Magas of Cyrene

Magas of Cyrene (Greek: Μάγας ὁ Κυρηναῖος; born before 317 BC – 250 BC, ruled 276 BC – 250 BC) was a Greek Macedonian nobleman. Through his mother’s second marriage he was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty. He became King of Cyrenaica (in modern Libya) and he managed to wrestle independence for Cyrenaica from the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty of Ancient Egypt.

Family background and early life

Magas was the first-born son of the noblewoman Berenice and her first husband Philip.[1] He had two younger sisters: Antigone and Theoxena.[2] His father, Philip was the son of Amyntas by an unnamed mother.[3] Plutarch (Pyrrhus 4.4) implies that his father was previously married and had children, including daughters born to him.[4] Phillip served as a military officer in the service of the Macedonian King Alexander the Great and was known for commanding one division of the Phalanx in Alexander’s wars.[5]

His mother Berenice was a noblewoman from Eordeaea.[6] She was the daughter of local obscure nobleman Magas and noblewoman Antigone.[7] Berenice’s mother was the niece of the powerful Regent Antipater[8] and was a distant collateral relative to the Argead dynasty.[9] He was the namesake of his maternal grandfather.

About 318 BC, his father died of natural causes. After the death of Magas’ father, Magas’ mother took him and his siblings to Egypt where they were a part of the entourage of his mother’s second maternal cousin Eurydice. Eurydice was then the wife of Ptolemy I Soter, the first Greek Pharaoh and founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty.

By 317 BC, Ptolemy I fell in love with Berenice and divorced Eurydice to marry her. His mother, through her marriage to Ptolemy, was an Egyptian Queen and the Queen mother of the Ptolemaic dynasty.[10] Through his mother’s marriage to Ptolemy, Magas was a stepson to Ptolemy; he became an Egyptian Prince living in his stepfather’s court and was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty. His mother bore Ptolemy three children: two daughters, Arsinoe II, Philotera and the future Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus.[11]

Governorship and kingship of Cyrenaica

Magas received the governorship of Cyrenaica from his mother. As a posthumous honor to his biological father, Magas when he served as a Priest of the Greek God Apollo, had dedicated an honorific inscription proudly naming him as the ‘the eponymous priest’ and ‘Magas son of Philip’.[12] Following the death of his stepfather in 283 BC; Magas tried on several occasions to wrestle independence for Cyrenaica until he crowned himself as King around 276 BC, during the reign of his maternal half-brother Ptolemy II.

Berenice II, was the daughter of Magas of Cyrene.

Magas then married Apama II, his third maternal cousin and one of the daughters of Seleucid King Antiochus I Soter and Stratonice of Syria. Antiochus I used his marital alliance to foment a pact to invade Egypt. Apama II and Magas had a daughter called Berenice II, who was their only child. Magas opened hostilities against Ptolemy II in 274 BC, attacking Egypt from the west, as Antiochus I was attacking Palestine. However, Magas had to cancel his operations due to an internal revolt of the Libyan nomad Marmaridae. In the east, Antiochus I suffered defeat against the armies of Ptolemy II. Magas at least managed to maintain the independence of Cyrenaica until his death in 250 BC. Over a year after Magas died, his daughter married Ptolemy III Euergetes, the first son of Ptolemy II. Through Berenice II’s marriage to her paternal cousin, Magas’ Kingdom was reabsorbed by Ptolemaic Egypt.

Relations with India

Magas is mentioned in the Edicts of Ashoka, as one of the recipients of the Indian Emperor Ashoka's Buddhist proselytism.[13] Ashoka also claims that he encouraged the development of herbalism, for men and animals, in the territories of the Hellenistic Kings.[14] The philosopher Hegesias of Cyrene, from the city of Cyrene where Magas ruled in Cyrenaica, is sometimes thought to have been influenced by the teachings of Ashoka's Buddhist missionaries.[15]

See also


  1. Ptolemaic Genealogy: Berenice I
  2. Ptolemaic Genealogy: Berenice I
  3. Ancient Library article: Philippus no. 5
  4. Ptolemaic Genealogy: Berenice I, Footnote 6
  5. Ancient Library article: Magas no.1
  6. Ptolemaic Genealogy: Berenice I
  7. Heckel, Who’s who in the age of Alexander the Great: prosopography of Alexander’s empire, p.71
  8. Heckel, Who’s who in the age of Alexander the Great: prosopography of Alexander’s empire, p.71
  9. Ptolemaic Dynasty - Affiliated Lines: The Antipatrids
  10. Berenice I article at
  11. Ptolemaic Genealogy: Berenice I
  12. Ptolemaic Genealogy: Magas of Cyrene, Footnote 2
  13. "The conquest by Dharma has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (5,400-9,600 km) away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni (Sri Lanka)." (Edicts of Ashoka, 13th Rock Edict, S. Dhammika).
  14. "Everywhere within Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi's [Ashoka] domain, and among the people beyond the borders, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Satiyaputras, the Keralaputras, as far as Tamraparni and where the Greek king Antiochos rules, and among the kings who are neighbors of Antiochos, everywhere has Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, made provision for two types of medical treatment: medical treatment for humans and medical treatment for animals. Wherever medical herbs suitable for humans or animals are not available, I have had them imported and grown. Wherever medical roots or fruits are not available I have had them imported and grown. Along roads I have had wells dug and trees planted for the benefit of humans and animals." Edicts of Ashoka, 2nd Rock Edict
  15. "The philosopher Hegesias of Cyrene (nicknamed Peisithanatos, "The advocate of death") was contemporary of Magas and was probably influenced by the teachings of the Buddhist missionaries to Cyrene and Alexandria. His influence was such that he was ultimately prohibited to teach."Jean-Marie Lafont, INALCO in "Les Dossiers d'Archéologie", No254, p.78


External links

Magas of Cyrene
Died: 250 BC
Regnal titles
Title last held by
Arcesilaus IV
King of Cyrene
276 BC – 250 BC
Succeeded by
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/12/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.