Ptolemy XI


Ptolemy XI1 Alexander II2 king of Egypt, son of Ptolemy X3 probably by Cleopatra Selene4, probably born between 106 and 104, most likely in 105/45, sent to Cos in 1036, whence he was captured by Mithridates VI of Pontus in spring 887, escaped from Mithridates in c. 84 to Rome where he became a client of Sulla8, returned to Egypt as coregent with Berenice III shortly before 13 Pharmouthi year 2 = 22 April 809, killed by the Alexandrian mob for murdering her probably shortly before 13 Pharmouthi year 2 = 22 April 80 after a reign of 18 or 19 days10, and was succeeded by her brother Ptolemy XII11.

Ptolemy XI was either not incorporated in the dynastic cult or was posthumously expunged from it12. No Egyptian titulary is known for him.

Ptolemy XI married Berenice III13, daughter of Ptolemy IX14 probably by Cleopatra Selene15 on his accession. There were no children of the marriage. No other marriages or children are known.16

[1] PP VI 14557. Gr: PtolemaioV AlexandroV. The numbering as Ptolemy XI follows the convention of RE and is today standard. He is sometimes numbered as "Ptolemy X" or "Ptolemy XII" in older works. Ý

[2] The name Alexander is given by Porphyry in Eusebius, Chronicorum I (ed. Schoene) 165, and also in pdemTor. Botti 34, 36, 37. On the possibility that he was also known as "Alexas" see discussion under Ptolemy X. Ý

[3] Porphyry in Eusebius, Chronicorum I (ed. Schoene) 165, Appian Civil Wars 1.102. Ý

[4] Porphyry in Eusebius, Chronicorum I (ed. Schoene) 165 says that he was the stepson of Berenice III (called "Cleopatra"), therefore he was a child of an earlier wife. (Curiously, the Greek version (Eusebius, Chronicorum I (ed. Schoene) 166) calls him, not a stepson, but an ancestor (progonoV), of "Cleopatra"; on the possible significance of this see discussion under Cleopatra V.)

pdemTurin Botti 34, 36, 37, dated year 14 = 101/0, name "king Ptolemy Philometer called Alexander (Ptolemy X) and Cleopatra known as Berenice (III) and Alexander her son" (pAj-s Sr). This evidence led P. W. Pestman (Chronologie Égyptienne d'après les textes démotiques 72(e), 76) to assert that Berenice III was actually the mother of Ptolemy XI. E. Van't Dack et al., The Judean-Syrian War of 103-101 B.C. 152ff. point out that the formula "her son" had been customary for the last 15 years under Cleopatra III, and that all these Turin papyri come from a single scribe, so the occurrence of the formula could well be just a matter of scribal habit. Moreover, the Egyptian term Sr can equally be used of a stepson. Van't Dack et al. further note that pdemCairo 30752 names "[Bere]nice his mother, his wife" in what survives of the dating formula, but that she was obviously named after Ptolemy XI, whereas Cleopatra I, Cleopatra II and Cleopatra III were all named ahead of their sons and grandsons in dating formulae, which suggests to them that the title of "mother" in pdemCairo 30752 was formal, not biological. In any case, the reading is disputed: K.-T. Zauzich, Die Agyptische Schreibertradition in Aufbau I 224 argues that the reading "mother" (mwt) should in fact be "sister" (snt), i.e. that the papyrus dates to Ptolemy X not Ptolemy XI. Be that as it may, Van't Dack et al. also note the examples of Ptolemy III "son" of Arsinoe II and Cleopatra III "daughter" of Ptolemy VIII. In short, regardless of the correct reading of pdemCairo 30752, the Egyptian evidence admits the reconstruction of "stepson".

E. Van't Dack et al, The Judean-Syrian War of 103-101 B.C. 154f., point out that, if the reading "mother" is correct, then pdemCairo 30752 proves that Berenice III nevertheless formally acted as his mother, and suggest that she served to legitimise him, i.e. that his true mother was a concubine. This seems to me to be an unnecessary inference. There is no suggestion in any source that there was ever any doubt about his legitimacy. The fact that there are references to him in year 14 = 101/0 (pdemTorBotti 34, 36, 37), at a time when Berenice III could be expected to produce an heir of her own, makes it most unlikely. It is also unlikely that Ptolemy X did not have a wife in the first years of his reign. The absence of that wife alone is sufficient reason for his second wife to step into her shoes. The first wife of Ptolemy X was most likely Cleopatra Selene. Ý

[5] Terminus post quem: Assuming his mother was Cleopatra Selene, a marriage of Cleopatra Selene to Ptolemy X cannot have occurred before late 107, therefore a child cannot have been born of it before mid 106. The same analysis may well aply to any other woman who was his first queen, but if she was not Cleopatra Selene then we cannot track her movements. Terminus ante quem: Presumably he was at least a year old when sent to Cos in 103. This would make him between 23 and 25 at death.

pOxy 19.2222 gives a number which the editors interpreted as being his age at death. They read it as ia = 11 or kq = 29, and strongly favoured the earlier reading, which would place his birth at 92/1. However, this interpretation cannot be correct in light of pdemTurin Botti 34, which includes him in the dating formula of year 14 = 101/0. Likewise, 29 is unlikely, since that would place his birth at 110/9, i.e. before his father's departure from Cyprus. However, the above analysis indicates that 105/4 = year 11 of Ptolemy X is an acceptable date of birth for Ptolemy XI. Ý

[6] Inferred from Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 13.13.1, which describes how Cleopatra III sent her grandchildren to Cos at the start of her war against the threatened invasion of Egypt by Ptolemy IX. The presence of Ptolemy XI on Cos is confirmed by Appian Civil Wars 1.102. Ý

[7] Appian Civil Wars 1.102, Mith. 4.23. Since he evidently did not leave Cos in the meantime, it is unclear why he is named in the dating formulae of pdemTurin Botti 34, 36, 37 in year 14 = 101/0. E. Van't Dack et al., The Judean-Syrian War of 103-101 B.C. 153 suggest it is in order to ensure his place in the succession, or even to legitimise his birth. Both explanations seem unlikely to me. If either were correct then he should be attested in other papyri from the reign of Ptolemy X, but he isn't. In the same papyri, he is, according to some papyrologists, specifically called the son of Berenice III (though as noted above this reading is disputed). Van't Dack et al., accepting this reading, suggest that this may be just scribal habit. Since the attestation is unique (all three papyri coming from the same scribe) I think this is probably correct, and that the same explanation suffices for his presence in the dating formulae.

The raid happened at about the same time as the general massacre of Roman citizens in Asia, and before the start of the siege of Rhodes. From Livy, Per. 78, we know that Archaelaus occupied Athens before the end of 88 = A.U.C. 666, and from Appian Mith. 4.27 we know that the siege was lifted before he did so. It appears that the Rhodians had some time to prepare their defences before the siege began, of the order of a few weeks, and the siege itself seems to have lasted for a couple of months before Mithridates gave it up, shortly before sending Archelaus to Greece. E. Badian, AJAH 1 (1976) 105 at 111 estimates from all this that the end of the siege of Rhodes must have been no later than about October 88, hence the massacre, and the raid on Cos, must have occurred no later than the end of June or early July 88.

For a terminus post quem, Badian relies on a speech by Athenion reporting to the Athenians on his embassy to Mithridates, preserved in extracts in Athenaeus 5.212. Athenion had sent several reports to the Athenians on his embassy and had apparently risen high in Mithridates' esteem, before returning to Athens to give this speech, which was intended to win the Athenians to Mithridates' side, and which eventually resulted in his eected to being general of the hoplites. Hence he clearly spent some time with him, and returned some time before about June 88. Badian estimates that he had been appointed not earlier than late 89, and, having had time to send several letters, his final report must be not earlier than about March.

His speech reports that Mithridates had occupied Bithynia, Cappadocia and Phrygia and the Roman commander M' Aquillius had been defeated and captured, events which occurred in the winter of 89/8, but gives no hint (Appian, Mith. 3.21) that Aquillius had been executed by having molten gold poured down his throat -- though he might have suppressed the later point since he was trying to persuade the Athenians to join Mithridates -- nor, more significantly, that Mithridates had been enthusiastically received in Magnesia, Ephesus or Mitylene. After this tour, Mithridates beseiged and captured the city of Stratonicea, and then occurred the massacre of the Romans in Asia Minor. Hence we can set a terminus post quem for the raid of abut April 88.

It is notable that Appian only mentions the capture of Ptolemy XI, even though there are good grounds to think that two sons of Ptolemy IX, most probably Ptolemy XII and Ptolemy of Cyprus, were also captured in the raid. The simplest explanation for this is that Ptolemy XI escaped to Rome a few years later, and became an instrument of Roman policy, while the others did not, and had no impact on affairs till they returned to Egypt nearly a decade later, independently of Roman action (or rather, as the result of a failure of Roman policy). However, it is also possible that Appian's focus on Ptolemy XI relates to Mithridates' purpose in making the raid. Ptolemy X was expelled from Alexandria in about May of 88, so it may well be that Mithridates was not yet aware of this at the time made the raid, and that his main purpose was capture the heir of the king of Egypt. That he may also have captured the heirs of his brother Ptolemy IX, then only king of Cyprus, may simply have been an added bonus at the time.   Ý

[8] Appian Civil Wars 1.102. The date is based on the judgement that this event most likely between the battle of Chareonia in 86 and Sulla's return to Italy in 83 (Plutarch, Sulla 22ff), most probably when he was settling affairs in Greece and Asia and Greece after the Peace of Dardanos in 85. The terms of this treaty do not appear have involved the return of third-party hostages (Appian, Mith. 8.55), which would certainly have given him incentive to escape if he had not already done so. Ý

[9] Appian Civil Wars 1.102. See discussion under Berenice III on the coregency. Ý

[10] 19 days: Porphyry in Eusebius, Chronicorum I (ed. Schoene) 165; on the 19th day: Appian Civil Wars 1.102; 18 days: pOxy 19.2222. Appian's interpretation is probably correct, as it explains the other two as inclusive and exclusive counts respectively. Prol. Trogus 39 says he was merely expelled; this is clearly an error. For the date see discussion under Berenice III. Ý

[11] Porphyry in Eusebius, Chronicorum I (ed. Schoene) 167. Ý

[12] Later eponymous lists, e.g. those in BGU 8.1736, pBerlin 16241 (W. Müller, ZÄS 93 (1966) 93), do not name him. I would guess that he was given a title at the time of his elevation to the throne, at a guess Filopatwr, but that he was removed for having murdered Berenice III, who according to Cicero (De rege Alexandrino F10) was a popular queen. Ý

[13] Porphyry in Eusebius, Chronicorum I (ed. Schoene) 165, Appian Civil Wars 1.102. Ý

[14] Pausanias 1.9.3, Porphyry in Eusebius, Chronicorum I (ed. Schoene) 165. Ý

[15] See discussion under Berenice III. Ý

[16] In the early 19th century, Suetonius, Caesar 11 + Cicero, De lege agraria 2.41 was used to argue for the existence of a "Ptolemy Alexander III" who supposedly ruled briefly in 65. A. Bouché-Leclercq, Histoire des Lagides II 121 n. 2 notes that this hypothetical prince was supposed to be a son or brother of Ptolemy XI. While biologically possible, the source data includes clear indications against this interpretation of the sources; see discussion under Ptolemy XII. Ý

Update Notes:

11 Feb 2002: Added individual trees
26 Feb 2002: Split into separate entry.
23 Oct 2003: Added Xrefs to online Appian, "Alexas" discussion
24 Feb 2004: Added Xref to online Appian that I missed
13 Sep 2004: Add Xref to online Eusebius
14 Oct 2004: Added discussion on the theory that he was father or brother of an "Alexander III".
29 Oct 2004: Improve discussion on date of escape from Mithridates, change Xref to LacusCurtius Plutarch
11 Mar 2005: Added Greek transcription, links to image of pOxy 19.2222
21 May 2005: Added discussion of the date of the raid on Cos, thanks to Mark Passehl for prompting me to look at the issue
4 Dec 2010: Fix broken Perseus & DDbDP links

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