Magas1, son of Ptolemy III and Berenice II2, probably born c. November/December 2413, scalded to death in his bath by Theogos or Theodotus, an agent of Ptolemy IV, in late 222 or early 2214.

[1] PP VI 14534. Gr: MagaV. Ý

[2] Paternity: Exedra of Thermos: IG IX, I, I2, 56h. Paternity and maternity: Polybius 15.25.2. Ý

[3] According to Plutarch, Cleomenes 33, Magas was killed because he was popular with the army, which suggests some military experience. According to pHaun 6, he was sent on a mission to Asia Minor after the death of a king Seleucus, almost certainly Seleucus III, who died in 223 (Seleucid year 90: Babylonian chronicle published in A. J. Sachs & D. J. Wiseman, Iraq 16 (1954) 202), probably in the summer, as inferred by K. J. Beloch, Griechisches Geschichte IV.2 196 based on the circumstances of his murder while campaigning in the Taurus as described by Polybius 4.48.8. Magas should be at least about 17 at this time, i.e. he was born in or before late summer 240.

We may refine this estimate through a chronological study of the exedra of Thermos (IG IX, I, I2, 56), which to the best of my knowledge has not been undertaken in the literature (W. Huss, CdE 50 (1975) 312 and the sources therein). This monument was arranged as a P-shape. It lists the royal family in the following order: (a) king Ptolemy (b) Ptolemy (c) queen Berenice (d) Arsinoe (e) Berenice (f) [Unknown son] (g) Alexander (h) Magas. A statue originally stood in front of each name, and that of king Ptolemy was on the left arm of the U, prominently facing the viewer. The right arm is completely lost, but presumably another statue stood there. G. Blum (BCH 39 (1915) 17, 20 n. 2), supposing the exedra to have been erected in 230 or later because of the political climate of those years, suggested that the princess Berenice named at (e) was a second child of that name, since the first princess Berenice had died in 238. He also notes that the existence of other children is not mentioned on the Canopus Decree (OGIS 56), and therefore argues that they were all born after this date. However, pHaun 6 appears to show that Magas at least was born earlier.

Since the exedra commemorates an alliance between Ptolemy III and the Aetolian League, it seems to me that the missing end must have represented the League, either through a patron deity, such as Apollo, as suggested by Weinrach (IG IX, I, I2, p40), or through some other symbol. As to the date of the exedra, most discussion (e.g. Huss op. cit.) places it near the end of Ptolemy III's reign, when a known alliance between him and the League had defeated Demetrius II of Macedon, but it seems to me that the internal evidence of the exedra, showing the princess Berenice as apparently living, forces a date before or very shortly after her death in early 238. This period of Egyptian/Aetolian relations is much less known, but it corresponds to the period of peace following the treaty between the Achaean and Aetolian Leagues of c. 240 and preceding the outbreak of the Demetrian war in the early 230s (J. D. Grainger, The League of the Aitolians 155, 217f.). An exedra with a general dedication to the Hellenic peoples seems appropriate for this period.

Without a clear reason to date the exedra later, we may suppose that the Berenice named on it was believed to be alive at the time it was erected. It follows that the exedra shows all of Ptolemy III's children born before February 238, the date of the death of Berenice, as given by the Canopus Decree (OGIS 56).

Since Arsinoe bears the name of her paternal grandmother, she was almost certainly the older of the two sisters, and so we may reasonably assume that the sons and daughters are each listed in relative order of birth. Magas was thus the youngest son, born (as we have seen from pHaun 6) in or before late summer 240. Additionally, since Berenice was a viable child, she was probably at least a year old at the time of her death.

Since the daughters and the sons are each grouped together on the exedra, it is possible that it does not reflect the order of birth of the daughters relative to the sons. We may be able to determine more about the actual order of birth from another monument, R. Flacelière, Fouilles de Delphes III:4:2 no 233, pp 275ff. This monument is much more fragmentary than the exedra, but portions of the dedicatory inscription are preserved. At certain points above this inscription there are fragments of other inscriptions that originally identified certain statues on the monument. These clearly named a "basilissa" Arsinoe, daughter of king Ptolemy and queen Berenice, at the leftmost end of the dedicatory inscription, another child of king Ptolemy and queen [Bere]ni[ce] partway along it, and a "basillissa" or "basileos", child of a king Ptolemy and a queen [Berenice?], at the rightmost end of that inscription. In view of the position and the maternity of the intermediate child, these children must belong to Ptolemy III and Berenice II.

If one uses Flacelière's reconstruction of the dedicatory inscription, which was closely modelled on that of Thermos, as a guide, the entire dedication was around 8 metres long, and the second surviving fragment was about 1.5 meters from the first. Assuming equal spacing, there would then have been three more statues between second and third surviving fragments, for a total of six. On this basis, they were almost certainly those of Ptolemy III's children. The last child was the "basilissa" Berenice, and the royal sons were named between the two daughters. The monument would certainly also have contained statues of the king and queen, and perhaps additional statues, e.g. of ancestors or divinities, as at Thermos. These would have been placed outside the dedicatory inscription, with at least that of the king being to the left of the oldest child.

On this reconstruction, the heir, Ptolemy (IV), would then have been named after his sister. It seems reasonable to conclude that such an ordering reflects the birth ordering. Combining the two monuments, the children would then have been born in the order Arsinoe, Ptolemy, [?Lysimachus], Magas and Berenice.

It is most likely that Berenice II was married shortly after the accession of Ptolemy III c. February 246, and we know that he was absent campaigning from September 246 for about a year. Assuming that the eldest child (Arsinoe) was conceived in the initial 7 months of marriage, the remaining five were therefore born between about May/June 244 and Jan/Feb 239, a period of about 57 months. If there were no twins, this gives an average spacing of about 14 months between children.

Therefore, the birth dates of the children of Ptolemy III and Berenice II named in the exedra may reasonably be estimated as follows:

Arsinoe                     November 246 - June 245
Ptolemy                    May/June 244
[Unknown]                July/August 243
Alexander                 September/October 242
Magas                      November/December 241
Berenice                   January/February 239

It should be stressed, firstly, that the birth dates apply to any birth order, provided there were no twins; they only depend on the number of children and the total available time. And secondly, these dates are only mean estimates -- for children 2-6 a couple of months variance either way on any indivdual birth is possible.

An extended version of the above analysis was formally published in C. J. Bennett, ZPE 138 (2002) 141. I have seen two responses.

[4] Polybius 15.25.2; Pseudo-Plutarch Proverb. Alexandr. 13 ed O. Crusius, which provides the lurid detail, gives the name of his assassin as Theogos. C. C. Edgar, BSAA 19 (1920) 117, suggested the name should be corrected to Theogenes and further proposed to identify this Theogenes with Theogenes the dioiketes to Ptolemy IV, and possibly stepfather to Agathoclea. P. Maas, JEA 31 74 n. 1, cautions that the name Theogenes was quite common at this period. In any case, pHaun 6 appears to name the killer of Magas as Theodotus the Aetolian. This individual later defected to Antiochus III (Polybius 5.40) and attempted to assassinate Ptolemy IV just before the battle of Raphia (Polybius 5.81, III Maccabees 1.2). Ý

Update Notes:

10 Feb 2002: Added individual trees
20 Feb 2002: Split into separate entry
18 May 2003: Added Xrefs to the Lacus Curtius edition of Polybius
24 Feb 2004: Added Xref to Canopus Decree
2 Dec 2004: Added comments on Criscuolo's objections to the analysis of birth dates.
11 Mar 2005: Added Greek transcription
26 Aug 2006: Add links to BCH 35 and FD III.
13 Sep 2006: Link to Packard Humanities DB
11 Nov 2007: Note Johnson and Clarysse's arguments re the date of Ptolemy III's visit to the chora, affecting the date of iPhilae 4
26 July 2008: Added response to Kosmetatou's critique of my use of FD III 4 2 233 to argue a birth order for Ptolemy III's children.
26 Nov 2010: Fix broken DDbDP links

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