Ptolemy Apion


Ptolemy Apion1, king of Cyrene, son of Ptolemy VIII2 possibly by an Egyptian concubine3, date of birth unknown4, became king of Cyrene5 possibly in 116 or 101, probably between 105 and 1016, died 967 without heirs, willing Cyrene to the Romans8.

[1] PP VI 14553. Gr: PtolemaioV o Apiwn. Named as "Ptolemy Apion, king of Cyrene" in Livy, Periochae 70.5; "Apion" in Appian, Mith. 121 and Ammianus Marcellinus 22.16.24. Ý

[2] Justin 39.5 Ý

[3] Described as the son of a concubine of Ptolemy VIII in Justin 39.5. It is widely stated that he was or was probably a son of Eirene, e.g. A. Bouché-Leclercq, Histoire des Lagides II 86, A. Laronde, Cyrène et la Libye hellénistique 445. Indeed, M. L. Strack, Die Dynastie der Ptolemäer 201 n. 33, proposed to emend Justin's text to add the words "ex Eirene". However, there is no ancient authority for this. As noted by J. W. B. Barns, Or 46 (1977) 24 and W. Huss, Aegyptus 70 (1990) 191, it is in fact rather unlikely, since the name "Apion" is Egyptian, not Greek, suggesting -- though not requiring -- that his mother was also Egyptian. Ý

[4] On the assumption that his mother was Eirene, his birth date has been estimated to precede Ptolemy VIII's second accession, i.e. to be within a few years before 145. Since her maternity is unlikely, we have no basis on which to estimate his date of birth. Ý

[5] Justin 39.5. Ý

[6] Justin 39.5 states that he had been left the kingdom in Ptolemy VIII's will, which would appear to date his accession to 116, e.g. E. R. Bevan, The House of Ptolemy 326. There are as yet no certain contemporary attestations for Apion, though OGIS 144 = iDelos 1530 may well belong to him and not Ptolemy Memphites; but it is undated.

The most secure terminus post quem for his accession is set by a statue base dated to year 10 of Ptolemy (IX) Soter = 108/7 (G. Pugliese-Carratelli, ASA 23-24 (1961/2) 337 no 209 and fig 153), which attests to the rule of Ptolemy IX at that time. This confirms and extends the previous terminus post quem of 24 Phamenoth year 9 = 8 April 108 given on SEG IX.5.

There is more ambiguous evidence for a later terminus post quem. R. S. Bagnall, Phoenix 26 (1972) 358, reviews the available inscriptions naming the admiral Stolos, including an inscription from Apollonia in Cyrenaica (H. Hauben & E. Van't Dack, ZPE 8 (1971) 33). He concludes that Stolos served Ptolemy IX after his expulsion from Egypt by Cleopatra III, and that the Cyrenean inscription must be dated no earlier than 106/5, suggesting Ptolemy IX lost control of Cyrene after that date, presumably to Ptolemy Apion, i.e. a terminus post quem of 105.

The most secure terminus ante quem is set by SEG 3.378, a Greek translation of a Roman law against piracy found at Delphi, which refers to the kings of Egypt, Cyprus and Cyrene, and must therefore date before 96. Since it also mentions C. Marius and L. Valerius Flaccus, co-consuls in AUC 653 = 100 elected in late AUC 652 = 101, it must date to 101 or later. The law refers to actions to be taken by the prior incoming consul. G. Colin, BCH 48 (1924) 58, argues that the political circumstances surrounding Marius' election to his sixth consulate led to the passage of this law, and therefore the law must date to late 101, proving that Apion was already king of Cyrene by that date. A copy of a closely related law (more probably a variant translation of the same law) was also found at Cnidos (SEG 26.1227 -- M. Hassall et al., JRS 64 (1974) 195), which refers to the king of Cyprus as "the king who holds Cyprus". Hassall et al. argue that the difference reflects a decision by Ptolemy IX to accept that he was merely king of Cyprus, and that this can be dated to 100/99 or later because that is the date at which he began his coinage from Cypriote mints (O. Mørkholm, Chiron 13 (1983) 70, 74). Since the Cnidos version does not reflect this view, the law itself is earlier in date, the Delphic translation being made later. They argue that the mention of the consular term of C. Marius and L. Valerius Flaccus is anticipatory, and therefore the law must date to late AUC 652 = 101. In opposition, G. V. Sumner, GRBS 19 (1978) 211, argues that there is no other known use of such an anticipatory consular date, that a reference to an unnamed "consul who will be prior" reflects the delay in the consular elections for AUC 654 = 99 that occurred after the murders of two of the candidates on a.d. V and IV Dec. AUC 653 (Appian, Civil Wars 1.32), and that the law must therefore have been passed in late December AUC 653 = c. December 100, i.e. during the consulate of C. Marius and L. Valerius Flaccus, binding on the prior consul of their successors, but before his identity was known. This seems a reasonable argument to me, giving a terminus ante quem of 100 for Apion.

There is more ambiguous evidence for an earlier terminus ante quem. If OGIS 144 belongs to Apion rather than Memphites, then it must have been dedicated before the death of Cleopatra III, i.e. before c. September 101, proving he was king by this date.

T. Grabowski, in E. Dabrowa (ed.) Titulus, 85, has recently argued on circumstantial grounds that Apion became king in 101. Noting the terminus post quem of 108 set by SEG IX.5 and the terminus ante quem of 100 set by SEG 3.378, he argues that neither Cleopatra III nor Ptolemy X (in Egypt) nor Ptolemy IX (in Cyprus) had any motive to concede Cyrene to Apion in this period, and concludes that Apion almost certainly owed his kingship to Roman intervention. He notes that in 101 Rome was no longer distracted by the threat of Teutonic and Cimbric invastions and had also recently concluded the Jugurthine war, and so was in a position to impose a settlement on Egypt. He supposes that Apion's throne was justified in terms of implementing the terms of Ptolemy VIII's will, leaving Ptolemy X in place in Egypt and Ptolemy IX in place in Cyprus. He suggests that the immediate occasion of the settlement was in response to Ptolemy X's murder of Cleopatra III.

The argument seems plausible enough, if currently unprovable. The only objection to it is that if OGIS 144 belongs to Apion then he must have become king before the death of Cleopatra III. But it could well be that the settlement occurred before her death, and that the surety of Roman recognition was a factor in freeing Ptolemy X's hand to murder his mother.

Whichever way you cut it, there appears to be a contradiction between the epigraphic evidence and Justin. D.C. Braund, PBSR 51 (1983) 16 at 24, supposes that both are right, that Apion did become king in 116, but was dispossessed by Ptolemy IX at some later time. Alternately, it may be that he did not initially hold a royal title, but was merely a strategos, just as Ptolemy X may initially have been strategos of Cyprus. Ý

[7] Obsequens 49, under the consulship of Cn. Domitius and C. Cassius = 658 AUC = 96 BC; Cassiodorus Chronica under 658 AUC = 96. Appian, Civil Wars 1.13.111, equates his death with that of king Nicomedes of Bithynia, i.e. in 74, but it is generally agreed that this confuses his death with the final takeover of Cyrene by Rome, cf. A. Bouché-Leclercq, Histoire des Lagides II 108f. n. 1. Ý

[8] Livy, Periochae 70.5. There is some confusion about the details of the will. Appian, Mith. 17.121 states that Apion left Cyrene itself to the Romans. Ammianus Marcellinus 22.16.24 details that Apion left "the dry part of Libya" to the Romans and that Cyrene and the other cities of the Libyan Pentapolis were handed over "by the generosity of king Ptolemy (XII)". Ý

Update Notes:

10 Feb 2002: Added individual trees
23 Feb 2002: Split into separate entry
6 March 2002: Add discussion of Roussel's proposal to assign SEG IX.5 to Ptolemy VI.
23 Aug 2003: Added Xrefs to online Justin
23 Oct 2003: Added Xrefs to online Appian
19 Oct 2004: Changed Periochae Xref to Lenderer translation.
29 Oct 2004: Added note of Braund's theory of two reigns for Apion.
10 Jan 2005: Added link to online copy of Bagnall's paper on Stolos
11 Mar 2005: Added Greek transcription, link to Bevan
15 May 2006: Noted Grabowski's arguments for Apion's accession in 101
16 Sep 2006: Added Xref to Packard Humanities DB
4 July 2008: Note Cyrenean month of Theudaisios in SEG IX.5
28 Nov 2010: Fix broken Perseus links

Website © Chris Bennett, 2001-2011 -- All rights reserved