The Egyptian form of the title “Sibling gods”, ntr.w sn.w, is a direct translation of the original Greek form, ΘΕΟΙ ΑΔΕΛΦΟΙ. I have chosen to refer to this title as “theoi Adelphoi”, a transliteration of its original form, since it is the most commonly recognised form describing the divine couple Arsinoë and Ptolemy II. Egyptian relief scenes lists this title only when the couple are depicted together. It is recorded in ten scenes: all postdate the couple and date instead to the reigns of Ptolemy III, Ptolemy IV, Ptolemy V and Ptolemy VIII. Two scenes are illustrated on stelai, the Nubayrah stele and the scene above the Canopus decree from Kom el-Hisn, while remaining scenes are situated within the Temple of Edfu and on the Gate of Euergetes, Karnak. Additional titles that surround “theoi Adelphoi” generally connect them with one of the main gods of the temple (or local shrines) as temple sharing deities. They are described as “Lords of the house of Hathor”, “Lords of the house of Ra”, “Lords of Mesen (= Edfu)”, or as “Dwellers of Mesen”, “Dwellers of Karnak”, and “Dwellers in the Temple of Horus”.
The Nubayrah stele textually describes Ptolemy II and Arsinoë as “theoi Adelphoi” in the main text below the figural scene, as a part of the official dating protocol, listing the appointed eponymous priests and priestesses. The active benefactors, Ptolemy V and Cleopatra I, present a captured enemy in front of the divine couple Shu and Tefnut, followed by the Ptolemaic dynastic ancestors, theoi Philopatores, theoi Euergetai and theoi Adelphoi. The latter couple is pictorially separated from the other dynastic ancestral couples, indicated mainly by their crowns, combined with Arsinoë’s Hathoric position. The scene exemplifies dynastic propaganda, showing a ruling couple reconnecting with their ancestors in order to gain their power. The ruling couple associate themselves also with the mythological children of Ra, Shu and Tefnut, in an act where Shu hands over a khepesh sceptre of Horus to the pharaoh.
|The Nubayrah stele|
A comparison between the main text and the pictorial scene shows an inadequacy. The text lists names of the priest of Alexander, theoi Soteres, theoi Adelphoi, theoi Euergetai, theoi Philopatores and the theoi Epiphanes, also documenting the official priestesses of Berenice II and Arsinoë, the athlophoros and canephoros (Urk II, 171 (l. 6-8). The text refers to the official Alexandrian eponymous ruler cult, while the pictorial scene excludes Alexander and the theoi Soteres. The scene, furthermore, follows Egyptian conventions exclusively. Combining text and imagery, the Nubayrah stele indicates an assimilation between the Alexandrian eponymous cult and the native Egyptian ruler cult. The figural arrangement of the theoi Adelphoi (as the last couple of the scene) suggests that Ptolemy II and Arsinoë retained their official role as the founders of the dynasty, regardless of the textual information. It limits the official religious position of the theoi Soteres as the founders of the dynasty to the reign of Ptolemy IV, since the stele dates to the reign of Ptolemy V, which emphasises Ptolemy II and Arsinoë as the founders.
|Detail of the theoi Adelphoi on the Nubayrah stele|
Dating to the reign of Ptolemy III, also the Canopus decree from Kom el-Hisn describes Ptolemy II and Arsinoë as “theoi Adelphoi” placing the hieroglyphic designation, ntr. w sn. w, above the head of Ptolemy II, between the individual cartouches of the couple. The title also occurs in the main text, where it is used to describe Ptolemy II and Arsinoë as Ptolemy III’s parents. The following textual section states their cultic title in connection with the eponymous priesthood, similar to the Nubayrah stele, also including the name of Arsinoë’s canephoros (Urk II, 126 (l. 5). The text in the Canopus decree indicates an assimilation of the Alexandrian eponymous cult with the native Egyptian worship of ancestors, although it is, again, separated from the pictorial scene. Based on the nature of the text, as an official dating formula, it is difficult to make any assumptions of an assimilation of the two alternative ruler cults. The scene focuses on the deification of Ptolemy III and Berenice II, and expresses their induction to the traditional Egyptian royal cult. The main event described in the pictorial scene refers to the writing of the annuals, performed by Thoth and Seshat.
|The Canopus decree of Kom el-Hisn|
Seven scenes are located in the Temple of Edfu, dating to the reigns of Ptolemy IV and Ptolemy VIII: all scenes illustrate a ruling pharaoh who presents offerings to his dynastic ancestors. Arsinoë is depicted throughout in a standing position behind Ptolemy II. The couple is generally described with individual titles located in their personal registers of text, and with their shared title in the board-register that crowns the scene. Thus, they kept their individuality simultaneously with their divine royal position as Hathor and Horus. The scene on the Gate of Euergetes concurs with previous scenes as Ptolemy II and Arsinoë are described with individual titles in the personal register of text and as a couple in the top register. This scene dates to the reign of Ptolemy III. Also, the lintel frieze on the same gate dates to Ptolemy III, but places the shared title above the head of Ptolemy II, between their individual cartouches.
|The Canopus decree: detail of the theoi Adelphoi|
The scenes indicate that the theoi Adelphoi were regarded as the founders of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. The pictorial material follows Egyptian conventions, and the scenes are located mainly in Upper Egypt. The combination of these two factors is important, since native Egyptian ruler cult is traditionally differentiated from the Alexandrian ruler cult. Stelai with a dynastic setting seem to have functioned as a link between the two. All scenes that describe the couple with this title postdate their lifetime, and always in a conventional dynastic setting that expresses the transfer of power from one generation to the next. In terms of iconographic arrangement, the theoi Adelphoi are separated from other ancestral couples. Arsinoë is frequently illustrated as the tallest figure of the scene based on an item which also distinguishes this couple from the others – the crown. Arsinoë wears her personal crown, and Ptolemy II either an Osirian atef or an anedjti crown. All other females, without any exceptions, wear a traditional female crown. All other males wear one of the above mentioned crowns, the atef or anedjti, opposed to the one worn by Ptolemy II (i.e., if Ptolemy II wears the anedjti, the other males are dressed in the atef, or vice versa). These scenes show Arsinoë standing behind Ptolemy II, raising her hand in a protective manner. Her hand’s pose combined with her position as the last figure of the left side, suggestively indicates a socio-religious position as the protectress of the entire dynasty, also including the ruling royal couple.
I classify all scenes mentioned above as dynastic regardless of their figural arrangement. The main symbolic theme of these scenes is a ruling pharaoh who claims his right to the throne, and demonstrates his pure dynastic legacy and royal blood. The Gate of Euergetes presents a scene of comparison, as it provides Queen Berenice II with a title that places her as the heiress of the theoi Adelphoi. This title underlines the importance of not only an individual scene, but also the full setting or composition of scenes under one associated theme. It has been argued elsewhere that the link between a ruling pharaoh and his ancestors is too unclear if placed on an opposite side. I, however, believe that such a separation was necessary in order for the king to claim his right to the throne. This claim would be available only through the death of the previous ruler (rulers).
Exceptions include scenes that express crowning or rejuvenation themes, such as the Canopus decree, which provides further examples of pictorial adjustment, and emphasises that time is not a main subject, but instead the ceremony itself. All figures in the Canopus decree are equally illustrated as sons and daughters of Ra. The scene is unique due to its dualistic arrangement, depicting all figures in pairs/couples, including the gods on the right side. The first Hathoric goddess on the right is coupled with Amun-Ra; Hathor with Horus; Tefnut with Shu, and the forth female figure with a male counterpart now missing. The scene clarifies a divine legacy and places the Ptolemaic couples in a direct line with the primeval constitution of Egyptian religion. Ptolemy III and Berenice II clarify their dynastic legacy through the association with the deceased ancestors and emphasise their right to rule as they connect themselves with the divine rulers, Horus and Hathor, as husband and wife. The ruling monarch gains strength and emphasises his divine royal heritage, while he claims his true right to the throne.
Note: The dynastic relationship was stressed also through the introduction of the couples as temple sharing deities long after their initial deification. Isis Arsinoë Philadelphos, the theoi Adelphoi and the theoi Euergetai were introduced as temple sharing gods in the temple of Hermonthis in year 149/148 BC Although of an unknown origin, P.Yale.46 describes a priest who was active in a temple of Amun and Arsinoë, including also the theoi Adelphoi and the theoi Euergetai. The text underlines a clear separation between the official dynastic cult, i.e., that of the theoi Adelphoi, and the individual cult of Arsinoë. Here, yet again, Arsinoë is associated with Amun, possibly as his divine wife. An inscription documented on a small sandstone altar found in the precinct of the Sarapis temple at Hermopolis Magna further describes the theoi Adelphoi as sharing a temple with the theoi Euergetai to whom statues and shrines were dedicated by the cavalry located in the area.