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The Flute Player

Magnus Maximus

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When Ptolemy VIII Physcon departed this world in 116 BC, he left the Ptolemaic Kingdom in tatters. Nearly 40 years of neglect, civil wars, and mismanagement had turned what was once the leading power of the Mediterranean into nothing more than a vassal to the Roman Republic. Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos, or as he is commonly referred to, Auletes(the flute player), was born into a post-Ptolemy VIII world, where the Ptolemaic kingdom was tearing itself apart over the question of which of Physcon's sons would rule the kingdom. Auletes's father, Ptolemy IX, eventually came out on top against his brother and thus ensured a relatively smooth succession from father to son in 80 B.C., aside from the fact that his brother Ptolemy XI, had been lynched after a reign of only a few days.

After his accession to Pharaoh, Aulutes married his sister Cleopatra VI as was the Egyptian custom. Around the time of his accession to the throne, the Romans began making serious headway into Asia Minor and the levant area. Realizing that his kingdom was no match for the battle hardened Roman armies and wary of having his kingdom annexed like the neighboring Seleucids, Auletes heavily lobbied the Roman senate to recognize his rule over Egypt. The first triumvirate was delighted with Auletes's bribe, I meant gift, to the Roman state and had him listed as a friend and ally to the Roman Republic. The cost of Aulete's gift to Rome was a measly 6000 talents of silver or about 360,000 lbs. The burden of such a gift forced Auletes to raise taxes drastically, which in turn fueled rebellions in the countryside against his rule. The final straw for Auletes's rule was in 58 B.C. when the Romans annexed Cyprus, and he failed to even protest the move. Enraged at having suffered under the yolk of heavy taxes and the disgrace of losing territory that Ptolemy I had conquered way back in the 300s, the Egyptians forced Auletes out and installed his daughter to rule in his place. 

Auletes wandered around the Mediterranean for the next few years until finally ending up in Roman Syria. While in Syria, he bribed the Roman governor with the promise of 10,000 talents of silver( 600,000 lbs). The Roman armies easily defeated the remnants of the once mighty Ptolemaic army and restored Auletes to the throne in 55 B.C. Auletes had his daughter, Berenice, and her supporters murdered; he then made his daughter Cleopatra VII( yes, that Cleopatra) co-ruler with himself.  

Aulutes died in 51 B.C. at the age of 66; he had ruled the Ptolemaic kingdom poorly for a total of 26 years. Any hope for Ptolemaic Egypt to recover economically and become a regional power was snuffed out during Ptolemy XII's disastrous reign. In addition, the Ptolemaic kingdom had taken on so much debt that the government was forced to debase the historically near pure tetradrachm to roughly 33% silver in 55/54 BC. Lastly, by inadvertently inviting the Romans directly into Egypt, Auletes guaranteed that it was only a matter of when not "if," the Romans would annex Egypt.
I purchased this coin a few months ago and am now getting around to posting about it. Feel free to post any coins of the later Ptolemies or First triumvirate.

The Ptolemies, Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos (Auletes). 80-58 BC Alexandria Tetradra...

The Ptolemies, Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos (Auletes). 80-58 BC Alexandria Tetradrachm 65-64, AR 26.00 mm., 10.66 g.
Diademed head of Ptolemy I r., wearing aegis. Rev. Eagle standing l. on thunderbolt, with wings closed; LIZ (date) to l., ΠA to r. Svoronos 1864. SNG Copenhagen 388.

A bust of Ptolemy XII 

See the source image

The Mediterranean world in 50 B.C. 

See the source image

Good video on the decline of the Ptolemaic Kingdom

(9) Ptolemaic Kingdom - YouTube


Ptolemy XII Auletes - Livius

The silver standard of the Ptolemaic coinage - Persée (persee.fr)

Edited by Magnus Maximus
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Here is a tetradrachm of Auletes grandfather, Ptolemy VIII Physcon. 

PTOLEMAIC KINGS OF EGYPT. Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II (Physcon). Sole reign, 146/5-116 B.C. AR tetradrachm. 14.08 gm. 26 mm. Paphos mint. Dated regnal year 52 (118 B.C.). His diademed bust right, wearing aegis / Eagle standing left on thunderbolt; LNB (date) to left, ΠA to right. Svoronos 1528. Cf. SNG Cop 623-626. Near Very Fine; richly toned and of good style. Ex Davidsons Ltd.

Edited by Magnus Maximus
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5 hours ago, NewStyleKing said:

Tell us about how to identify late Ptolemaic silver with the right king/queen?  I have never found the info  that explains it! A bit like the Philateroi, all real explanation is lacking,  just stuff repeated.



I have no idea. 
@dougsmit or @Severus Alexander may have the answer to your question. 

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And I can’t forget my first Ptolemaic coin; Ptolemy X.


Ptolemy X - Paphos Mint Size: 26mm Weight: 13.19 grams Obverse: Diademed head right, wearing aegis Reverse: PTOLEMAIOU BASILEWS, Eagle standing left on thunderbolt; L K (date) before; PA behind. 

Damn thing’s portrait is genuinely terrifying. 

Edited by Magnus Maximus
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Nice writeup and coins!  

I too am often challenged when it comes to attributing a Ptolemy coin, especially for the later part of that line.

Here's my Ptolemy XII tetradrachm, to the best of limited knowledge.  

 Ptolemy XII, tetradrachm, Alexandria, Year 8 (73/2  BC).


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On 8/18/2022 at 8:30 AM, Magnus Maximus said:

I have no idea. 
@dougsmit or @Severus Alexander may have the answer to your question. 

I'm afraid I can't help. 😞 We're all anxiously awaiting the sequel to:


... and its online version.

That's a great Auletes tet!  I don't have an Auletes (on the list, for sure!) but here's my bargain basement coin of "that Cleopatra":


I also recently snagged its sequel (except a 40 drachmae/obol), one of the very first Roman Alexandrian coins issued just after Octavian walloped Cleo and Antony (#2 in the Emmett catalogue):


This is another coin where nicer examples get expensive fast.

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