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Ancient Greek: Πτολεμαῖος
Romanized: Ptolemaios
Latin: Ptolemaeus
Dynasty Ptolemaic Dynasty
Pharaoh(s) Ptolemy VI and Ptolemy VIII
Titles King's Son
Priest of Alexander
Father Ptolemy VI
Mother Cleopatra II
Born before 4 April 152 BC
Died 130 BC? (aged 22?)
Burial Unknown
For other pages by this name, see Ptolemy.

Ptolemy (Ancient Greek: Πτολεμαῖος, Romanized: Ptolemaios) was a prince of the Ptolemaic Dynasty during the Hellenistic Period.


Ptolemy's existence as a younger son of Pharaoh Ptolemy VI and Queen Cleopatra II is confirmed by Papyrus Köln 8.350. An older brother named Ptolemy Eupator is known to have predeceased their father. His sisters were Cleopatra Thea, who became queen of Syria, and Cleopatra III, the later queen of Egypt.


Ptolemy was probably born before 4 April 152 BC – the date of pdem Rylands 3.16, which describes Ptolemy Eupator as the "eldest son" of Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra II, perhaps implying there was at least one other at that time. Although, "eldest son" may just mean heir apparent. After the death of his older brother, Ptolemy may have become his father's heir.

After Ptolemy VI's death in 145 BC, Ptolemy VIII returned to Egypt as co-ruler and spouse of queen Cleopatra II. Ptolemy lived into this first regnal restoration of his uncle, as Papyrus Köln 8.350 mentions him serving as eponymous priest of Alexander the Great in Year 27 of Ptolemy VIII (144/143 BC) and also shows him being treated as the heir to Ptolemy VIII.[1] However, Ptolemy Memphites, the eldest son of Ptolemy VIII, is revealed to have been made heir apparent to the throne the following year in Year 28 by attestations at the temple of Edfu. The identification of the son and heir of Ptolemy VIII attested on the temple with Ptolemy Memphites is certain because, although Ptolemy IX had probably been born by this date, Cleopatra III was not yet queen, so the queen shown must be Cleopatra II in each scene and the pair only had one son.

Between 142 and 139 BC, Ptolemy VIII married Cleopatra III, daughter of Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra II, and made her co-ruler, without divorcing Cleopatra II. Daniel Ogden has argued that this marriage may not have been planned from the outset, but a measure taken to prevent her from being married to someone else who might use that marriage in order to claim the throne. However, the new arrangement led to conflict with Cleopatra II, who may have intended a sibling-marriage between Cleopatra III and Ptolemy (son of Ptolemy VI). This marriage may therefore have coincided with Ptolemy's displacement as heir.

Apparently in response to this new marriage and with the support of Cleopatra II, an Athamanian mercenary captain formerly in Ptolemaic service, Galaestes, initiated a revolt. Galaestes had been a trusted officer under Ptolemy VI but had been forced into exile in 145 BC. In Greece, he gathered an army of other Ptolemaic exiles, then announced that he had a young son of Ptolemy VI in his care and crowned this boy as king. Galaestes attacked Ptolemy VIII, intending to put this child on the throne. Ptolemy VIII's mercenaries, whose pay was in arrears, nearly defected to the challenger, but their commander, Hierax, prevented this by paying their wages from his own money. By February 139 BC, Galaestes had been defeated and Ptolemy VIII had issued a decree affirming the rights and privileges of the Egyptian priesthood, in which he represented himself, Cleopatra II, and Cleopatra III as harmoniously ruling together.[2] Sometime after these events, and if still alive, Ptolemy (son of Ptolemy VI) must have been sent to Cyrene.


There are two possible scenarios for Ptolemy's death given by Justin's Epitome. In both of which the prince was murdered by his uncle Ptolemy VIII.

Murdered at the wedding of Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra II[]

The first murder scenario is described as occurring on the night of Ptolemy VIII's wedding to Cleopatra II in 145 BC. According to Justin, Ptolemy VIII did the deed personally, and the boy died in his mother's arms.[3] As demonstrated by Chauveau,[1] this dating cannot be accurate since Ptolemy is still alive for at least another year. Additionally, the transition of power is known to have occurred without a struggle and therefore does not provide a motive. Assuming that the murder did occur around this time, it may instead have occurred two years later, since Ptolemy Memphites became the new heir. However, Ptolemy (the son of Ptolemy VI) may also just have been displaced.

Murdered on Cyprus during the civil war[]

Justin describes another murder committed by Ptolemy VIII during the civil war. In late 132 BC, the conflict between the royal siblings finally erupted into open warfare, with Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra III on one side opposing Cleopatra II on the other. At first, Ptolemy retained control of Alexandria, but in late 131 BC the people of Alexandria rioted in favour of Cleopatra II and set fire to the royal palace.[3] Ptolemy VIII, Cleopatra III, and their children escaped and went into exile on Cyprus (which may have included Ptolemy Memphites). According to Justin and Diodorus,[3][4] sometime between March and September 130 BC,[5] Ptolemy VIII had his "son" summoned to Cyprus from Cyrene and killed on the suspicion that the Alexandrians would make him king. Ptolemy VIII then sent the dismembered bodyparts back to Cleopatra II, the victim's mother, as a gruesome birthday gift. Both parties appealed to Rome, but the Senate did not intervene in the conflict.

The dismembered son of Cleopatra II is often believed to have been Ptolemy VIII's own "son", Ptolemy Memphites. This may well have been the case if Ptolemy IX, the eldest son by Cleopatra III, was by now favored as his father's heir and his rivals had to be eliminated. However, the victim of this murder may instead have been his displaced previous heir and therefore probably his adoptive "son" Ptolemy (the son of Ptolemy VI), if still alive, who had been a rival to the throne in the revolt led by Galaestes before the civil war. In case of the latter, the disinherited Ptolemy Memphites may have remained alive until sometime prior to 118 BC; the year Ptolemy Neos Philopator was deified.

Identification with Ptolemy VII[]

Main article: Ptolemy VII.

Ptolemy may be identical to Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator. The identity and reign of Ptolemy VII are controversial, and it is likely that he did not reign at all, but was only granted royal dignity and deification posthumously. Depending on the historical reconstruction, he was either Ptolemy (the younger son of Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra II) or Ptolemy Memphites (the only son of Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra II). Ptolemy Neos Philopator only appears in the dynastic cult after 118 BC, perhaps suggesting that he died shortly before this time and was not murdered by Ptolemy VIII.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Chauveau 2000, p. 257-258.
  2. Hölbl 2001, p. 196.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Justin Epitome of Pompeius Trogus 38.8.
  4. Diodorus 34/5.14.
  5. Livy Periochae 59.14; Orosius 5.10.


  • Chauveau, M., 2000: Encore Ptolémée «VII» et le dieu Neos Philopatôr! Revue d'Égyptologie, Vol. 51.
  • Hölbl, G., 2001: A History of the Ptolemaic Empire. Routledge, London & New York.

External link[]

  • Chris Bennett: "Ptolemy".