Arsinoë (316–271 BCE) was born in Macedonia. After Alexander the Great died, her father was awarded Egypt and Libya, which he ruled as Ptolemy I. At approximately age sixteen, Arsinoë was given in marriage to Lysimachus, forty-five-year-old ruler of Thrace. For fifteen years, she was happy, bearing three sons. In order to position her sons in line for the throne, she had Lysimachus’ older son by a previous marriage poisoned.
When her husband died in battle in 281 BCE, she fled for sanctuary to her half brother, ruler of Macedonia. He married Arsinoë; then proceeded to kill her sons. (Two died; the third fled to Egypt.) Arsinoë herself fled to Egypt, where her father had abdicated in favour of her brother.
Before she was a goddess, Arsinoë II was an initiate. Between 289–281 BCE Arsinoë sponsored the building of the Arsinoeion in Samothrace, the largest roofed rotunda of Greek antiquity. The rock-cut altar may indicate veneration of the goddess Axiéros. After her death, Arsinoë was venerated here, too.
Arsinoë arrived penniless and out of favour, but she was not one to admit defeat. She is believed to have stimulated the accusations of treason against her brother’s queen, Arsinoë I,coincidentally the daughter of Arsinoë II’s husband, Lysimachus, King of Thrace. Arsinoë I was exiled and Arsinoë II moved into the king’s bedroom. In the fashion of gods and Egyptian pharaohs, they married, scandalizing Alexandria’s Greek nobility as they were full brother and sister. Not one to hide, Arsinoë adopted the epithet Philadelphios, “brother lover.”
She ruled alongside Ptolemy II, sharing public honours. Coins were minted with both their images. She was considered a living goddess, described as being as beautiful as Helen of Troy and depicted wearing the diadem of a goddess. When she died, she was identified as an avatar of Isis. A law was passed requiring private citizens to offer sacrifices to her. Temples were built in her honour.
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by:Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.