In the Coma Berenices (fr. 110.44-6 Pfeiffer) Callimachus mentioned Mount Athos and the canal dug for Xerxes at the northern end of the Akte peninsula:
ἀμνά]μῳ[ν Θείης ἀργὸς ὑ]περφέ[ρ]ετ[αι,
βουπόρος ᾿Αρσινόης μητρὸς σέο, καὶ διὰ μέ[σσου
Μηδείων ὀλοαὶ νῆες ἔβησαν ᾿´ Αθω
Two problems require solutions in these lines: (1) Why is Athos called the ‘ox-piercer of Arsinoe’? (2) Who is the descendant of Theia? The second of these problems, I shall argue, is solved by the solution to the first.
Arsinoe, wife of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, is here given the courtesy-title ‘mother’ of Berenike. There is no difficulty in the poet’s association of her with Mount Athos: she had formerly been married to King Lysimachos of Thrace, who won Macedonia and Thessaly from Demetrius, and her ties with the northern Aegean world were close. As queen in Thrace she had made a dedication to the Great Gods of Samothrace;’ it was to Samothrace also that she came after Ptolemy Keraunos had murdered her sons by Lysimachos. Callimachus has these northern Aegean connexions of Arsinoe in mind in another poem, the Ektheosis Arsinoes, in which Chans sees from Athos the funeral smoke of the queen’s pyre at Alexandria (fr. 228.57), having been sent from Lemnos to the mountain by the spirit of Arsinoe’s dead sister Philotera (fr. 228.44-7).