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Rulers of the Ptolemies - from Alexander to Cleopatra

Cleopatra's Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt


Portrait of a Ptolemaic Ruler, perhaps Ptolemy Apion, king of Cyrene (d. 94 BC)

Portrait of a Ptolemaic Ruler, perhaps Ptolemy Apion, king of Cyrene (d. 94 BC)

Jastrow The Tower of Abusir - Lighthouse of Taposiris Magna

The Tower of Abusir - Lighthouse of Taposiris Magna

Gene Poole

The Ptolemies were the final dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, and their progenitor was a Greek by birth. The Ptolemies based the capital of their Egypt in Alexandria, a newly constructed port on the Mediterranean Sea. Ptolemy I achieved the rule of Egypt as one of Alexander the Great's generals. When Alexander (323-282 BC) died without heirs, his generals divided all of Alexander's territory among themselves. The first Ptolemy was one of those generals, who became satrap of Egypt in 305 BC.

Ptolemies and Alexander the Great

Ptolemy's portion of Alexander's rule included Egypt, Libya and the Sinai Peninsula, and he and his descendants would make up 13 rulers of Egypt and rule for close to 300 years. The famous Rosetta Stone, which proved to be the key to unlock the ancient Egyptian language, was carved in 196 BC, during the reign of Ptolemy V.

All of the Cleopatras of Egypt were members of the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty; and it was the famous Cleopatra VII Philopator (ruled 51-30 BC) who ended the dynasty by allying herself with the Roman Marc Anthony, committing suicide and turning over the keys of the Egyptian civilization to Augustus Caesar.

Alexander's Capital City

The modern city of Alexandria, Egypt, was not only named after Alexander, it was planned by Alexander himself and completed to at least some of his organizational directions. The main thoroughfare of the city is said to point to the rising sun, not on the day of the summer solstice (June 21), but rather on the birth date of Alexander, (about) July 20.

Dynastic Rulers

  • Ptolemy I (aka Ptolemy Soter), ruled 305-282 BC
  • Ptolemy II 284-246 BC
  • Ptolemy III Euergetes 246-221 BC
  • Ptolemy IV Philopator 221-204 BC
  • Ptolemy V Epiphanes 204-180 BC
  • Ptolemy VI Philometor 180-145 BC
  • Ptolemy VIII 170-163 BC
  • Euregetes II 145-116 BC
  • Ptolemy IX 116-107 BC
  • Ptolemy X Alexander I 107-88 BC
  • Soter II 88-80 BC
  • Berenike IV 58-55 BC
  • Ptolemy XII 80-51 BC
  • Ptolemy XIII Philopator 51-47 BC
  • Cleopatra VII Philopator 51-30 BC
  • Ptolemy XIV Philopator Philadelphos 47-44 BC
  • Ptolemy XV Caesar 44-30 BC

Ptolemaic Archaeological Sites


Chauveau, Michel (translated from the French by David Lorton). 2000. Egypt in the Age of Cleopatra: History and society under the Ptolemies. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.

This glossary entry is part of the About.com Guide to Ancient Egypt and the Dictionary of Archaeology.


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