The capital of the Ptolemies was Alexandria. Until the time of Alexander’s conquest, Egypt had no sea-port. There were several landing-places along the coast, but no proper harbor. In fact Egypt had then so little commercial intercourse with the rest of the world, that she scarcely needed any. Alexander’s engineers, however, in exploring the shore, found a point not far from the Canopic mouth of the Nile where the water was deep, and where there was an anchorage ground protected by an island. Alexander founded a city there, which he called by his own name. He perfected the harbor by artificial excavations and embankments. A lofty light-house was reared, which formed a landmark by day, and exhibited a blazing star by night to guide the galleys of the Mediterranean in. A canal was made to connect the port with the Nile, and warehouses were erected to contain the stores of merchandise. In a word, Alexandria became at once a great commercial capital. It was the seat, for several centuries, of the magnificent government of the Ptolemies; and so well was its situation chosen for the purposes intended, that it still continues, after the lapse of twenty centuries of revolution and change, one of the principal emporiums of the commerce of the East.
The dynasty of the Ptolemies.—The founder.—Philip of Macedon.—Alexander.—The intrigue discovered.—Ptolemy banished.—Accession of Alexander.—Ptolemy’s elevation.—Death of Alexander.—Ptolemy becomes King of Egypt.—Character of Ptolemy’s reign.—The Alexandrian library.—Abdication of Ptolemy.—Ptolemy Philadelphus.—Death of Ptolemy.—Subsequent degeneracy of the Ptolemies.—Incestuous marriages of the Ptolemy family.—Ptolemy Physcon.—Origin of his name.—Circumstances of Physcon’s accession.—Cleopatra.—Physcon’s brutal perfidity.—He marries his wife’s daughter.—Atrocities of Physcon.—His flight.—Cleopatra assumes the government.—Her birth-day.—Barbarity of Physcon.—Grief of Cleopatra.—General character of the Ptolemy family.—Lathyrus. —Terrible quarrels with his mother.—Cruelties of Cleopatra. —Alexander kills her.—Cleopatra a type of the family.—Her two daughters.—Unnatural war.—Tryphena’s hatred of her sister.—Taking of Antioch.—Cleopatra flees to a temple.—Jealousy of Tryphena.—Her resentment increases.—Cruel and sacrilegious murder.—The moral condition of mankind not degenerating.