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Ptolemy IV

Octadrachm Ptolemy IV BM CMBMC33

Ptolemy (Ptolemaios) IV Philopator, (Πτολεμαίος Δ' Φιλοπάτωρ ) (Egyptian name “Iwaennetjerwy-menkhwy Setepptah Userkare Sekhemankhamun”)

Ptolemaic King of Egypt with Arsinoe III
Preceded by: Ptolemy III
Succeeded by: Ptolemy V

Under the reign of Ptolemy IV Philopator (reigned 221-204 BC), son of Ptolemy III and Berenice II of Egypt, the decline of the Ptolemaic kingdom began.

His reign was inaugurated by the murder of his mother, and he was always under the dominion of favourites, male and female, who indulged his vices and conducted the government as they pleased. Self-interest led his ministers to make serious preparations to meet the attacks of Antiochus III the Great on Palestine, and the great Egyptian victory of Raphia (217), at which Ptolemy himself was present, secured the kingdom for the remainder of his reign.

Ptolemy IV

Ptolemy IV and Arsinoe III crowing Homer, the kneeling figures represent the Iliad and the Odyssey. Right a figure called Mythos. Ptolemy and Arsinoe represent Chronos and Oikoumene.

The arming of Egyptians in this campaign had a disturbing effect upon the native population of Egypt, so that rebellions were continuous for the next thirty years. Philopator was devoted to orgiastic forms of religion and literary dilettantism. He built a temple to Homer and composed a tragedy, to which his vile favourite Agathocles added a commentary. He married (about 215) his sister Arsinoë III, but continued to be ruled by his mistress Agathoclea, sister of Agathocles.

Ptolemy IV is a major protagonist of the apocryphal 3 Maccabees, which describes purported events following the Battle of Raphia, in both Jerusalem and Alexandria.

Ptolemy is said to have built a giant ship known as the tessarakonteres ("forty"), a huge type of galley. The forty of its name may refer to its number of banks of oars. The only recorded instance of this type of vessel, in fact, is this showpiece galley built for Ptolemy IV, described by Callixenus of Rhodes, writing in the 3rd century BC, and by Athenaeus in the 2nd century AD. Plutarch also mentions that Ptolemy Philopater owned this immense vessel in his Life of Demetrios. The current theory is that Ptolemy's ship was an oversize catamaran galley, measuring 128 m 420 ft.

Ptolemy IV

Ptolemy IV

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