The fourth queen of the Ptolemies took an active role in the governing of Egypt, and appears to have been a very formidable and beautiful woman.
Arsinoe was the daughter of Pharaoh Ptolemy III Euergetes I by his queen, Berenice II, she was named princess Arsinoe Philopator, the epithet meaning The Father-Loving in ancient Greek. She princess was probably born in Alexandria, the Ptolemaic capital of Greco-Egypt around 235 BC.
Ptolemy III Euergetes I, meaning The Benefactor assumed control of Egypt in 246 BC, and married his half-cousin Berenice, who was the daughter of Magus, king of Cyrene, and thus forging an alliance between the two African powers.
The Third Syrian War
Ptolemy waged war against Syria during The Third Syrian War between 246 to 241 to protect the interests of his sister, another Berenice, whose son was heir to the Syrian throne, when both mother and son were murdered during the dynastic conflict, Ptolemy tried to avenge their deaths but was forced to make peace.
Arsinoe Marries Her Brother
Following the death of her father in 221 BC, Arsinoe was married to her brother and her father’s successor, Ptolemy IV Philopator, meaning Father-Loving, brother-sister marriages between the Egyptian royals was part of the ancient tradition, to mirror the relationships of their Gods, and also to strengthen their claims to the throne.
A Charming Queen
Arsinoe was described by the Alexandrian scholar, Eratosthenes as a ‘cultivated woman of great charm’, Ptolemy on the other hand enjoyed self-indulgence and sporting more than exercising control over his country, and Arsinoe found him intolerable.
The Queen Rides into Battle
The Syrian king, Antiochus III The Great began to invade Palestine, Egypt had control over Gaza and this led to the outbreak of The Fourth Syrian War between Ptolemy and Antiochus. Arsinoe herself rode with the infantry into command of the battle, and Egypt proved victorious at Raphia in 217.
Ptolemy Has Arsinoe Murdered
Frequent rebellions broke out in Upper Egypt, and Arsinoe was quick to take an active interest in commanding control over the country, but this infuriated Ptolemy’s minister, Sosibius and a coup enabled Ptolemy to get rid of her, she died in obscure circumstances, murdered at the hands of Ptolemy’s men in 204, when she was about thirty-one years old.
Ptolemy probably had Arsinoe murdered so that she couldn’t act as co-regent for their very young son, Ptolemy IV died shortly afterwards and was succeeded by their son in 204, who was proclaimed Pharaoh Ptolemy V Epiphanes, he tried to secure an alliance with Syria, and later married a Syrian princess, Cleopatra I Queen of Egypt.
Coins minted which bear the name of Arsinoe Philopator portray a very beautiful young woman, with a firm prominent chin, a long and straight nose, and fresh plump cheeks, and in comparison to the depictions of other Ptolemaic queens, Arsinoe III appears to have been an extremely beautiful and capable woman.