ARSINOË, the name of four Egyptian princesses of the Ptolemaic dynasty. The name was introduced into the Ptolemaic dynasty by the mother of Ptolemy I. This Arsinoë was originally a mistress of Philip II. of Macedon, who presented her to a Macedonian soldier Loqus shortly before Ptolemy was born. It was, therefore, assumed by the Macedonians that the Ptolemaic house was really descended from Philip (see Ptolemies).
1. Daughter of Lysimachus, king of Thrace, first wife of Ptolemy II. Philadelphus (285–247 B.C.). Accused of conspiring against her husband, who perhaps already contemplated marriage with his sister, also named Arsinoë, she was banished to Coptos, in Upper Egypt. Her son Ptolemy was afterwards king under the title of Euergetes. It is supposed by some (e.g. Niebuhr, Kleine Schriften; cf. Ehrlichs, De Callimachi hymnis) that she is to be identified with the Arsinoë who became wife of Magas, king of Cyrene, and that she married him after her exile to Coptos. But this hypothesis is apparently without foundation. Magas before his death had betrothed his daughter Berenice to the son of his brother Ptolemy II. Philadelphus, but Arsinoë, disliking the projected alliance, induced Demetrius the Fair, son of Demetrius Poliorcetes, to accept the throne of Cyrene as husband of Berenice. She herself, however, fell in love with the young prince, and Berenice in revenge formed a conspiracy, and, having slain Demetrius, married Ptolemy’s son (see Berenice, 3).
2. Daughter of Ptolemy I. Soter and Berenice. Born about 316 B.C., she married Lysimachus, king of Thrace, who made over to her the territories of his divorced wife, Amastris. To secure the succession for her own children she brought about the murder of her stepson Agathocles. Lysandra, the wife of Agathocles, took refuge with Seleucus, king of Syria, who made war upon Lysimachus and defeated him (281). After her husband’s death Arsinoë fled to Ephesus and afterwards to Cassandreia in Macedonia. Seleucus, who had seized Lysimachus’s kingdom, was murdered in 281 by Ptolemy Ceraunus (half-brother of Arsinoë), who thus became master of Thrace and Macedonia. To obtain possession of Cassandreia, he offered his hand in marriage to Arsinoë, and being admitted into the town, killed her two younger sons and banished her to Samothrace. Escaping to Egypt, she became the wife of her full brother Ptolemy II., the first instance of the practice (afterwards common) of the Greek kings of Egypt marrying their sisters. She was a woman of a masterful character and won great influence. Her husband, though she bore him no children, was devoted to her and paid her all possible honour after her death in 271. He gave her name to a number of cities, and also to a district (nome) of Egypt. It is related that he ordered the architect Dinochares to build a temple in her honour in Alexandria; in order that her statue, made of iron, might appear to be suspended in the air, the roof was to consist of an arch of loadstones (Pliny, Hist. Nat. xxxiv. 42). Coins were also struck, showing her crowned and veiled on the obverse, with a double cornucopia on the reverse. She was worshipped as a goddess under the title of Θεὰ φιλάδελφος, and she and her husband as Θεοὶ ἄδελφοι (Justin xxiv. 2, 3; Pausanias i. 7).
See von Prott, Rhein. Mus. liii. (1898), pp. 460 f.
3. Daughter of Ptolemy III. Euergetes, sister and wife of Ptolemy IV. Philopator. She seems to be erroneously called Eurydice by Justin (xxx. 2), and Cleopatra by Livy (xxvii. 4). Her presence greatly encouraged the troops at the battle of Raphia (217), in which Antiochus the Great was defeated. Her husband put her to death to please his mistress Agathocleia, a Samian dancer (between 210 and 205). She was worshipped as Θεὰ φιλοπάτωρ; she and her husband as Θεοὶ φιλοπάτορες (Polybius v. 83, 84, xv. 25-33).
4. Youngest daughter of Ptolemy XIII. Auletes, and sister of the famous Cleopatra. During the siege of Alexandria by Julius Caesar (48) she was recognized as queen by the inhabitants, her brother, the young Ptolemy, being then held captive by Caesar. Caesar took her with him to Rome as a precaution. After Caesar’s triumph she was allowed to return to Alexandria. After the battle of Philippi she was put to death at Miletus (or in the temple of Artemis at Ephesus) by order of Mark Antony, at the request of her sister Cleopatra (Dio Cassius xlii. 39; Caesar, Bell. civ. iii. 112; Appian, Bell. civ. v. 9).
Authorities.—For general authorities see article Ptolemies. The article “Arsinoë” in Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyclopädie contains a full list of those who bore the name, and also of the numerous towns which were called after the various princesses.
- The appendix to pt. ii. of the Tebtunis series of papyri (Grenfell, Hunt and Goodspeed, 1907) contains a lengthy account of the topography of the Arsinoite nome.