Berenice II of Egypt

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Berenice II
Queen of Egypt
Bornc. 267 – 266 BC
Died221 BC
SpouseDemetrius the Fair
Ptolemy III Euergetes
IssuePtolemy IV
Arsinoe III
Magas of Egypt
Full name
FatherMagas of Cyrene
MotherApama II

Berenice II (267 or 266 BC – 221 BC) was a ruling queen of Cyrene, Libya (an ancient Greek colony) by birth, and a queen and co-regent of Ptolemaic Egypt by marriage to her cousin Ptolemy III Euergetes, the third ruler of the Ptolemaic dynasty.


Queen Berenice II of Egypt

She was the daughter of Magas of Cyrene and Queen Apama II, she was the granddaughter of Berenice I.

Queen of Cyrene[edit]

In approximately 249 BC, her father died, making Berenice ruling queen of Cyrene. Soon after her father died, Berenice was married to Demetrius the Fair, a Macedonian prince. Berenice had no children with Demetrius.[1]

After Demetrius came to Cyrene, he became the lover of her mother, Apama. In a dramatic event, Berenice had him killed in Apama's bedroom. Berenice stood at the door and instructed the hired assassins not to hurt her mother while she attempted to protect her mother's lover. Apama lived on afterward. Although there were many plots to assassinate her, all hired assassins became fearful of her "exceptional courage."[2]

Queen of Egypt[edit]

Coin of Berenice II

After the death of Demetrius, Berenice married Ptolemy III.

Berenice is said to have participated in the Nemean Games (between 245 and 241 BC) and to have competed in Olympic games at some unknown date. Berenice had a strong equestrian background and was accustomed to fighting from horseback. According to Hyginus's Astronomica, he tells of when Berenice's father Magas, king of Cyrene in modern-day Libya, and his troops were routed in battle, Berenice mounted a horse, rallied the remaining forces, killed many of the enemy, and drove the rest to retreat.[3]

Soon after her second husband's death in 221 BC, she was murdered at the instigation of her son, Ptolemy IV, with whom she probably was associated in the government.[4]

Nevertheless, a decree "issued delineating the cult for the newly deified queen Berenike II…specified that men and women singers were to sing all day in front of the statue of Berenike."[5]


With Ptolemy III she had the following children:[6]

  • Arsinoe III, born in c. 246/245 BC. She later married her brother Ptolemy IV
  • Ptolemy IV Philopator, born c. 244 BC
  • Possibly Lysimachus. The name of the son is not known, but he is said to have been born in c. 243 BC.[7]
  • Alexander, born in c. 242 BC [8]
  • Magas, born in c. 241 BC. Scalded to death in his bath by Theogos or Theodotus, at the orders of Ptolemy IV.[9]
  • Berenice, probably born in c. 239 BC and died a year later.[10]


A mosaic from Thmuis (Mendes), Egypt, created by the Hellenistic artist Sophilos (signature) in about 200 BC, now in the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria, Egypt; the woman depicted is the Ptolemaic Queen Berenice II (who ruled jointly with her husband Ptolemy III) as the personification of Alexandria, with her crown showing a ship's prow, while she sports an anchor-shaped brooch for her robes, symbols of the Ptolemaic Empire's naval prowess and successes in the Mediterranean Sea.[11]
A seated woman in a fresco from the Roman Villa Boscoreale, dated mid-1st century BC, that likely represents Berenice II of Ptolemaic Egypt wearing a stephane (i.e. royal diadem) on her head[12]
Coma Berenices constellation noted

During her second husband's absence on an expedition to Syria, she dedicated locks of her hair to Aphrodite for his safe return and victory in the Third Syrian War, and placed the offering in the temple of the goddess at Zephyrium. By some unknown means, the hair offering disappeared when Ptolemy returned to Egypt. Conon of Samos explained the phenomenon in courtly phrase, saying that the hair had been carried to the heavens and placed among the stars; the name Coma Berenices or Berenice's hair, applied to a constellation, commemorates this incident. This made the locks of Berenice the only war trophy in Greco-Roman sky.[2] Callimachus celebrated the transformation in a poem, of which only a few lines remain, but there is a fine translation of them by Catullus.[4] Neoclassical painters illustrated this theme abundantly.

The city of Euesperides was refounded by her and received her name, Berenice (now the Libyan city of Benghazi); the asteroid 653 Berenike, discovered in 1907, also is named after Queen Berenice.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Berenice II Archived February 25, 2015, at the Wayback Machine by Chris Bennett
  2. ^ a b Pennington, Reina (2003). Amazons to Fighter Pilots: A Biographical Dictionary of Military Women. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 54. ISBN 0313327076.
  3. ^ Pennington, Reina (2003). Amazons to Fighter Pilots: A Biographical Dictionary of Military Women. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 53. ISBN 0313327076.
  4. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Berenice". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 769.
  5. ^ See Elisabeth Meier Tetlow, Women, crime, and punishment in ancient law and society, Volume 2 (New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005), 212.
  6. ^ Dodson, Aidan and Hilton, Dyan. The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. 2004. ISBN 0-500-05128-3
  7. ^ Lysimachus by Chris Bennett
  8. ^ ALexander by Chriss Bennett
  9. ^ Magas by Chris Bennett
  10. ^ Berenice by Chris Bennett
  11. ^ Fletcher, Joann (2008). Cleopatra the Great: The Woman Behind the Legend. New York: Harper. ISBN 978-0-06-058558-7, image plates and captions between pp. 246-247.
  12. ^ Pfrommer, Michael; Towne-Markus, Elana (2001). Greek Gold from Hellenistic Egypt. Los Angeles: Getty Publications (J. Paul Getty Trust). ISBN 0-89236-633-8, pp. 22–23.
  13. ^ Use of tree Oils. "Varnish and Berenice." Retrieved on September 02, 2010

External links[edit]