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The Ptolemaic dynasty, also known as the Lagids or Lagidae, was a royal family from Macedonia that ruled over Egypt. Their rule lasted for 275 years, from 305 BC to 30 BC, and they were the last Ancient Egyptian dynasty.
See the fact file below for more information on the Ptolemaic Empire or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Ptolemaic Empire worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- For nearly three centuries (305-30 BC), the Ptolemaic dynasty ruled Egypt, following Alexander the Great’s death. Ptolemy declared himself pharaoh Ptolemy I Soter and established the Ptolemaic dynasty.
- In their time, Egypt became the center of an empire from Libya to Syria, and from Sudan to the Aegean Sea.
- They controlled the Aegean islands, Cyprus, parts of Anatolia and Thrace (Turkey), and Crete.
- The Ptolemys coexisted as both Egyptian Pharaohs and Greek monarchs. They remained completely Greek, in language and traditions. Cleopatra VII, a Macedonian and the last Ptolemaic queen (l. c. 69-30 BC), was the only Ptolemy to learn to speak Egyptian for her people.
- One of the most unique and often misunderstood aspects of the Ptolemaic dynasty is how and why it never became Egyptian.
- This is because there were no outside marriages in their family; brother married sister or uncle married niece.
- This unique trait was preserved by intermarriage. Ten out of 15 Ptolemaic marriages were between brother and sister, while 2 were with a niece or cousin. This inbreeding was intended to strengthen the family; it concentrated wealth and power.
- Aside from the Ptolemies, only those of Greek lineage (ancestry) could have administrative positions in the government and the society of the empire. The Egyptians who actually belonged to the land held lower roles. Even with this governance, the Ptolemies did not try to make Egyptians change their own culture; they even sponsored temples to Egyptian gods and priests.
PTOLEMY I SOTER (Savior)
- Ptolemy I was a Macedonian nobleman and the son of Lagos and Arsinoe. He was a childhood friend of Alexander, who became his bodyguard and official taster.
- After Alexander’s death, he led a campaign to divide the partition of Babylon among the generals. He then received Egypt.
- Unfortunately, though Egypt may have been granted to Ptolemy by partition, Perdiccas, the successor of Alexander, did not trust Ptolemy, so he appointed Cleomenes of Naucratis as the finance minister of Egyptian to watch him. Ptolemy realized Perdiccas’ plan so he had to save himself from Cleomenes and executed him.
- With Cleomenes gone, he ruled on his own without anyone watching him. During the four-decade rule of Egypt, Ptolemy put the country on a sound economic and administrative basis.
PTOLEMY II PHILADELPHUS
- Ptolemy I died in 282 BC and appointed his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus (Sister-loving) as his successor (308-246 BC).
- From 285 BC, the younger Ptolemy served with his father as co-regent.
- Ptolemy II married the daughter of the Thracian regent/king Lysimachus, Arsinoe I. Lysimachus had preferred to marry Arsinoe II, the daughter of Ptolemy I and his mistress Berenice, around 300 BC for alliance purposes, after the death of his first wife. This was a marriage that he would regret.
- Arsinoe II persuaded her husband to kill his eldest son (by his first marriage) and heir on the trumped-up charges of treason for reasons unexplained – presumably to win Thrace’s throne for her own offspring.
- The famous young commander’s murder triggered an uprising among many of his fellow officers.
- Ptolemy II reportedly was one of Egypt’s last great pharaohs. Many of those who followed did not reinforce Egypt internally as well as externally. It was normal to have envy and war.
- Ptolemy III Euergetes (Benefactor) (284-221 BC) came to the throne after his father’s death in 246 BC. He married Berenice II, from Cyrene’s Greek region. Ptolemy IV was among their six children, and a princess also called Berenice.
- The sudden death of the princess brought about the Decree of Canopus (238 BC) which honored her as a goddess, among other proclamations.
- One notable proposal made in the declaration was for a new calendar, one that included 365 days every four years and one additional day but was not adopted.
- Ptolemy III invaded Syria in 246 BC, to assist the husband of his sister, Antiochus II, in the Third Syrian War against Seleucus II. However, they only acquired towns in Syria and Asia Minor.
- In 221 BC, his successor and son Ptolemy IV Philopator (Father-loving) (244-205 BC) arrived on the Egyptian throne. In 217 BC, he married his sister Arsinoe III, in accordance with family custom. He achieved a slight degree of success against Antiochus III in the Fourth Syrian War (219-217 BC).
- Ptolemy V Epiphanes (Made-Manifest) (210-180 BC) was the son of Ptolemy IV and Arsinoe III, and inherited the throne as a young child because of the sudden death of his mother. In 193 BC, he was married the Seleucid queen Cleopatra I. Unfortunately, his ascension was followed by war and revolt by Seleucid and Macedonian kings seeking to conquer Egyptian lands.
- Egypt lost important territories in the Aegean and Asia Minor, including Palestine during the Battle of Panium in 200 BC.
- Dissidence erupted in the Egyptian city of Thebes in 206 BC, and it remained twenty years outside of Ptolemaic influence.
- Nothing is known of the reign or person known as Ptolemy VII or whether he really ever even reigned, but Ptolemy VIII, Ptolemy VI’s younger brother, stepped onto the throne in 145 BC.
- He married Cleopatra II, his brother’s widow, in true Ptolemaic fashion, only to replace her with her aunt, Cleopatra III, his niece.
- A civil war ravaged Egypt from 132 BC to 124 BC. It destroyed the capital city of Alexandria, which happened to despise Ptolemy VIII.
- However, this was not surprising because there was little affection between the people of the city and the royal family.
- This deep indignation culminated in extreme repression and expulsion for the town’s inhabitants. In 118 BC, an amnesty was eventually achieved.
- His eldest son succeeded Ptolemy VIII in 116 BC. Previously identified as Lathyrus (Chickpea), he was Ptolemy IX Soter II (Savior) (142-80 BCE).
- Unlike many of his predecessors, he married two of his sisters, Cleopatra IV, Berenice IV’s mother, and Cleopatra V Serene who had given him two sons.
- The Ptolemaic Dynasty was ended by grain. By the time Julius Caesar came to power, Egypt had become one of Rome’s main suppliers of grain.
- The Ptolemaic rule may have ended, but the centrality of Egypt to networks of long-distance trade only increased as it was absorbed into the Roman Empire.
Ptolemaic Empire Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Ptolemaic Empire across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Ptolemaic Empire worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Ptolemaic dynasty, also known as the Lagids or Lagidae, which was a royal family from Macedonia that ruled over Egypt. Their rule lasted for 275 years, from 305 BC to 30 BC, and they were the last Ancient Egyptian dynasty.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Ptolemaic Empire Facts
- Pressed for Words
- 5 Truths, 3 Rumors
- Ptolemy I
- The Wars
- Word Bank
- Ancient Wonder
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Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.