Ptolemy was one of Alexander’s long time homies. He was part of King Philip’s court, and knew Alexander when he was very young. He wasn’t particularly high ranking early on in Alexander’s campaigns but later on he became a senior general, and one of Alexander’s personal bodyguards.
After Alexander’s death, there was debate over who would be in charge. Ptolemy met with Alexander’s other top generals and proposed dividing the kingdom into three separate regions that would be ruled independently while maintaining a connection. Each of them could rule over one of those regions.
Ptolemy thought that having Alexander’s half brother rule would be a failure. He didn’t see a point in trying to have any one person rule the whole empire, but the other two rejected this proposal.
Ptolemy, probably predicting that things were about to go to shit, headed straight for Egypt to stake his claim. Egypt was wealthy and well positioned. It was in a good defensive position since the surroundings were mostly uninhabitable desert, which made an invasion challenging. It was also fairly isolated from the rest of Alexander’s kingdom.
All of these things made it the place to go if you wanted to break out from Alexander’s empire and start something new.
When Ptolemy got to Egypt, he played it safe and instead of declaring himself Pharaoh or King, he chose the simple title of Satrap, which meant governor. There was a slight problem with that since Cleomenes of Naucratis had been the one in charge of Egypt.
No worries though, Ptolemy appointed Cleomenes to be his assistant, so that solved everything. It was a temporary solution, but this problem would have to wait, because there was something much more important about to happen.
After two long years of preparation, Alexander’s body was finally ready to be moved from Babylon back to Macedonia. Alexander’s body was important, and not just because some seer said “that the country in which his body was buried would be the most prosperous in the world”.
Alexander was a legend and a symbol of greatness. Whoever had Alexander’s body would have the most legitimate claim to continuing his legacy. That body would be even more valuable in Egypt, where the story of Alexander being the son of Amun gave legitimacy to Alexander as a Pharaoh of Egypt.
With all of this in mind, Ptolemy headed straight for the funeral procession, took control of it, and ordered it south to Egypt.
This was a big blow to Perdiccas, another of Alexander’s bodyguards, and the one that Alexander had given his ring to on his deathbed. Perdiccas was more or less in charge of Alexander’s empire, and he was understandably pissed about this whole situation. Ptolemy had gone past the point of no return with this move.
Ptolemy now had the golden sarcophagus of the legend himself. He had Alexander buried in an Egyptian tomb, among the Pharaohs in the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis. This showed a lot of respect for the Egyptians and their traditions.
Ptolemy eventually wanted the body in Alexandria, the city he intended to be his capital, but that would have to come later. For now, he had two problems to deal with.
Perdiccas was definitely going to come after him for stealing Alexander’s body, and Cleomenes was friendly with Perdiccas in addition to being hated by basically everyone in Egypt. You know what that means? Time to get the spears out.