A wildly imaginative yet historically accurate, intensely dramatic yet often hilarious, re-creation of the early years of the House of Ptolemy (323—30 B.C.)–the forgotten ten-generation dynasty of Greek Pharaohs of Egypt.
And what a dynasty . . .
The Ptolemies is a story so layered, so dark and glittering and disastrous, that perhaps only Thoth the Ibis–the irreverent, riotously pompous narrator who is also the god of Wisdom and Patron of Scribes–could do it justice.
It begins with Ptolemy Soter, the Macedonian general who, after the death of Alexander the Great, takes all Egypt for himself–and hijacks Alexander’s body to serve as his lucky mascot. Of humble origin, Ptolemy now becomes Satrap of Egypt, and he is soon to be Pharaoh, a god in his own lifetime. We follow this rise to divinity as it takes him from Memphis to Alexandria, and through a string of wives and concubines, bad-seed sons and tragic daughters, conniving High Priests and oracle-giving sacred bulls. And around him: a constantly shifting cast of Greeks and Egyptians–high and low, powerful and weak, honorable and evil–whose lives unfurl against a dense and vividly drawn backdrop of increasingly bizarre dynastic drama and turmoil.
The triumph of The Ptolemies is its often unexpected but always masterly combination of narrative sweep and riveting historical detail, of fact and invention, of gravity and humor. It will take you by surprise at every turn.
About Duncan Sprott
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Published May 11, 2004
History, Literature & Fiction.