Head of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (309-246 BC),
- Ptolemy (Ptolemaios) II Philadelphus
(Πτολεμαίος ΙΙ Φιλάδελφος)
- Ptolemaic King of Egypt with Ptolemy I,
Berenice I, Arsinoe I, and Arsinoe II
- Preceded by: Ptolemy I and Berenice I
- Succeeded by: Ptolemy III
Ptolemy II Philadelphus (309-246 BC), was of a
delicate constitution, no Macedonian warrior-chief
of the old style. E.J.Bickermann (Chronology of the
Ancient World, 2nd ed. 1980) gives the date of his
death as January 29.
His brother Ptolemy Ceraunus found compensation by
becoming king in Macedonia in 281 BC, and perished
in the Gallic invasion of 280-79 (see Brennus)
He began his reign as co-regent with his parents
Ptolemy I and Berenice I from 288 BC-285 BC.
Ptolemy II maintained a splendid court in
Alexandria. Not that Egypt held aloof from wars.
Magas of Cyrene opened war on his half-brother (274
BC), and Antiochus I Soter, the son of Seleucus,
desiring Palestine, attacked soon after. Two or
three years of war left Egypt the dominant naval
power of the eastern Mediterranean; the Ptolemaic
sphere of power extended over the Cyclades to
Samothrace, and the harbours and coast towns of
Cilicia Trachea ("Rough Cilicia"), Pamphylia, Lycia
and Caria were largely in Ptolemy's hands.
The victory won by Antigonus, king of Macedonia,
over his fleet at Cos (between 258 and 256) did not
long interrupt his command of the Aegean. In a
second war with the Seleucid kingdom, under
Antiochus II Theos (after 260), Ptolemy sustained
losses on the seaboard of Asia Minor and agreed to a
peace by which Antiochus married his daughter
Berenice (ca. 250).
Ptolemy's first wife, ArsinoŽ I, daughter of
Lysimachus, was the mother of his legitimate
children. After her repudiation he married, probably
for political reasons, his full-sister ArsinoŽ II,
the widow of Lysimachus, by an Egyptian custom
abhorrent to Greek morality.
The material and literary splendour of the
Alexandrian court was at its height under Ptolemy
II. Pomps and gay religions flourished. Ptolemy
deified his parents and his sister-wife, after her
death (270), as Philadelphus. This surname was used
in later generations to distinguish Ptolemy II.
himself, but properly it belongs to ArsinoŽ only,
not to the king.
Callimachus, made keeper of the library, Theocritus,
and a host of lesser poets, glorified the Ptolemaic
family. Ptolemy himself was eager to increase the
library and to patronize scientific research. He had
the strange beasts of far off lands sent to
Alexandria. But, an enthusiast for Hellenic culture,
he seems to have shown but little interest in the
The tradition preserved in the pseudepigraphical
Letter of Aristeas which connects the Septuagint
translation of the Old Testament into Greek with his
patronage is probably not historical. Ptolemy had
many brilliant mistresses, and his court,
magnificent and dissolute, intellectual and
artificial, has been justly compared with the
Versailles of Louis XIV.