The Celestial Hairlock Of Berenice II, Queen Of Egypt And Cyrene
Not long after the passing of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, one of his generals, Ptolemy - who went on to found the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt and later known as Ptolemy I Soter - annexed Cyrene (in modern Libya). As Cyrene proved challenging to govern, around two decades later Ptolemy I appointed the then 20-year-old Magas, son of his latest wife Berenice I from her previous marriage to an obscure local nobleman, as ruler of Cyrene. But Fate chose Berenice II, the daughter of Magas, in whose hands by murder, or hair by redemption, the future of Cyrene would lie.
After Ptolemy I’s demise, Magas proclaimed his independence and crowned himself King of Cyrene, making himself the first King of Cyrene in about 200 years – the last of whom was Arcesilaus IV in 440 BC. Magas married Apama, a member of the Seleucid Dynasty which had turned against the Ptolemies in 275 BC and waged war against Magas’ half-brother Ptolemy II Philadelphus, Ptolemy I's son and successor in Egypt. The only child born of Magas and Apama was also named Berenice.
After several confrontations, Ptolemy II tried to make peace with his half-brother Magas of Cyrene in around 250 BC. Therefore, it was decided that Berenice II would marry her half-cousin, the future Ptolemy III Euergetes, who would become Ptolemy II's heir. Portrayed as youthful and unveiled, indicating her maidenhood, Berenice II was already hailed as Basilissa (queen) on coins even in her father’s lifetime and, upon her marriage, she would be known as Berenice II Euergetis ("Berenice the Benefactress").
Berenice II, daughter of Apama II, on a coin from the ring of Ptolemy III. Metropolitan Museum of Art (CC BY-SA 3.0)
King Magas died soon after this agreement, but Berenice's mother, Apama, refused to uphold the Ptolemies' marriage contract. Instead, she invited Demetrius the Fair, a prince of the Antigonids, to Cyrene to marry her daughter Berenice. Demetrius’ paternal grandparents were Macedonian king Antigonus I Monophthalmus and Stratonice, daughter of Antigonus, King of Asia. However, Demetrius’ maternal grandfather was Pharaoh Ptolemy I Soter. Berenice was at the time already of legal age to marry and Demetrius required a legal union to support his reign.
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By: Martini Fisher