ptolemy xii

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Octagonal Tomb of Arsioe IV

Ephesus, Turkey

~41 BCE

15 m. in height, 5 m. in width


the Octagon was a vaulted burial chamber placed on a rectangular base with the skeleton of a 15 or 16 year old woman in a marble sarcophagus. According to an interpretation Octagon was a monument to Ptolemy Arsinoe IV, the youngest sister of the famous Cleopatra VII, that was murdered in Ephesus in 41 BC.

 Arsinoe IV (ca. 68/67 – 41 BC) was the fourth daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes, sister of Ptolemy XIII and Cleopatra VII, and one of the last rulers of the Ptolemaic dynasty of ancient Egypt. When their father died, he left Ptolemy and Cleopatra as joint rulers of Egypt, but Ptolemy soon dethroned Cleopatra and forced her to flee Alexandria.

When Julius Caesar arrived in Alexandria in 48 BC and sided with Cleopatra’s faction, Arsinoe escaped from the capital with her mentor Ganymedes and joined the Egyptian army under Achillas, assuming the title of pharaoh. When Achillas and Ganymedes clashed, Arsinoe had Achillas executed and placed Ganymedes in command of the army. Ganymedes initially enjoyed some success against the Romans, negotiating an exchange of Arsinoe for Ptolemy, but the Romans soon received reinforcements and inflicted a decisive defeat on the Egyptians.

Arsinoe was transported to Rome, where she was forced to appear in Caesar’s triumph. Despite usual traditions of prisoners in triumphs being strangled when the festivities were at an end, Caesar spared Arsinoe and granted her sanctuary at Ephesus. Arsinoe lived in the temple for many years, always keeping a watchful eye for her sister Cleopatra, who saw her as a threat to her power. Her fears proved well-founded; in 41 BC, at Cleopatra’s instigation, Mark Antony ordered her executed on the steps of the temple. She was given an honorable funeral and a tomb pictured here.

detail from the Double Temple of Haroeris and Sobek at Ombos:
the Two Uraei (both with the ‘shen’-ring and wearing the Solar disk with cow’s horns and the two feathers) represented on the top of the 'neb’-basket and flanking the crowned cartouche with the royal name of King Ptolemy XII as “King of Upper and Lower Egypt”:
“The Heir of the Saviour God, the Chosen of Ptah, He Who brings forth the righteousness of Ra, the Living Image of Amon”

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A-Z of Cleopatra - K is for King

Cleopatra may have held most of the power for the vast majority of her reign, but she did not rule Egypt alone. She always had someone ruling alongside her as King/Pharaoh, even if only nominally. She was Queen with the following four kings:

Ptolemy XII Auletes, her father

Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator, her half brother/husband

Ptolemy XIV, her half brother/husband

Ptolemy XV Caesar, her son

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A-Z of Cleopatra - F is for Father

Cleopatra’s father was named Ptolemy Neos Dionysos Theos Philopator Theos Philadelphos, but understandably went by the nickname of Auletes. This means “Pipe Player” and referred to his love of playing the pipes. He was a weak and ineffective ruler, who preferred to drink and play music over anything else.