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Translations of Hellenistic Inscriptions: 257


DECREE OF ALEXANDRIA


Greek Text:   BE_2013.472 + 475
Provenance:   Panopolis
Date:   243 B.C.
Tags:     divine_honours
Format:   see key to translations

  This bilingual hieroglyphic/demotic inscription, which was discovered in Akhmim, was first published, together with a German translation, by Y. El-Masry et al., "Das Synodeldekret von Alexandria aus dem Jahre 243 v. Chr." (2012).   The English translations of excerpts from the hieroglyphic and demotic texts - parallel to lines 11-15 of the Greek text - are mostly taken from D. Agut-Labordère, "Persianism through Persianization; The Case of Ptolemaic Egypt", p. 152 ( academia.edu ), and from S. Pfeiffer, "The Ptolemies: Hellenistic Kingship in Egypt" ( Oxford Handbooks Online ).

The historical context of the decree has been discussed by S.M. Burstein, in "The Ancient History Bulletin", 2016, pp.77-86 ( PDF ). He also explains how the missing Greek text was reconstructed by F. Kayser: 'Although space was left for it, the Greek version was not inscribed [on the stele]. The text of the Greek version, however, has been reconstructed on the basis of the new inscription from Akhmim from almost a hundred fragments of a copy that were discovered at Elephantine and are now preserved in Paris.'   The Greek version is translated here from the text published by S. Pfeiffer, "Griechische und lateinische Inschriften zum Ptolemäerreich und zur römischen Provinz Aegyptus", pp.65-70 ( Google Books ).


Hieroglyphic version

7 His Majesty moved out of Egypt in the first year that he took over the great office from his father's hand. His Majesty subdued [ . . . countries (?) of Asia] which were in the possession of his enemies; he collected tributes consisting of their wonderful and numerous treasures. His majesty captured 8 all their people, many horses, numerous elephants and the ships of the enemies; because His Majesty was victorious in battle, he brought them all to Egypt as captives. His Majesty made [many benefits (?) for those] who are in Egypt. His Majesty himself took care for the statues of the gods which had been taken away 9 from their places in the temples in Egypt to the two Retenu {Canaan/Phoenicia}, Syria, Cherek {Cilicia}, Seger {Sumer} and Susa at the time when the vile Asiatics of Persia did harm to the temples. He went around through all the foreign countries seeking them; His Majesty brought them to Egypt with great festivity, supplying the offering tables before them with food.10 This good god, living forever, returned the images of the gods to the temples from which had previously been removed . . . he preserved Egypt from insurrections at all times; he fought for it in a distant valley.

Demotic version

26 It is by his own arms that he rushed against numerous foreign countries which were stood up against him, seizing his goods, accomplishing numerous feats, capturing many soldiers, horses, elephants and boats.  27 He stopped, being victorious in fighting, and brought them to Egypt and he performed his benefactions . . . he searched them, [the statues] of the gods . . . which were taken towards Egypt, the land of the Assyrians, the land of the Syrians, the land of the Ḫnyrg.w, Persia, Elam, in the time of the violence accomplished by the Medes 28 against the temples. He made numerous inquiries, he brought them back in Egypt, he had celebrated feasts, holocausts, drink offerings . . . ensuring that the [gods] of Egypt were spared by the war at all times, fighting for them in a distant country.

Greek version

In the reign of Ptolemaios, son of Ptolemaios and Arsinoē [the gods] Adelphoi, in the fifth year, when [Aristoboulos] son of [Diodotos] was priest of Alexandros and of [the gods] Adelphoi and of the gods Euergetai, and Iamneia [daughter of Hyperbassas] was [kanephoros] of Arsinoē [Philadelphos], on the thirteenth day [of the month of Gorpiaios], which is the twelfth day of Phaophi in the calendar [of the Egyptians]; a decree.

The high priests and prophets [and those who] enter the innermost sanctuary [to clothe the gods], the feather-bearers {pterophoroi}, [the temple scribes, and] all the other [priests] who gathered from [the temples in the land] for the . . . [of king Ptolemaios] 5 and [for the festival] of Theadelpheia, [coming together in assembly on this] day [in the temple of Isis and the gods Adelphoi] in Alexandria, [declared]:

[Since king Ptolemaios], son of Ptolemaios and Arsinoē [the gods Adelphoi], has continually bestowed [many] great benefits [on the temples in the land] and takes [every] care [of those who dwell in Egypt; and upon] succeeding his father [as king] he further increased the revenues of the temples and he ordered that the revenues that they previously had should remain in the land] and the established . . .; [and out of his existing] taxes [and sources of revenue in Egypt, some he reduced and others he completely removed; and he removed the debts, which were many in number, owed to the] royal treasury [by the inhabitants of the] land, [in order that the people {laos} and everyone else should enjoy prosperity during his reign]; 10 and [he released] many [of those, who had been held in prison for a long time, from the charges against them.   In the first year, in which succeeded] his father as king, [he went off to war . . .  being victorious], he captured many [soldiers and] horses and elephants [and ships, and] . . . of the sacred statues that had been carried off [from the temples in] the land and taken [to Syria and Phoenicia and Cilicia and Babylonia and Persis and Susiana in] the time of the crimes committed by [the Persians] against the temples; and after seeking them out [he brought them back] to [Egypt with sacrifices and libations, and he returned them to the temples 15 from which each of them had originally been removed]; and he has kept the land in [peace, fighting] in its defence at a long distance away, [and restoring the life of men.   He has taken every] care [of Apis, Mnevis and the other sacred animals] venerated in the land, much more than the kings before him, supplying what is necessary for their burial] carefully and considerately . . . with every [expense and provision, and assisting their consecration in their own temples with sacrifices and festivals] and the other [customary rites] . . . [which are appropriate for the] temples and [Egypt] . . . [and temples and] . . . and altars, some [he dedicated and also others he repaired; and] all the [temples] . . . 20 . . . being himself . . . in return for [which the gods have given them] a stable kingdom, [and will give them all other blessings] for [evermore].

Therefore with good [fortune it is resolved by the priests] in the [land to] enhance the existing [honours in the] temples for king Ptolemaios and [queen Berenike], the gods Euergetai, [and for their] parents [the gods Adelphoi] and [for their] grandparents the gods Soteres;   [and that images] shall be [made] of king [Ptolemaios, son of Ptolemaios and] Arsinoē the gods Adelphoi, and of queen [Berenike, his sister and] wife, [the gods] Euergetai;   [and to dedicate] a golden [shrine in each of the temples, and to put it in the innermost sanctuaries] 25 with the [other shrines] . . . [and when] in the [great] festivals [the processions of shrines occur, the shrine of the gods Euergetai shall be carried with them; and so that] it may be evident, [now and in the future] . . . the above . . . [on the shrine there shall be placed the ten royal crowns of the] king and [queen, which] shall have [a uraeus] attached to them, as is customary [for the uraeus-bearing royal crowns that are in other shrines;   and since there happens to be a holy day] in the temples [on the] fifth day of Dios, on which day [the birthday] of the king is celebrated, and also [on the twenty]-fifth day [of the same month, on which day he succeeded] his father as king, [all] the priests shall sail down {to Alexandria} to perform the [customary rites] in these festivals. 

[Since] it has happened that the birth of the king and his succession to the kingship 30 were the start [of many blessings for all men], it is resolved to celebrate [these days - the fifth and] twenty-[fifth] - every month as holy days in the [temples in] the land and similarly also to celebrate [the ninth day] of every month, on which day [the birthday] is celebrated [of queen Berenike], the sister and wife of [king] Ptolemaios; and sacrifices and libations [and the other] customary rites shall be performed [just as in the other festivals, so also on] these three holy days, and the offerings provided [for the] sacrifice [shall be distributed among the] attendants of the temple; [and the birthday of the queen shall be celebrated every year on the] ninth day of Audnaios, [sixty-four days] after the [fifth day of Dios, on which day the] birthday of the king is celebrated. [It shall be permitted also that any other private individuals] who wish 35 [may place] in their homes also . . . [a golden shrine] of the aforesaid [gods Euergetai, and thereby observe the] holy days and festivals, [both the monthly and the annual ones, so that] all [the inhabitants of] the [land] may be seen [to honour the gods Euergetai], as is [right].

This [decree] shall be inscribed [on a stone stele in sacred writing {hieroglyphs}] and in [local] Egyptian writing and in Greek writing, [and it shall be set up in each temple of the] first and [the second and the] third rank, [in the most prominent position].


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