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Ptolemy Philadelphus

Ptolemy Philadelphus



Ptolemy PhiladelphusPtolemy II., king of Egypt,surnamed Philadelphus, is deservedly celebrated as a patron of literature and science, and the founder of the great library of Alexandria. He was a son of ptolemy Soter and Berenice, and was born in the island of Cos, in 309 B.C. He was liberally educated; but little is known respecting his youth and his actions before his ascension to the throne. He inherited his father's love of literature and genius for administration, but not his military ability. In 285 B. C. he was associated with his father in the kingdom, and he became sole king of Egypt on the death of his father, in 283.


Our historical information of his reign is scanty. His first wife was Arsinoe, a daughter of Lysimachus. His foreign policy was essentially pacific. His attention was mainly directed to the internal administration and improvement of the kingdom, the promotion of commerce, and the patronage of literature and science. His dominions included Egypt, Cyprus, Phrenicia, Ceeie-Syria, Caria, Lycia, and parts of Arabia and Ethiopia. His capital, Alexandria, was the greatest commercial city of the world. During his long reign Egypt was prosperous and powerful, and the revenue was in a flourishing condition. To him belongs the credit of developing to the funniest extent the commercial advantages which the position of Egypt throws open to her, and of bringing by these means her material prosperity to its culminating point. He reopened the canal which connected the Red Sea with the Nile which had first been opened by Rameses, and he founded the city of Arsinoe, all the site of the modern Suez. He built on the African coast of the Red Sea the city of Berenice, and he opened a high-road from that city to Coptos all the Nile. The merchandise of India, Arabia and Ethiopia, for several centuries, came to Europe by this route. With his 1,500 ships of war Philadelphus kept a powerful fleet in the Mediterranean and another in the Red Sea.


His character was infected with serious faults. Soon after his ascension he put to death two of his brothers; find he banished Demetrius Phalereus because he had advised Ptolemy Soter not to disinherit his eldest son. He divorced his first wife, and, adopting the incestuous practice of the Persian kings, married his own sister, Arsinoc, for whom he erected a magnificent monument at Alexandria. It is supposed that His surname, Philadelphus, was given an account of his love for his sister.


About 274 B.C., Ptolemy have a treaty of alliance with the Romans, and he continued to be friendly to them during the first Punic War. His half-brother, :Magas, who ruled over Cyrene, revolted against Ptolemy, asserted his independence, and in 266 B.C. attempted to invade Egypt. Soon after Magas reached the frau tier of Egypt, a revolt of all African tribe recalled him. A few years later Ptolemy recognized the independence of Magac;, whose daughter Berenice was betrothed to Ptolemy's son. He was involved in a war against Antiochus II., king of Syria, and his son, Antiochus H. Hostilities were often suspended and renewed without any important battle; and the war was ended by a treaty in 249 B. C., when Antiochus U. married Berenice, a daughter of Ptolemy.


The fame of Ptolemy II. depends less on his military exploits and his talents for administration, than on his patronage of literature, science and art, in which respect he surpassed his father. He founded at Alexandria a great library, and a literary institution caned the Museum, in which many philosophers and scholars lived and studied. His library was the largest and most celebrated library of antiquity. The Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek by his command at his expense. According to tradition, this translation was made by seventy or rather seventy two learned Jews, and therefore is called the Septuagiut. Learned men were invited to his court from foreign countries. Among the most eminent men in the court of Philadelphus were the poets Callimachus and Theocritus, the philosopher Hegesias, Euclid the geometer, and Aratus the astronomer. He patronized painting and sculpture, and adorned his capital with several magnificent buildings. He died in 247 B.C. leaving I.he throne to his sonl, Ptolemy III.




Demetrius Phalereus, who was library.keeper to the king, was now endeavoring, if it were possible, to gather together all the books that were in the habitable earth, and buying what. soever was anywhere valuable, or agreeable to the king's inclination who was very earnestly set upon collecting of books, to which inclination of his Demetrius was zealously subservient. When once Ptolemy asked him how many thousands of books he had collected, he replied that he had already about 200,000; but that in a little time he should have 500,000. He said he had been informed that there were many books of law among the Jews worthy of inquiring after and worthy of the king's library, but which, being written in characters and in a dialect of their own, caused difficulty in getting them translated into the Greek tongue; that the character in which they are written seems to be like the proper character of the Syrians, and that its sound when pronounced, is like theirs also; and that this sound appears to be peculiar to themselves. Wherefore he said that nothing hindered why they might not get those books to be translated also; for while nothing is wanting that is necessary for that purpose, we may have their books also in this library. So the king thought that Demetrius was very zealous to procure him abundance of books and that what he suggested was exceeding proper for him to do; and therefore he wrote to the Jewish high priest that he should act accordingly.


Now there was one Aristeus, who was among the king's most intimate friends, and all account of his modesty very acceptable to him. This Aristeus had resolved frequently to petition the king that he would set all the captive Jews in his kingdom free j and he thought this to be a convenient opportunity for the making that petition. So he discoursed, in the first place, with the captains of the king's guards, Sosibius of Tarentum, and Andreas, and persuaded them to assist him in what he was going to intercede with the king for. Accordingly Aristeus went to the king and made the following speech to him: It is not fit for us, O king, to overlook things hastily or to deceive ourselves, but to lay the truth open for since we have determined not only to get the laws of the Jews transcribed, but interpreted also, for thy satisfaction, by what means can we do this, while so many of the Jews are now slaves in thy kingdom? Do thou then what will be agreeable to thy magnanimity and to thy good nature: free them from the miserable condition they are in, because that God who supporteth thy kir.gdom was the author of their laws, as I have learned by particular inquiry; for both these people and we also worship the same God, the framer of all things. Wherefore do thou restore these men to their own country, and this do to the honor of God, because these men pay a peculiarly excellent worship to him. And know this further, that though I be not of kin to them by birth, nor one of the same country with them, yet do I desire these favors to be done them, since all men are the workmanship of God and I am sensible that he is well pleased with those that do good. I do therefore put up this petition to thee, to do good to them."


When Aristeus was saying thus, the king looked upon him with a cheerful and joyful countenance, and said: " How many thousands dost thou suppose there are of such as want to be made free?" To which Andreas replied, as he stood by, and said: I A few more than a hundred thousand." The king made answer: And is this a small gift that thou askest, Aristeus?" But Sosibius, and the rest that stood by, said that he ought to offer such a thank-offering as was worthy of his greatness of soul to that God who had given him his kingdom. With this answer he was much pleased, and gave order that when they paid the soldiers their wages, they should lay down a hundred and twenty drachlmae for every one of the slaves. And he promised to publish a decree about what they requested, which should confirm what Aristeus had proposed, and especially what God willed should be done whereby he said he would not only set those free who had been led away captive by his father and his army, but those who were in this kingdom before, and those also, if any such there were, who had been brought away since. And when they said that their redemption money would amount to above four hundred talents, he granted it.


When this had been done after so magnificent a manner, according to the king's inclinations, he gave order to Demetrius to give him in writing his sentiments concerning the transcribing of the Jewish books for no part of the administration is done rashly by these kings, but all things are managed with great circumspection. The copy of the epistle was to this purpose: "Demetrius to the Great King. Since thou, O king, gravest me a charge concerning the collection of books that were wanting to fill your library, and concerning the care that ought to be taken about such as are imperfect, I have used the utmost diligence about those matters. And I let you know that we want the hooks of the Jewish legislation, with some others for they are written in the Hebrew characters, and being in the language of that nation, are to his unknown. It hath also happened to them that they have been transcribed more carelessly than they ought to have been, because they have not had hitherto royal care taken about them. Now it is necessary that thou shouldst have accurate copies of them. This legislation is full of hidden wisdom, and entirely blameless, as being the legislation of God for which cause it is, as Hecateus of Abdera says, that the poets and historians make no mention of it, nor of those men who lead their lives according to it, since it is a holy law, and ought not to be published by profane mouths. If, then, it please thee, O king, thou mayst write to the high priest of the Jews to send six of the elders out of every tribe, and those such as are most skillful of the laws, that by their means we may learn the clear and agreeing sense of these books, and may obtain all accurate interpretation of their contents, and so may have such a collection of these as may be suitable to thy desire.


When this epistle was sent to the king, he commanded that an epistle should be drawn up for Eleazar, the Jewish high priest, concerning these matters and that they should inform him of the release of the Jews that had been in slavery among them. He also sent fifty talents of gold for the making of large basons, and vials, and cups, and an immense quantity of precious stones. He also gave order to those who had the custody of the chest that contained those stones to give the artificers leave to choose out what sorts of them they pleased. He withal appointed that a hundred talents in money should be sent to the temple for sacrifices and for other uses.


The epistle was as follows: "King Ptolemy to Eleazar, the high priest, sendeth greeting. There are many Jews who now dwell in my kingdom whom the Persians, when they were in power, carried captive. These were honored by my father some of them he placed in the army and gave them greater pay than ordinary to others of them, when they came with him into Egypt, he committed his garrisons and the guarding of them, that they might be a terror to the Egyptians. And when I had taken the government, I treated all men with humanity, and especially those that are thy fellow-citizens, of whom I have set free above a hundred thousand that were slaves, and paid the price of their redemption to their masters out of my own revenues i and those that are of 3. fit age I have admitted into the number of my soldiers. And for such as are capable of being faithful to me, and proper for my court, I have put them in such a post, thinking this kindness done to them to be a very great and an acceptable gift, which I devote to God for his providence over me. And as I am desirous to do wl1at will be grateful to these and to all the other Jews in the habitable earth, I have determined to procure all interpretation of your law, and to have it translated out of Hebrew into Greek, and to be deposited in my library. Thou wilt, therefore, do well to choose out and send to me men of a good character, who are now elders in age, and six in number out of every tribe.


These, by their age, must be skillful in the laws and of abilities to make an accurate interpretation of them; and when this shall be finished, I shall think that I have done a work glorious to myself. And I have sent to thee Andreas, the captain of my guard, and Aristeus, men whom I have ill very great esteem by whom I have sent those first fruits which I have dedicated to the temple, and to the sacrifices, and to other uses, to the value of a hundred talents. And if thou wilt send to us, to let us know what thou woutdst have further, thou wilt do a thing acceptable to me."


When this epistle of the king was brought to Eleazar, he wrote all answer to it with all the respect possible: Eleazar, the high priest, to King Ptolemy sendeth greeting. If thou and thy queen, Arsinoe, and thy children, be well, we are highly gratified. When we received thy epistle, we greatly rejoiced at thy intentions ; and when the multitude were gathered together, we read it to them, and thereby made them sensible of the piety thou hast towards God. We also showed them the twenty vials of gold, and thirty of silver, and the five large basons, and the table for the shew-bread; as also the hundred talents for the sacrifices, and for the making what shall be needful at the temple which things Andreas and Aristeus, those most honored friends of thine, have brought us and truly they are persons of an excellent character, and of great learning, and worthy of thy virtue. Know then that we will gratify thee in what is for thy advantage, though we do what we used not to do before i for we ought to make a return for thy numerous acts of kindness, which thou hast done to our countrymen. We immediately, therefore, offered sacrifices for thee and thy sister, with thy children and friends and the multitude made prayers, that thy affairs may be to thy mind, and that thy kingdom may be preserved in peace, and that the translation of our law may come to the conclusion thou desirest, and be for thy advantage. We have also chosen six elders out of every tribe, whom we have sent, and the law with them. It will be thy part, out of thy piety and justice, to send back the law, when it hath been translated, and to return those to us that bring it in safety. Farewell"


With this letter were gifts that were sent by Ptolemy to Jerusalem, to be dedicated to God there. When Eleazar, the high priest, had devoted them to God, and had paid due respect to those that brought them, and bad given them presents to be carried to the king, he dismissed them. And when they were come to Alexandria, and Ptolemy heard that they were come, and that the seventy elders were come also, he presently sent for Andreas and Aristeus, his ambassadors, who came to him and delivered him the epistle which they brought him from the high priest, and made answer to all the questions he put to them by word of mouth. He then made haste to meet the elders that came from Jerusalem for the interpretation of the laws; and he gave command that everybody who came on other business should be sent away. But when he had sent those away, he waited for these that were sent by Eleazar; and as the old men came in with the presents which the high priest had given them to bring to the king, and with the parchments upon which they had their laws written in golden letters, he put questions to them concerning those books; and when they had taken off the covers wherein they were wrapt up, they showed him the parchments. So the king stood admiring the thinness of those parchments, and the exactness of the junctures, which could not be perceived; and this he did for a considerable time. He then said that he returned them thanks for coming to him, and still greater thanks to him that sent them j and, above all, to that God whose laws they appeared to be. Then did the elders, and those that were present with them, cry out with one voice, and wish all happiness to the king. Upon which he fell into tears by the violence of the pleasure he had. And when he had bid them deliver the books to those that were appointed to receive them, he saluted the men, and said that it was but just to discourse, in the first place, of the errand they were sent about, and then concerning themselves.


The King promised, however, that he would make this day on which they came to him remarkable and eminent every year through the whole course of his life for their coming to him, and the victory which he gained over Antigonus by sea, proved to be on the very same day. He also gave orders that they should sup with him; and gave it in charge that they should have excellent lodgings provided for them in the upper part of the city.


Now he that was appointed to take care of the reception of strangers, Nicanor by name, called for Dorotheus, whose duty it was to make provision for them, and bid him prepare for every one of them what should be requisite for their diet and way of living. And he gave order that they should have everyone three talents given them, and that those that were to conduct them to their lodging should do it. Accordingly, when three days were over, Demetrius took them and went over the causeway seven furlongs long: it was a bank in the sea to an island. And when they had gone over the bridge, he proceeded to the northern parts, and showed them where they should meet, which was in a house that was built near the shore, and was a quiet place, and fit for their discoursing together about their work. When he had brought them thither, he entreated them now they had all things about them which they wanted for the interpretation of their law, that they would suffer nothing to interrupt them in their work. Accordingly, they made an accurate interpretation, with great zeal and great pains; and this they continued to do till the ninth hour of the day; after which time they relaxed and took care of their body, while their food was provided for them in great plenty: besides, Dorotheus, at the king's command, brought them a great deal of what was provided for the king himself. But in the morning they came to the court, and saluted Ptolemy, and then went away to their former place, where, when they had washed their hands, and purified themselves, they betook themselves to the interpretation of the laws.


Now when the law was transcribed, and the labor of interpretation was over, which came to its conclusion in seventy two days, Demetrius gathered all the Jews together to the place where the laws were translated, and where the interpreters were, and read them over. The multitude did also approve of those elders that were the interpreters of the law. They withal commended Demetrius for his proposal, as the inventor of what was greatly for their happiness; and they desired that he would give leave to their rulers also to read the law. Moreover they all, both the priest and the ancientest of the elders, and the principal men of their commonweal. made it their request, that since the interpretation was happily finished, it might continue in the state it now was, and might not be altered. And when they all commended that determination of theirs, they enjoined, that if any one observed either anything superfluous, or anything omitted, that he would take a view of it again, and have it laid before them, and corrected; which was a wise action of theirs, that when the thing was judged to have been well done, it might continue forever.


So the king rejoiced, when he saw that his design of this nature was brought to perfection, to such great advantage; and he was chiefly delighted with hearing the laws read to him; and was astonished at the deep meaning and wisdom of the legislator. And he began to discourse with Demetrius, "how it came to pass, that when this legislation was so wonderful, no one, either of the poets or of the historians, had made mention of it." Demetrius made answer, that no one durst be so bold as to touch upon the description of these laws, because they were: divine and venerable, and because some that had attempted it were afflicted by God."


And when the king had received these books from Demetrius, as we have ,said already, he adored them, and gave order that great care should be taken of them, that they might remain uncorrupted. He also desired that the interpreters would come often to him out of Judea, and that both on account of the respects that he would pay them, and on account of the presents he would make them: for he said, it was now but just to send them away, although if, of their own accord, they would come to him hereafter, they should obtain all that their own wisdom might justly require, .and what his generosity was able to give them." So he sent them away, and gave to every one of them three garments of the best sort, and two talents of gold, and a cup of the value of one talent, and the furniture of the room wherein they were feasted. And these were the things he presented to them. But by them he sent to Eleazar, the high-priest, ten beds, with feet of silver, and the furniture to them belonging, and a cup of the value of thirty talents; and besides these, ten garments, and purple, and a very beautiful crown, and a hundred pieces of the finest woven linen; as also vials and dishes, and vessels for pouring, and two golden cisterns, to be dedicated to God. He also desired him, by an epistle, that he would give these interpreters leave, if any of them were desirous, of coming to him; because he highly valued a conversation with men of such learning, and should be very willing to layout his wealth upon such men. And this was what came to the Jews, and was much to their glory and honor, from Ptolemy Philadelphus.- F. JOSEPHUS.


Ptolemy Philadelphus

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