[Illustration: 100.jpg TAILPIECE]
CHAPTER III.—PTOLEMY PHILADELPHUS. B.C. 284-246
We know of few princes who ever mounted a throne with such fair prospects before them as the second Ptolemy. He was born in Cos, an island on the coast of Caria, which the Ptolemies kept as a family fortress, safe from Egyptian rebellion and Alexandrian rudeness, and, while their fleets were masters of the sea, safe from foreign armies. He had been brought up with great care, and, being a younger son, was not spoilt by that flattery which in all courts is so freely offered to the heir. He first studied letters and philosophy under Philetas of Cos, an author of some elegies and epigrams now lost; and as he grew up, he found himself surrounded by all the philosophers and writers with whom his father mixed on the easiest terms of friendship. During the long reign of Ptolemy Soter the people had been made happy by wise regulations and good laws, trade had been flourishing, the cities had greatly prospered, and the fortresses had been everywhere strengthened.
[Illustration: 102.jpg PHAROS IN OLD ALEXANDRIA]
The Grecian troops were well trained, their loyalty undoubted, and the Egyptians were enrolled in a phalanx, armed and disciplined like the Macedonians. The population of the country was counted at seven millions. Alexandria, the capital of the kingdom, was not only the largest trading city in the world, but was one of the most favoured seats of learning. It surely must have been easy to foresee that the prince, then mounting the throne, even if but slightly gifted with virtues, would give his name to a reign which could not be otherwise than remarkable in the history of Egypt. But Philadelphus, though like his father he was not free from the vices of his times and of his rank, had more of wisdom than is usually the lot of kings; and, though we cannot but see that he was only watering the plants and gathering the fruit where his father had planted, yet we must at the same time acknowledge that Philadelphus was a successor worthy of Ptolemy Soter. He may have been in the twenty-third year of his age when his father gave up to him the cares and honours of royalty.
The first act of his reign, or rather the last of his father’s reign, was the proclamation, or the ceremony, of showing the new king to the troops and people. All that was dazzling, all that was costly or curious, all that the wealth of Egypt could buy or the gratitude of the provinces could give, was brought forth to grace this religious show, which, as we learn from the sculptures in the old tombs, was copied rather from the triumphs of Ramses and Thutmosis than from anything that had been seen in Greece.