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The struggle for Syria—Decline of the dynasty—Advent of Roman control.
Ptolemy, the eldest son of Philadelphus, succeeded his father on the throne of Egypt, and after a short time was accorded the name of Euergetes. The new reign was clouded by dark occurrences, which again involved Egypt and Syria in war. It has been already related that when peace was concluded between Antiochus and Philadelphus, the latter gave to the former his daughter Berenice in marriage, stipulating that the offspring of that union should succeed to the Syrian throne, though Antiochus had, by his wife Laodice, a son, already arrived at the age of manhood. The repudiated queen murdered her husband, and placed Seleucus on the vacant throne; who, in order to remove all competition on the part of Berenice and her child, made no scruple to deprive them both of life. Euergetes could not behold such proceedings unmoved. Advancing into Syria at the head of a powerful army, he took possession of the greater part of the country, which seems not to have been defended, the majority of the cities opening their gates at his approach. The important town of Seleucia Pieria, the seaport of the capital, fell into his hands, in the neighbourhood of which he was still further gratified with the apprehension of the cruel Laodice, at whose instigation his sister and nephew lost their lives. The punishment of this unprincipled woman seems, however, to have completely satiated his resentment; for, instead of securing his conquests in Syria, and achieving the entire humiliation of Seleucus, he led his army on a plundering expedition into the remote provinces of Asia, whence, on the news of domestic troubles, he returned to the shores of Africa in triumph, laden with an immense booty, comprising among other objects all the statues of the Egyptian deities which had been carried off by Cambyses to Persia or Babylon. These he restored to their respective temples, an act by which he earned the greatest popularity among his native Egyptian subjects, who bestowed upon him, in consequence, the title of Euergetes (Benefactor), by which he is generally known. He brought back also from this expedition a vast number of other works of art, for the museums were a passion with the Ptolemies. The Asiatics might, indeed, have got over these things, but he levied, in addition, immense contributions from the Asiatics, and is said to have raised over forty thousand talents. On his march homeward, he laid his gifts upon the altar in the Temple of Jerusalem, and there returned thanks to Heaven for his victories. He had been taught to bow the knee to the crowds of Greek and Egyptian gods; and, as Palestine was part of his kingdom, it seemed quite natural to add the God of the Jews to the list.