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Agatharchides (Ἀγαθαρχίδης or Agatharchus Ἀγάθαρχος) of Cnidus was a Greek historian and geographer (flourished 2nd century BC).



He is believed to have been born at Cnidus, hence his appellation. As Stanley M. Burstein notes, the "evidence for Agatharchides' life is meagre." Photius describes him as a threptos, a kind of assistant of servile origin, to Cinnaeus and states that he was later a secretary to Heraclides Lembus. Cinnaeus served as a counselor to Ptolemy VI; Heraclides is best known for negotiating the treaty that ended Antiochus IV's invasion of Egypt in 169 BC.

Agatharchides furnishes few clues about his own life. At the conclusion of his On the Erythraean Sea, he apologizes for being unable to complete his work "since our age is unable to similarly bear the toil" and "as a result of the disturbances in Egypt" he could no longer access the official records (a fragment cited by Photius in his Bibliotheca Cod. 250.110, 460b). There are two possible occasions when this could have happened: the first was in 145 BC, when Ptolemy VIII purged Alexandria of the intellectuals who supported his rivals for the throne; and in 132 BC after Ptolemy, who had been driven from his kingdom by a rebellion in Alexandria, returned and exacted reprisals on that city. While most scholars have favored the later date, Burstein argues for the earlier one.

Extracts from the first book of his Erythraean Sea, written in the first person and advocating a military campaign into the lands south of Egypt, led early scholars to deduce that Agatharchides was an important political figure of his time, and served as a guardian to one of the sons of Ptolemy VIII. Dodwell endeavored to show that it the younger son, Alexander, and objects to Soter, that he reigned conjointly with his mother. This, however, was the case with Alexander likewise. Wesseling and Henry Fynes Clinton think the elder brother to be the one meant, for Soter was more likely to have been a minor on his accession in 117 BC than Alexander in 107 BC, ten years after their father's death; the second edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary article on Agatharchides agrees that the son was Soter. Moreover Dodwell's date would leave too short an interval between the publication of Agatharchides's work on the Erythraean Sea (about 113 BC), and the work of Artemidorus. However at least as early as 1810, when B. G. Niebuhr pointed out that these excerpts were from a speech, and not part of the narrative of his book, this theory has been recognized as conflicting with other known historical facts.


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