PTOLEMY V EPIPHANES
THE FIFTH KING OF EGYPT'S PTOLEMAIC PERIOD
BY JIMMY DUNN --
Ptolemy V Epiphanes ("manifest"), the fifth king of Egypt Ptolemaic Period began life precariously. His father, Ptolemy IV Philopator was
a weak king who died at the relatively young age of 41, after a dissolute life shrouded by controlling advisors. After his mother,
Arsinoe III's death at the hands of his father's advisers, Sosibius and Agathocles, these same people took custody of the child, who was
then only five years old. However, when the Alexandria mob found out about the murder of his mother, they lynched Agathocles (Sosibius
disappears from the record at about the time of his accession tot he throne) in about October of 203 BC, leaving him to be raised by one
ambitious adviser after another. This caused near anarchy, particularly in Upper Egypt. In fact, what Ptolemy V inherited from his father
was considerable trouble.
Also, Ptolemaic possessions and navel bases around the Mediterranean were shrinking as other rulers took advantage of Egypt's internal
weaknesses. Antiochus III almost certainly eyed the scene with uncommon interest, and in fact, frantic embassies were sent off in all
directions by Egypt. They urged Antiochus to respect the peace of 217 BC, and in Rome they sought diplomatic representations to
Antiochus. In Greece, they hired mercenaries to aid against the Seleucid threat.
Rome, which was becoming a world power at this point, did issue warnings to various powers about invading Egypt, including the Seleucid
ruler, Antiochus, which he accommodated because at that point he was not much interested in Egypt itself, but rather to subjugate Coele-
Syria and also to raid Egypt's coastal strongholds from Caria to Cilicia. In fact, Philip V of Macadon and Antiochus made a secret pact
to conquer, and share Ptolemy's overseas possessions between them.
Philip seized several islands and places in Caria and Thrace. Antiochus swept down through Coele-Syria in what is known as the Fifth
Syrian War (202-195) and, after some temporary reversals, particularly at Gaza, inflicted a crushing defeat on the Ptolemaic forces at
Panion in 200 BC, near the headwaters of the river Jordan. He took the Palestinian holdings of the Egyptians, including the key port of
Hence, the heir to the throne had little time to grow into a proper man. For almost his entire reign, Upper Egypt achieved total
independence under a series of native pharaohs, which also had the effect of depriving the king of a substantial proportion of his
revenues, besides necessitating an increased army of mercenaries to fend off the rebels. In an attempt to settle the civil problems, it
was decided to crown the young prince as he turned twelve, at the old capital of Memphis in about 197 BC. This was the first time that a
Ptolemy had been crowned in Memphis to our knowledge, but it did begin a tradition that would continue from then on. He took the
Egyptian name, Iwaennetjerwy-merwyitu Setepptah Userkare Sekhem-ankhamun, the same as his father, which means "Heir of the [two]
Beneficent Gods, Chosen of Ptah, Powerful is the Soul of Re, Living Image of Amun" Much of this is recorded in the decree of the priests
of Memphis in 196 BC, and inscribed in three scripts (hieroglyphs, demotic and Greek) on the famous Rosetta Stone found in 1799.
An uneasy peace with the Seleucid ruler followed when, in 192 BC, Ptolemy V married the daughter of Antiochus the Great. Her name was
Cleopatra (I), and she produced two sons and a daughter for the king. The sons became Ptolemy VI and perhaps Potlemy VIII, and the
daughter was presumably Cleopatra II. Additionally, there seems to have been marriage negotiations for him between the Egyptian and
Macedonian courts on his accession, though the identity of the Macedonian princess involved is unknown.
It is really difficult to assess what sort of man Ptolemy V Epiphanes became. He seems to have spent most of his reign putting out fires
of one sort or another. There seems to be some indications that he worked hard to portray himself as a traditional Egyptian king. At
Sehel island near Elephantine at Aswan, he had inscribed on a rock face, 2000 years after Djoser's death, a text which describes the
action taken by Djoser to deal with a famine during his reign. It reads:
"My heart was in sore distress, for the Nile had not risen for seven years. The grain was not abundant, the seeds were dried up,
everything that one had to eat was in pathetic quantities, each person was denied his harvest. Nobody could walk any more: children were
in tears; the young people were struck down; the old people's hearts were sad and their legs were bent when they sat on the ground, and
their hands were hidden away. Even the courtiers were going without, the temples were closed and the sanctuaries were covered in dust. In
short, everything in existence was afflicted."
In this text, Djoser looks back into the archives, attempting to find the origins of the Nile flood and to understand the role of Khnum,
the ram-god of Elephantine, in the rising of the waters. He then makes an offering to Khnum, and the god appears to him in a dream,
"I will cause the Nile to rise up for you. There will be no more years when the inundation fails to cover any area of land. The flowers
will sprout up, their stems bending with the weight of the pollen."
It is believed that Ptolemy V was no doubt actually referring to himself in the guise of Djoser, as he coped with the combined effects of
famine and the revolt of the successors of the Meroitic king Ergamenes in southern Egypt. It is likely that the Nubians from Meroe
participated in the Upper Egyptian revolt during his reign. Nevertheless, he apparently used considerable cruelty in suppressing the
native rebellion ,and some accounts represent him as a personal tyrant.
Otherwise, it is said that he was a remarkably passionate sportsman who excelled in athletic exercises. Very little is known about his
building activities in Egypt.
The elder of his sons by Cleopatra (1) would become Ptolemy VI Philometor. In fact, that happened all too soon as Ptolemy V Epiphanes
died, some say by poisoning, at the age of twenty-eight in about 181 BC. Prior to his death Ptolemy V had managed to put down the revolt
and take back southern Egypt from Ankhwennefer in about 191 BC and squash the last of the insurgencies in the Delta, which left a weaker
but stable regime in Egypt with Cleopatra I acting as the regent fro young Ptolemy VI Philometor.
Ptolemy V was presumably buried in Alexandria, though his tomb, like all the other Ptolemies, has never been discovered.
Ptolemy V Epiphanes (Greek: Πτολεμαῖος Ἐπιφανής, Ptolemaĩos Epiphanḗs, reigned 204–181 BCE), son of Ptolemy IV Philopator and
Arsinoe III of Egypt, was the 5th ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty. He became ruler at the age of five, and under a series of
regents the kingdom was paralyzed.
Regency infighting -
Ptolemy Epiphanes was only a small boy when his father, Ptolemy Philopator, died. The two leading favorites of Philopator,
Agathocles and Sosibius, fearing that Arsinoe would secure the regency had her murdered before she heard of her husband's
death, which secured the regency for themselves. In 202 BCE however Tlepolemus, the general in charge of Pelusium, put
himself at the head of a revolt. Once Epiphanes was in the hands of Tlepolemus he was persuaded to give a sign that the
killers of his mother should be killed. According to Bevan the child king's consent was given more from fear than anything
else and Agathocles along with several of his supporters being killed by the Alexandrian mob.
War with Egypt and Macedonia -
Antiochus III the Great and Philip V of Macedon made a pact to divide the Ptolemaic possessions overseas. Philip seized
several islands and places in Caria and Thrace, whilst the Battle of Panium (198 BCE) definitely transferred Coele-Syria,
including Judea, from the Ptolemies to the Seleucids.
Antiochus after this concluded peace, giving his own daughter Cleopatra I to Epiphanes to marry (193–192 BCE). Nevertheless,
when war broke out between Antiochus and Rome, Egypt ranged itself with the latter power. Epiphanes in manhood was remarkable
as a passionate sportsman; he excelled in athletic exercises and the chase.
Struggle against the Egyptian Revolt -
Great cruelty and treachery were displayed in the suppression of the native rebellion, and some accounts represent him as
personally tyrannical. In 197 BCE Lycopolis was held by the forces of Ankmachis, (also known as Chaonnophris) the
secessionist pharaoh of Upper Egypt, but was forced to withdraw to Thebes. The war between North and South continued until
185 BCE with the arrest of Ankmachis by Ptolemaic General Conanus.
In 183 BCE/184 BCE The rebels in Lower Egypt surrendered on the basis of terms that Epiphanes had given his personal to
honour. However, showing himself in the opinion of Bevan treacherous and vindictive he had them put to death in a cruel
The Rosetta Stone was a statement of thanks to the Egyptian priesthood for help during the crisis.
The elder of his two sons, Ptolemy VI Philometor (181–145 BCE), succeeded as an infant under the regency of his mother
Cleopatra the Syrian. Her death was followed by a rupture between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid courts, on the old question of