Ptolemy IV Philopator

A statue thought to represent either Ptolemy IV Philopator or his son Ptolemy V
Ptolemy IV Philopator (Greek: Πτολεμαῖος Φιλοπάτωρ Ptolemaĩos Philopátōr; reigned 221–204 BC), son of Ptolemy III and Berenice II of Egypt, was the fourth Pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt. The decline of the Ptolemaic dynasty began under the reign of Ptolemy IV.
Gold octadrachm issued by Ptolemy IV Philopator, British Museum

Among the children of Ptolemy IV Philopator and his sister-wife Arsinoe III of Egypt was Ptolemy V Epiphanes, who married Cleopatra I Syra, daughter of Antiochus III the Great and Laodice III.

Son of Ptolemy III and Berenice II he married, according to the custom of the Ptolemies, the sister Arsinoe III in 217 BC; later, he fell into disgrace and died in unclear circumstances. During his reign he blocked the attempt of Antiochus III of Syria to take over the part of Palestine and Syria where the Ptolemies had taken advantage of the youth of Antiochus; the Syriac King was defeated at Raphia (217 BC) during what is known as the fourth war of Syria. Starting from 210 BC Ptolemy IV had associated his infant son Ptolemy V to the throne whom, upon his death, took the leadership of the Kingdom in a climate of serious unrest.
Menthu and Ptolemy IV

It must be underlined that at Raphia, Ptolemy IV, earned a victory significantly because, for the first time, a Ptolemy fought at the head of local Egyptian troops instead of mercenary soldiers. This policy of adventures, despite military successes at the end of the century III had weakened the Egyptian monarchy, who always had an increasing necessity of his indigenous subjects and so had to follow the trends of the egyptian high classes, which supported the conservative and traditionalist policies and therefore not in agreement to a strategy that would introduce Egypt within the framework of the Eastern Mediterranean, away from his thousand-year political based on economic and cultural isolation.
Marble head of Ptolemy IV
Classical writers depict Ptolemy as a drunken, debauched reveller, completely under the influence of his disreputable associates, among whom Sosibius was the most prominent. At their instigation, Ptolemy arranged the murder of his mother, uncle, and brother.

Following the defection of one of Ptolemy’s best commanders, Egypt’s Syro-Palestinian territory, Coele Syria, was seriously threatened by Antiochus III, the Syrian Seleucid ruler. In 219, when the Seleucid ruler captured some of the coastal cities, Sosibius and the Ptolemaic court entered into delaying negotiations with the enemy, while the Ptolemaic army was reorganized and intensively drilled. So grave was the threat that for the first time under the Ptolemaic regime native Egyptians were enrolled into the infantry and cavalry and trained in phalanx tactics. In 218 the negotiations collapsed, and Antiochus renewed his advance, overrunning Ptolemy’s forward defenses. In the spring of 217, however, Ptolemy’s new army met the Seleucid forces near Raphia in southern Palestine, and with the help of the Egyptian phalanx Ptolemy was victorious. Although holding the initiative, the Egyptian king, on Sosibius’s advice, negotiated a peace, and the Seleucid army withdrew from Coele Syria.

After Raphia, Ptolemy married his sister, Arsinoe, who bore him a successor in 210. The Egyptians, however, sensing their power, rose in a rebellion that Polybius, the Greek historian, describes as guerrilla warfare. By 205 the revolt had spread to Upper Egypt.

To the south, Ptolemy maintained peaceful relations with the neighbouring kingdom. In the Aegean, he retained a number of islands, but, in spite of honours granted him, he refused to become embroiled in the wars of the Greek states. In Syria, also, Ptolemy avoided involvement in local struggles, though Sosibius attempted to embroil Egypt there. According to Polybius, Ptolemy’s debauched and corrupt character, rather than his diplomatic acumen, kept him clear of foreign involvements. As his reign progressed, he fell increasingly under the influence of his favourites, and around November 205 he died. His clique of favourites kept Ptolemy’s death a secret and about a year later murdered Queen Arsinoe, leaving the young successor at their mercy.


Polybius, XV 25.2. Cf. Zenobius, V 94.
Bevan, Edwyn (1927). The House of Ptolemy: a History of Egypt under the Ptolemaic Dynasty. London: Methuen. p. 233.
Deipnosophistae V 37.
Demetrius 43.4-5.
Hildegard Temporini (ed.) (1978). Politische Geschichte: (Provinzien und Randvölker: Mesopotamien, Armenien, Iran, Südarabien, Rom und der Ferne Osten)], Part 2, Volume 9. Walter de Gruyter. p. 977. ISBN 3110071754. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
Ptolemy IV Philopator I  - chapter 3 of E. R. Bevan's 1927 classic The House of Ptolemy [on Bill Thayer's Lacus Curtius].
Ptolemy IV - Christopher Bennett's annotated Egyptian Royal Genealogy provides detailed references to sources.
Dedication at Itanos - inscription dedicating a pool & shrine on Crete to Ptolemy IV & Arsinoë III (ca 215 BCE) [posted by Center for Study of Ancient Documents, Oxford U].
Great Revolt of the Egyptians (205-186 BCE) -  translation & explication of Greek & Egyptian sources describing the 20 year native uprising in upper Egypt that Ptolemy IV left for his heir [posted by Center for the Tebtunis Papyri (UCal at Berkeley)].
Ptolemy IV Philopator - illustrated biography by Jimmy Dunn includes bibliography [on Tour Egypt].
Ptolemy IV Philopator - Jona Lendering lists biographical data & key dates [Livius: Articles in Ancient History].
Βιογραφία από τον Christopher Bennett
Ptolemy IV Philopator, The Fourth King of Egypt's Greek Period
The House of Ptolemy,by E. R. Bevan

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