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Head of Ptolemy III

Head of Ptolemy III
© © BA Antiquities Museum/C. Gerigk


Greco-Roman Antiquities

Head of Ptolemy III

Category:
Sculpture in the round, heads / masks
Date:
Graeco-Roman Period, Ptolemaic Period (323-31 BCE)
Provenance:
Lower Egypt, Alexandria, El Shatby, Bibliotheca Alexandrina Site
Material(s):
Rock, limestone
Height:
25 cm;
Width:
13 cm;
Thickness:
12 cm
Hall:
Greco-Roman Antiquities


Description

Head of Ptolemy III Euergetes (the Beneficient), the oldest son of Ptolemy II from his wife Arsinoë I.  His facial features convey deep thought, as he inherited the grandeur of throne and the preoccupations of rule.

Ptolemy III

Ptolemy III succeeded his father on the throne of Egypt in January 246 B.C. He inherited the proclivity for study and knowledge from his father, while his mother spurred him on to be proud of himself.  He came to believe that he descended from Hercules on the side of the father and from the god Dionysus on the side his mother. His mother by adoption, Arsinoë II, also corroborated this story. 

Ptolemy III was a cultured ruler who loved the arts and humanities, being a student of the poet Apollonius of Rhodes and a friend of Eratosthenes, the Head of the Alexandrian Library. His love for the sciences explains his push to rectify the calendar to have a fixed point of reference. However, it was Julius Caesar who established the annual calendar along the lines known to us today.

Ptolemy was dubbed the 'Beneficient' by poets who lauded his good character and his benevolence towards his people, an attribute that was bestowed on the gods only.  He may well have been a Stoic .
The Egyptian priesthood also praised Ptolemy III for his good works, for bringing back to Egypt the statues of the gods that were stolen by Darius when he invaded Egypt, for pardoning prisoners and for renouncing the collection of unpaid debts, all acts that stem from a good character, purity of heart and his willingness to help the poor and the afflicted. 

There is no doubt that Ptolemy III left a legacy of religious monuments which clearly demonstrates that he encouraged the Greek and Egyptian priesthood alike. He showed an interest in Egyptian gods and their worship rituals. He also built the Serapeum, a temple for the worship of the god Serapis; the temple of Edfu, which he founded together with his wife Berenice II. That temple was only completed during the reign of Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos, known as the Flute Player (Auletes).
 
Ptolmey III's reign is considered the height of the Ptolemaic dynasty and territorial expansion reached its peak on fighting the Seleucids and the Babylonians and acquiring the cities in Trace and the Hellespont.

The minor and major arts during his reign are characterized by a great trend towards realism. This realism coincides with the leap that happened in the science of anatomy, which was following strict scientific rules.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

References
  • Zahi Hawass, ed., Bibliotheca Alexandrina: The Archaeology Museum (Cairo: The Supreme Council of Antiquities, 2002): 55-56.
  • Günther Hölbl, A History of Ptolemaic Empire, translated by Tina Saavedra (London: Routledge, 2001).
  • François Queyrel and Ahmed Abd El-Fattah, “Sculptures de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina”, in Alexandrina 2, edited by Jean-Yves Empereur, Études alexandrines 6 (Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 2002): 315-339.
  • Mona Serry, ed., Bibliotheca Alexandrina: Antiquities Museum, introduction by Ismail Serageldin (Alexandria: Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Antiquities Museum, 2015): 146-147, 323, 358.
  • Graham Speake, ed., “Ptolemy III”, in A Dictionary of Ancient History, Blackwell History Dictionaries (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1994).
  • هارولد إدريس بل، الهيلينية في مصر: بحث في وسائل انتشارها وعوامل اضمحلالها من الإسكندر الأكبر إلى الفتح العربي، ترجمة زكي علي (القاهرة: دار المعارف، 1959).
  • سليم حسن، موسوعة مصر القديمة، مج. 15، من أواخر عهد بطليموس الثاني إلى آخر عهد بطليموس الرابع (القاهرة: الهيئة المصرية العامة للكتاب، 1998).
  • إبراهيم نصحي، تاريخ مصر في عصر البطالمة، مج. 3 (القاهرة: مكتبة الأنجلو المصرية، 1976).
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