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Berenice II [Source]

Berenice II (Βερενίκη Β'), was the daughter of Magas of Cyrene, and the wife of Ptolemy III Euergetes I, the third ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt. She was also reigning Queen of Pentapolis.

During her husband's absence on an expedition to Syria, she dedicated her hair to Venus for his safe return, and placed it in the temple of the goddess at Zephyrium. The hair having by some unknown means disappeared, Conon of Samos, explained the phenomenon in courtly phrase, by saying that it had been carried to the heavens and placed among the stars.

The name Coma Berenices or Berenice's hair, applied to a constellation, commemorates this incident. Callimachus celebrated the transformation in a poem, of which only a few lines remain, but there is a fine translation of it by Catullus. Soon after her husband's death (221 BC) she was murdered at the instigation of her son Ptolemy IV, with whom she was probably associated in the government.

The predecessor of the modern city Benghazi was refounded by her and received her name: Berenice.

Berenice II Dekadrachm, Berenice with diadem veil and necklace, Cornucopiae bound with fillet, in field 2 stars and E; around circle of dots: Text Basilissis Berenikes

Coma Berenices

Ptolemaic Queen of Egypt with Ptolemy III
Preceded by: Ptolemy III
Succeeded by: Ptolemy IV

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BERENICE'S HAIR, n. A constellation (Coma Berenices) named in honor of one who sacrificed her hair to save her husband.

Her locks an ancient lady gave
Her loving husband's life to save;
And men -- they honored so the dame --
Upon some stars bestowed her name.

But to our modern married fair,
Who'd give their lords to save their hair,
No stellar recognition's given.
There are not stars enough in heaven.
Ambrose Bierce, THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY


Part of this entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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