Belief in belief and divine kingship in early Ptolemaic Egypt: the case of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Arsinoe II

Source document: Religio. 2015, vol. 23, iss. 1, pp. [3]-23
  • ISSN
    1210-3640 (print)
    2336-4475 (online)
License: Not specified license
One of the main questions accompanying the phenomenon of deified kings in the Graeco-Roman world is whether people actually believed in the divine nature of their potentates. Taking Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his sister/wife Arsinoe II as a case of study, I argue that even though divine kingship was a political development that sought to establish a dynasty and, hence, political stability within a Hellenistic kingdom, it nevertheless generated a kind of belief. Drawing on Daniel Dennett's notion of 'belief in belief', I suggest that in the case of Ptolemaic Egypt believing in the belief that Ptolemy II and his sister/wife were divine was a possible 'religious' reaction by the people of Egypt. Such an approach suggests that the phenomenon of divine kingship generated a kind of response that must not be overseen or rejected solely on the basis of the political agendas that in principle motivated such practices, as most scholars have traditionally argued.