Persia 41: Successors (Ptolemy Soter)

Persia 41: The Successors of Alexander (Ptolemy Soter)

Greek Cult of Second and Third Sons, The Dioscuri

Within the Greco-Persian royal family, Alexander the Great was raised up as an heir for the “second son” named Prince Alexander (Persian second son Prince Darius), who was accused of treason and (supposedly) executed. Ptolemy was conceived as heir to the line of “third son” Ptolemy of Alorus (Persian Prince Ariaspes/Ariarathes), who was also a royal renegade (or framed) and died (or was disgraced) young.

As discussed previously, Alexander the Great was a prince of the Persian royal family by the name of Arbupales/Bupares (the young governor of Babylon) and was considered heir to the line of Artaxerxes III’s second (“Simeon”) son named Prince Darius who was killed for treason. The third (“Levi”) son of Artaxerxes III, Prince Ariaspes/Ariarathes, also was disgraced and came to an early death, or so we are told from Persian sources. The Macedonian name of this third son was Ptolemy of Alorus.

In order to understand pharaoh Ptolemy Soter and his relationship to Alexander the Great, it is first necessary to understand the Greek cult of the faithful (and fatal) Dioscuri twins. This cult, like the Hebrew twin cult of Simeon and Levi, derived from the gods Thoth and Set, who conspired to kill Osiris (Hebrew Shechem/Issachar). Thoth had held sway over Lower Egypt (of the Pyramids). Set was “Lord of Kush”/Upper Egypt. Their overlord was Osiris, whom they did away with by consent of Re (Hebrew Jacob). The murderous pair was not always condemned. In some circles (especially pro-democratic Greek and Hebrew), they were actually praised as “freedom fighters” and “tyrant killers”. This pair did not kill in vain, but actually deserved to have heirs produced for them in order to carry on their dynastic line(s).

The Greek names given to the Dioscuri twins were Castor and Pollux (or Polydeuces). As kings they were known to the Greeks as Agenor and Belus. This pair can further be associated with the historical kings Aha and Djoser, known in the Bible as Cush and Mizraim, early rulers of Upper and Lower Egypt, respectively.

A conspicuous element of the Dioscuri myth is that one member assumed an Osiris role and the other was a Horus. (Pharaoh Aha, or the Horus-Aha as he was called, was very strongly of the unifying, all-conquering Horus typecasting. Djoser on the other hand was identified with Osiris. According to Robert Graves (in his classic work, ‘The Greek Myths’), Pollux means “horseman” and Polydeuces means “much sweet wine”. Wine was typically associated with Osiris/Dionysos. Castor is translated as “beaver”, which does not have an obvious association with Horus, but perhaps symbolized the Upper Nile or the region of Cush in Asia (associated with the same Biblical Patriarch).

Dioscuri twins were produced in every major dynasty, although the prince/king that fathered them varied in his own particular typecasting. The original pair, Castor and Pollux, was sired by Peleus (Hebrew Japheth, a Joseph figure).

The Biblical Assassin Twins, Simeon and Levi

The Bible includes two stories of the Dioscuri genre. In the first, a Judah figure sires twin sons, Perez and Zerah, on behalf of his own “wicked sons” Ur/Tebah (a “Simeon”) and Onan/Geham (a “Levi”). Like the archetypal Simeon and Levi, the fates of Perez and Zerah are tangled up even from the womb. It is even a matter of debate which should receive the scarlet thread (of birthright), that is, which of the twins was actually born before the other and should have seniority.

Sometimes the Dioscuri twins were a dynastic aside. Biblical Perez and Zerah correspond to Thutmose II and Senenmut of the Egyptian 18th Dynasty, who were prominent royals, but did not ultimately produce a Great King or a lasting dynastic line. In other times, one of the Dioscuri became the main event, such as Cush who was the father of Nimrod and ancestor of Sargon.

Note: Perez, as a chief/king is also called Ephron in the Old Testament. Zerah is better known by the name Ahithophel, advisor to King David.

A second and related Biblical motif is that of the “twins” Ephraim and Manasseh. The name Ephraim/Ephron derived originally from pharaoh Khafre (Greek Chephron) the brother of Menkhare. They assumed power after at least one other of the “sons of Khufu” died (or was killed), namely Djedefre. In addition to being a Dioscuri pair they also had distinct Horus and Osiris typecasting, Khafre being a Horus and Menkhare being an Osiris. The implication is that Djedefre was bumped off in fulfillment of the Osiris role. Khafre and Menkhare then ruled side-by-side in his place, at least until such time as a new Horus-the-Younger could be produced and come of age.

In the Bible, Jacob blesses the two sons of Joseph named Ephraim and Manasseh. To Joseph’s horror, Jacob (in the place of Re/Khufu) crosses his hands and gives the younger (a Horus figure like Khafre) a greater blessing than the elder (an Osiris type like Menkhare). The elder was a true son of Joseph while the younger was the natural son of the deceased Judah (and only adopted by Joseph).

Among Greeks, the idea of Alexander (as a Pollux/“Simeon”) and Ptolemy (as a Castor/“Levi”) who was overthrowing and killing the “tyrant” Darius III would have had considerable appeal. Alexander himself honored the Dioscuri and sacrificed to them while on campaign. Of course, in reality Alexander was merely exploiting what advantages his typecasting made available to him against his family rivals.

Note: A Hebrew precedent/inspiration for Alexander was the short Horus/David in his struggle against the tall Saul. Darius was also described as tall (at least in relation to Alexander). The daughter of Darius, named Statiera, despised Alexander even as Milcah the daughter of Saul hated David.

The Dioscuri (Simeon and Levi as heroes) were not quite as revered in Hebrew/Jewish tradition as in Greek. However the Julio-Claudian/Herodian Dynasty had chosen the Persian/Macedonian Dynasty as their primary inspiration, therefore the figures of Alexander the Great and Ptolemy Soter had to be reproduced in some form. In that later reenactment, the second and third sons of Herod the Great were called Alexander and Aristobulus (mimicking the earlier pair of Alexander and Ariaspes/Ariarathes/Ptolemy of Alorus).

Alexander and Aristobulus were accused of treachery and executed by Herod, or so we are told, much as their “role models” from the earlier period. Herod may have wanted to produce heirs for his “Simeon and Levi” himself (ala Artaxerxes III), but was unable to by that time due to his “royal sickness”. Instead, his “eldest son” (the “Reuben/Gabriel”) Antipater was called upon to do so. This was considered appropriate due to the close relationship between Macedonian Antipater and the Dioscuri twins Alexander the Great and Ptolemy Soter.

As noted previously in the Persia series (Persia 36), Great King Artaxerxes II (Macedonian Amyntas II) had a primary typecasting of Solomon/Memnon, but also a well-defined secondary typecasting as a Judah. Herod the Great was likewise patterned after the great builder Solomon as well as a conquering Judah-type king. Both Artaxerxes II and Herod the Great found an even earlier example in the Biblical story of Judah. Two sons of Judah were called “wicked” and had failed to produce an heir by Tamar. Rather than give Tamar to a pre-adolescent son named Shelah as expected and in order to produce heirs for his dead brothers, Judah slept with Tamar himself and sired the twins Perez and Zerah.

Only the Best for Alexander

Alexander was tutored by the famous philosopher Aristotle, however his physical/military training was assigned to Antipater. The relationship between the young Alexander and Antipater was so close it was actually rumored the two were father and son. Two of Antipater’s sons were called Alexarchus and Pleistarchus. Little is known about them. Possibly these were simply alternate names for his better known sons Iollas and Cassander. However, the name Alexarchus (“Ruler Alex”) suggests that the two names more likely represented Alexander and Ptolemy as wards (if not literal sons) of Antipater.

In any event, there was a precedent for Herod the Great to use. If he could not father an Alexander the Great of his generation, then his son Antipater was the logical surrogate. As was shown elsewhere, Antipater not only fathered one of the required heirs (for Herod’s sons Alexander and Aristobulus) but both Dioscuri “twins”, that is, the Herodian prince destined for the role of Alexander the Great and also the one modeled after Ptolemy.

Note: It is more likely that the alternate Greek name of Cassander was Philippus, and that Antipater son of Cassander was one and the same as Antipater “Etesias” son of Philippus (son of Antipater Sr.).

Alexander the Great insisted on his recognition as the “Son of God”. Ptolemy Soter was known simply as “Son of Lagus”, which connoted both “Son of the God/Gos” and “Son of Logos/Memnon”, i.e., “Son of (the god) Artaxerxes III Memnon”. The epithet “ben Pandira” used in conjunction with Jesus was also of this same form, Pandira then connoting “son of God” (with Pandira being a Greek corruption of the Egyptian Pa-Netjer”, “the God” or Pa-ntr-Ra (as proposed by Ahmed Osman).

As discussed already the typecasting of the Dioscuri twins was all tangled up. Although Alexander the Great was technically considered heir to the “Simeon” line, he assumed characteristics of a “Levi”. Most notably he adopted as his own the cult of Aristaeus (“the Best”) son of Apollo (Set/Levi) and the huntress goddess Cyrene. (Idmon the Seer, a Simeon type, was brother of Aristaeus.) There appears to have been more to this than the influence of Aristotle. The Aristaeus cult had a distinctly Davidic flavor to it, and David himself was also a Levi/Apollo king and even called “Levi” as the third son of Abraham after Eleasar and Ishmael.

Alexander was quick to establish himself as the Horus/David of the Dioscuri pair, with Ptolemy then expected to be the Osiris figure. Ironically, it was Alexander that ended up preparing the way for Ptolemy to become the greatest of the “Successors”, at least in retrospect. Ptolemy, although a “third son” (priestly Levi) also assumed the role/nature of a “second son” (Simeon/Thoth), pursuer of wisdom, especially after Alexander the Great’s death.

Note: Aristaeus was father of ill-fated Actaeon (by Autonoe), who was put to death “by the queens”. This would have provided justification for those who killed Alexander’s son by Roxanne.

Note: Third sons (or their sons) that became Great Kings were rare, but second sons were even more so in the royal record. However, the prominence of the Dioscuri myth in Greece would change that expectation.

The New Testament Re-Tangling and Re-Fangling of the Dioscuri Myth

Herod the Great added a new twist to the Dioscuri tradition. He made Aristobulus III (“Jesus”) the heir of his third son Aristobulus, as Ptolemy was heir of the third Macedonian prince, Ptolemy of Alorus. The name Jesus/Joshua is of the Horus/David variety. However, Aristobulus III took on the characteristics of a suffering-savior (Osiris). His personality was also more consistent with that of patient Ptolemy than impetuous Alexander the Great.

On the other hand, Alexander/Tigranes (Paul) was made heir of Herod’s second son Alexander. Alexander the Great was also made heir of the Macedonian second son, Alexander. The nickname Paul further relates to Arbupales/Bupares, the Persian name of Alexander the Great. The temperament of Paul mirrors that of Alexander as well - unbridled ambition, zeal, lust for fame, edgy, judgmental and vindictive/murderous. The short and feisty Paul assumed the typecasting of an all-conquering Horus.

Jesus was behaving more like an Osiris and Paul like a Horus. Both were credited with the formation of a new religion, Christianity (a neo-Serapis faith). However, Paul’s activity in this area had to first be refocused. He began by persecuting the new faith rather than building it up. His role model Alexander the Great had intensely persecuted the established Zorastrian religion. Paul was also eventually persuaded that he should be attacking an existing religion, that of Judaism, and helping to architect the new religion of Christianity (as a fulfillment of the Serapis faith invented by Ptolemy, and perhaps also initiated by Alexander the Great before his death). It was Ptolemy in a dual capacity as “wise man” and “holy man” that perfected the Hellenistic new age religion. Serapis included the deities Isis and Osiris along with the Hebrew Patriarch Joseph. (Seleucus was Joseph of the East, Cassander of the West, but Ptolemy claimed the distinction in Egypt of the South!)

The later repetition of Serapis, Christianity, likewise featured Joseph, Mary (as an Isis), and Jesus (as an Osiris). Its co-inventors, Jesus and Paul, lived in constant danger. As with Alexander the Great and Ptolemy, they were left fatherless after the death of “the God” (Artaxerxes II/Amyntas of Macedon) that designated their places within the royal family. Nor did they even have the benefit of a natural, legal, or adoptive father to protect their claims and their lives from the treachery of royal rivals. (Recall that both Jesus and Paul were natural sons of Antipater son of Herod the Great, who died shortly before Herod himself, or so we are told.)

The sadomasochistic Paul very likely endured more physical trauma during the “Passion Play” than did Jesus. Paul, despite his undying attempts, and unlike Ptolemy Soter, left no biological heirs. His only lasting dynasty became the Bishopric of Rome. Jesus, unlike Alexander the Great, did produce three heirs by Mary Magdalene/Salome that survived, including Josephes (Josephus/Nerva). The “eldest son” of Jesus by Mary Magdalene was Herod Timothy (who in turn was the father of Trajan). Herod Timothy was more likely only the half-brother of Josephes, his father being Herod Philip II (“John the Baptist”).

End Note: Antigonus Monophthalmos (Antigonus-the-One-Eyed).

The name Phthalmos is an obvious play on Ptolemy. He, like Ptolemy Soter, was of the Levi ("third son") line descending from the Macedonian figure Ptolemy of Alorus. He was a powerful general under Alexander and tried to make himself Great King by force after Alexander’s death. Although not quite realizing that ambition, Antigonus the One-Eyed established a dynasty that lasted six generations. He therefore represented a potent and potentially dangerous precedent.

This precedent was however effectively neutralized within the Herodian family by giving the role to the Herodian prince voted least likely to succeed, the prodigal son Agrippa, who was of the appropriate Herodian “Levi” line descending from Herod the Great through his "third son" Aristobulus. Agrippa did have a prominent son Agrippa II, who ruled Jerusalem when it was sacked by the Romans in 70 A.D. Whether his line continued for another four generations in some capacity within the Roman Empire is unclear (and it was probably no longer a concern after Agrippa II expired).