The Golden Age of Ptolemaic Egypt (332-14 BC)

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Incredible orange sunrise at the temple of Philae, a Graeco-Roman construction seen from the Nile river, a temple dedicated to Isis, goddess of love. (unai/Adobe Stock)

The Golden Age of Ptolemaic Egypt (332-14 BC)

Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BC and after his death, his empire was divided. In 305 BC Egypt fell to his general Ptolemy I Soter. The Ptolemaic Dynasty was a powerful Hellenistic state extending from southern Syria in the east, to Cyrene to the west, and south to the frontier with Nubia. Alexandria became the capital city and a center of Greek culture and trade. To gain recognition by the native Egyptian populace, the Ptolemy rulers named themselves as the successors to the pharaohs, took on Egyptian traditions, had themselves portrayed on public monuments in Egyptian style and dress, and participated in Egyptian religious life. The last ruler from the Ptolemaic Dynasty was Cleopatra VII. When Octavian – later Augustus – defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra, Egypt became a Roman province.

A Hellenistic bust depicting Ptolemy I Soter, third century BC, the Louvre, Paris (Public Domain) and a bust excavated at the Villa of the Papyri depicting Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who is believed to have been the one to establish the Library as an actual institution, although plans for it may have been developed by his father Ptolemy I Soter (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A Hellenistic bust depicting Ptolemy I Soter, third century BC, the Louvre, Paris (Public Domain) and a bust excavated at the Villa of the Papyri depicting Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who is believed to have been the one to establish the Library as an actual institution, although plans for it may have been developed by his father Ptolemy I Soter (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Rise of a Ptolemaic Empire

Alexandria was founded in 331 by Alexander the Great and the foundling city was expanded by Ptolemy Sorter, who established I as his capital and brought Alexander’s body to be entombed in the city, to add to its prestige. During his reign, Ptolemy I Soter expanded the holdings of Egypt, creating an extended empire that included Cypress and Cyrene. He opposed the King of the Seleucids for control of the Levant and battles were won and lost over the next 100 years.


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