The period as a Persian province had seen repeated rebellions in conquered Egypt, and the Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty saw Egypt as nothing but a strategically secure cash cow to use as a power base for conquest and rule following the breaking up of Alexander the great's empire. The Ptolemaic kings pursued their incestuous marriages to play up to their native Egyptian subjects, which is doubtful if it worked, but it certainly disgusted Greeks in Egypt when Ptolemy II Philadelphus took up the old Pharaonic tradition:

All was not perfect, though. By now, the very intellectualism in Alexandria established by the first two Ptolemies had created satirists in the city, and no great man seems to have escaped them. When Ptolemy II married his full sister, the Greek poet Sotades published a lampoon that included the stinging line, "You are pushing the prong into an unholy fleshpot". This landed him in prison, and later Ptolemy II had him hunted down by his admiral, Patroclus, who drowned him in a lead coffin.