Pothinus (early 1st century BC to 48 or 47 BC), a
eunuch, was regentfor Pharaoh Ptolemy XIIIof the Ptolemaic dynastyof Ancient Egypt. He is most remembered for turning Ptolemy against his sister and co-ruler Cleopatra VII, thus starting a civil war, and for having Pompeydecapitated and presenting the severed head to Julius Caesar.
When Ptolemy XII died in 51 BC his will stated that Ptolemy XIII and Cleopatra VII were to become co-rulers of Egypt, with the
Roman Republicas their guardians. Ptolemy the XIII was underage and Pothinus was appointed as his regent. The general Achillasand the rhetorician Theodotus of Chioswere also guardians of the Egyptian king. When Ptolemy and Cleopatra were elevated to the status of senior rulers, Pothinus was maintained as the former's regent. Most Egyptologists believed that Pothinus used his influence to turn Ptolemy against Cleopatra, and in spring of 48 BC Ptolemy, under Pothinus's guidance, attempted to depose Cleopatra in order to become sole ruler, while Pothinus planned to act as the power behind the throne. They gained control of Alexandria, then the capital of Egypt, and forced Cleopatra out of the city. She soon organized her own army and a civil war began in Egypt, while Arsinoe IValso started to claim the thronefor herself.
Rome was also enveloped in civil war, and after his defeat in the
Battle of PharsalusPompey sought asylum in Egypt. Initially Pothinus pretended to have accepted his request but on September 29, 48 BC, Pothinus had the general beheaded—hoping to win favor with Julius Caesar, who had defeated Pompey. When Caesar arrived he was presented with the head of Pompey, but he responded with grief and disgust and ordered that Pompey's body be located and given a proper Roman funeral. Pothinus had neglected to note that Caesar had been granting amnestyto his enemies, including Cassius, Cicero, and Brutus. Cleopatra used Pothinus's mistake to gain favor with Caesar and eventually became his lover.
Caesar then arranged for the
executionof Pothinus and the marriage of Cleopatra to Ptolemy. In the very last chapter of Commentarii_de_Bello_Civili, however, it is described that Pothinus arranged for Achillasto attack Alexandria and upon sending a message not to hesitate but to fulfill the plan, the messengers were exposed, whereupon Caesar had Pothinus imprisoned and killed, likely with a knife. His death was shortly followed by the ten month siege of Alexandria.
Pothinus's death has been depicted more fancifully in dramatic literature. In
George Bernard Shaw's play " Caesar and Cleopatra", Cleopatra arranges to have him secretly murdered after he embarrasses her in front of Caesar by telling him that Cleopatra longs for his departure from Egypt so that she can rule alone. In Cecil B. DeMille's 1934 film "Cleopatra", Cleopatra kills him herself, after realizing that he is hiding behind a curtain, ready to murder Caesar. In the 1963 "Cleopatra", starring Elizabeth Taylor, Pothinus tries to poison Cleopatra, but the plot is discovered in time, whereupon he is put on trial (with no witnesses testifying), pronounced guilty, and sentenced to death by Caesar.
* Julian Morgan, "Cleopatra: Ruling in the Shadow of Rome", The Rosen Publishing Group 2003, ISBN 0823935914, pp.26-32
* Prudence J. Jones, "Cleopatra: The Last Pharaoh", Haus Publishing 2006, ISBN 1904950256
* Lucanus, "The Pharsalia of Lucan", Translated by Henry Thomas Riley, H. G. Bohn 1853
* Julius Caesar, "The Civil War", Translated by Jane F. Gardner, Penguin Classics 1976, pp.161ff.
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