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Mid-nineteenth century reconstruction of Alexander's catafalque based on the description by Diodorus.

The Ptolemaic cult of Alexander the Great was an imperial cult in ancient Egypt during the Hellenistic period (323–31 BC), promoted by the Ptolemaic dynasty. The core of the cult was the worship of the deified conqueror-king Alexander the Great, which eventually formed the basis for the ruler cult of the Ptolemies themselves. The head priest of the imperial cult was the chief priest in the Ptolemaic Kingdom.


Following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the Macedonian Empire fell apart in the Wars of the Diadochi (his generals, the Diadochi or "Successors"). One of them, Ptolemy, son of Lagos, secured rule of Egypt and made it the base for his own imperial ambitions. To legitimize his rule as Ptolemy I Soter (r. 323–282 BC), he relied, like the other Diadochi, not only on the right of conquest, but also on the supposed legitimate succession of Alexander. Not only did Ptolemy I portray himself as Alexander's closest friend in his historical work, but in 321 BC, he seized his body while Alexander's funeral procession was on its way to Macedon from Babylon, and brought it to the Egyptian capital at Memphis. This claim was particularly useful in Egypt, where Alexander had been greeted as liberator from the Achaemenid Empire (the so-called 27th and 31st dynasties) and had been enthroned as Pharaoh and son of the Egyptian deity Ammon-Ra, receiving divine honours. During his stay in Egypt, Alexander had also laid the foundations for the city of Alexandria, which became the main Greek colony and capital of the country.

In the newly-established Ptolemaic Kingdom, the Hellenic element (the Macedonians and the other Greeks from the Hellenic city-states), to which the Ptolemaic dynasty itself belonged, formed the ruling class which succeeded the native Egyptian Pharaohs. While sacred kingship had long been practised in ancient Egypt and other ancient Near Eastern civilizations, it was almost unheard-of in the Greek world. Driven by his unprecedented conquests, in the last year of his life Alexander had demanded even from his Greek subjects to be treated as a living God (apotheōsis). This was accepted only reluctantly, and often rejected outright, by the Greek cities, but Alexander's prolific founding of cities alone secured for him a divine status there, since Greek cities traditionally rendered their founder (Greek: κτίστης, romanizedktistēs) divine honours. When Ptolemy took over Egypt, he incorporated the heritage of Alexander into his own propaganda to support the claims of his own dynasty. As part of this effort, Alexander was elevated from a simple patron god of Alexandria to the status of a state god for the Greek populations of the entire Ptolemaic empire, even beyond the confines of Egypt.

Alexander as the chief god of the Ptolemies

Alexander the Great, 3rd century BC statue in Istanbul Archaeological Museum, signed "Menas"

During the early Ptolemaic dynasty (c. 290 BC), Ptolemy I began the construction of the Tomb of Alexander the Great in Alexandria (the σῆμα, sēma), and appointed a priest (ἱερεύς, hiereus) to conduct religious rites there. This office quickly advanced to become the highest priesthood in the Ptolemaic Kingdom, its prominence underscored by its eponymous character, i.e., each regnal year was named after the incumbent priest, and documents, whether in Koine Greek or Demotic Egyptian, were dated after him. The first priest of Alexander was no less a figure than Ptolemy I's brother Menelaos. The tenure lasted one year, but under Ptolemy I, the priests apparently held the post for longer tenures, while under his successors, with few exceptions, the tenures were reduced to a single year.

Under Ptolemy II Philadelphus (r. 282–246 BC), Alexander's body was brought to the sēma, and, in contrast to the usual Greek custom of cremation, was entombed in a magnificent golden sarcophagus, which was eventually replaced by a transparent glass coffin to display his preserved body. Not only did the presence of Alexander's body in the Ptolemaic capital enhance the dynasty's prestige, but it also became one of the main attractions and pilgrimage sites in the ancient Mediterranean. Even Roman emperors made the journey to Alexandria to visit the great conqueror's tomb.

The Ptolemies assigned the deified Alexander a prominent place in the Greek pantheon, associating him with the Twelve Olympians like Zeus and Apollo. Accordingly, in documents Alexander was referred to simply by his name, as the epithet theos ("god") was regarded as superfluous.

The Ptolemies as temple-sharing gods

While Ptolemy I Soter founded the imperial cult of Alexander, his son and successor Ptolemy II completed its connection to the ruler cult around the reigning dynasty itself. The cult of the Ptolemies began in 283/2 BC, when the deceased parents of Ptolemy II were deified as the "Saviour Gods" (θεοὶ σωτῆρες, theoi sōtēres). Statues of the deified couple were installed in the Temple of Alexander, and the priest of the Alexander cult took over the rites for the deified Ptolemies as well. With this gesture, the Ptolemies underlined the superior position of Alexander, and their own subordination to him as "temple-sharing gods" (σύνναοι θεοί, synnanoi theoi). Alexander remained the main recipient of rituals and sacrifices, with the Ptolemies only partaking in them.

The elevation of Alexander over the Ptolemies, and their connection to him, was further deepened through the expansion of the cult. Thus in 269 BC, the female priestly office of "basket bearer" (kanēphóros) for the "Sibling Goddess" (thea adelphos) Arsinoe II was established, followed in 211 BC by the "prize-bearer" priestess (athlophoros) in honour of the "Benefactor Goddess" (thea euergetis), Berenice II, and in 199 BC by a priestess for the "Father-Loving Goddess" (thea philopatōr), Arsinoe III. All these priesthoods were subordinate to the priest of Alexander.

Cleopatra III added three further female priesthoods for her own personal cult as "Benefactor and Mother-Loving Goddess" (thea euergetis philometōr): the "sacred foal" (hieros pōlos), the "crown bearer" (stephanēphoros), and the "light bearer" (phōsphoros).

The concept of "temple-sharing gods" was underlined under Ptolemy IV Philopator (r. 221–204 BC), who transported the remains of the Ptolemies and their consorts—unlike Alexander, they had been cremated and kept in urns—to the sēma.

List of priests of Alexander

The most recent list is W. Clarysse - G. Van der Veken, The Eponymous Priests of Ptolemaic Egypt, Papyrologica Lugduono-batava 24 (1983).

Ptolemy I Soter (305–282 BC)

Main article: Ptolemy I Soter

Priest Tenure Regnal year References Comments
006 Menelaos, son of Lagos 285/284 BC 39th P. Hib. I 84a. Brother of Ptolemy I
4th tenure
007 Menelaos, son of Lagos 284/283 BC 40th P. Eleph. 2. 5th tenure
008 Eureas, son of Proitos 283/282 BC 41st P. Eleph. 3. Served for three tenures

Ptolemy II Philadelphos (285/282–246 BC)

Main article: Ptolemy II Philadelphos

Priest Tenure Regnal year References Comments
For the priests Nr. 9–16, from the 4th to the 11th regnal years of Ptolemy II Philadelphos, there exist two papyri with priest names, but which cannot be precisely dated.
? Athenaios or Limnaios, son of Apollonios ? ? P. Hib. I 97.
? Philiskos, son of Spoudaios ? ? P. Hib. I 30.
017 Leontiskos, son of Kallimedes 274/273 BC 12th P. Cair. Zen. I 59001.
P. Hib. I 110.
018 Nearchos or Neomedes, son of Neokles or Philokles 273/272 BC 13th P. Hib. I 110; II 199.
019 Kallikrates, son of Boiskos 272/271 BC 14th P. Hib. II 199.
PP VI 14607.
From Samos. First priest of Alexander and the deified Ptolemies (Theoi Adelphoi).
020 Patroklos, son of Patron 271/270 BC 15th P. Hib. II 199.
PP VI 15063.
Senior Ptolemaic commander in the Chremonidean War.
21 Archagathos son of Agathokles 270/269


16th P. Sorb. 3 70
23 Lykos son of Klesias 268/267 18th P. Sorb. 3 71
For the priests Nr. 21–25, from the 16th to the 20th regnal years of Ptolemy II, there are no extant records.
026 Timarchides, son of Asklepiodoros 265/264 BC 21st P. Strasb. V 641.
027 Pelops, son of Alexandros 264/263 BC 22nd P. Hib. I 92.
PP VI 14618.
From Macedon, father of Pelops
028 Kineas, son of Alketas 263/262 BC 23rd P. Hib. I 88; II 209.
PP VI 17215.
From Thessaly
029 Aristonikos, son of Perilaos 262/261 BC 24th P. Hib. I 85 und 190.
PP VI 14897.
030 Ptolemy, son of Aratokles 261/260 BC 25th P. Hib. I 143.
P. Osl. II 16.
PP III/IX 5236.
031 Taurinos, son of Alexandros 260/259 BC 26th BGU VI 1226. From Macedon, brother of Pelops
032 Medeios, son of Lampon (or Laagon) 259/258 BC 27th BGU VI 1227.
P. Petrie III 56b.
033 Antiphilos, son of Lykinos 258/257 BC 28th BGU VI 1228.
P. Hib. I 94.
034 Antiochos, son of Kebbas 257/256 BC 29th BGU VI 1229; X 1979, 1980.
P. Cair. Zen. I 59133.
P. Hib. I 95.
From Thessaly
035 ? 256/255 BC 30th
036 Glaukon, son of Eteokles 255/254 BC 31st PP IX 5203.
P. Cair. Zen. II 59173, 59182.
Brother of Chremonides from Athens
037 ? 254/253 BC 32nd
038 Aetos, son of Apollonios 253/252 BC 33rd P. Cair. Zen. II 59248.
PP IX 4988.
From Aspendos
039 Neoptolemos, son of Kraisis 252/251 BC 34th P. Hib. I 98. From Pisidia
040 Ptolemy, son of Andromachos 251/250 BC 35th P. Cair. Zen. II 59289. Possibly identical with Ptolemy Andromachou
041 Epainetos, son of Epainetos 250/249 BC 36th P. Cornell 2.
042 ? 249/248 BC 37th P. Cornell 2.
043 Antiochos, son of Kratidas 248/247 BC 38th PP III/IX 4999.
P. Petrie III 54a.
044 Tlepolemos, son of Artapates 247/246 BC 39th P. Cair. Zen. III 59340. From Xanthos

Ptolemy III Euergetes (246–222 BC)

Main article: Ptolemy III Euergetes

Priest Tenure Regnal year References Comments
044 Tlepolemos, son of Artapates 246/246 BC 1st
045 Tlepolemos, son of Artapates 246/245 BC 2nd P. Petrie III 43.
PSI IV 385.
2nd tenure
046 Archelaos, son of Damas 245/244 BC 3rd BGU X 1981.
P. Hib. I 145.
PP III/IX 5040.
047 Archelaos, son of Damas 244/243 BC 4th BGU X 1981.
P. Hib. I 145.
PP III/IX 5040.
2nd tenure
048 Aristobulos, son of Diodotos 243/242 BC 5th P. Hib. I 171.
PSI IV 389.
049 Tantalos, son of Kleonikos 242/241 BC 6th P. Petrie II 44 = III 54b.
050 Archibios, son of Pheidon 241/240 BC 7th P. Hausw. 2; 8; 9.
051 Onomastos, son of Pyrgon or Pyrrhon 240/239 BC 8th P. Hib. I 89; II 261, 262.
052 Apollonides, son of Moschion 239/238 BC 9th OGIS I 56.
053 Apollonides, son of Moschion 238/237 BC 10th P. Petrie IV 1. 2nd tenure
054 Seleukos 237/236 BC 11th P. Petrie III 58d.
055 Eukles, son of Eubatas 236/235 BC 12th BGU X 1982.
P. Petrie IV 16.
056 Sosibios, son of Dioskourides 235/234 BC 13th P. Petrie III 55a; IV 22.
PP VI 14631.
057 Hellanikos, son of Hellanikos (or Euphragoras?) 234/233 BC 14th P. Amsterdam inv. 250.
058 ?, son of Leon 233/232 BC 15th P. dem. Cair. II 30604.
059 Aristomachos, son of Timandros 232/231 BC 16th P. Hamb. inv. 676.
060 Menneas, son of Menoitios 231/230 BC 17th P. dem. Berl. 3089.
061 ? 230/229 BC 18th
062 Philon, son of Antipatros 229/228 BC 19th P. dem. Cair. II 31208; 31210.
063 Ikatidas, son of Ikatidas 228/227 BC 20th SB V 7631.
064 Galestes, son of Philistion 227/226 BC 21st P. Petrie III 21a–b.
SB III 6277; 6301.
P. dem. Cair. 30624.
065 Alexikrates, son of Theogenes 226/225 BC 22nd P. Petrie I 19; III 19c.
066 Ptolemy, son of Chrysermos 225/224 BC 23rd PP III/IX 5238; VI 14624.
067 Archeteas, son of Iasios 224/223 BC 24th P. Hamb. inv. I 24.
068 Dositheos, son of Drimylos 223/222 BC 25th CPJud. I 127d–e.
III Maccabees 1, 3.
Born a Jew
069 ? 222 BC 26th

Ptolemy IV Philopator (222–205 BC)

Main article: Ptolemy IV Philopator

Priest Tenure Regnal year References Comments
069 Nikanor, son of Bakchios 222/221 BC 1st BGU VI 1273; X 1983.
070 Pytheas, son of Apollodoros 221/220 BC 2nd P. Hausw. 16.
SB X 10450; XII 10859.
071 Demetrios, son of Apelles 220/219 BC 3rd BGU X 1984.
072 Demetrios, son of Apelles 219/218 BC 4th SB XII 11061.
073 Mnasiades, son of Polykrates 218/217 BC 5th BGU VI 1274. From Argos, father of Polykrates
074 Ptolemy, son of Aeropos 217/216 BC 6th PP III/IX 5239; VI 15168 und 15237. From Argos
075 Agathokles, son of Agathokles 216/215 BC 7th BGU VI 1262; X 1958; 1986.
076 Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy 215/214 BC 8th BGU VI 1264; 1275; 1276; 1277; 1278; X 1943; 1959; 1969.
077 Andronikos, son of Nikanor 214/213 BC 9th BGU X 1944; 1945; 1960; XIV 2397.
078 Pythangelos, son of Philokleitos 213/212 BC 10th BGU X 1946; 1947.
SB III 6289.
079 Eteoneus (?, son of Eteoneus?) 212/211 BC 11th BGU X 1963; 1965.
SB III 6288.
080 Eteoneus (?, son of Eteoneus?) 211/210 BC 12th P. dem. Berl. 3075.
081 Antiphilos, son of Agathanor 210/209 BC 13th P. BM Andrews 18.
082 Aiakides, son of Hieronymos 209/208 BC 14th P. Hausw. 14.
083 Demosthenes or Timosthenes, son of Kratinos 208/207 BC 15th P. BM Andrews 28.
084 ? 207/206 BC 16th
085 ? 206/205 BC 17th
086 Asklepiades, son of Asklepiades 205 BC 18th P. KölnÄgypt. 7.

Ptolemy V Epiphanes (205–180 BC)

Main article: Ptolemy V Epiphanes

Priest Tenure Regnal year References Comments
086 ? 205/204 BC 1st
087 Aristomenes, son of Menneas 204/203 BC 2nd P. dem. Cair. 30660, 30700. From Alyzeia
088 Satyros, son of Eumenes 203/202 BC 3rd PP III/IX 5263.
089 Adaios, son of Gorgias 202/201 BC 4th P. Tebt. III 820.
090 Pausanias, son of Demetrios 201/200 BC 5th P. Tebt. III 1003.
091 Andromachos, son of Lysimachos 200/199 BC 6th
092 Twnn, son of Ptolemy 199/198 BC 7th P. dem. Louvre 2435.
093 Demetrios, son of Sitalkes 198/197 BC 8th P. dem. Louvre 3266.
094 Aetos, son of Aetos 197/196 BC 9th Rosetta Stone = OGIS I 90.
095 Zoilos, son of Andros 196/195 BC 10th London, BM EA 10624, 10629.
096 Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy 195/194 BC 11th PP IX 5240a.
097 ? 194/193 BC 12th
098 ?, son of Eumelos 193/192 BC 13th P. Tebt. III 816.
099 Theon, son of Zenodotos 192/191 BC 14th BGU XIV 2388.
100 Antipatros, son of Dionysios 191/190 BC 15th London, BM EA 10560.
101 ? 190/189 BC 16th
102 ? 189/188 BC 17th
103 Charileos, son of Nymphion 188/187 BC 18th P. Mich. inv. 928.
104 Aristonikos, son of Aristonikos 187/186 BC 19th From Alexandria
105 Timotheos, son of Timotheos 186/185 BC 20th P. Mich. inv. 3156.
P. BM. Reich 10226.
106 Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy 185/184 BC 21st PP III/IX 5241, VI 14946.
107 Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy 184/183 BC 22nd PP III/IX 5241, VI 14946. 2nd tenure
108 Ptolemy, son of Pyrrhides 183/182 BC 23rd Stele 5576.
109 Hegesistratos, son of Hegesistratos 182/181 BC 24th P. BM Andrews 10.
110 ?, son of Zenodoros 181/180 BC 25th

Ptolemy VI Philometor (180–170 BC)

Main article: Ptolemy VI Philometor

Priest Tenure Regnal year References Comments
110 ? 181/180 BC 1st
111 Poseidonios, son of Poseidonios 180/179 BC 2nd P. Amh. II 42.
112 Philon, son of Kastor 179/178 BC 3rd P. dem. Cair. 30783, 30968. From Alexandria
113 ? 178/177 BC 4th
114 Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy 177/176 BC 5th London, BM EA 10518.
115 Ptolemy, son of Philokrates 176/175 BC 6th
116 Philostratos, son of Asklepiodotos 175/174 BC 7th P. Tebt. III 818, 979.
117 Herakleodoros, son of Apollophanes 174/173 BC 8th P. Amh. II 43.
118 Apollodoros, son of Zenon 173/172 BC 9th P. BM Siut 10594.
P. Mich. inv. 190.
119 Demetrios, son of Demokles 172/171 BC 10th P. Tebt. III 819.
120 Alexandros, son of Epikrates 171/170 BC 11th London, BM EA 10675.

Ptolemy VI Philometor / Ptolemy VIII Physcon / Cleopatra II (170–145 BC)

Main articles: Ptolemy VI Philometor, Ptolemy VIII Physcon, and Cleopatra II of Egypt

Priest Tenure Regnal year References Comments
121 Pyrrhos, son of Pyrrhos 170/169 BC 12th / 1st London, BM EA 10513.
122 ? 169/168 BC 13th / 2nd
123 ? 168/167 BC 14th / 3rd
124 ? 167/166 BC 15th / 4th
125 Melagkomas (son of Philodamos?) 166/165 BC 16th / 5th PP III/IX 5194. From Aetolia
126 Polykritos, son of Aristodemos 165/164 BC 17th / 6th
127 Herakleides or Herakleitos, son of Philoxenos 164/163 BC 18th / 7th
128 Isidotos, son of Theon or Thyion 163/162 BC 19th / 8th
129 ? 162/161 BC 20th / 9th
130 ? 161/160 BC 21st / 10th
131 ? 160/159 BC 22nd / 11th
132 ? 159/158 BC 23rd / 12th
133 Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy 158/157 BC 24th / 13th P. dem. Cair. 30606.
London, BM EA 10561, 10618.
Eldest son of Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra II
134 ? 157/156 BC 25th / 14th
135 Kaphisodoros, son of Kaphisodoros 156/155 BC 26th / 15th PP III/IX 5167.
136 ? 155/154 BC 27th / 16th
137 ? 154/153 BC 28th / 17th
138 Demetrios, son of Stratonikos 153/152 BC 29th / 18th
139 ? 152/151 BC 30th / 19th
140 ? 151/150 BC 31st / 20th
141 Epitychos or Epidikos 150/149 BC 32nd / 21st London, BM EA 10620.
142 ? 149/148 BC 33rd / 22nd
143 Kallikles, son of Diokrates or Theokrates 148/147 BC 34th / 23rd P. dem. Cair. 31179.
144 ?, son of Zoilos 147/146 BC 35th / 24th London, BM EA 10620(b).
145 Tyiywns, son of Xanthippos 146/145 BC 36th / 25th P. dem. Cair. 30605.

Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II / Cleopatra II (145–141 BC)

Main articles: Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra II

Priest Tenure Regnal year References Comments
145 Tyiywns, son of Xanthippos 145 BC 25th P. dem. Cair. 30605.
146 ? 145/144 BC 26th
147 Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy 144/143 BC 27th P. Köln VIII 350. Second son of Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra II, who according to older research reigned briefly as Ptolemy VII in 145 BC.
148 ? 143/142 BC 28th
149 ? 142/141 BC 29th

Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II / Cleopatra II / Cleopatra III (141–116 BC)

Main articles: Ptolemy VIII, Cleopatra II, and Cleopatra III

Priest Tenure Regnal year References Comments
150 ? 141/140 BC 30th
151 (- -) son of Phaunikos 140/139 BC 31st P. Freib. ined. 76 xv
152 ? 139/148 BC 32nd
153 Dionysios, son of Demetrios 138/137 BC 33rd P. dem. Cair. 30619.
154 ? 137/136 BC 34th
155 Antipatros, son of Ammonios 136/135 BC 35th P. Tebt. III 810.
156 Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy 135/134 BC 36th P. Tebt. III 810. Son of Ptolemy VIII, probably Ptolemy Memphites or possibly Ptolemy IX
157 Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy and Cleopatra 134/13 BC 37th P. Dem. Tebt. 5944 Son of Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra III, probably Ptolemy IX or possibly Ptolemy X
For the priests Nr. 158–171, from the 38th to 50th regnal years of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II, there are no extant records.
172 Apollonios, son of Eirenaios 120/119 BC 51st London, BM EA 10398.
173 Ptolemy, son of Kastor 119/118 BC 52nd PP III/IX 5251.
P. Hamb. inv. 12.
174 ? 118/117 BC 53rd
175 ? 117/116 BC 54th

Cleopatra III / Ptolemy IX Soter II (116–107 BC)

Main articles: Cleopatra III and Ptolemy IX

Priest Tenure Regnal year References Comments
? 116 BC 1st
Ptolemy IX Philometor Soter 116/115 BC 2nd P. dem. Cair. 30602; 30603.
Ptolemy IX Theos Philometor Soter 115/114 BC 3rd P. Genf. I, 25.
P. Strasb. 81, 83, 84.
Ptolemy IX Theos Philometor Soter 114/113 BC 4th P. Genf. II, 20.
P. Strasb. 85.
BGU 944.
Ptolemy IX Theos Philometor Soter 113/112 BC 5th P. Lond. III 1204.
Artemidor, son of Sation
Ptolemy IX Theos Philometor Soter
112/111 BC 6th P. Strasb. 86. Artemidor occupied the office in the first months of the regnal year. Probably a supporter of Cleopatra III.
Ptolemy IX Theos Philometor Soter 111/110 BC 7th ?
Ptolemy IX Theos Philometor Soter 110/109 BC 8th BGU III 995.
Ptolemy IX Theos Philometor Soter 109/108 BC 9th P. Lond. III 881.
Ptolemy IX Theos Philometor Soter 108/107 BC 10th ?
Ptolemy IX Theos Philometor Soter 107 BC 11th BGU III 996.

Cleopatra III / Ptolemy X Alexander I (107–101/88 BC)

Main articles: Cleopatra III and Ptolemy X

Priest Tenure Regnal year References Comments
Ptolemy X Theos Neos Alexandros 107/106 BC 11th / 8th P. Bruxelles inv. E. 7155, 7156A.
Ptolemy X Theos Neos Alexandros 106/105 BC 12th / 9th P. Tebt. I 166.
Cleopatra III Thea Euergetis Philometor 105/104 BC 13th / 10th P. Köln II 81.

Union of the priesthood to the royal title

Ptolemy, son of Castor, is the last priest of Alexander known by name, before the position was merged into the royal office. Since the priesthood of Alexander is first attested in the royal titulature in the second year of the joint reign of Ptolemy IX and Cleopatra III (116/115 BC), it is unclear whether the merge of the offices took place in the last two years of Ptolemy VII's rule, or with the accession of his successors. It is possible that the merger was done at the initiative of Ptolemy IX, as part of an effort to emphasize his precedence over his co-ruling mother, Cleopatra III. As such, the office changed its role and character, from an eponymous priesthood to a propaganda tool: unlike the royal office, which was increasingly shared among siblings or other family members from the early 2nd century BC on, the priesthood of Alexander was indivisible. This must have appealed to Ptolemy IX, eager to set himself apart from his mother, who he hated and who had begun her own priestly cult around her own person.

This new role of the priesthood of Alexander can be traced in later reigns as well. In the first months of 112/111 BC, an ordinary citizen, Artemidorus, occupied the office. He was probably a partisan of Cleopatra III, who had succeeded to temporarily evict her son from Alexandria. As women could not occupy a supreme priesthood in the Greek world, she had to content herself with placing one of her supporters in the post, as a public sign of her new dominance. After Artemidorus, however, the name of Ptolemy IX was subsequently added in the papyrus, which means that he managed to return to Alexandria in the same year.

In 107 BC, Cleopatra III managed to expel Ptolemy IX for good from Alexandria, and raised her second son, Ptolemy X, to the throne as her co-ruler and priest of Alexander. As the inter-dynastic rivalry continued, however, in 105 BC she finally decided to assume the priesthood herself, to underline her precedence. Cleopatra probably intended this arrangement to be permanent, but her blatant violation of Greek norms in assuming the priesthood must have damaged her image among the Greeks. The last years of her reign were taken up with her persistent conflict with Ptolemy IX, until she died in 101 BC, probably following an assassination attempt by Ptolemy IX, whereupon Ptolemy X became sole ruler. The priestly and royal offices remained united under Ptolemy X and his successors, although the priestly title was rarely mentioned in the papyri, as the loss of its eponymous character rendered it irrelevant for dating purposes.


See also


  • Walter Otto: priest und Tempel im hellenistischen Aegypten. Vol. I, Teubner, Leipzig 1905, OCLC 310121616.
  • Lily Ross Taylor: The cult of Alexander in Alexandria. In: Classic Philology. Vol. 22, 1927, pp. 162–169.
  • S. R. K. Glanville, T. C. Skeat: Eponymous Priesthoods of Alexandria from 211 B.C. In: The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology. Vol. 40, 1954, pp. 45–58.
  • J. IJsewijn: De sacerdotibus sacerdotiisque Alexandri Magni et Lagidarum eponymis. Brussels 1961, OCLC 3747093.
  • L. Koenen: Cleopatra III als priestin des Alexanderkultes (P. Colon. inv. nr. 5063). In: Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik. Vol. 5 (1970), pp. 61–84.
  • W. Clarysse, G. van der Veken: The Eponymous Priests of Ptolemaic Egypt. Brill, Leiden 1983, ISBN 90-04-06879-1.