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Ptolemy Memphites
Ancient Greek: Πτολεμαῖος ὁ Μεμφίτης
Romanized: Ptolemaios Memphites
Latin: Ptolemaeus Memphites
Dynasty Ptolemaic Dynasty
Pharaoh(s) Ptolemy VIII
Titles King's Son
Priest of Alexander
Father Ptolemy VIII
Mother Cleopatra II
Born August 143 BC
Died 130 BC or before 118 BC
(aged 13 or up to 25)
Burial Unknown
For other pages by this name, see Ptolemy.

Ptolemy Memphites (Ancient Greek: Πτολεμαῖος ὁ Μεμφίτης, Romanized: Ptolemaios Memphites, meaning: "Ptolemy the Memphite") was a prince of the Ptolemaic Dynasty during the Hellenistic Period.


Ptolemy Memphites was the eldest son of Pharaoh Ptolemy VIII and the only son born by Queen Cleopatra II. From his mother's previous marriage to Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy Memphites had the following half-siblings; Ptolemy Euptor, Ptolemy, Cleopatra Thea, and Cleopatra III. His father's additional marriage to Cleopatra III produced his half-brothers Ptolemy IX and Ptolemy X, both of whom later became pharaohs. Half-sisters from this marriage include; Tryphaena, Cleopatra IV, and Cleopatra Selene I.


Ptolemy Memphites was probably born in August 143 BC, owing his by-name to his father's installation as pharaoh at the traditional capital Memphis at about the same time.[1] After Ptolemy VI's death in 145 BC, Ptolemy VIII had returned to Egypt as co-ruler and spouse of queen Cleopatra II. Although, another Ptolemy (the remaining son of Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra II) was the heir apparent,[2] the attestations at the temple of Edfu show that Ptolemy Memphites had replaced him as heir in Year 28 of Ptolemy VIII (143/142 BC) while still only a toddler. 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.

As the heir to the throne Ptolemy Memphites undoubtedly served as eponymous priest of Alexander the Great, although this cannot be confirmed. Chauveau argues that the eponymous priest "Ptolemy, eldest son of Pharaoh Ptolemy and Queen Cleopatra, his wife" mentioned on Papyrus Tebtunis III 810 (which dates to 29 July 134 BC in Year 36) is Ptolemy Memphites.[3] However, Papyrus Tebtunis dem. 5944 reveals that in the next year (134/133 BC = Year 37) the eponymous priest was "Ptolemy, second son of Pharaoh Ptolemy and Queen Cleopatra, his wife".[4] Since Cleopatra II had no second son with Ptolemy VIII and, at this time, it was very rare for the priest of the dynastic cult to be the same person two years in a row, these recorded successive eponymous priests are probably Ptolemy IX and X respectively.


In his Epitome, Justin describes a murder committed by Ptolemy VIII during the civil war.[5] 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.[5] 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,[5][6] sometime between March and September 130 BC,[7] 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 Memphites 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 Memphites (the only son of Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra II) or Ptolemy (the younger son of Ptolemy VI 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. Chauveau 2000, p. 259-261.
  2. Chauveau 2000, p. 257-258.
  3. Chauveau 2000.
  4. Lanciers 2020, p. 26.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Justin Epitome of Pompeius Trogus 38.8.
  6. Diodorus 34/5.14.
  7. Livy Periochae 59.14; Orosius 5.10.


  • Chauveau, M., 2000: Encore Ptolémée «VII» et le dieu Neos Philopatôr! Revue d'Égyptologie, Vol. 51.
  • Lanciers, E., 2020: The Civil War between Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra II: Possible Causes and Key Events. Studia Hellenistica 59.

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