Ptolemy V Epiphanes [210 - 180 BCE]

The son of Ptolemy IV succeeded his father when he was only 5 & spent most of his reign as pawn in the intrigues of his father's advisors, who murdered his mother. Instability in the court of Alexandria, allowed Syrian forces under Antiochus III to occupy all of Asia Minor & Palestine. In 194 BCE Rome finally brokered a peace settlement between the rival Macedonian regimes which resulted in Ptolemy's marriage to Antiochus' daughter, Cleopatra I. His sudden death at age 30 left her as regent of Egypt.

Ironically, Ptolemy's most important act for later history was the direct product of his weakness as a ruler. In an attempt to quell native uprisings in Egypt, Ptolemy's guardians staged a traditional Egyptian coronation at Memphis (196 BCE) & issued a decree celebrating him as the manifestation of divine grace [hence his by-name]. To encourage his cult the declaration portrayed the young king as benefactor of Egypt, who adorned the temples of Egypt's traditional gods, cancelled debts, reduced taxes, freed prisoners & pardoned any rebels who went back to farming.

Though ineffective in restoring Macedonian control over upper Egypt, this decree became the key that eventually helped unlock all the records of ancient Egypt for modern scholars. For it was carved in Greek & two Egyptian scripts (hieroglyphs & demotic) on a stela erected at Memphis.  A fragment of that monument was accidentally discovered at Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile delta by Napoleon's troops in 1799 CE. So, thanks to a weak king's propaganda offensive to win the support of his subjects, 19th c. British & French scholars (especially Thomas Young & Jean-François Champollion) were able to decipher the hieroglyphic script in which Egyptian documents & inscriptions had been written for over 3000 years.

References: Josephus, Antiquities 12.130-135, 154-178, 196, 205-207, 234.
                   Polybius, Histories 15.25, 31-32.
                   Justin, Epitome 30.2

Other resources on line:

Phoenician tetradrachma with profile of Antiochus V on face & eagle  with inscription Ptolemaiou Basileos ["of king Ptolemy"] on reverse side. Ptolemy V was the last male ruler of his dynasty to issue coins bearing his own portrait.  For high resolution image of this and other Ptolemaic Coins see Sandy Brenner's Jerusalem Through Coins.

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