12. History’s Most Dysfunctional Dynasty
In the annals of history, few ruling families have been as dysfunctional, perverse, or given to more intra-familial murders, than the Ptolemaic Dynasty, which ruled Egypt from 323 to 30 BC. All fifteen kings were named Ptolemy, numbered I through XV, and of the Ptolemaic queens, there were seven Cleopatras, and four Berenices. The family had a tradition of incestuous marriages, mostly with brothers marrying sisters, with the occasional uncle-niece and nephew-aunt weddings. There was also at least one possible mother-son marriage, thrown into the mix. In addition to marrying their close relatives, the Ptolemies were also into murdering each other, and their history abounds with them killing their brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and even mothers.
One of the more unfortunate Ptolemaic intra-familial murders was that of the child King Ptolemy VII (died circa 145 BC). The events leading up to it began when the neighboring Seleucid King Antiochus IV captured Alexandria and made King Ptolemy VI his puppet. The Alexandrines rioted, and chose the puppet king’s obese younger brother, Ptolemy VIII Physcon, or Ptolemy Potbelly, (182 – 116 BC) as monarch. After the Seleucids were forced out of Egypt by Roman threats, Ptolemy Potbelly agreed to a three-way joint rule with his brother Ptolemy VI, and their sister Cleopatra II, who was also Ptolemy VI’s wife.