Ptolemaic Dynasty Family Tree

Hi. My name is Jack Rackam, and today I will
attempt to trace the family tree of the Ptolemaic dynasty, from Alexander the Great’s general
Ptolemy I to Cleopatra VII. Now you’ll notice I said attempt to trace the family tree. You
may be familiar with the Habsburgs, whose long history of inbreeding resulted in rulers
with physical and mental disabilities and whose family tree resembled something more
of a tangled shrub. Well, as you can see the Ptolemies’ looks more like a bowl of spaghetti,
and just might be the most complicated family tree in history. (Music) We begin with the death of Alexander the Great,
who had conquered all of Greece, Egypt, and Persia, reaching as far as the Indus River.
He died without a clear successor, so there was a period of chaos following his death,
until eventually the empire settled into 4 major regions ruled by his generals who became
known as the diadochi. There was Cassander in Macedon, Lysimachus in Ionia (or modern
day Turkey), Seleucus in Persia, and Ptolemy in Egypt. If you’d like to know more about
Alexander’s conquest and the diadochi, I recommend you watch an earlier video on this
channel. Ptolemy I had been a close friend of Alexander,
and possibly even his half-brother, but it’s unclear whether or not that’s actually the
case or if it was a rumor perpetuated to grant legitimacy to the Ptolemaic dynasty. In either
case, Ptolemy I stole Alexander’s body and placed it in a tomb in Alexandria, which became
a famous landmark for several centuries. The Roman Emperors Augustus, Caligula, and Caracalla
all visited it, though today we’re not sure where it is despite many, many searches. Ptolemy I married the sister of Cassander,
named Eurydice, with whom he had five children, including Ptolemy Keraunos and Meleager, who
each briefly ruled Macedon. Later he married Berenice I, whose name would be carried down
by several women throughout the dynasty. They had a son named Ptolemy II who succeeded his
father in 282 BCE. He married Arsinoe, the daughter of Lysimachus,
whose empire wasn’t quite as long-lasting or powerful as the other Diadochi. At that
time Ptolemy II’s sister Arsinoe II was married to Lysimachus, so he was at one point
Ptolemy II’s father-in-law and brother-in-law at the same time. When Lysimachus died, however, Arsione II
married her half-brother Ptolemy Keraunos, until he died and she returned to Egypt. She
had Arsione I exiled and then married her brother Ptolemy II, though they did not have
any children together. They ruled jointly as co-monarchs, hence both of their faces
are present on this coin here. We know they expanded the Library of Alexandria, which
may have been founded in their reign or the foundations may have been laid in the reign
of Ptolemy I. We then move to Ptolemy III, who ruled at
the height of the dynasty’s power. He declared the first of many wars on Seleucid Persia,
and his campaign was successful but cut short due to rebellions within Egypt. He married
Berenice II, who was the ruling queen of a Greek colony in modern day Libya. It is believed
she favored her son Magas to inherit the kingdom, so his brother Ptolemy IV had him killed,
and he may have killed Berenice II as well. At this point the decline of the Ptolemaic
dynasty had begun. Egypt began to lose its power, as well as losing some territory to
a rebellion in the South. Meanwhile Ptolemy IV preferred to spend his money on luxuries
and gave up much of his power to his courtiers. He married his sister Arisinoe III and was
succeeded by his son Ptolemy V. Ptolemy V’s reign began under the regency
of the two courtiers who ran much of the kingdom during Ptolemy IV’s rule. When Ptolemy V
assumed power, he made a decree that was inscribed in Greek, Egyptian demotic script, and hieroglyphs.
It was discovered in 1799 and used to decipher hieroglyphs, after which it was placed on
public display in the British Museum and is today the museum’s most visited object.
You probably know it as the Rosetta Stone, named after the town where it was found. A few years into Ptolemy V’s reign, he lost
much of Egypt’s land in Asia Minor to the Seleucids, and as part of the peace deal arranged
by the Romans, he would marry Cleopatra I. Now this isn’t the Cleopatra you’re probably
familiar with, she’s technically Cleopatra VII. Which means that yes, there will be many
Cleopatras to come in a relatively short time. After Ptolemy V came Ptolemy VI, who was taken
under the wing of his Seleucid uncle Antiochus IV, who tried to use him to take over Egypt,
but that led to massive protests and so Antiochus chose to simply invade. All this instability
was bad news for Rome, since Egyptian grain exports were the backbone of Italy’s large
population. So when Ptolemy VI asked for help, Rome sent a representative to mediate. The
story goes the Roman envoy told Antiochus that the Senate demanded he leave Egypt immediately.
When Antiochus tried to stall for time, the envoy drew a circle around him in the sand
and told him that he needed to give an answer before leaving the circle or Rome would declare
war. Antiochus yielded, and thus we get one of the stories that explains where the term
“a line in the sand” comes from. Ptolemy VI later came into conflict with his
brother, Ptolemy VIII. First Ptolemy VIII took power, but he was expelled by the people
of Alexandria and Ptolemy VI was reinstated. Ptolemy VIII continued to launch attacks against
Egyptian Cyprus, with a great deal of support from Rome, but Ptolemy VI managed to repel
him. Eventually however, Ptolemy VI died, and though he wished for his son Ptolemy VII
to succeed him, Ptolemy VIII took power once again. Ptolemy VIII married his sister Cleopatra
II, and then also married the daughter she had with her other brother-husband Ptolemy
VI, and naturally that daughter’s name was Cleopatra III. Cleopatra II rebelled against
Ptolemy VIII in 131 BCE, but he quickly returned again. Cleopatra II ran away to live with
her daughter Cleopatra Thea, who, due to the complicated nature of this family tree, was
also her niece and sister-in-law. Cleopatra Thea had married into the Seleucid dynasty
and ruled on her own for a few years. But eventually Cleopatra II publicly made up with
Ptolemy VIII and went back to live with him in Egypt.
At this point the family tree becomes very, very complicated, with lots and lots of marriages
between siblings, with pharaohs sometimes having multiple wives and sometimes remarrying.
You can use the dates on the chart to follow who was in charge when, but the important
thing to know is that most of these reigns are very short. There was a lot of in-fighting,
and pharaohs often appealed to Rome for support, meaning they had to make more and more concessions
to win the Romans’ favor. At one point the pharaoh Ptolemy X was so
indebted to Rome that he had to offer all of Egypt as collateral. Rome didn’t take over
immediately, but did split up Egypt and Cyprus and install rulers in each as they saw fit. By the time we get to Cleopatra VII and her
brother Ptolemy XIII, the tree is so tangled that they only have a single pair of great-grandparents,
that being Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra III. Cleopatra VII and Ptolemy XIII were married
co-rulers, but there was tension between them as Cleopatra was doing most of the ruling
on her own. Ptolemy XIII wanted to usurp Cleopatra, and like many of his predecessors he wanted
Rome’s support. The only trouble was that Rome was in the middle of a civil war between
Julius Caesar and his rival Pompey. Although Pompey was more powerful in the East, and
is who Cleopatra originally wanted to ally herself with, Ptolemy XIII believed Caesar
would win. So when Pompey retreated to Egypt in 48 BCE, Ptolemy XIII betrayed him and cut
off his head to present to Caesar. Unfortunately for him, because of a variety
of reasons including Caesar’s public image, the fact that betrayal of hospitality was
considered one of the most evil acts a person could do, and perhaps his personal relationship
with Pompey, Caesar was furious. Cleopatra spotted an opportunity to make an alliance
with Caesar, and soon the two of them were close allies as well as lovers. Ptolemy XIII
was soon defeated and Cleopatra named her younger brother Ptolemy XIV as her new co-ruler
and husband, but this was in name only. She had a son with Caesar, named Ptolemy XV but
commonly known as Caesarion, whom she hoped would have a strong position in the Roman
Republic on top of becoming pharaoh of Egypt. Unfortunately, however, Caesar was killed,
and he was succeeded in most regards by his adopted son Octavian. Seeing Octavian as a
rival, she formed a new relationship with Mark Antony, with whom she had a daughter,
Cleopatra VIII. Mark Antony used his power in Rome to restore Egypt to its former glory,
granting Cleopatra territory akin to what the Ptolemaic dynasty had at its height, and
it seemed as though the two of them might have been able to expand their influence throughout
Rome and Persia. As it happened though, Antony and Octavian began another civil war, which
Octavian ultimately won. Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide and Caesarion was killed.
Her daughter Cleopatra VIII, however, was paraded through Rome but ultimately spared,
and married to the King of Numidia. All right, that was the Kings and Queens of
the Ptolemaic dynasty. Let us know if there’s an ancient dynasty you’d like us to cover
in the future, or if you know of any other royal families that might compare to this.
Thanks for watching.

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