II [316 - 270 BCE]
daughter of Ptolemy
third wife of Lysimachus
second wife of Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ambitious oldest child of the founder of
Egypt's Macedonian dynasty, ArsinoŽ played a pivotal role in the power
politics that shaped western portions of the empire that had been divided
among the generals of Alexander the Great. At age 16 her father married
her to Lysimachus, who had recently gained control of most of Asia Minor (300 BCE). Her
new husband gave her three cities & renamed Ephesus after her. She
in turn bore him three sons. Not content with symbolic honors, ArsinoŽ
schemed to secure her own children's inheritance at the expense of Lysimachus'
children by earlier marriages. Her accusation that the heir apparent was
plotting to murder his father convinced the old king to execute his oldest
son, Agathocles (282 BCE). Instead of insuring her sons their father's kingdom,
within a year the political backlash from this scandal led directly to
Lysimachus death & Seleucus'
conquest of his kingdom (281 BCE).
Though she had lost one power base,
ArsinoŽ was not defeated. For she not only found refuge with her brother
(Ptolemy II), she convinced him to divorce his wife -- her dead husband's
daughter, also named ArsinoŽ -- and make her his wife & co-ruler. This
began the tradition in the house of Ptolemy of marriages between sibling
co-rulers which lasted till the end of the dynasty. Yet, it is an irony of
history that, for all of ArsinoŽ's scheming, it was not her children but the
son of her disgraced rival who inherited the throne of Egypt.
References: Pausanias, Description
1.7.1, 3; 8.6.
Other resources on line:
Gold ochtadrachma minted in
Alexandria ca. 250 BCE
with profile of ArsinoŽ II on the face and double cornucopia on the
reverse. The Greek inscription reads: Arsinoes Philadelphou
["of Arsinoe Philadelphus"]. For high
resolution images of this and other coins of ArsinoŽ II see Ancient
Coinage of Egypt, Arsinoe II in David Surber's excellent
ancient coins website: Wildwinds.
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