoe. None but initiated priests were permitted there, and the oath sworn by "the One buried there" could not be violated without incurring the guilt of sacrilege. The priests were monks, who avoided luxury and cleanliness, passing their time in idleness, and setting industry and social relations at nought as secular and unspiritual.
Ptolemy enriched the Library in its four branches of Poetry, Mathematics, Astronomy and Medicine, till it contained two hundred thousand rolls of papyrus. Unfortunately they were all in Greek; the Egyptian books were regarded as masters and conquerors often regard the literature of subjected peoples, as unworthy of serious attention. This made a wall of partition between Greeks and Egyptians, which prevented them from uniting, or benefiting each other.
The works of Aristotle were purchased, and had their influence upon the Eclecticism which took its inception in Alexandreia. The city was now the metropolis of science and literature and the scholars that thronged it from all parts of the known world, constituted a galaxy. Zenodotos, Kallimakhos, Theokritos, Strato, Aristarkhos, Aratos, Petosiris, Kolotes and Timon are but a few of the names that honored the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphos. Manetho the historian was also a luminary of this period.
The story that a Greek translation was made of the Hebrew Sacred Writings at the instance of the king, is very improbable. The existence of an authorized collection is not an established fact. It is said that in the reign of Josiah, the high-priest found a Book of the Law, and in the Second Book of Maccabees Nehemiah is described as gathering together "the Acts of the Kings, the Prophets, and of David and the Epistles of the Kings." But the present Hebrew Canon hardly antedates the Asmonean Dynasty; and no author of the period of the Ptolemaic dynasty makes any mention that indicates any cognizance of a Hebrew writer. As, however, there were several thousand Jews in Egypt, it is very likely that translations of their literature existed, but all that is claimed belongs to the time of later kings.
Ptolemy II. was a powerful monarch. He ruled not only over Egypt, but over Libya, Palestine, Judea, Idumsea, then known as Nabatsea, Phoenicia, Hollow Syria, and the countries of Asia Minor lying on the Mediterranean. Commerce was more extensive than ever before; the peoples were governed by their own laws, and Alexandreia as a center of learning, art and philosophy was ascendant far beyond Athens. The pride of the dynasty was that it was not built upon the ruins of freedom; the government was a despotism, but it was not oppressive.
Ptolemy reigned thirty-eight years, and was then succeeded by his son, Ptolemy III. The new king was immediately involved in a war with Syria. His sister Berenike had been married to Antiokhos Theos, with the stipulation that her children should inherit the Syrian throne. At the death of her father Antiokhos repudiated her and took again his former wife Laodike. Ptolemy hastened with an army to the aid of his sister, but before he could save her. Laodike had poisoned her husband and placed her own son Seleukos on the throne of Syria. He immediately sent soldiers after Berenike, who murdered her and her son. Ptolemy was, however, about to avenge her and conquer the whole kingdom, when troubles at home called him back to Egypt.
Not only, however, did he carry off a large booty from Asia but he recovered three hundred vases and statues which Kambyses had carried away. They were replaced in the temples of Upper Egypt, and the king himself came to Thebes, and did homage to Amun-Ra and the other gods that were worshipped there. He also enlarged the temple of Karnak and added a new gateway. The priests in their gratitude now gave him the name of Euergetes, "the Benefactor."
He also built a temple to Osiris at Kanopos; for the worship of Serapis had not yet superseded it in Northern Egypt. He dedicated it in the name of himself and Berenike, his wife and sister.
While he was absent on the expedition into Syria the queen had made a vow to present her hair to the gods if he should come safely home. She now made the sacrifice, and Konon the astronomer, finding a cluster of stars in the sky without a name, marked it on his globe as the constellation of the "Hair of Berenike."
About this time the Romans had brought the first Punic war to a close. They sent ambassadors to Egypt with offers to help in the war with Syria, but peace had been declared.
The kingdom founded by Seleukos Nikator had indeed come close to dissolution. Baktria had become independent and the Parthians had wrested the most important provinces of Media and Persia. Ptolemy III. had also taken a large portion of the remaining territory. The Book of Daniel, written a century later, delineates these events. (Chapter xi.)
Ptolemy seems to have been disposed to assimilate to the Egyptians in many ways. Like the kings of ancient dynasties he led an army into Ethiopia, and he actually conquered Abyssinia to the fifteenth degree of latitude. No former king had ever penetrated so far with an army. The Hexumites whom he encountered in the highlands had a language and religion greatly resembling the Jewish.
He also had an altercation with Onias II., the High Priest at Jerusalem, who refused to pay the tribute. He had permitted the administration of affairs to continue as in former times, only requiring that the poll-tax of the didrachma or half-shekel should be paid to the treasury of Egypt. He was about to invade Palestine with an army, when Joseph, the nephew of the high priest, came to Memphis and engaged to farm the entire revenue of the provinces.
The usual encouragement was given to learning. Zenodotos, the keeper of the Library, was succeeded by Aristophanes, who carried forward his predecessor's efforts to amend the text of the poems of Homer. He also invented the marks to distinguish the length and tone of a syllable and the breathing of a vowel, and likewise the accents and aspirate. Eratosthenes, Apollonius, Rhodios, and Konon flourished in Egypt during this reign.
Ptolemy III. had successfully complemented all that his predecessors had undertaken. He raised Egypt to the very height of its power and wealth, and its dimensions extended from the Euphrates to Libya and Abyssinia. He was by far the greatest monarch of the time. He ruled justly; indeed it was part of the oath of the judge that if the king commanded him to do wrong, he should not obey him.
The glory of Egypt, however, was now destined to pass again under a cloud. Ptolemy died after a reign of twenty-four years, leaving his crown to his son Ptolemy IV., a prince who displayed none of the great qualities of his forefathers. His first act was to ask the advice of his council about killing his mother Berenike and his brother Magas. They were put to death, and the fact that he took the name of Philopator, "the lover of his father," gives color to the suspicion that he was likewise the assassin of Euergetes.
The tributary provinces began to fall into other hands. Antiokhos the Great recovered Syria and Phoenicia clear to Tyre and Ptolemais. The next campaign, however, witnessed his defeat and he lost Hollow Syria and Palestine. Ptolemy, after the victory, visited Jerusalem, sacrificed at the temple, and demanded to see the objects in the inner shrine. He fainted, however, as he attempted to carry out his demand.
On his return to Egypt he began harsh treatment of the Jews of Alexandreia, depriving them of their rights and placing them in the same rank as Egyptians. They were also required to sacrifice to the Grecian gods. Those who complied were afterward murdered by the Jews who had refused.
During this reign an earthquake devastated the island of Rhodes, and threw down the celebrated colossal statue of Apollo. Other countries contributed help to the suffering Rhodians, Ptolemy among the number.
The Romans also carried on the Second Punic war against Hannibal, and at the end renewed their treaties with Egypt.
As though he would be completely infamous, Ptolemy, at the bidding of his mistress, employed an assassin to murder his queen, Arsinoe. She was his sister, and her courage had enabled him to win his only victory, when Antiokhos was defeated at Raphia.
Finally after a reign of seventeen years, marked by vice and cruelty, and only embellished by the love of letters, he died, literally worn out by disease, leaving the monarchy tottering. The women of the royal palace immediately pillaged the money and royal jewels before letting his death become known. The night was spent in riot. If then there had been a leader all Egypt would have been in revolt. The persons who had been the companions of the king in crime were torn in pieces by the populace. It was a horrible retribution.
The new king of Egypt, Ptolemy V., afterward called Epiphanes, "the Illustrious" was a child five years old. Antiokhos the Great and Philip V. of Macedonia took advantage of the opportunity to invade the tributary provinces of Egypt. The Jews on this occasion united with the forces of the king of Syria, and he in return exempted Jerusalem from tribute three years, lightened the subsequent imposts, and exonerated the priests and officers of the temple from all taxes in future. He also made liberal gifts for the worship.
About this time the Roman Senate sent ambassadors to Alexandreia to announce the overthrow of Hannibal, and to thank the king for his friendship during the war of eighteen years, when other peoples nearer them had joined their enemies. The Senate also implored the Egyptian monarch that if the Republic should make war against Philip V., it might involve no breach of friendship with Egypt.
The Alexandreian officers of state hastened to reply, and asked the Roman Senate to become guardians of their young king, and likewise that the Romans should defend Egypt against both Philip and Antiokhos. The Senate at once accepted the propositions. Ambassadors were sent to the two kings commanding them to desist from hostilities, and Marcus Lepidus came to Alexandreia to accept the guardianship, and also with it to conduct the foreign affairs of the country. In this capacity, as an actual sovereign, he issued a coinage of money, on which he was represented as standing clad in the official Roman toga, with the title Tutor Regis — "tutor to the king." In his hand he holds a diadem above the head of the prince.
Thus the initiative was taken. Henceforth Egypt was in reality a province and dependency of Rome. For a while longer she had her Greek-speaking kings, but she herself exercised the powers denoted by the flagellum and the crosier.
1. This statement may be an exaggeration. The Persians at this period deemed it a profanation to burn or bury the dead, but suffered the flesh to be devoured by birds and animals, and this may have been done with the body of the monarch. (return to text)
2. The statue seen by Nebukhadnezzar in his dream as described in the book of Daniel was an image of Serapis. The Rev. C. W. King adds to this quotation: "There can be no doubt that the head of Serapis, marked, as the face is by a grand and pensive serenity, supplied the first idea of the conventional portraits of the Savior.
The Persian divinity, Mithras, also received a general homage in the Roman world, and divided the honors of divinity and mediatorship. (return to text)
3. Ebers: Uarda, Chaps, ii., iii. (return to text)