Ptolemy of Mauretania

Ptolemy of Mauretania

Ptolemy of Mauretania or Ptolemy of Morocco (Ptolemy or Ptolemaios, Greek: "ο Πτολεμαίος", Latin: "PTOLEMAEVS", 1 BC – AD 40) was a prince and the last Roman client king of Mauretania.

Ptolemy was the only son to queen Cleopatra Selene II and king Juba II of Mauretania. Cleopatra of Mauretania could have been his possible elder sister and his younger sister was Drusilla of Mauretania. His father Juba II of Numidia, was a son to king Juba I of Numidia (a king of Numidia of Berber descent from North Africa, who was an ally to Roman General Pompey). His mother Cleopatra Selene II was a daughter to Ptolemaic Greek queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt by Roman Triumvir Mark Antony, with whom he shared a striking resemblance. Ptolemy was of Berber, Greek and Roman ancestry.

Ptolemy with his sisters, were the only grandchildren to African king Juba I of Numidia, Ptolemaic Greek queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and were among the younger grandchildren to Roman Triumvir Mark Antony. Through his maternal grandfather, he was a distant relative to Dictator Julius Caesar and the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Ptolemy was a first cousin to Roman General Germanicus and his brother Roman Emperor Claudius and a second cousin to Roman Emperor Caligula, Roman Empress Agrippina the Younger, Roman Empress Valeria Messalina and Roman Emperor Nero.

Ptolemy was most probably born in Caesaria, the capital of the Kingdom of Mauretania (modern Cherchell, Algeria) in the Roman Empire. He was named Ptolemy, in honor of his mother’s Greek, Ptolemaic and Egyptian heritage.

His parents sent him to Rome to be educated. In Rome, Ptolemy received a Roman education and became Romanized. His mother died in 6. In 21, Ptolemy returned to Mauretania from Rome and his aging father made him co-ruler. After his father’s death in 23, he became the sole ruler of Mauretania.

Local Berber tribes, Numidian Tacfarinas and Garamantes in 17 started to revolt against the kingdom of Mauretania and Rome. This war had ravaged Africa and Berbers, including former slaves of Ptolemy’s household had joined in the revolt. Ptolemy and his army tried unsuccessfully to end the revolt against the Berbers. The war in Africa, had reached the point that Ptolemy summoned the Roman Governor of Africa, Publius Cornelius Dolabella and his army to help Ptolemy in ending the revolt. The war ended in 24 and although Ptolemy’s army and the Romans won, both sides suffered considerable losses of infantry and cavalry.

The Roman Senate, impressed by Ptolemy’s loyal conduct, had sent a Roman Senator to visit Ptolemy. The Roman Senator, recognised his loyal conduct by awarding Ptolemy an ivory sceptre, an embroidered triumphal robe and the senator greeted Ptolemy as "king, ally and friend". This recognition was a tradition which was revived, to recognise and reward the allies to Rome.

Ptolemy was well educated; was a popular king with the Berbers and had proven his capability and loyalty as an ally and client king to Rome. He would often visit Alexandria, Egypt.

Ptolemy married a woman called Julia Urania, who probably was a member of the Royal Family of Emesa, (modern Homs, Syria). They married at an unknown date in the 1st century and their only child, a daughter called Drusilla, (known as Drusilla of Mauretania) was born about 38.

In 40, Caligula invited Ptolemy to Rome, with the pretext of being his relative. Caligula welcomed him with appropriate honors. As Ptolemy entered an amphitheater during a gladiatorial show, he wore a purple cloak that attracted admiration. Out of jealousy, Caligula ordered Ptolemy's execution.

After the murder of Ptolemy in Rome, a revolt against the empire was set in motion by the Berbers. Aedemon, a former slave from Ptolemy's household, started the revolt. The rebels were such skilled fighters that Roman Generals Gaius Suetonius Paulinus and Gnaeus Hosidius Geta were needed to end the revolt. Claudius assessed the kingdom and its future. He decided to divide the kingdom into two Roman provinces which were Mauretania Tingitana and Mauretania Caesariensis. Claudius tried Gaius Rabirius Postumus (a man from a senatorial family) for treason, who before tried unsuccessfully to recover money from Ptolemy.

Much prior to Ptolemy's death, Caligula had sent him a peculiar message stating: "Do nothing at all, neither good or bad, to the bearer."

Ptolemy is mentioned in the novels by Robert Graves," I, Claudius" and "Claudius the God". On Friday 10 December 2004, the US Auction Group, Sotheby in New York, auctioned a seven inche fine bronze Roman imperial bust of Ptolemy of Mauretania about age 15. The bust c. 5–20, was estimated between US$300,000 - US$500,000, but was sold for US$960,000.


*Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Caligula & Claudius
*Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, Partner of my Labors
* Encyclopædia Britannica - Ptolemy of Mauretania

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