Chap. 6-Heroes of the Hellensitic Age (2016) Charles N. Pope
After being a major grain exporter and enjoying prosperity during the long reign of Ptolemy II, Egypt suddenly and desperately had to import grain during the reign of Ptolemy III. The stage was set for an Amarna Period revival of crushing drought, famine, plague and mass death in Egypt. The 17-year reign of Ptolemy IV in Egypt was deliberately modeled on that of the earlier Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten). After his Year 5, Ptolemy IV like Akhenaten neglected foreign affairs, pursued a utopian isolationist fantasy and invited widespread rebellion. Like Akhenaten, he also vanished (made an Exodus) from Egypt when the 17 years were finished. The Amarna Period was so incredibly traumatic that it is shocking to find any attempt to reproduce it whatsoever. However, it fell to Ptolemy IV to both play and perhaps redeem the role of Moses, which was based upon the god Re in a time of environmental crisis and revolt. Fortunately for Ptolemy IV he had no actual rivals, which he might have been tempted to eliminate after crossing him (and use the Amarna Period precedent as justification).
The Amarna flavor is even more obvious in the account of Josephus. The scandalous liaison of “Joseph” with the “daughter of Solymius” that produced his favored son Hyrcanus is blamed on drunkenness, which is the same excuse that Laius (the Greek Yuya-Joseph) uses to explain impregnating his own daughter with the “monstrous Oedipus” (the Greek Akhenaten-Moses). Josephus calls the new Moses “a genius far surpassing his brothers,” and even adds the otherwise extraneous detail that he went out three days into the wilderness to make a sacrifice (again ala Moses). Finally, Hyrcanus is said to have died in the Trans-Jordan like Moses. This may have ultimately been the case, but as the name Hyrcanus (“The Hyrcanian/Persian”) implies, there is much more to the career of this complex prince (and future Great King) than Josephus was willing to divulge at this early point in his narrative.
Note: In 2 Maccabees, Hyrcanus is called the “son-of-Tobias” instead of the “son-of-Joseph,” which reflects the politics of Egypt. Hyrcanus, under the name of Ptolemy IV, succeeded Tobias, i.e., Ptolemy III, as pharaoh.
Ptolemy IV assumed the throne name of Sekhem-ankhamun, which is also an obvious throw-back to the Amarna Period. Although his reign primarily took on the form of Akhenaten’s, he would have initially been prepared to play other Amarna Period roles, as necessary. At the time of his election he was the only natural son of Antiochus III, founder of the new “House-of-Joseph.” The royal family was extremely small during this time period, and perilously so. The history of Polybius emphasizes that Ptolemy IV was completely unrivaled upon becoming King of Egypt. And though he did not produce an heir right away, neither did the other royal princes (Alexander A and Magus) of that generation. Regardless, the show had to go on and the various required parts had to be played out. To compound the crisis, only one further prince (Ptolemy V) was born during the entire 17-year reign of Ptolemy IV, and he was essentially declared “Lord-from-His-Birth” and given the same throne name as Ptolemy IV, Sekhem-ankhamun. This indicates that this younger prince was also expected to play multiple roles, as necessary, particularly those of Tut-ankhamun and Smenkhkare (who was himself patterned after the earlier pharaohs Sekhem-ka-re and Men-kau-re).The Mafia at Raphia
In 217 BC, an epic battle was staged between Antiochus III (“Joseph”) and Ptolemy IV (“Hyrcanus”) at Raphia. Although Antiochus held the status of Great King and was already an experienced commander, it was considered expedient for his only son Ptolemy IV to gain confidence and become established his own kingly career. In contrast, the father of Antiochus had refused to honor anyone! Raphia was a huge show-battle of the kind not seen since the days of the Successors. And as with those former spectacles, it was an “all-hands meeting” rather than true conflict. It included multifarious fighting units of far-fetched tribes and nations, as well as 175 Indian and African war elephants.
As in the earlier epic battles between Alexander and Darius, the outcome was known in advance. The most senior members of the royal family controlled contingents on both sides as before. The Great King Emeritus, Seleucus III, appears as Ammonius (a play on both Amun and Onias), and the battle probably also served as his grand finale. He may also correspond to Theodotes Hemiolius, a major irritant. Ptolemy IV doubles as “Antigonus nephew of the king (Antiochus)” on the Seleucid side. Seleucus III’s grandson, Philip V of Macedon, is referred to as Bittycus of Macedon, perhaps a play on Pittacus, the “beloved” sage, general and ruler in earlier times. Prince Alexander A (father of Alexander Balas) appears as Zabdi-belus, chief of over 10,000 Arabian troops.
The glory of winning the battle went to the 25,000-man Egyptian phalanx under command of Andromachus the Aspendian. Andromachus/Andromachou is likely the former Egyptian princely name of Antiochus III/“Lysimachus son of Lysimachus” (Simon II). Aspendian, recalls Aspathines, a Greek epithet of an earlier self-sacrificing Joseph-figure, Cyrus the Great. The city of Aspendus was the site where a former Simon (Cimon of Athens) won a great victory over the Persians, which also carried symbolic meaning. (Another commander, Mene-demus, supposedly hailed from the city of Alabanda, which Antiochus III later named Antiochia after himself!) Therefore, Antiochus the Great was indirectly being given the credit for winning the battle, not losing it. The already deposed Ptolemy III took the fall again under the alias of Theodotus the Aetolian (i.e., the former Demetrius II Aetolicus), who was designated as commander of the elite Silver Shields (10,000-strong phalanx) on the Seleucid side that gave way to the phalanx of Andromachus.
Unlike the young Alexander the Great, Ptolemy IV was not expendable. He was not asked to recklessly break through the Seleucid line to make a direct attack on his opponent (his own father Antiochus III). Rather he, or a body double, simply moved from the left wing to the center as the “Egyptian” phalanx overcame that of the “Seleucid.” This was one of the least interesting of ancient pitched battles, and under the circumstances it had to be. After significant but certainly not catastrophic losses, Antiochus III retired to the town of Raphia and sued for peace, which was liberally granted by the magnanimous “victor” Ptolemy IV. There was no actual succession battle between Antiochus III and Ptolemy IV, as the battle on served to establish the reputation of Ptolemy IV as the first king of a new dynasty in Egypt, that being Antiochus III’s own dynasty. Consistent with this, starting with Ptolemy IV, the Ptolemaic pharaohs suddenly began to include Ptah (the Egyptian divine Joseph) in their throne names.Old Time Religion
Akhenaten-Moses had been the son of Yuya-Joseph in his royal generation (late 18th Dynasty). In the Kings/Chronicles account of Akhenaten, he was instead called Rehoboam son of Solomon. Likewise, Ptolemy IV, the neo-Akhenaten, was the son of Antiochus III-Joseph, as well as following Solymius (as a neo-Amenhotep III). In other words, Hyrcanus (Ptolemy IV) was not only typecast as the “cerebral Moses son of upright Joseph” but also “foolish Rehoboam successor of wise Solomon (Solymius).” Emulating Rehoboam, Ptolemy IV used his alleged brilliance by pretending to be completely mad in order to provoke a reaction from the Jewish population. This was documented in the Book of 3 Maccabees.
The burden of the Ptolemaic Solomon (“Solymius/High Priest Onias”) may have been heavy, but his youthful kingly successor Ptolemy IV resolved to be an even greater prick. According to the Book of 3 Maccabees, Ptolemy IV deliberately terrorized the Jews even as Solomon’s foolish and deranged successor Rehoboam had done. Yet, instead of taking the cue to revolt (2 Kings 12:16-17), the Jewish population (of Lower Egypt/”Israel”) basely submitted to Ptolemy IV’s demands of absolute obedience. Those who were prepared to slaughter the Jews upon Ptolemy’s orders were then punished as well as all Jewish backsliders. Compliance of Upper Egyptian (“Judean”) Jews was an entirely different matter. After Ptolemy’s military victory in Year 5, he reinforced the authority of his father as High Priest (Simon II) in Thebes/Jerusalem, but also sent agents to start fomenting rebellion there. However, a revolt did not begin until the end of Ptolemy IV’s 17-year reign (which was identical in length to that of both Rehoboam and Akhenaten).
The sudden and grave danger of the Jews validates the assertion of Polybius that the demise of Ptolemy III and rise of Antiochus the Great represented a veritable New Age. The line of Ptolemy II was finished (or at least interrupted), because Ptolemy IV was not the true son of Ptolemy III but that of Antiochus the Great. Antiochus III also succeeded Onias as High Priest in Jerusalem and under the Hebrew name of Simon (II). The only grandson of Seleucus II/III was then appointed successor to Ptolemy III as pharaoh of Egypt. A new dynasty required either a renewed covenant with the Jews or cancellation of their status as leading loyalists to the Crown and facilitators of Empire. Schematically, the Book of 3 Maccabees is a close variation on the Book of Esther, which expresses an identical theme. A new dynasty takes power and the Jews are targeted for annihilation. In 3 Maccabees, the villain is now identified as Hermon instead of Haiman (in Esther). Text of 3 Maccabees: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=4451716
Unlike Ptolemy II & III, Ptolemy IV had full support of the High Priest Simon in Thebes, who was his own father! Ptolemy IV had total license for inducing an “attitude adjustment” among his Jewish subjects and non-Jewish subjects alike. The Book of 3 Maccabees indicates that Ptolemy IV re-enacted the stock theme of a sting-operation (as told in the Book of Esther). After being repeatedly threatened with annihilation, the Jews are then miraculously rescued and honored and protected as in former dynasties. Jew haters are punished and Jewish backsliders are even executed. “God’s Covenant” with Jews had been renewed under the auspices of a yet another new imperial dynasty. Dynastic lines had changed but royal practices remained the same.
The Great Queen is not immediately replaced in 3 Maccabees as she is in the Esther story, because at the time there were absolutely no alternatives. Arsinoe III was in fact deposed later after failing to produce royal children, and rather ignominiously as with her “role model” Nefertiti, but not until another princess had come of age. Although Josephus doesn’t mention her, Joseph “son-of-Tobias” had a prominent daughter. She became the next queen, even as humble Esther the daughter of the Joseph-figure Mordecai supplanted proud queen Vashti. The daughter of the new Joseph/Antiochus III, named Cleopatra, then became the wife of Ptolemy IV’s successor Ptolemy V (a neo-Tutankhamun). Nefertiti had been replaced by Ankhesenamun, who subsequently became the wife of Akhenaten’s successor Tutankhamun.
3 Maccabees also introduces a new element, that of the glorification of martyrdom for religious zealotry and the prospect of immortality (amplified in the book of 4 Maccabees). As such, 3 Maccabees becomes a prelude to the Jewish Revolt of Egypt and the “War-of-Independence” described in the books of 1 & 2 Maccabees. (3 Maccabees precedes 1 & 2 Maccabees chronologically.) Polybius, the Greek chronicler of the Battle of Raphia, and who was obviously very much in the know, did not attribute the rebellion in Upper Egypt to the High Priest Simon (II) or his successor Onias (III), but to rogue soldiers in the army of Ptolemy IV that returned from Raphia to Upper Egypt. This of course implies that Ptolemy IV used these soldiers to incite revolt, and that Onias was himself complicit in the operation. In other words, it was a part of a deliberate plan to throw Upper Egypt into turmoil, and as a repetition of Akhenaten’s suppression of Egyptian temples, especially that of Amun in Thebes (“Jerusalem”).