People > Arsinoe I

Arsinoe I


Arsinoe I (Greek: Αρσινόη Α’, 305 BC-after c. 248 BC) was a Greek Princess who was of Macedonian and Thessalian descent. She was the second daughter and youngest child born to King Lysimachus from his first wife, Nicaea of Macedon. Arsinoe I had two older siblings: a brother called Agathocles and a sister called Eurydice. Arsinoe's paternal grandfather was Agathocles of Pella, a nobleman who was a contemporary to King Philip II of Macedon who reigned 359-336 BC, while her maternal grandfather was the powerful Regent Antipater. Arsinoe I was named in honor of an unnamed grandmother, who may have been the mother of Lysimachus or the mother of Nicaea whose both names of these women are unknown. Little is known of her life prior to her marriage.

Between 289/28 and 281 BC, Arsinoe became the first wife of Ptolemaic Greek Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who was also her distant maternal cousin. Arsinoe I married Ptolemy II as part of an alliance between her father and Ptolemy II, against Seleucus I Nicator. Arsinoe I was, by marriage, Queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Arsinoe I bore Ptolemy II three children; two sons: Ptolemy III Euergetes, Lysimachus of Egypt and a daughter called Berenice. At an unknown date between after 279-274/3 BC, a sister of Ptolemy II called Arsinoe II arrived in Egypt, who was the last wife of Lysimachus and had fled from her half-brother-husband Ptolemy Keraunos. Probably at the instigation of Arsinoe II, charges of conspiring to assassinate Ptolemy II were soon brought against Arsinoe I.

Ptolemy II had convicted Arsinoe I of plotting against him. He ended his marriage to Arsinoe I and divorced her. Ptolemy II had exiled Arsinoe I to Coptos in southern Egypt. It is chronologically plausible that these events were also connected to the banishment of Ptolemy II’s niece, Theoxena of Egypt as Theoxena was sent to the Thebaid, perhaps to Coptos. Afterwards Ptolemy II married his sister Arsinoe II and after the death of Arsinoe II, Ptolemy II’s children with Arsinoe I were officially regarded as the children of Arsinoe II.

Arsinoe I lived in exile for twenty years. During her exile, Arsinoe I lived in great splendour and exercised considerable power, since she was a wife of a former pharaoh. Her first son with Ptolemy II succeeded his father after his death. A surviving Stele has been found at Coptos which refers to Arsinoe I. The Stele is of Senu-sher, a steward of Arsinoe I and the Stele is assigned to Arsinoe I’s exile. The stele calls Arsinoe I the ‘king’s wife’, but her name is not enclosed in the royal Cartouche, as it is customary for an Egyptian Queen. Another piece of surviving evidence connected to Arsinoe I, is a Phoenician inscription found at Lapithos, Cyprus, which is dated in the 11th or 12th year in the reign of Ptolemy II. The inscription refers to a sacrifice instituted by Yatonba’al on behalf of ‘the legitimate scion and his wife’, hence refers to Arsinoe I. As Arsinoe I was disgraced as a traitor, the fact the person who did the sacrifice on her behalf strongly suggests that the news of her disgrace had not yet reached him.

Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt

Ptolemy ISoterSavior305-285 BCEBerenice IReign
Ptolemy IIPhiladelphusSister-loving285-246 BCEArsinoe IReign
Ptolemy IIIEuergetes IThe Benefactor246-221 BCEBerenice IIReign
Ptolemy IVPhilopaterFather-loving221-204 BCEArsinoe IIIReign
Ptolemy VEpiphanesThe Illustrious204-180 BCEReign
Ptolemy VIPhilometorMother-loving180-145 BCECleopatra I
Cleopatra II & Ptolemy VIII
Ptolemy Eupator
180–176 BCE
170–163 BCE
153–150 BCE
Ptolemy VIINeos PhilopatorFather-loving145 BCECleopatra IIReign
Ptolemy VIIIEuergetes IIThe Benefactor170–116 BCECleopatra II145–131/130 BCE
Cleopatra II124–116 BCE
Ptolemy VIIIEuergetes IIThe Benefactor170–116 BCECleopatra II124–116 BCE
Ptolemy IXSoter IIThe Savior116-107 BCECleopatra III107–101 BCE
Ptolemy XAlexander I107-88 BCECleopatra III107–101 BCE
Ptolemy IXSoter IIThe Savior88-80 BCE
Ptolemy XIAlexander II80 BCEBerenice III80 BCE
Ptolemy XIIINeos Dionysos/AuletesNew Dionysus/Flute Player80–51 BCEBerenice IV58–55 BCE
Cleopatra VII51-30 BCEReign
Ptolemy XIII PhysconDionysos51-47 BCEReign
Ptolemy XIVPhilopatorFather-loving47-44 BCEReign
Ptolemy XVCaesarionLittle Caesar44-30 BCEReign


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