For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Magas of Cyrene.

Magas of Cyrene

Magas of Cyrene
Magas as king of Cyrene, circa 282/75 to 261 BC. Rev: Palm tree and small silphium and crab symbols.
King of Cyrenaica
Reign276–250 BC[1]
PredecessorOphellas (local ruler)
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
(as Pharaoh of Egypt)
SuccessorBerenice II (as Queen) and Demetrius the Fair (as King)
Co-regentBerenice II[2] (from 258 BC)
Bornc. 320 BC[3]
Died250 BC
SpouseApama II
IssueBerenice II
Kings of Cyrene
Ptolemaic dynasty
ReligionGreek polytheism

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

Family background and early life

Magas was the first-born son of the Macedonian noblewoman Berenice and her first husband, Philip, who had served as a military officer in the campaigns of Alexander the Great.[4] He had two younger sisters: Antigone of Epirus and Theoxena of Syracuse.[5] His father, Philip was the son of Amyntas by an unnamed mother.[6] Plutarch (Pyrrhus 4.4) implies that his father was previously married and had children, including daughters born to him.[7] 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.[8]

Magas's mother, Berenice I (right), and stepfather, Ptolemy I

Magas's mother, Berenice, was from Eordeaea.[9] She was the daughter of local obscure nobleman Magas and noblewoman Antigone.[10] Berenice’s mother was the niece of the powerful regent Antipater[10] and was a distant collateral relative to the Argead dynasty.[11] He was the namesake of his maternal grandfather.

About 318 BCE, Magas's father, Philip, died of natural causes. After her husband's death, Berenice took her children to the Ptolemaic Kingdom, where they were a part of the entourage of Berenice's cousin Eurydice. Eurydice was then the wife of Ptolemy I, the first Greek pharaoh and founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty.

By 317 BCE, Ptolemy I fell in love with Berenice and repudiated Eurydice to marry her. Through her marriage to Ptolemy, Berenice became an Egyptian queen and the queen mother of the Ptolemaic dynasty.[12] Magas was thus a stepson to Ptolemy I; he became an Egyptian prince living in his stepfather's court and was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty. His mother bore Ptolemy I three children: Queen Arsinoe II, Princess Philotera, and King Ptolemy II.[13]

Governorship and kingship of Cyrenaica

Magas as Ptolemaic governor, first reign, circa 300 - 282/75 BC. Rev: silphium and small crab symbols.

Around five years after the death of the Cyrenese ruler Ophellas, Magas, then about 20 years old, received the governorship of Cyrenaica from the ruling Ptolemies in Egypt: his mother Queen Berenice I and his stepfather Ptolemy I.[3]

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 eponymous priest’ and ‘Magas son of Philip’.[14]

Following the death of his stepfather Ptolemy I in 283 BC, Magas tried on several occasions to wrest independence for Cyrenaica from his stepfather's successor, his maternal half-brother Ptolemy Philadelphus, until he crowned himself King around 276 BC.[3] It was the first time Cyrene had a king since Arcesilaus IV around 440 BC.[3]

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.[3] However, Magas had to cancel his operations due to an internal revolt of the Libyan nomad Marmaridae.[3] 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. Magas betrothed his daughter Berenice II to Ptolemy III Euergetes, the son of Ptolemy II, as a way to seal an alliance between the two realms and secure the independence of Cyrene.[15]

After the death of Magas, Apama II broke the marital alliance between her daughter Berenice II and Ptolemy III and proposed her daughter and the throne to Demetrius the Fair, son of the Antigonid king Demetrius I Poliorcetes, who became the new king of Cyrene.[16] This gave the Antigonids strategic control of the western side of the Ptolemaic Kingdom.[16] After Demetrius was assassinated by Berenice for cheating with her mother Apama, Berenice returned to Egypt to finally marry her original fiancé, Ptolemy III Euergetes.[16]

Magas is known to have favored the arts and sciences in Cyrene, and was close to the philosophical school of the Cyrenaics.[15] The philosophy of the Cyrenaics under Magas evolved in a way that has similarities with Skepticism, Epicurianism and also Buddhism.[17]

Relations with India

Cyrene coin struck under Ophellas as Ptolemaic governor. Circa 322-313 BC. Æ 19mm (8.14 gm). Horse running right; star above / NIKWNOS, six-spoked wheel.

Magas was known by name to the contemporary Indian Emperor Ashoka, and he may have received Buddhist emissaries from India: indeed Magas is mentioned in the Edicts of Ashoka, as one of the recipients of Ashoka's Buddhist proselytism.[15][18] Ashoka also claims that he encouraged the development of herbalism, for men and animals, in the territories of the Hellenistic Kings.[19]

Buddhist proselytism at the time of king Ashoka (260–218 BCE), according to the Edicts of Ashoka.

Now it is conquest by Dhamma that Beloved-of-the-Gods considers to be the best conquest. And it (conquest by Dhamma) has been won here, on the borders, even six hundred yojanas 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. Here in the king's domain among the Greeks, the Kambojas, the Nabhakas, the Nabhapamktis, the Bhojas, the Pitinikas, the Andhras and the Palidas, everywhere people are following Beloved-of-the-Gods' instructions in Dhamma. Even where Beloved-of-the-Gods' envoys have not been, these people too, having heard of the practice of Dhamma and the ordinances and instructions in Dhamma given by Beloved-of-the-Gods, are following it and will continue to do so.

— Edicts of Ashoka, Rock Edict (S. Dhammika)[20]

There are no records of such emissaries in Western sources. However, 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, given the similarity of some of his teachings with Buddhism.[17][21][22]

Still, Magas probably was quite knowledgeable about India. His father, Philip, had been a phalanx officer in the campaigns of Alexander the Great. Later, Magas, having been raised in part at the Ptolemaic court, must also have received first-hand accounts of India from his stepfather Ptolemy I, a former general in Alexander's campaigns. The predecessor of Magas in Cyrene, the Ptolemaic governor named Ophellas, had also been one of the Alexander's officers in India, in charge of one of his triremes during the expedition down the Indus River. Magas was probably quite acquainted with matters pertaining to India through his contacts with such veterans of the Indian campaigns.

See also


  1. ^ Howard, Michael C. (2014-01-10). Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies: The Role of Cross-Border Trade and Travel. McFarland. p. 48. ISBN 978-0-7864-9033-2. Magas of Cyrene (Libya, r. 276–250 B.C.),
  2. ^ Branko van Oppen de Ruiter (2016-02-03). Berenice II Euergetis: Essays in Early Hellenistic Queenship. Springer. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-137-49462-7. Remarkably, Berenice was hailed basilissa on coins even in her father's lifetime,
  3. ^ a b c d e f Berenice II and the Golden Age of Ptolemaic Egypt, Dee L. Clayman, Oxford University Press, 2014, p.30 sq.
  4. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Berenice I Archived 2011-10-05 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Berenice I Archived 2011-10-05 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Ancient Library article: Philippus no. 5 Archived 2011-06-05 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Berenice I, Footnote 6 Archived 2011-10-05 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Ancient Library article: Magas no.1
  9. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Berenice I Archived 2011-10-05 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ a b Heckel, Who’s who in the age of Alexander the Great: prosopography of Alexander’s empire, p.71
  11. ^ Ptolemaic Dynasty - Affiliated Lines: The Antipatrids Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Berenice I article at
  13. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Berenice I Archived 2011-10-05 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Ptolemaic Genealogy: Magas of Cyrene, Footnote 2
  15. ^ a b c Berenice II and the Golden Age of Ptolemaic Egypt, Dee L. Clayman, Oxford University Press, 2014, p.32 sq.
  16. ^ a b c Berenice II and the Golden Age of Ptolemaic Egypt, Dee L. Clayman, Oxford University Press, 2014, p.36 sq.
  17. ^ a b Berenice II and the Golden Age of Ptolemaic Egypt, Dee L. Clayman, Oxford University Press, 2014, p.33
  18. ^ "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).
  19. ^ "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
  20. ^ The Edicts of King Ashoka: an English rendering by Ven. S. Dhammika. Access to Insight: Readings in Theravāda Buddhism. Last accessed 1 September 2011.
  21. ^ "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
  22. ^ Historical Dictionary of Ancient Greek Philosophy, Anthony Preus, Rowman & Littlefield, 2015, p.184


  • W. Heckel, Who’s who in the age of Alexander the Great: prosopography of Alexander’s empire, Wiley-Blackwell, 2006
Magas of Cyrene  Died: 250 BC Regnal titles RecreatedTitle last held byArcesilaus IV King of Cyrene 276 BC – 250 BC Succeeded byDemetrius
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Magas of Cyrene
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 🎉! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?