General, Diadochos of Alexander the Great, Pharaoh of Egypt (c.367 BC – 282 BC)
Ptolemy was one of Alexander the Great’s most trusted generals and personal friends. He was the son of Lagos of Macedon, hence also being known as Ptolemy of Lagos. Others have claimed he was the illegitimate of son of king Philip of Macedon and therefore brother of Alexander. Following Alexander’s death, Ptolemy was one of Alexander’s Successors, the so called Diadochi, who became Pharaoh of Egypt and founded the Ptolemaic Dynasty, which ruled over Egypt for hundreds of years until its conquest by the Romans. His reign, which lasted a total of 23 years, was characterized by an unprecedented cutural and spiritual development of Egypt and the surrounding countries.
Serving as an Alexandrian General from the beginning of the campaign, Ptolemy partook in every single battle. He played a decisive role in the conquest of Sogdiana, fought against the satrap of Bactria Bessus, who was responsible for the assassination of Darius, and the Indian king Porus as well as fended off the Cossaei and the Oxydarks. His name Soter, meaning Saviour, is said to have been given to him during a battle with the latter, when Ptolemy rescued a severely wounded Alexander. Another possibility is when he helped the Rhodians during the siege of Demetrius.
As one of the Successors of Alexander the Great, Ptolemy was given Egypt to rule over, which he eventually expanded to include Syria and Cyrenaica. He moved the capitol to Alexandria and he heavily fortified with a powerful army of mercenaries and a navy. Alexandria became a significant commercial center of the Mediterranean, which Ptolemy ensured to decorate with palaces and public buildings of exceptional beauty, including the construction of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Numerous Greek cities were built while Greek became the official language spoken even by the peasants. Ptolemy’s respect for the religion of the Egyptian priests allowed them not only to rebuild their temples destroyed by the Persians, but also to practice it freely.
Thanks to Ptolemy Egypt was transformed into a Greek province. It flourished to such an extent that at that time, Egypt held the reins of the most culturally and inteletually advanced center in the world. He introduced the worship of Zeus Serapis “the healer” to Egypt by transferring the statue of Zeus Serapis from Sinope. He disseminated the Greek civilization to all of Egypt, cultivating the Greek letters and sciences, he himself devoting his time to writing books. Most importantly, Ptolemy constructed the first museum and the first library of Alexandria, which housed thousands of manuscripts of literature, science and theology from all over the world, making it the world’s first global archieve of knowledge. Ptolemy died in -282 and was succeeded by his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
- Plevris, Konstantinos. The King Alexander. Hilektron publications. Athens: 2015. Print.
- Ptolemy I Soter. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas I. Athens: 1946. Print.
- Wasson, Donald L. “Ptolemy I.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 03 Feb 2012. Web. 23 Dec 2019.