ABSTRACT

Shortly after the marriage of Ptolemy III Euergetes to Berenice II of Cyrene in 246 B.c., the king received word of imminent danger to his sister, another Berenice, who had been married to the late Antiochus II. When he marched into Syria in a vain attempt to save his sister's life, his bride vowed to dedicate a lock of her hair in exchange for his safety. Upon his triumphant return from campaign, the tress was dutifully shorn and dedicated to all the gods, only to disappear by the following day. The court astronomer Conon then announced that he had discovered the lock in the night sky, appearing as a new constellation between Virgo and Leo. 1 In a poem honoring the queen Callimachus provided further details of the event, that the lock was carried off by Zephyrus at the command of Aphrodite who then placed it among the stars. At some later point this Lock of Berenice, as it is conventionally called, was rewritten to serve as the final episode in Aetia. 2 For centuries it survived, apart from some few phrases, only in Catullus’ translation (C. 66), but substantial portions of the Greek text (frag. 110) are now known from two partially overlapping papyri, published, respectively, in 1929 (PSI 1092) and 1952 (POxy. 2258C). 3