|The building of the rotunda was financed by Arsinoe II (Ἀρσινόη, 316 BC – circa 270-260 BC). Arsinoe was the daughter of Ptolemy I, one of Alexander the Great's generals, who became the first Hellenistic pharoah of Egypt after Alexander's death. At the age of 15 she was married to Lysimachus (Λυσίμαχος, circa 360-281 BC), another of Alexander's generals who had taken over part of Anatolia (Asia Minor), including Pergamon, and Thrace.
She later married her brother Ptolemy II Philadelphos (Πτολεμαῖος Φιλάδελφος, Ptolemy the sibling-loving, 309–246 BC) and thus became co-ruler of Eqypt with him. Ptolemy II also financed the building of a propylon (gateway) at the Sanctuary of the Great Gods (see gallery page 18).
The Arsinoe Rotonda, also known as the Arsinoeion, of which only the foundations can now be seen, was a large circular building 20 metres in diameter, the largest ancient Greek rotunda. It had a conical roof supported by a colonnade of Doric columns around the outside and Corinthian columns surrounding the interior.
The function of the rotunda is unknown, however altars and shafts for libations as well as reliefs decorated with rosettes and garlanded bulls' heads (now in the museum) suggest that it was used for sacrifices. According to another theory the building was used for the reception of delegates from Greek cities to the festivals at the sanctuary.
Gold oktodrachme with the head
of Arsinoe II of Egypt, 283-245 BC.
Bode Museum, Berlin.
Gold oktodrachme depicting
Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II
of Egypt, 260-240 BC.
Altes Museum, Berlin.
Terracotta head of Arsinoe II.
National Archaeological Museum,
Egyptian Collection, Inv. No. 48.
|photo: © David John