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Preceded by:
Ptolemy XI
Pharaoh of Egypt
Ptolemaic Dynasty
Succeeded by:
Ptolemy XIII
Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos
Ancient Greek: Πτολεμαῖος Νέος Διόνυσος
Romanized: Ptolemaios Neos Dionysos
Latin: Ptolemaeus Novus Dionysus
Ptolemy XII

Bust of Ptolemy XII housed at the Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities at the Louvre in Paris.©

80–58 BC and 55–51 BC
Ptolemy, who Lives Eternally,
Beloved of Ptah and Isis
Father Ptolemy IX
Consort(s) Cleopatra V
Issue Berenice IV, Cleopatra VII, Arsinoë IV,
Ptolemy XIII, Ptolemy XIV
Born c. 117 BC, Cyprus?
Died before 22 March 51 BC,
Alexandria (aged c. 65)
Burial Alexandria (?)
For other pages by this name, see Ptolemy.

Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos Philopator Philadelphos (Ancient Greek: Πτολεμαίος Νέος Διόνυσος Φιλοπάτωρ Φιλάδελφος, "Ptolemy, New Dionysos, Beloved of his Father, Beloved of his Brother", 117–51 BCE) was a Pharaoh of the Ptolemaic Dynasty during the Hellenistic Period. He was commonly known as Auletes (Αὐλητής, "the Flautist"), referring to his love of playing the flute in Dionysian festivals. Ptolemy XII was king of Egypt from 80 to 58 BCE and from 55 BCE until his death in 51 BCE. He was a son of Ptolemy IX Soter II. His mother is unknown, which led to him being considered an illegitimate son and his pejorative nickname Nothos (νόθος, "the Bastard").

In 80 BC, Ptolemy XII succeeded Ptolemy XI to the throne of Egypt. The latter had been lynched by an angry crowd, after he had killed his popular coregent Berenice III, who was incidentally also a daughter of Ptolemy IX Soter II. When Ptolemy XI died without a male heir, the only available male descendents of the Ptolemy I lineage were the illegitimate sons of Ptolemy IX by an unknown Alexandrian Greek concubine (Clayton, 1994). The boys were living in exile in Sinop, Turkey at the court of Mithridates VI, King of Pontus. The eldest of the boys was proclaimed king as Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos and married his sister, Tryphaena.

At first, Ptolemy XII was coregent with his sister Cleopatra VI Tryphaina and his wife Cleopatra V Tryphaena, but the former mysteriously disappears from the records in 69 BC.

Ptolemy XII's personal cult name (Neos Dionysos) earned him the ridiculing sobriquet Auletes (flute player) — as we learn from Strabo's writing (Strabo XVII, 1, 11):

Now all at kings after the third Ptolemy, being corrupted by luxurious living, have administered the affairs of government badly, but worst of all the fourth, seventh, and the last, Auletes, who, apart from his general licentiousness, practised the accompaniment of choruses with the flute, and upon this he prided himself so much that he would not hesitate to celebrate contests in the royal palace, and at these contests would come forward to vie with the opposing contestants.

During his reign, Ptolemy XII tried to secure his own fate and the fate of his dynasty by means of a pro-Roman policy. At the height of his success in 59 BC, after paying substantial bribes to Julius Caesar and Pompey, a formal alliance was formed (foedera) and his name was inscribed into the list of friends and allies of the people of Rome (amici et socii populi Romani). However in 58 BC after he failed to comment on the Roman conquest of Cyprus, a territory ruled by his brother, he was forced to flee to Rome. His daughter Berenice IV became his successor.

From Rome he prosecuted his restitution, finding favor with his old ally Pompey but meeting some opposition with certain members of the Senate. Dio Cassius reports that a group of 100 men were sent as envoys from Egypt to make their case to the Romans against Ptolemy XII, but Ptolemy had most of these killed before they reached Rome. He finally recovered his throne by paying Aulus Gabinius 10,000 talents to invade Egypt in 55 BC. Berenice was executed. From then on he reigned until he fell ill in 51 BC.

Soon before his death he chose his daughter Cleopatra VII as his coregent. In his will he declared that she and her brother Ptolemy XIII should rule the kingdom together. To safeguard his interests, he made the people of Rome executors of his will.

Auletes means pipes-player, and refers to his chubby cheeks (a Ptolemaic family trait ), like the inflated cheeks of a pipe-player.


  • Strabo 12.3.34 and 17.1.11
  • Dio Cassius 39.12 - 39.14, 39.55 - 39.58

Further reading[]

  • Clayton, A. (1994) "Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign by Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt." London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05074-0.

External links[]

Ptolemy XI
Pharaoh of Egypt
Ptolemaic Dynasty
Ptolemy XIII