Glauce1, a Chian harp player, composer and courtesan2, probably a contemporary of Ptolemy I or Ptolemy II3 and possibly also a mistress of Ptolemy II4.

[1] PP VI 14718. Gr: Glaukh. Ý

[2] Harp-player: Aelian, De Naturae Animalium 5.29; Pliny, NH 10.26. Composer: Theocritus, Idylls 4.31, Hedylus at Athenaeus 4.176c (cf. the translation at P. M. Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria I 573); Courtesan: Anth. Pal. 7.262, introducing Theocritus, Epigram 23. Ý

[3] Schol. Theocritus 4.31b, Aelian, De Naturae Animalium 8.11. The ancient references to her are collected by D. Ogden, in P. McKechnie & P. Guillaume (eds), Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his World, 353 at 363f.

There is some reason to doubt that she was his contemporary. Although Schol. Theocritus 4.31b says that she was born in the time of Philadelphus, Theocritus himself, who was certainly a contemporary of Ptolemy II, gives her epitaph (Theocritus Ep. 23 = Pal. Anth. 7.262). More significantly, Schol. Theocritus 4.31b also cites Theophrastus for the story that a ram fell in love with her, but Theophrastus died shortly after he retired as president of the Lyceum, in Ol. 123,1 or 123,2 = 288/7 or 287/6 (Diogenes Laertius 25.11 + 26.3 + 27.5) -- i.e. when Ptolemy II was 20 or 21, at least two years before he became king, and before Glauce was born, according to the scholiast's previous sentence.

Either the scholiast has misdated her birth, or the reference should have been to her death, or the quote is from a different Theophrastus who is otherwise unknown, or there were two Glauces who the scholiast has confused. One possibility is that Glauce was actually a harp player in the court of Ptolemy I, and that she died early in the reign of Ptolemy II. The story of the ram, which rapidly became fabulous even if it originated in fact, perhaps even suggests that it originated with the legendary Glauce, daughter of Creon king of Corinth, for whom Jason (of the Golden Fleece) abandoned Medea. Ý

[4] Aelian, De Naturae Animalium 8.11 tells how a ram fell in love with Glauce and thereby became the rival of Ptolemy II for her affections. Pliny, NH 10.26, who describes her as a "harp player to king Ptolemy", tells the same story of a ram and a goose. In Aelian, De Naturae Animalium 1.6, the story is told of a dog; in Aelian, De Naturae Animalium 5.29 of a ram and a goose; in Plutarch, Moralia 972f, and in Theophrastus F567c (Schol. Theocritus 4.31b) of a ram alone: in none of these last four cases is the king mentioned.

Clearly the animal stories are legends, whether or not they were grounded in a real incident. While the statements of the Anth. Pal. and Schol. Theocritus 4.31b are perhaps enough to assure us that Glauce was a courtesan and a well-known harp player, there are grounds for believing she was not at Ptolemy II's court, and these statements do not of themselves show that she was also his mistress even if she was. She is not listed as a mistress by Ptolemy VIII in Athenaeus, though the story of her pursuit by a ram was already known in his day, and would, one have thought, been worthy of mention by both him and Athenaeus in this context. Aelian's story that Ptolemy II also pursued her may reflect a (youthful?) passion, but it may also be merely rumour, accretion to the growing legend. Ý

Update Notes:

10 Feb 2002: Added individual trees
19 Feb 2002: Split into separate entry
20 April 2002: Added proof of date and commentary on Aelian 8.11 (Loeb).
11 Mar 2005: Added Greek transcription
22 Jan 2011: Expand source discussion per Ogden, note that she may be a contemporary of Ptolemy I.

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