Hippe1, a courtesan, mistress of Theodotus, Master of Provender2, drinking partner and possibly a mistress of3, most probably, Ptolemy II4.

[1] PP VI 14725. Gr: Ipph The name ("Horse") is known for other women, but here is most likely a courtesan's nom de guerre. A S F Gow, Machon: The Fragments 134 n. 439 suggests she acquired it through her association with Theodotus, though for D. Ogden in P. McKechnie & P. Guillaume, Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his World, 353 at 362, this "seems to stretch belief". Ý

[2] Machon fr 18, in Athenaeus 13.583a-b. Apart from this anecdote, nothing is known about her. For the obscenity of the joke, see H. Akbar Khan, Hermes 98 (1970) 145 at 152f.

Theodotus is also otherwise unknown, as is his office. M. Rostovtzeff, A Large Estate in Egypt, 183f, speculates that he may have bought hay from Sostratus and Kleon, mentioned in the Zenon papyri as dealers in hay on a very large scale and probably suppliers to the army of Ptolemy III in the first few years of his reign, i.e. the late 240s. He suggests that Theodotus may also be Theodotus the Aetolian, the only known prominent court official of that name. The latter is the likely murderer of the Ptolemy IV's brother Magas, and was a prominent general at the beginning of his reign, though he eventually defected to Antiochus III, who he served ably at least till c. 215. P. M. Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria II 880 n. 38 holds that the c. 25-30 year span implied by this identification is too long to allow it, though it seems to me that the office of Master of Provender is perhaps junior enough that it is not unreasonable. However, both proposals for identifying Theodotus -- as client of Sostratus and Kleon, and as assassin and general -- are entirely speculative. Although not well documented at court, the name is common enough, and our picture of the Ptolemaic court is incomplete enough, that we cannot reliably identify the Master of Provender as either man.

D. Ogden, in P. McKechnie & P. Guillaume, Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his World, 353 at 362 notes that his appearance in the story may not even represent a historical association, since his supposed court position as master of provender just adds to the joke's associations with horses and fodder. Indeed it is not impossible that the entire story, and all its characters, including Hippe herself, are entirely fabulous. I do not think so, because several of the other prostitutes and courtesans featuring in Athenaeus' quotes from Machon, such as Lamia, are undoubtedly historical. Ý

[3] The Machon fragment only attests that she was a familiar drinking partner of the king. Regardless of his identity, his drinking partner is not necessarily also his lover, even if she is not only female but a courtesan. D. Ogden, in P. McKechnie & P. Guillaume, Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his World, 353 at 360ff., assumes that she probably was, without giving a justification. Since Hippe is clearly identified as Theodotus' mistress, even down to her name, the assumption seems to me to be quite unlikely. Ý

[4] The anecdote does not identify which king Ptolemy was Hippe's drinking partner. He is identified as Ptolemy IV by A. Bouché-Leclercq, Histore des Lagides I 331 and W. Otto, RE 8 1689(6), but as Ptolemy II (in preference to Ptolemy I) by A. S. F. Gow, Machon 10f. and by C. B. Gulick in the Loeb editon of Athenaeus. PP VI 14725 lists both Ptolemy II and Ptolemy IV as possibilities but favours Ptolemy IV by placing him first. P. M. Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria II 880 n. 38 favoured Ptolemy I, in part because "it hardly seems possible that Machon would have spoken thus of the reigning monarch". More recently, D. Ogden, Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death 219 and 235 favours Ptolemy II while recognizing Ptolemy IV as an option; but in D. Ogden, in P. McKechnie & P. Guillaume, Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his World, 353 at 361 argues that Gow showed that Machon lived too early for Ptolemy IV to be a possibility, and the choice was between Ptolemy II and Ptolemy I.

In previous versions of this page, I accepted Bouché-Leclercq's identification and PP's opinion without much consideration, only noting that the reasoning seemed somewhat tenuous. Ogden's article has encouraged me to consider the matter more closely.

Bouché-Leclercq appears to have dated the anecdote to Ptolemy IV because he felt that it exemplified "la débauche vulgaire et obscène [et] la société de courtisanes de bas étage qui l'amusaient par leur manque de respect et la trivialité de leur langage" which characterised his court. Ogden, by contrast, chose Ptolemy II because "the jokey tale ... seems more compatible with the lightness and wit associated with Philadelphus' court than the more vicious depravity associated with Philopator's". For Gow, "the picture ... fits well enough the unwarlike and pleasure-loving Ptolemy II Philadelphus", but Fraser preferred Ptolemy I, holding that "the anecdote seems much more in keeping with Soter than his son". Evidently, these reactions tell us more about attitudes to humour and debauchery held by different scholars in the 20th century than they do about the identity of king Ptolemy or of the date of Hippe, and nothing about her chronology can be safely inferred from the atmospherics of the anecdote, particularly considered in isolation.

As to Machon's dates, the main data comes from Athenaeus 6.241f, Anth. Pal. 7.708 and Athenaeus 14.664a:

This data is all somewhat vague, but it suggests that Machon was first active late in the reign of Ptolemy II, in the c. 250s, and could well have lived and been active well into the reign of Ptolemy IV, the early 210s, possibly even as late as Ptolemy V. Hence we cannot exclude any of the candidates on purely biographical grounds.

There is one item in the story which seems to argue strongly against the king being Ptolemy IV: Hippe calls him Ptolemaie, pappia, variously rendered as "papa Ptolemaeus" (Yonge), "Popsy" (Akbar Khan), "dear old Ptolemy" (Ogden). This strongly suggests that he was at least a couple of decades older than Hippe. But Ptolemy IV was about 22 when he came to the throne and about 40 when he died; moreover, if one wishes to argue that Theodotus is the same man as Theodotus the Aetolian, then one has to place the story in the first few years of his reign.

The only hope for proceeding further, at this time, seems to lie in contextual literary analysis. Machon's anecdotes, as preserved by Athenaeus, come from a work called the Chreiai. Chreiai were collections of pithy stories and sayings normally of an uplifting character, and normally stories about or sayings by statesmen or philosophers. In this case, the surviving stories concern artists, prostitutes and parasites, mostly Athenian, and are anything but uplifting -- a parody or satire of the normal form. L. Kurke, PCPS 48, 20 at 31ff., suggests that Machon's stories are to be read against the political context of Macedonian control of Athens, and that the various prostitutes and parasites represent Athenian reaction to this control. Specifically, she suggests that many of the anecdotes are tales told against Demetrius of Phaleron, who controlled Athens for Cassander before defecting to the court of Ptolemy I; against Demetrius I; and against a younger Demetrius of Phaleron, grandson of the first, who was regent in Athens for Antigonus II after the Chremonidean War. This theory implies a date of the late 260s or 250s or later for the composition of the Chreiai.

The theory seems reasonable enough, though not completely solid. Several stories are explicitly told against Demetrius I. Kurke's case for identifying the reforms of Demetrius of Phaleron in tales of Machon is more circumstantial, but not implausible. But she makes no explicit case for assigning any of the fragments to a post-Chremonidean context. It is also not immediately obvious how to fit some of the other anecdotes into this theme, e.g. the anecdotes hung on Stratonicus, the (admittedly Athenian) harp-player of the late 4th century (Athenaeus, 8.348Eff.)

The butt of the joke, which is, unusually, made by the king, not the courtesan, is the voraciousness of Hippe's appetite. If the story is to be understood in light of Kurke's theory, and Hippe is seen as representing Athens, then the political subtext of this anecdote is the drain that supporting Athens placed on Ptolemaic resources. Since Ptolemaic support for Athens began very shortly before the retirement of Ptolemy I, this would place the story in the reign of Ptolemy II, between his accession and the end of the Chremonidean War, and most probably in the 260s, when he was in his 40s, perhaps consistent with being called pappia by a courtesan young enough to be his daughter.  Ý

Update Notes:

10 Feb 2002: Added individual trees
21 Feb 2002: Split into separate entry
11 Mar 2005: Added Greek transcription
26 Mar 2011: Reorganize and note Ogden's comments on the date of Machon etc. Redate Hippe to Ptolemy II.

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