People > Berenice II

Berenice II


Berenice II (267 - 221 BCE) was the daughter of Magas of Cyrene and Queen Apama II. She was the wife of Ptolemy III Euergetes who was the third ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. Not much is known about her early life but in 249 BCE she married Demetrius the Fair who was a prince from Macedon soon after her father died. However, upon coming to Cyrene he would fall in love with her mother Apama. Following this betrayal Berenice II would kill him in Apama's bedroom.

After the scandalous betrayal she would eventually marry Ptolemy III and they would have several children together including Ptolemy IV Philopater, Magas, Lysimachus, Alexander, Arsinoe III and Berenice. At some point between 245 BCE and 241 BCE Berenice is believed to have competed in the Nemean Games and later at the Olympic Games. Soon after the death of Ptolemy III in 221 BCE she would be murdered by Ptolemy IV in a coup.


Following her death a decree was issued that called for a creation of the cult of Berenice II and specified that men and woman singers were to sing all day in front of her statue. One of settlements in Libya named Euesperides would be reestablished by her and also receive her name. Presently, the asteroid 653 Bernike which was discovered in 1907 was named after her.

Berenice II is also the subject of ancient myth which states that while her husband Ptolemy III was campaigning in Coele-Syria she dedicated her hair to Aphrodite at the temple in Zephyrium for his safe return him. Her hair would mysteriously disappear and some such as Conon of Samos suggest it was taken to the heavens and placed among the stars. Following this the name Coma Berenices or Berenice's hair would be applied to the name of a constellation in the sky. Callimachus would discuss the incident in a poem of which only a few lines remained that was translated by Catullus.


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