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Translations of Hellenistic Inscriptions: 15


DECREE OF THE PRIESTS AT MEMPHIS


Date:   182 B.C.
Format:   see key to translations

This decree, which has survived in two copies, has been edited with a French translation and full commentary by A.Nespoulous-Phalippou, "Ptolémée Épiphane, Aristonikos et les prêtres d'Égypte. Le Décret de Memphis, 182 a.C." ( academia.edu ). The new edition, which very generously has been made freely available on the internet, rejects the traditional reading, dating back to G. Daressy in 1911, which suggested that the text included a reference to an expedition of Aristonicus against Arados in Syria. The new edition places all the events described in the second half of the decree in the north of the Delta in Lower Egypt, during the final stages of the revolt of native Egyptians against Ptolemy V. Two of the place names give some indication of the locality; Sema-Behedet is (definitely) Tell el-Balamun, and Payomsay is (probably) Lake Borollos.

The first half of the decree is very similar to the Second Philae Decree. The praise of Aristonicus in the second half may have been well deserved; his military skills are confirmed in a brief character sketch by Polybius ( 22.22 ).

The translation here is mostly based on the French translation of copy A ( Cairo RT 2/3/25/7 ). In this copy, the decree was issued, according to the most probable interpretation of the date, in April 182 B.C.; the date in copy B is three months later. It appears that all the events in the second half of the decree occurred in year 21 of the king (185/4 B.C.); in that case, the final defeat of the rebels (on Mecheir 15 in the Egyptian calendar) must have happened in March 184 B.C.



In year 23, on the 24th day of Gorpiaeus, which corresponds to the 24th day of the month for the Egyptians, in the reign of the majesty of Horus - the young one, who has appeared as king in place of his father, the one of the two goddesses - he whose power is great, who strengthens the two lands, the one who embellishes Egypt, whose heart is kind towards the gods, the golden Horus - the one who dispenses life of mankind, the master of the feasts as Ptah-Tenen, the king in the likeness of Ra, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, the heir of the two gods Philopatores, beloved of Ptah, to whom Ra has given the victory, the living image of Amon, the Son of Ra, Ptolemy - may he live for ever, the god Epiphanes, the son of Ptolemy and Arsinoē, the gods Philopatores. When the priest of Alexander, the gods Soteres, the gods Adelphi, the gods Euergetae, the gods Philopatores and the Gods Epiphaneis was Ptolemaeus 5 son of Pyrrhides ; the athlophoros of Berenice Euergetes was Demetria daughter of Dorimachus; the kanephoros of Arsinoē Philadelphus was Arsinoē daughter of Praxotimus; and the priestess of Arsinoē Philadelphus was Eirene, the daughter of Ptolemaeus.

On this day, a decree. The superintendents of the [temples], the prophets, the keepers of the secrets, the priests who enter the sacred place and adorn the gods with garments and the scribes of the [gods' words], and the personnel of the House of Life, and the others priests from the shrines of Upper and Lower Egypt, came to Memphis on the day of the ceremony of the enthronement of the bull Mnevis. They met in the temple of Memphis, and thereupon they announced:

Whereas the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, [the heir of the two gods Philopatores, beloved of Ptah], to whom Ra has given the victory, [the living image of Amon], the Son of Ra, Ptolemy, may he live for ever, 10 the god Epiphanes, the son of Ptolemy and the sovereign Arsinoē, the two gods Philopatores, and Cleopatra, the sovereign and the Lady of the Two Lands of Egypt, the two gods Epiphaneis, have been doing every good thing in the 'Riverbanks of Horus' {Egypt} and what is on them and those who are in charge of their excellent offices in their entirety, their hearts being well disposed towards the gods, * * *

{The next section enumerates the ways in which the royal couple had favoured the temples and priests of the Egyptian gods, financially and otherwise.}

What was done in year 21.   Thereupon his majesty has granted amnesty 20 to every man who was under accusation and to the many troops . . . [up until year 17 . . . ].   [The arrears of tax] which are owed to his majesty by the temples and the money from byssus-cloth that is traded by those who (?) are in the temples . . . his majesty [has exempted them].   His majesty has protected . . . [the gods and all (?) things, so that they should not be harmed].

[The enemy fomented a revolt by (?) spreading his crimes; then his majesty went to Thebes of the North {Tanis}] in order to repel the attack of the enemy of the gods. He conquered the enemy in battle, [together with the armed troops] who were allied to the king, [in the place where they (?) had gone]; they were in the marsh situated in the region around Sema-Behedet. The king (?) and his armed troops led a coalition against the numerous [(?) enemies] in the 'Riverbanks of Horus' {Egypt}, with the humans who are in Egypt. They (?) captured 25 the [ky.w enemies] and the sbj enemy during the season of the inundation. The king (?) and his armed troops . . . all sorts of war [ships]. As for this naval force, it was organised in its entirety in a large (?) circle at the place where the troops had gone. His majesty provided money and corn, [as well as all kinds of goods], for the rations of the infantry and the military troops who were under his command.

Then as for him, went the beloved of his majesty, the confidant of the king, the commander in chief of the cavalry, Aristonicus, since . . . (?) as far as . . . Aristonicus delivered the gold and silver of his majesty for the payment of the mounted troops and of the troops on the fleet of the king. The kbn boats and the by boats and the war ships went to the nemery {? quay} of Payomsay, which is is situated in Ouadj-our {? the Delta} . . . of the marsh in the region 30 around Sema-[Behedet] . . . with the enemy, this opponent and the ky.w enemies who were with him. The enemies came (?) for . . . without knowing that those who had left . . . this (?) bastion . . . carrying out a massacre [in this (?) bastion] within the (?) basin. All the men came to meet at the time of the (?) plots, and each man was ready to commit crimes. Thereupon this Aristonicus left Payomsay and went towards the marsh, which was pestilential. He offered drinking water, with wood as well as (?) gold, silver, corn and numerous other things, more than was incumbent on the (?) administrator of the basin, in the place where there was fighting. They departed (?) because of their distress near the place where the water was (?) distributed. Aristonicus was busy in . . . this bastion which he protected with the defenders and the military troops who were with him. He . . . great misery because of the enemy; then he fought against (?) the enemies 35 . . . on the nemery at the time of the (?) coalition in the month of Mecheir, from the 6th day until the 15th . . . indeed he won a king-like victory.

inscription 16


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