Ptolemy IX (Soter II) at Thebes

Robert Ritner

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

This article was presented on October 14, 2006 at the Seventh Chicago-Johns Hopkins Theban Workshop and will be published in the volume, Perspectives on Ptolemaic Thebes, in the Oriental Institute’s SAOC series, to be published in 2011.

The divided reign of Ptolemy IX, Soter II, from 117 to 107 B.C. and again from 88 to 80 B.C., marked both a tumultuous period in the declining years of the Ptolemaic dynasty and a pivotal era in the history --and ultimate decline-- of the ancient city of Thebes. The present study examines one aspect of that era: the phraseology of the royal Prenomen and its modification for propagandistic reasons. While this is admittedly a highly traditional Egyptological concern for earlier periods, the student of Ptolemaic titularies is poorly served by available studies. Selective examples were collected by Gauthier for his valuable series Le Livre des Rois d'Égypte, and there are studies of the royal epithets in the Demotic, Greek, and, most recently, the hieroglyphic texts. The full phraseology of the hieroglyphic cartouches, in contrast, has received little attention, probably on the assumption that these formal titles in then-arcane script were of little historical importance. When reproduced, the cartouches are only rarely transliterated or translated.3 Greater interest in the epithets is readily comprehensible, since Demotic and Greek documents use only the epithet, and the Prenomen itself, after Ptolemy III, invariably begins with the declaration that the king is "the heir of" a predecessor’s epithet. In the case of Ptolemy IX, however, published translations of his Prenomen have been inaccurate, and highlighted.