On the Question of the Adoption of the Epiclesis ‘Euergetes’ by Ptolemy III

Keywords: Hellenistic Egypt, Ptolemy III, Alexandrian ‘synodal’ decree, deification, euergetism, amnesty


In 2020, I published the monograph From Basileis-Pharaohs to Pharaohs-Basileis: The First 100 Years of the Ptolemaic Monarchy. In that book, I proposed to move the date of the famine that occurred during the reign of Ptolemy III from 245/244 BC to the period between 243 and 238 BC, drawing on the evidence of the Alexandrian ‘synodal’ decree of 3 December 243 BC. If my hypothesis is correct, it becomes necessary to reconsider the background of Ptolemy’s adoption of the Greek form of the sacred epiclesis ‘Euergetes’ (Benefactor), which earlier I associated with the help that the population of Egypt received from the king during that famine. In modern historiography, there are a number of alternative suggestions regarding the prior actions of Ptolemy III, supposedly consistent with the Hellenistic ideas about euergetism. Among them are the victorious end of the Asian military campaign (246–245 BC); suppression of unrest in Egypt; return to Egypt of the statues of local gods and cult objects that had been removed by the Persian conquerors; and deeds for the benefit of Egyptian temples and sacred animals. But these actions of Ptolemy III either did not meet the definition of a ‘beneficent act’ or concerned only ethnic Egyptians. Traces of the Greek semantic content of the epiclesis ‘Euergetes’ should be sought in the Alexandrian ‘synodal’ decree produced by the Egyptian priesthood. It contains a list of the king’s merciful acts during the first years of his reign, including the easing of fiscal policy and proclamation of a mass amnesty. Such actions were understood as euergetism in the Egyptian and Greek (especially Hellenistic) traditions. Either of them could become the reason for the official deification of the Hellenistic ruler. Responding with an apotheosis to a large-scale act of economic euergetism became everyday reality in the Hellenistic world. Amnesty for prisoners also directly brought the benefactor closer to the Olympian gods, led by Zeus himself.


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How to Cite
Zelinskyi, A. (2023). On the Question of the Adoption of the Epiclesis ‘Euergetes’ by Ptolemy III. The Journal of V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University. Series: History, (63), 10-29. https://doi.org/10.26565/2220-7929-2023-63-01