Possible child of Ptolemy IV


Name unknown1, possible child of Ptolemy IV and Agathoclea2, born c. late 2103, subsequent career unknown4.

[1] Not in PP. Ý

[2] Polybius 15.31.13 states that Agathoclea claimed to have been wet-nurse to Ptolemy V. The statement occurs in a scene where Agathoclea, under attack by a mob, and in an effort to evoke enough sympathy to save her life, bares her breasts and puts them through the latticework in a door that separates her from the mob. The scene may well be a dramatic trope of Polybius made without basis in fact, or, if it actually occurred, it may simply be a lie of desperation on her part; certainly, Polybius is careful to dissociate himself from it, saying merely that "she said she had suckled the king". Neverthless, even in such circumstances, it seems to me that if her claim were known to be false it would only have enraged the mob still further. Modern scholars are prepared to accept it at face value (e.g. S. B. Pomeroy, Women in Hellenistic Egypt 50). Supposing it to be true, she must have had a child born at about the same time as Ptolemy V, and there is no other known candidate for its father than Ptolemy IV -- so also D. Ogden, Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death 82.

D. Ogden, Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death 82, noting that John of Antioch (FGrH IV 558 F54) states that Ptolemy IV repudiated Arsinoe III just before his death, supposes that this was an attempt to displace Ptolemy V in favour of Agathoclea's son. He also suggests that this son may be mentioned in pHaun 6 F67 line 6. Nevertheless, it is hard for me to resist the (unprovable) speculation that it was in fact Agathoclea not Arsinoe III who was the real birth mother of Ptolemy V. Strabo 17.1.11 names Agathoclea as the mother of Ptolemy IV; evidently in error. However, Appian, Syriaca 1.4 confuses Ptolemy V with Ptolemy IV. While the obvious and most likely explanation for Strabo's error is that he forget the true relationship between her and Ptolemy IV, the same error would result if he had forgotten which king she was the mother of. Circumstantially, the account of Polybius 15.25 makes it clear that Arsinoe III was kept as a virtual prisoner and was murdered before she could take a role as the regent for Ptolemy V. Clearly neither Agathoclea nor anyone in her family, nor any of the legitimist partisans of the dynasty, would have had any interest in publicly announcing her maternity as this would have undermined the legitimacy of Ptolemy V. Ý

[3] The year of birth of Ptolemy V. This child, if it existed, must have been born about the same time in order for Agathoclea to act as a wetnurse to Ptolemy V (Polybius 15.31.13). Ý

[4] No such child is mentioned by Polybius when describing the fate of "Agathocles, Agathoclea and their familes" (Polybius 15.33). Assuming it existed (and was not Ptolemy V), it may have died shortly after birth, allowing Agathoclea to be a wet-nurse, or at this time. Ý

Update Notes:

10 Feb 2002: Added individual trees
21 Feb 2002: Split into separate entry
16 April 2002: Note that Strabo calls Agathoclea the mother of Ptolemy IV
18 May 2003: Added Xrefs to the Lacus Curtius edition of Polybius
24 Feb 2004: Added Xrefs to online Strabo, Appian
11 Mar 2005: Removed discussion of Agathoclea's age based on Hauben's incorrect dating of pStrasb 6.562, naming her as a boat owner, to 227
26 Nov 2010: Fix broken Perseus link

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