Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Review of Howe (ed.), Ptolemy I Soter: A Self-Made Man

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Timothy Howe (ed.), Ptolemy I Soter: A Self-Made Man. Oxford: Oxbow, 2018. Pp. x, 196. ISBN 9781789250428. £38.00 (pb). Reviewed by Leanna Boychenko, Loyola University Chicago (
The Ptolemaic dynasty was by far the most successful of the Hellenistic kingdoms that sprouted from Alexander the Great’s empire, prospering greatly and outlasting all others. Ptolemy I Soter, as founder and father of that dynasty, fashioned a new world and, as this volume argues, a meticulously self-crafted, self-aware image and legacy.

The rather unfortunate title1 belies the value of this volume. Although some are stronger than others, each of the chapters puts forth a bold case for a fresh look at an aspect of Ptolemy I’s reign, whether it is his relationship with high-ranking Egyptians, his marriage practices, or his political propaganda. There is no introduction, but a short forward is followed by seven chapters, each of which I will briefly comment on below. Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.

Ptolemy I appears in the Bible in Daniel 11:5 as "the king of the south." Ptolemy II, who also figures in this book, does not appear in the Bible. But according to the legend in the Letter of Aristeas, he was the Egyptian king who commissioned the translation of the Pentateuch from Hebrew into Greek (the first installment of the Septuagint).

For more on Ptolemy I, Ptolemy II, and the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty, see the series of posts that begin here.

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