Queen Arsinoe

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Arsinoe is the most fascinating female figure of ancient Thrace – wife of three kings, mother to three heirs to the throne and powerful queen of two kingdoms, Thrace and Egypt, she looms dominantly in the male realm of 3rd century politics, a period of intense intrigue, constant plotting and backstabbing.

Arsinoe was the product of true love between Ptolemy and Berenice, a beautiful Macedonian girl. Arsinoe, like her mother, was a charismatic and austere figure – beautiful, demure and well-educated.

When she came of age her father arranged a union with the King of Thrace, Lysimachos. The young queen committed fully to her new role and her love for Thracian culture and religion, especially Samothraki and the Kavirian Mysteries, continued throughout her life. Arsinoion, the rotunda on the archaeological site of the island was her offer and it is the largest round building of ancient Greek architecture that has survived.

Her blissful time with her husband ceased after a series of events for the claim of the throne. This turbulent time cost Lysimachos’s life on the war with Seleukos, who was later killed by her half-brother, Keraunos. Keraunos as the king of Thrace and Macedonia asked Arsinoe to marriage to adopt her children and secure the throne. But Keraunos murdered the two of her three children at the wedding forcing the tragic queen to seek refuge in Samothraki. After a period of solitude and mourning, Arsinoe will return to Egypt, marry her brother Ptolemy II and become one of its most capable and popular leaders.

Arsinoe’s intelligence, political insight turned her into the most valuable counsel of the King and his co-ruler, ‘the first woman pharaoh’ – her achievements secured a period of peace and prosperity for the kingdom and the gratitude of her people who continued to worship her posthumously.

The Museum and the Library of Alexandria, planned by her father, were completed and ‘adopted’ by the new Kings to become the largest cultural and scientific centers of the world. The religious festivals organized by Arsinoe intensified her perception as the Queen-Mother who cares for the well-being of her people and created a sense of security in this multi-cultural population by uniting elements from Egyptian and Greek religion.

Arsinoe, as a capable diplomat, traveled to inspect the troops herself during the First Syrian War and is considered the mastermind behind its successful outcome. With her support, Egypt developed a strong navy and became the world’s most powerful maritime power of the time.

Among her contributions to the global prestige of her kingdom is also her victorious mission to the 127th Olympics in the footsteps of her mother. Her horses won and she was named an Olympic winner.

At the age of 45 she passed away of unknown cause.  Ptolemy continued to include her name in all the royal decrees and also awarded her the pharaoh title “King of Upper and Lower Egypt’. Endowed with intelligence, beauty and leadership skills, Arsinoe paved the way for the powerful Ptolemaic queens who ruled Egypt in the next two centuries.

From the article about Arsinoe II

by Dr. Demetra Koukouzika