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preferred to his brothers as heir to the throne on account of his being 

the son of the most favored and beloved of the monarch's wives. The 

determination of Soter to abdicate the throne himself arose from his 

wish to put this favorite son in secure possession of it before his 

death, in order to prevent the older brothers from disputing the 

succession. The coronation of Philadelphus was made one of the most 

magnificent and imposing ceremonies that royal pomp and parade ever 

arranged. Two years afterward Ptolemy the father died, and was buried by 

his son with a magnificence almost equal to that of his own coronation. 

His body was deposited in a splendid mausoleum, which had been built for 

the remains of Alexander; and so high was the veneration which was felt 

by mankind for the greatness of his exploits and the splendor of his 

reign, that divine honors were paid to his memory. Such was the origin 

of the great dynasty of the Ptolemies. 


Some of the early sovereigns of the line followed in some degree the 

honorable example set them by the distinguished founder of it; but this 

example was soon lost, and was succeeded by the most extreme degeneracy 

and debasement. The successive sovereigns began soon to live and to 

reign solely for the gratification of their own sensual propensities and 

passions. Sensuality begins sometimes with kindness, but it ends always 

in the most reckless and intolerable cruelty. The Ptolemies became, in 

the end, the most abominable and terrible tyrants that the principle of 

absolute and irresponsible power ever produced. There was one vice in 

particular, a vice which they seem to have adopted from the Asiatic 

nations of the Persian empire, that resulted in the most awful 

consequences. This vice was incest. 


The law of God, proclaimed not only in the Scriptures, but in the native 

instincts of the human soul, forbids intermarriages among those 

connected by close ties of consanguinity. The necessity for such a law 

rests on considerations which can not here be fully explained. They are 

considerations, however, which arise from causes inherent in the very 

nature of man as a social being, and which are of universal, perpetual, 

and insurmountable force. To guard his creatures against the deplorable 

consequences, both physical and moral, which result from the practice of 

such marriages, the great Author of Nature has implanted in every mind 

an instinctive sense of their criminality, powerful enough to give 

effectual warning of the danger, and so universal as to cause a distinct 

condemnation of them to be recorded in almost every code of written law 

that has ever been promulgated among mankind. The Persian sovereigns 

were, however, above all law, and every species of incestuous marriage 

was practiced by them without shame. The Ptolemies followed their 



One of the most striking exhibitions of the nature of incestuous 

domestic life which is afforded by the whole dismal panorama of pagan 

vice and crime, is presented in the history of the great-grandfather of 

the Cleopatra who is the principal subject of this narrative. He was 

Ptolemy Physcon, the seventh in the line. It is necessary to give some 

particulars of his history and that of his family, in order to explain 

the circumstances under which Cleopatra herself came upon the stage. The 

name Physcon, which afterward became his historical designation, was 

originally given him in contempt and derision. He was very small of 

stature in respect to height, but his gluttony and sensuality had made 

him immensely corpulent in body, so that he looked more like a monster 

than a man. The term Physcon was a Greek word, which denoted 

opprobriously the ridiculous figure that he made. 


The circumstances of Ptolemy Physcon's accession to the throne afford 

not only a striking illustration of his character, but a very faithful 

though terrible picture of the manners and morals of the times. He had 

been engaged in a long and cruel war with his brother, who was king 

before him, in which war he had perpetrated all imaginable atrocities, 

when at length his brother died, leaving as his survivors his wife, who 

was also his sister, and a son who was yet a child. This son was 

properly the heir to the crown. Physcon himself, being a brother, had no 

claim, as against a son. The name of the queen was Cleopatra. This was, 

in fact, a very common name among the princesses of the Ptolemaic line. 

Cleopatra, besides her son, had a daughter, who was at this time a young 

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