Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator

King of Egypt

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Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator
Portrait of Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator.jpg
An engraving depicting Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator by French artist Élisabeth Sophie Chéron (1648–1711), published c. 1736; the portrait is based on a medallion dated to the 1st c. BC.
Pharaoh of Egypt
Reign51–47 BC
PredecessorPtolemy XII Auletes
SuccessorCleopatra VII and Ptolemy XIV Philopator
AlongsideCleopatra VII and Arsinoe IV
Born62/61 BC
Diedprob. 13 January 47 BC
Nile river
SpouseCleopatra VII (sister)
GreekΠτολεμαίος ΙΓ΄ Θεός Φιλοπάτωρ
FatherPtolemy XII Auletes

Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator[1] (Greek: Πτολεμαῖος Θεός Φιλοπάτωρ, Ptolemaĩos; c. 61 BC – 13 January 47 BC) was Pharaoh of Egypt from 51 to 47 BC, and one of the last members of the Ptolemaic dynasty (305–30 BC). He was the son of Ptolemy XII and the brother of and co-ruler with Cleopatra VII. Cleopatra's exit from Egypt caused a civil war to break out between the pharaohs. Ptolemy later ruled jointly with his other sister, Arsinoe IV.


Co-ruler of Egypt, inner turmoil

Hellenistic bust of Ptolemy XII, father of Ptolemy XIII; Louvre, Paris

Son of Ptolemy XII (r. 80–58 BC and 55–51 BC), he succeeded his father as pharaoh in the spring of 51 BC as co-ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom by his marriage to his older sister Cleopatra (r. 51–30 BC). In October 50 BC, Ptolemy XIII was promoted to senior ruler along with her, although the eunuch Pothinus acted as regent for him.

In the spring of 48 BC, Ptolemy XIII and Pothinus attempted to depose Cleopatra due to her increasing status as queen. Her face appeared on minted coins, for example, while Ptolemy XIII's name was omitted on official documents. Ptolemy intended to become main ruler, with Pothinus acting as the power behind the throne.

Civil war

Ptolemy XIII and Pothinus managed to force Cleopatra to flee to Syria, but she soon organized her own army and a civil war began in Egypt. Soon their other sister started to claim the throne as Arsinoe IV of Egypt (r. 48–47 BC), further complicating the situation.

At this point, defeated Roman general Pompey the Great came to Egypt seeking refuge from his pursuing rival Julius Caesar. Initially, Ptolemy XIII pretended to have accepted his request, but on 29 September 48 BC, he had the general murdered by Achillas and Lucius Septimius in hopes of winning favor with Caesar when the victorious general arrived.

When Caesar arrived he was presented with the head of his deceased rival and former ally, but reportedly, instead of being pleased, Caesar reacted with disgust and ordered that Pompey's body be located and given a proper Roman funeral. Cleopatra VII proved more successful in winning Caesar's favor and became his lover. Caesar arranged the execution of Pothinus and the official return to the throne of Cleopatra VII, though she had never officially abdicated her marriage to Ptolemy XIII.

Still determined to depose Cleopatra VII, Ptolemy XIII allied himself with Arsinoe IV. Jointly, they organized the factions of the army loyal to them against those loyal to Cleopatra VII and the relatively small part of his army that had accompanied Caesar to Egypt. The battle between the warring factions occurred in mid-December 48 BC inside Alexandria itself (Siege of Alexandria (47 BC)), which suffered serious damage.[2] Around this time, the burning of the Library of Alexandria occurred.[3]

Upon the arrival of Roman reinforcements, the Battle of the Nile (47 BC) ensued and resulted in a victory for Caesar and Cleopatra, forcing Ptolemy XIII to flee the city. He reportedly drowned on 13 January 47 BC while attempting to cross the Nile river. Whether he was attempting to flee or was seeking negotiations remains uncertain from sources of the time. Cleopatra VII remained the unchallenged ruler of Egypt, although she named their younger brother Ptolemy XIV of Egypt (r. 47–44 BC) her new co-ruler.

Cultural depictions

Ptolemy appears in George Frideric Handel's 1724 opera Giulio Cesare in Egitto ("Julius Caesar in Egypt"). George Bernard Shaw's play Caesar and Cleopatra also features him. In the motion picture Cleopatra (1963), Ptolemy was played by Richard O'Sullivan. Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator and his fight with Caesar and Cleopatra for the control of Egypt is featured in the HBO TV series Rome episode "Caesarion" and is also depicted in the second season of the Netflix series Roman Empire. He was one of fifteen Ptolemies featured in the BBC series The Cleopatras and played by Daniel Beales. He will be featured in the Channel 5 series "Eight Days that made Rome".

He appears as a non-playable character in the 2017 video game Assassin's Creed Origins, set in the final days of his rule. He is the main character in Emily Holleman's 2017 novel The Drowning King, the second novel in The Fall of Egypt series. He also features as a character in Cleopatra's Shadow, the first novel in the series.


  1. ^ Numbering the Ptolemies is a modern convention. Older sources may give a number one higher or lower. The most reliable way of determining which Ptolemy is being referred to in any given case is by epithet (e.g. "Philopator"). His name means "Ptolemy, God Beloved of his Father".
  2. ^ Plutarch, Life of Julius Caesar, 49:3.
  3. ^ Aulus Gellius. Attic Nights book 7 chapter 17.

External links

Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator
Born: ca. 62 BC Died: ca. 47 BC
Regnal titles
Preceded by Pharaoh of Egypt
51–ca. 47 BC
with Cleopatra VII
Succeeded by
Cleopatra and Ptolemy XIV
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