Ptolemaic dynasty

19.10.2015 |

Episode #1 of the course “Most powerful families in history”


After the death of the Greco-Macedonian warrior-king Alexander the Great in 305 BCE, his general Ptolemy was given Egypt to rule. He crowned himself Pharaoh in 304 BCE, founding the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty. Ptolemy’s heirs succeeded him to the throne of Egypt for nearly 300 years.

Under the Ptolemaic dynasty, Alexandria emerged as the capital city of Egypt and became one of the ancient world’s most affluent cities. Alexandria flourished in trade, art, architecture, and sciences; it was home to the greatest ancient library as well as the Pharos Lighthouse, considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Alexandria Library became a storehouse for knowledge—and one of the chief institutes for studying astronomy—thanks to its protection from the Ptolemaic rulers.


1.2 Ptolemaic Empire in 200 BCPtolemaic Empire in 200 BC


Male Ptolemaic Pharaohs often co-ruled with their wives, who were usually their sisters or cousins. Each male was named Ptolemy, and their wives were often named Cleopatra, Arsinoe, or Berenice. The royal family was considered to be obese by their contemporaries, although modern medical examinations indicate they may have suffered from a genetic disorder like Graves’ disease or Erdheim-Chester disease, both of which cause thyroid and other health issues.


1.3 Cleopatra VII PhilopatorCleopatra VII Philopator


Cleopatra VII co-ruled with her father, two brothers, and son from 51 BCE to 30 BCE as the last of the dynasty. She remains one of the most famous figures in ancient history. Cleopatra spoke both Greek and Egyptian, presenting herself as the reincarnation of the goddess Isis. She allied with the Roman general Marc Antony in 44 BCE and bore him three children. Cleopatra was known as a cunning and skillful ruler, considered one of the smartest, most powerful women in the world. She committed suicide with a snake bite in 30 BCE, leaving the dynasty to her young son. With his death, Egyptian rule was transferred to the Roman Empire, ending the Ptolemaic dynasty.


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