Ptolemy I of Epirus: The true ruler of Epirus in Pyrrhus’ absence
Ptolemy, commonly known as Ptolemy I of Epirus, was the son of Pyrrhus I of Epirus (r. 302-296; 297-272 B.C.E.) and Antigone. His father was the famous Pyrrhus, who fought the Romans and Carthaginians. As for his mother, she was the daughter of Berenice and a Macedonian nobleman named Philip; Berenice later married Ptolemy I Soter (r. 305-282 B.C.E.), the founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt.
Antigone likely lost her life in giving birth to Ptolemy of Epirus. Ptolemy took his name in honor of the Egyptian Ptolemy; the latter helped Pyrrhus regain his Epirote throne in 297 and generally supported his efforts. Ptolemy, son of Pyrrhus, had one attested older sister, Olympias II of Epirus (ruled as regent circa 245-240 B.C.E.), and two (attested) half-brothers, Helenus and Alexander II of Epirus (r. 272 – c. 245 B.C.E.). When the time came, Ptolemy did not rule in his own right but as a regent ruler on behalf of his father.
Ptolemy I, King of Epirus
Literary sources on Ptolemy’s deeds are almost non-existent. Based on the little evidence we have, we know that he was a renowned fighter and general. In 274 B.C.E. leading only 60 men, Ptolemy bravely assaulted and took possession of Corcyra on behalf of his father. He also distinguished himself in a naval battle. In the following invasion of Macedon, Pyrrhus led a detachment of his father’s army against Antigonus II Gonatas. He succeeded in dislodging Antigonus from Macedon’s center Thessaloniki and, thus, allowing Pyrrhus to proclaim kingship of Macedon for a second time.
In 280 B.C.E., Pyrrhus left Epirus to fight in his famous Italian campaigns. Before leaving his domain, he left his oldest son Ptolemy in charge of the kingdom. The other two sons he took with him. So, from 280-275 B.C.E., Ptolemy was the effective ruler of Epirus.
During his administration of Epirus, Ptolemy preserved the territory and prosperity of the kingdom. After Pyrrhus returned from Italy, he joined his father in his campaign against Macedon and Peloponnesian states. At Peloponnesus, in 272 B.C.E., Ptolemy was killed in combat; the same fate suffered by his father soon after him.