PTOLEMIES, a dynasty of Macedonian kings who ruled in Egypt from -323 to 30 B.C.
The founder, PTOLEMY, son of Lagus, a Macedonian nobleman of Eordaea, was one of Alexander the Great's most trusted generals, and among the seven " body-guards " attached to his person. He plays a principal part in the later campaigns of Alexander in Afghanistan and India. At the Susa marriage festival in 324 Alexander caused him to marry the Persian princess Artacama; but there is no further mention of this Asiatic bride in the history of Ptolemy. When Alexander died in 323 the resettlement of the empire at Babylon is said to have been made at Ptolemy's instigation. At any rate he was now appointed satrap of Egypt under the nominal kings Philip Arrhidaeus and the young Alexander. He at once took a high hand in the province by killing Cleomenes, the financial controller appointed by Alexander the Great; he also subjugated Cyrenalca. He contrived to get possession of Alexander's body which was to be interred with great pomp by the imperial government and placed it temporarily in Memphis. This act led to an open rupture between Ptolemy and the imperial regent Perdiccas. But Perdiccas perished in the attempt to invade Egypt (321). In the long wars between the different Macedonian chiefs which followed, Ptolemy's first object is to hold his position in Egypt securely, and secondly to possess the Cyrenalca, Cyprus and Palestine (Coele-Syria). His first occupation of Palestine was in 318, and he established at the same time a protectorate over the petty kings of Cyprus. When Antigonus, master of Asia in 315, showed dangerous ambitions, Ptolemy joined the coalition against him, and, on the outbreak of war, evacuated Palestine. In Cyprus he fought the partisans of Antigonus and reconquered the island (313). A revolt of Cyrene was crushed in the same year. In 312 Ptolemy, with Seleucus, the fugitive satrap of Babylonia, invaded Palestine and beat Demetrius, the son of Antigonus, in the great battle of Gaza. Again he occupied Palestine, and again a few months later, after Demetrius had won a battle over his general and Antigonus entered Syria in force, he evacuated it. In 311 a peace was concluded between the combatants, soon after which the surviving king Alexander was murdered in Macedonia, leaving the satrap of Egypt absolutely his own master. The peace did not last long, and in 309 Ptolemy commanded a fleet in person which detached the coast towns of Lycia and Caria from Antigonus and crossed to Greece, where Ptolemy took possession of Corinth, Sicyon and Megara (308). In 306 a great fleet under Demetrius attacked Cyprus, and Ptolemy's brother, Menelaus, was defeated and captured in the decisive battle of Salamis. The complete loss of Cyprus followed. Antigonus and Demetrius now assumed the title of kings; Ptolemy, as well as Cassander, Lysimachus and Seleucus, answered this challenge by doing the same. In the winter (306-5) Antigonus tried to follow up the victory of Cyprus by invading Egypt, but here Ptolemy was M rung, and held the frontier successfully against him. Ptolemy led no further expedition against Antigonus overseas. To the Rhodians, besieged by Demetrius (305-4), he sent such help as won him divine honours in Rhodes and the surname of Soter (" saviour ") When the coalition was renewed against Antigonus in 302, Ptolemy joined it, and invaded Palestine a third time, whilst Antigonus was engaged with Lysimachus in Asia Minor. On a report that Antigonus had won a decisive victory, for a third time he evacuated the country. But when news came that Antigonus had been defeated and skin at Ipsus (301) by Lysimachus and Seleucus, Ptolemy occupied Palestine for the fourth time. The other members of the coalition had assigned Palestine to Seleucus after what they regarded as Ptolemy's desertion, and for the next hundred years the question of its ownership becomes the standing ground of enmity between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties. Henceforth, Ptolemy seems to have mingled as little as possible in the broils of Asia Minor and Greece; his possessions in Greece he did not retain, but Cyprus he reconquered in 295-4. Cyrene, after a series of rebellions, was finally subjugated about 300 and placed under his stepson Magas (Beloch, Griech. Gesch. III. [ii.], p. 134 seq.). In 285 he abdicated in favour of one of his younger sons by Berenice (q.v.), who bore his father's name of Ptolemy; his eldest (legitimate) son, Ptolemy Ceraunus, whose mother, Eurydice, the daughter of Antipater, had been repudiated, fled to the court of Lysimachus. Ptolemy I. Soter died in 283 at the age of 84. Shrewd and cautious, he had a compact and well-ordered realm to show at the end of fifty years of wars. His name for bonhomie and liberality attached the floating soldier-class of Macedonians and Greeks to his service. Nor did he neglect conciliation of the natives. He was a ready patron of letters, and the great library, which was Alexandria's glory, owed to him its inception. He wrote himself a history of Alexander's campaigns, distinguished by its straightforward honesty and sobriety.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)