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The Will of Ptolemy VIII


The will of Ptolemy VIII. Museum of Cyrene (Libya). Photo Marco Prins.
The will of Ptolemy VIII. Museum of Cyrene (Libya).
During the Sixth Syrian War, the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes invaded Egypt and besieged Alexandria. An angry crowd demanded that king Ptolemy VI Philometor (181-145) make his brother Ptolemy VIII Physcon co-ruler. Although a Roman intervention averted the fall of Alexandria and the Ptolemaic Empire was to survive for more than a century, the two brothers soon started to quarrel. From the summer of 164 to the spring of 163, Ptolemy VIII Physcon was sole ruler, but Ptolemy VI Philometor was able to regain his power, and made his brother ruler of the Cyrenaica.

For some time, this compromise worked out well, but in 155, Ptolemy VIII Physcon claimed that his brother had tried to assassinate him (Polybius,
World History, 33.11). To prevent future attempts, the ruler of Cyrenaica decided that, unless he were to have a son, he would bequeath his realm to the Romans.

In the end, this was an unnecessary measure. In 145, Ptolemy VI Philometor died, and Ptolemy VIII Physcon succeeded to the throne of Egypt, restored the unity of the kingdom, and was, almost thirty years later, succeeded by Ptolemy IX Soter and Cleopatra III (both ruling in Egypt) and by Ptolemy Apion in the Cyrenaica. The last-mentioned had trouble to establish himself, and only gained control of his realm with help from the Romans, who reminded him of his father's will. Apion indeed left his kingdom to Rome (Livy,
Periochae, 70), and in the end, Rome added Cyrenaica to its empire.

This was the first of several wills from which Rome was to benefit. (The bequests of Pergamon and Bithynia are other examples.) The translation of this text (
SEG IX 7) was made by M.M. Austin.
Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
Ptolemy VIII Physcon. Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis, Brussel (Belgium). Photo Jona Lendering.
Ptolemy VIII Physcon (Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis, Brussel)

In the fifteenth year, in the month of Loios.[1] With good fortune.
This is the will of king Ptolemy [VIII Physcon] the younger, son of king Ptolemy [V Epiphanes] and queen Cleopatra [I Syra], gods manifest, a copy of which has been sent to Rome.

May I with the favor of the gods exact vengeance from those who hatched against me this impious plot and decided to deprive me not only of my kingdom but even of my life. Should any mortal fate befall me before I can leave behind heirs to the throne, I bequeathe my kingdom that belongs to me to the Romans, for whom I have from the beginning preserved friendship and alliance with sincerity. To them also I entrust the task of protecting my interests, praying to them in the name of all the gods and with their own consent, that if any enemies attack either the cities or the country, they should give help with all their power in accordance with the friendship and alliance we concluded with each other and in accordance with justice. I make witness of these arrangements Capitoline Jupiter, the Great Gods, the Sun, and Apollo Archegetes, with whom the text of these arrangements is consecrated. With good fortune.


[1]
March 155.
Online 2009
Revision: 14 Jan. 2009
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