17. The First of the Ptolemaic Dynasty to Dispose of His Own Mother
The rot and track record of depravity that became hallmarks of the Ptolemaic Dynasty began when Ptolemy II married his own sister. The introduction of that tradition of marrying within the family into the dynasty had long-lasting consequences. It ultimately produced a long line of unfit rulers, and transformed the Ptolemies into objects of ridicule among Hellenistic and Roman contemporaries. People in the family marrying each other was arguably eclipsed, however, by Ptolemy IV (244 – 204 BC, reigned 221 – 204 BC), who added intra-familial crime to the Ptolemaic dynasty’s repertoire, when he eliminated his own mother, Berenice II.
Ptolemy IV ascended the throne as co-ruler, alongside his mother. She was a formidable woman, who had once stemmed a battlefield rout when she mounted a horse, rallied her side’s surviving troops, and led them in a countercharge that seized victory from the jaws of defeat. Feeling intimidated and wanting to rule alone, Ptolemy IV inaugurated his reign by eliminating his mother. Despite that act of ruthlessness, he was a weak-willed ruler who was dominated by his mistress and court favorites, and an airhead who devoted himself to religious rituals. While Ptolemy IV devoted himself to fluff, Egypt was wracked by serious rebellions, that took decades to suppress. He also married his own sister, Arsinoe III, who gave birth to his heir, Ptolemy V.