Arsinoe II and her intrigues

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

Arsinoe II. was the daughter of Ptolemy I Soter and Berenice I. We don’t know the exact date of her birth, but she was surely born after 316 BC. She was married to the King of Thrace Lysimachus in 300 BC, who was much older then her (he was about sixty at the time of the marriage). The old King was willing to do anything for his beautiful wife – he gave her the cities of Heraclea, Theos, Amastris and Cassandreia. On the top of that, the wonderful city of Ephesus was temporarily named Arsinoea.

Ptolemy I. Soter Berenike I.
Ptolemy I. Soter
Berenike I.

Arsinoe bore three sons to the King of Thrace: Ptolemy, Lysimachus and Philip and it was at that time, when she started with intrigues. The main Arsinoe’s aim was to get the throne for one of her sons. But Lysimachus already had a successor – his son Agathocles from the first marriage. So Arsinoe made the King believe that his son plotted against him. Lysimachus came to believe it and let Agathocles executed in 284 BC. Thracian army suffered a crushing defeat from Syrian ruler Seleucus I Nicator three years later. Arsinoe rescued herself, when she fled to Cassandreia and married her half‑brother Ptolemy Keraunos, who promised to adopt her three sons.

The murder of her sons

The Ptolemy dynasty was a bloodthirsty dynasty and Ptolemy Keraunos wasn’t an exception. The moment he came to Cassandreia he let murder the sixteen-years-old Lysimachus and three years younger Philip. Ptolemy rescued himself, because he fled to Dardania in northern Greece. Also Arsinoe had to flee again – to the island Samothrace in Aegean Sea this time.

Arsinoe couldn’t come back to native Egypt until 279 BC, when her brother Ptolemy II Philadelphus came to the throne. His wife was Arsinoe I – the sister of deceased Lysimachus. Arsinoe II started to intrigue on the Pharaoh court immediately. She accused Arsinoe I of King’s murder preparation and so her sister-of-law was forced to leave to Coptos in 278 BC and Arsinoe II herself win favour with Ptolemy. He married her in 277 or 274 BC and because of this marriage he got the Philadelphus (loving sister).

Arsinoe II accomplish her goal

The Queen Arsinoe II didn’t stay in her husband’s shadow. She actively took part in most political decisions. She especially supported the hostility to Macedonia. She was deified even before her death and her cult merged with the one of Aphrodite. The date of her death was discovered on one stele – the month Pachon (March/April); the fifteenth year of Ptolemy II Philadelphus’ rule (so the year 271 or 270 BC).

Alexander the Great (of Macedon)

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

Alexander the Great was born in 356 BC in Pella, which was the capital of the kingdom of Macedon. His tutor was Aristotle. Alexander the Great came to the throne when he was twenty and he began conquering Asia as the ruler of Greece. During the ten years he built an empire that stretched from Macedonia to Egypt, Afghanistan and the Indus River.

In 330 BC Alexander the Great came to the throne of Egypt and he founded the city of Alexandria two years before, which became the seat of the Ptolemaic dynasty and the capital of Egypt later. Among the other things this city is famous for its beautiful lighthouse, on the top of which stood a statue of Zeus. The lighthouse guided seafarers of all the Mediterranean in the harbour.

Alexander’s campaign against the Persian Empire

Alexander the GreatAfter Alexander the Great strengthened his position in his native country, he set out a campaign in which he attained almost the entire known world of that time. Alexander set out in the spring of 334 BC. He had the army of 30,000 infantry, large numbers of light infantry, archers and 5,000 cavalrymen. His aim was to defeat the Persian Empire, which could easily stand over a million men on the field, though they were of less quality than the Macedonians.

The first issue Alexander had to solve was the overcoming of Hellespont, which was guarded by the Persian fleet. Luckily for the Macedonians they did not attack at all and let all the soldiers to sail the strait without losses. So Alexander left Europe then, which he was not meant to see again.

Troy - Dardanelles – battle of Granicus

First Alexander headed to Troy destructed ages ago, where he paid tribute to the Trojan heroes (Alexander loved Homer’s epics immensely). Alexander then set out to the north to Dardanelles and turned east there, where he won the battle of Granicus and defeated the Persian King Darius III for the first time. Battle of Granicus is described elsewhere in this site.

After this first battle from a long line of Alexander’s successful battles against the Persians, the Macedonians went to Sardis. Here the local Lydians opened the gates for him and also gave him municipal treasure of a significant price, which stove off Alexander's financial problems for some time. Like Sardis the Macedonians gained famous Ephesus as well, where local people lynched the Persian control of the city and opened the gates by the first mention of Alexander.

Alexander in Caria and Halicarnassus

Then Alexander moved on to Caria, where the expelled ruler Ada asked for help to recapture her rights. So Alexander went to the centre of the country, the city of Miletus. The commander of the city wanted to surrender at first, but then he found out about reinforcement on the way and entrenched himself. Alexander placed his fleet of 160 ships cleverly on very advantageous place and thus the delayed Persian fleet of 400 ships lost its advantage.

Parmenion, the highest commander of Alexander, urged to fight the battle on the sea, but Alexander refused and attacked the city. Parmenion hired there part of defeated defenders (it was pretty usual with Alexander, who admired bravery), dissolved his fleet, because he didn’t have money for it and set out to Halicarnassus. The city had considerable fortification and in addition one of its commanders was Memnon of Rhodes, the highest commander of the Greek mercenaries in Persian service, who was very capable.

Alexander prepared himself for a long siege. First he let fill the moat in front of the walls with soil to move his siege engines closer. Attacks of the garrison didn’t change anything, so the task was finished soon. Arrian writes that due to boastfulness of two Macedonian soldiers the city was almost conquered then, but the defenders stopped the improvised attack at last. However, the situation of Halicarnassus became critical. Alexander would conquer the city at the next attack, but he allegedly stopped his soldiers to prevent the destruction of the city and waited for the peace proposals. Instead, the Persian and Greek mercenaries set the city on fire and part of them escape, including Memnon. After the conquest Alexander let all the soldiers, who had married just before the campaign, take a holiday, which was both popular and beneficial.

Alexander in Babylonia

The way to Babylonia opened to Alexander, after the battle of Gaugamela, where Alexander defeated Darius III. definitively. Alexander took the opportunity and went with the whole army towards the city that had a strong fortification. But he didn’t use the army again, because the city surrendered without fight. Among other treasures Alexander also found the state treasury, thus he could present himself as a generous man and gave two extra pays to his soldiers, organized monumental games and stayed in Babylonia for over a month. Then Alexander came to Susa, where he found 40,000 talents of silver and the same amount of gold darics, which was tremendous fortune at that time. Alexander decided to go to Persepolis then. On the way he met with a first resistance since the battle of Gaugamela, but the local tribe was defeated.

Alexander met a crowd of thousands of Greek slaves from Asia Minor on his way to Persepolis, who escaped and went to meet their new ruler. All of them were crippled, mostly with cut off limbs, which they didn’t need for work. Alexander provided them and drew to Persepolis the next day, the ceremonial capital of the whole empire. Alexander sacrificed the city to his men. Darius spent the winter in Ekbatana in absolute calm and didn’t make any preparations for war, so Alexander could dare a trip to the tombstone of Cyrus the Great.

Everything head towards the last battle of Alexander the Great and Darius.

Alexander the Great x Darius III.

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

Persian King Darius III. was a great opponent of Alexander the Great on his campaigns. First they measured their forces in the Battle of Granicus. It was a crushing defeat for Darius III on the bank of this river. Alexander went to Sardis after this battle, won Ephesus without a fight and continued to Carie, where he conquered the city of Miletus.

From Granicus to Issus

Darius III.Persian King Darius III. finally resolved to take action then. Darius was 195 centimetres tall, which was unbelievable at that time. However, he was not a worthy opponent of Alexander, because he was indecisive and soft. After the defeat at Granicus it took Darius more than a year to rally troops and faced Alexander at a battlefield.

The battle of Issus took place, the Persians were mercilessly defeated again and Darius hardly fled. Alexander gained Darius’ royal carriage, clothes and weapons as well. Besides other things the booty also included Darius’ harem with the King’s mother Sisygambis. She became Alexander’s friend as the time went. The Macedonian King treated all Darius’ family very well in general.

After the battle, Alexander did not follow Darius to the centre of the empire, but he went southwards to Phoenicia, Judea and Egypt. Before, Darius had tried to buy his family out for a huge amount of money, but Alexander also wanted the Persian King to be his vassal. So Alexander went to the south.

Parmenion, who led separate army, gained Damascus. The Persian patricians as well as Darius, who drew into a battle, left their money to be „safe“ there. A great treasure fell into Alexander’s hands, much larger than that of Sardis. Sidon city in Phoenicia surrendered without a fight, but it was not the case of Tyre. This massive fort stood on the island and had many ships and people ready to defend the city.

Alexander’s conquering of Tyre

Alexander let build an earthwork to the island, on which Tyre was located. He compiled the fleet of 200 ships (120 from Cyprus, where the Persian domination was brought down recently). The Tyre fleet was closed in the harbour by this amount of ships and Alexander began the biggest siege he had ever done. He used resources from all Phoenicia, Cyprus and Greece as well. He bombed the walls from the ships and the Tyrians skilfully tried to stop them from moving and anchoring.

Finally Alexander got his ships up to the city and the barrage as well began to approach to the walls. Tyrians used incandescent sand at that time against the soldiers, who were dying in terrible pain and so further movement was slowed down. Finally, Tyros was conquered mainly from ships. After the siege 30,000 Tyrians were captured, 6,000 were killed and 2,000 were crucified. Alexander lost 400 men during this siege.

Alexander freed Egypt from the Persians

Darius sent Alexander another message, in which he offered ransom for his family – countries up to Euphrates, a treaty of alliance and hand of his daughter. But Alexander refused and continued to Egypt. The last place of resistance on Alexander’s way was fort Gaza, which was conveniently located. Gaza was captured after two months. However, Alexander was almost killed by a soldier, who had given up and then took a dagger out. Also Alexander’s shoulder injury from a crossbow showed to be serious. The Persian surrendered then and the Egyptians made Alexander their Pharaoh and saviour.

Alexander founded a great city and later centre of the country in Egypt, a harbour named after him, Alexandria. This city stayed the greatest of all numerous cities founded by Alexander the Great. Alexander also came to the Amun’s sanctuary in Siwa Oasis on western Egypt at the end of his Egyptian journey. Then he left the Greece world and set out towards.

Alexander was 25 in 331 BC and set out to the east from Mesopotamia to challenge Persia to a fight. Darius’ troops stood behind Tigris then. Darius sent some forces to stop Alexander by crossing the river, but Alexander deceived them, crossed the river and the Persians retreated without a fight. Alexander crossed Tigris, a very fierce river, without any loss – he stood two rows of cavalrymen into the river. The first row broke the stream and the second one saved the soldiers swept by water. Then Alexander himself crossed the river with infantry.

Soon after there was a lunar eclipse, which was a scary sign for people in ancient times. Alexander knew, how the lunar eclipse arises, however he calmed the soldiers down by soothsayers. Then the great battle of Gaugamela took place, where Alexander also won and beat Darius and his satraps definitively.

The Lost Tomb of Alexander the Great

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

No one today knows exactly where Alexander the Great was buried. He was only thirty years old, when he breathed his last at the night from 10th to 11th June. Alexander (a pupil of Aristotle) did not even set his successor before his death. His wife Roxana was only awaiting the birth of an heir, so general Perdiccas was established as a regent and Ptolemy (the future founder of Ptolemy dynasty) was assigned of ruling in Egypt.

The remains of Alexander were in a sarcophagus throughout the debate of the future ruler. The body (apparently fully intact) was embalmed the sixth say and placed in a golden sarcophagus. But another discussion broke out – who would lead the funeral ceremony and where would the ruler be buried. Perdiccas ordered to transport Alexander’s body to Aegae – an ancient Macedonian city, where also his parents were buried.

Alexander was buried in Egypt

The construction of burial carriage was being built for the whole two years. Then Alexander’s body finally left Babylon in 321 BC. But when the funeral procession got to Syria, Ptolemy directed it to Egypt. Just several questions emerge in this context. Was Alexander initially buried in Memphis (Mennefer) near the temple built by Nectanebo II and transferred to Alexandria few years later (maybe under the Ptolemy’s II rule)? Was he buried directly in the city, which he founded himself in 332 BC?

According to some evidence, one of the descendants of Ptolemy replaced the gold sarcophagus with a glass coffin. However, one employee of the Russian consulate claimed in 1850 that he saw through a hole in the door „a human body with a diadem on its head in a sort of glass cage“. And one correspondent of the Egyptian Institute noted in 1896 that each year there were reports every year „about the discovery of the alleged sarcophagus of the great conqueror in Egypt or Syria“.

Possible new lead

Alexander, the son of Amun and Egyptian King, let build a mortuary temple according to Pharaonic traditions in Siwa Oasis to the west of Alexandria. Everybody rejected the surmise nowadays that the body might be placed just there. But in 1995 Greek archaeologist Liana Souvaltzi did excavations in this area and announced that she discovered a tomb of a man called Alexander. It caused a long discussion. The result was that the permission for excavations was taken away from Souvaltzi and researches were interrupted. For now...

Message from the Nile

  • History of Czech institution of egyptology

    The Czech egyptology founder is Frantisek Lexa, the author of up to now evaluated work about ancient Egypt magic and Demotic grammar. Seminar for egyptology started thanks to him in Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of Charles University in Prague in 1925. Two years later Lexa became the first regular professor of egyptology in then Czechoslovakia.

  • Abusir - outstation of Czech egyptology expedition

    Abusir is an archaeological locality in Egypt named after nearby recent village Abusir. It is situated on western Nile bank on the edge of Libyan tableland approximately 20 kilometers to the south-west of Cairo. The name of this locality is derived from ancient Egypt god Osiris, from Per Usir (Busiris), "(cult) place of Osiris" (Busiris in Greek).

  • Researches in Western desert

    Czech egyptology is successful in researching not only on pyramidal fields in Abusir recently, but also in supporting and organizing smaller expeditions into egyptian Western desert. Czech expedition has been working even in slowly evanescent oasis El-Hajez since 2003, which is situated about 400 km to the south-west from Cairo.

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