Theory: King Pyrrhus Was a Puppet of Ptolemy II

Oct 2018
whilehe might have inherited Lysimachos' troops, he will not have taken those of Seleukos who Antiochos I will have taken.
For some reason I thought he took control of Seleucus' expeditionary force after he murdered him. My mistake!
The argument is persuasively made by Adams in Ptolemy II Philadelphus and His World. One needs to read Gruen's chapter on Roman diplomatic instruments (The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome) with respect to φιλίᾳ. in brief, the diplomatic relationship of φιλίᾳ is an ad hoc, loose arrangement between rulers/states. It imposed no restraints nor constrained states to aid another thus providing the perfect loose "alliance" where rulers worked together when it suited. This is expressly attested between Soter and Pyrrhos and as Adams argues, there is no reason it was not continued with Philadelphos, Pyrros' brother in law. Pyrrhos was quite useful for Ptolemy II in Greece just as he had been for Soter.
Fair enough. I was critical because some of these alliances strike me as being quite flimsy, and I considered the filia between Pyrrhus and Demetrius as an example (the two of them likewise being brothers-in-law, via Deidamia). But of course a key difference there is the fact that Demetrius married Lanassa after she left Pyrrhus, which surely signals the end of filia in a big way. And Deidamia was dead by then anyway, right?
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Nov 2011
The Bluff
Correct. As I say, there's little reason for Philadelphos to nix the philia between Pyrrhos and Egypt. Pyrrhos was always able to be persuaded to be useful.

On the theory under discussion, it's often forgotten that Tarentum sought Pyrrhos' aid because he owed them. Tarentum had been allied with him over Korkyra. Methinks Nenci it is too clever by half seeing Ptolemy manipulating Pyrrhos into western conquest on his behalf. Again, the Lagid focus was always the Aegean and the eastern Aegean at that.
Oct 2018
Indeed, Pausanius tells us that (I mentioned it in my initial response). Corcyra really had an interesting existence during the 290s, didn't it? It fell into the hands of a Spartan adventurer, was taken by Cassander, was seized by Agathocles, was gifted as a dowry to Pyrrhus, was given by Pyrrhus' former wife to Demetrius, and was then retaken by Pyrrhus! Fun times.
Jun 2018
New Hampshire
It's an interesting idea, but I'm pretty skeptical for several reasons.

On Pyrrhus' marital relationship with the Ptolemies: Yes, between 301 and 297 Pyrrhus was a hostage at the court of Ptolemy I, and they evidently established an alliance. Pyrrhus married Ptolemy I's step-daughter, and Ptolemy then provided him with the forces to re-take Epirus, using him as a power-play against Cassander. But it does not necessarily follow that this alliance had so much longevity that it influenced events in the 270s. The alliances of the Successor Period strike me as being pretty flimsy. They changed as new opportunities presented themselves. Take for example Pyrrhus' relationship with Demetrius the Besieger. Pyrrhus served under him at Ipsus, but less than ten years later they're enemies at war.

On Ptolemy Keraunos vs Ptolemy II: This is certainly an intriguing idea, and I sympathize with it. But a possible alternative is that Ptolemy Keraunos was willing to sacrifice some troops so long as Pyrrhus did go overseas. As in, getting him to go overseas could have appeared a worthy investment. Keraunos didn't necessarily know, for example, that the Gauls were about to descend on Macedon. Indeed, from what I remember he appears to have been quite unprepared for the Gallic invasion when it happened. He could have felt fairly comfortable. He had inherited the army of Seleucus and presumably what remained of the army of Lysimachus. Antigonus Gonatas would have appeared less of a threat than he had been when Demetrius and his invasion force still existed. But Pyrrhus would certainly have appeared a threat. He had already intervened in or invaded Macedon three times, partitioning Macedon with Lysimachus on the third occasion. Lysimachus later drove him out, but he thus had a claim to Macedon. He had doubled the size of his kingdom and had intervened in affairs in Greece proper. He already had a reputation for valour (having defeated Pantauchus in one-on-one combat), probably also for his military writings, and he had used his reputation to defeat Demetrius, provoking his army to defect without a battle. Later in 274, after Gonatas refused Pyrrhus' request for reinforcements, Pyrrhus invaded Macedon again and seized most of the kingdom. Again, he used his reputation to provoke defections. So, for Keraunos, if we do identify this Ptolemy with Keraunos, he faced two options: a) provide some military units to Pyrrhus, and thus get this likely-trouble-maker out of his geographical vicinity while he worked on consolidating his kingdom, and thereby also foster a powerful ally, or b) refuse and possibly face Pyrrhus' wrath, as would later happen to Gonatas.

It should also be noted that something appears to be wrong with Justin's figures. Plutarch (Pyrrhus 15.1), Orosius (4.1.6) and Zonaras (8.2) attest that Pyrrhus went to Italy with twenty elephants, not fifty, and Plutarch claims that the cavalry that Pyrrhus brought numbered only 3000.

The statement of Justin may also be a bit confused in another respect. He states that Pyrrhus, in return for the military units, married Ptolemy's daughter. Whether we are talking about Ptolemy II or Keraunos, the statement is not in itself implausible, since Pyrrhus did have multiple wives at the same time (Agathocles' daughter Lanassa divorced Pyrrhus because she was irritated by the fact that he also had barbarian wives; specifically Bircenna, the daughter of an Illyrian king, and also the daughter of a Paeonian king). But I wonder whether he has confused the Ptolemy that he's thinking of with Ptolemy I, whose step-daughter Pyrrhus had indeed married, albeit in the context of a different military expedition, Pyrrhus' retaking of the throne of Epirus.

Justin's statement also doesn't accord particularly well with the theory in the way that it presents the alliance (17.2): 'On going to assist the Tarentines, therefore, against the Romans, he desired of Antigonus the loan of vessels to transport his army into Italy; of Antiochus, who was better provided with wealth than with men, a sum of money; and of Ptolemy, some troops of Macedonian soldiers. Ptolemy, who had no excuse for holding back for want of forces, supplied him with five thousand infantry, four thousand cavalry, and fifty elephants, but for not more than two years’ service. In return for this favour, Pyrrhus, after marrying the daughter of Ptolemy, appointed him guardian of his kingdom in his absence; lest, on carrying the flower of his army into Italy, he should leave his dominions a prey to his enemies.'

The condition of two years seems to emphasize the temporary nature of the alliance, and the condition that 'Ptolemy' protect Epirus better accords with the geographical position of Macedon (although I acknowledge that the Ptolemies did sometimes intervene in Greece using their fleet).

I also question whether Rome would have been so forgiving of the Ptolemies and become so friendly with them if they suspected that Ptolemy II had been behind Pyrrhus. Rome, especially mid-Republican Rome, rarely gave off a forgiving vibe.

Moreover, accepting this hypothesis means ignoring the narrative as it has come down to us in quite a big way. The ancient sources do not ever suggest that Pyrrhus was a puppet of the Ptolemies, except early on in the context of his re-taking the throne, and they make clear that Pyrrhus intervened in Italy because he was invited by Tarentum (who had earlier assisted him against Corcyra: Pausanius 1.12.1), and that after the Battle of Ascalum Sicilian delegations arrived to persuade Pyrrhus to intervene against the Carthaginians. This makes Pyrrhus the passive, albeit opportunistic, player in these interactions. Maybe he was taking opportunities as they came on behalf of Ptolemy, but no source states this.

So, overall, I can see how it's possible, but as I see it there are several key hurdles that the hypothesis must overcome.
Wow! And I thought I was knowledgable about Classical Antiquity! I could use you to help teach my high school World History class. Perhaps you could help get my students interested in history.
Nov 2011
The Bluff
too much logistical issues?
That presents as one reason. More to the point, while Ptolemaic Egypt traded with the west, the Ptolemies' political and military interests lay in the eastern Aegean and Koile-Syria. The latter is roughly the Levant and was most crucial to Egyptian security. In the Aegean, Lagid interests centred on the islands of the eastern Aegean (especially Cyprus) and the coastal littoral of what is now Turkey (Kilikia, Caria). These were important assets in her trading regimes as well as military assets. Any major, long term expedition by the Ptolemies further west that Cyrenaica would invite the interest of her rivals - especially the Seleukids who always watched for opportunities to meddle in Koile-Syria and Egypt (hence the many "Syrian wars"). One need only look to the death of Philopater (Ptolemy IV) in 204BCE. Ptolemy V Epiphanes was too young to rule and his mother, Arsinoe, was murdered. Philip V of Macedon and the Seleukid king, Antiochos III ("The Great"), promptly formed a pact to attack Ptolemaic possessions and divide the spoils. No Lagid king was heading off westwards on a Pyrrhic jaunt of hopeful conquest. The danger in the rear was far too great.
Dec 2012
it must have been nice for Rome that all the Hellenic powers were busy weakening themselves for them, I suppose it was too small to be noticed until too late. As after all why would an elephant or rhino care about a rabbit in its path?