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OGIS: 56


THE EGYPTIAN PRIESTS AT KANOPOS HONOUR PTOLEMAIOS III

Greek text:   OGIS_56.A   ( Cairo CG 22187 )
Provenance:     Tanis
Date:   238 B.C.
Tags:     divine_honours
Format:   see key to translations

Like the Rosetta Stone, this decree was inscribed in three versions: hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek ( a translation of the hieroglyphic version is available here ). Copies of the decree have been found in various locations in Egypt; the first copy was found by Egyptologists in 1866. For some comments on the significance of the decree, see G. Hölbl, "A History of the Ptolemaic Empire", pp.105-109 ( Google Books ).

The translation is adapted from J.P. Mahaffy, "A History of Egypt", vol. 4, pp.112-118 (London, 1899), with the help of some more recent translations. The numbers in red are the line numbers in the Greek text. Click on the H symbols to go to the corresponding line in the Hieroglyphic version.


In the reign of Ptolemaios, son of Ptolemaios and Arsinoē, Brother-and-Sister Gods, year 9, Apollonides son of Moschion being priest of Alexander and the Brother-and-Sister Gods and the Beneficent Gods, and Menekrateia daughter of Philammon being kanephoros of Arsinoē Philadelphos, on the 7th of the month Apellaios, or according to the Egyptians, the 17th of Tybi. Decree.

The chief priests and the prophets and those who enter the inner shrine for the robing of the gods and the feather-bearers and the sacred scribes { 5 H } and the rest of the priests who came together from the temples throughout the land for the 5th day of Dios, on which the birth-feasts of the king are celebrated, and for the 25th of the same month, on which he received the sovereignty from his father, in formal assembly on this day in the temple of the Beneficent Gods in Kanopos declared:-

Since king Ptolemaios son of Ptolemaios and Arsinoē, Brother-and-Sister Gods, and Berenike, his sister and wife, Beneficent Gods, are continually providing many great benefits to the national temples, and increasing the honours of the gods, and in every respect take good care of Apis and Mnevis and the other renowned sacred animals { 10 H } with great expense and ample provisions ; and the king, having made a foreign campaign, brought back into Egypt the sacred images, which had been carried off from the land by the Persians, and restored them to the temples from which each of them had been carried away; and he has kept the land in peace, defending it with arms against many nations and their sovereigns; and the king and queen afford good government to all that dwell in the land and to all others who are subject to their sovereignty; and when the river once failed to rise sufficiently and all in the land were in despair at what had occurred, and called to mind the disasters which had occurred { 15 H } under some of the former kings, when it happened that the inhabitants of the land suffered from shortage of inundation; they protected with care both those that dwelt in the temples and the other inhabitants, with much forethought, and foregoing not a little of their revenue for the sake of saving lives, they sent for corn for the country from Syria, Phoenicia, Cyprus, and many other lands at high prices, and saved the inhabitants of Egypt. Thus they bequeathed an immortal benefaction, and the greatest record of their own merit both to this and future generations, in requital for which the gods have given them their royal status well established, { 20 H } and will give them all other good things for all time.

With the favour of fortune: it is resolved by the priests throughout the country: to augment the pre-existing honours paid in the temples to king Ptolemaios and queen Berenike, Beneficent Gods, and to their parents the Brother-and-Sister Gods, and to their grandparents the Saviour Gods, and that the priests in each of the temples throughout the country shall be called in addition Priests of the Beneficent Gods, and that there shall be inserted on all their documents, and added to the engraving of the rings which they wear, the priesthood of the Benefactor Gods, and that there be constituted in addition to the currently existing four phyles of the community of the priests in each temple another, to be entitled the { 25 H } fifth phyle of the Beneficent Gods, since it also happened with good fortune that the birth of king Ptolemaios, son of the Brother-and-Sister Gods, took place on the fifth of Dios, which was the beginning of many good things for all mankind; and that into this phyle there shall be enrolled the priests born since the first year and those to be entered among them up to the month Mesore in the 9th year, and their offspring for ever; but that the pre-existing priests up to the first year shall remain in the phyles in which they were previously, and likewise that their children shall henceforth be enrolled in the tribes of their fathers; and that instead of the 20 Councillor Priests chosen { 30 H } each year from the pre-existing four phyles, of whom five are taken from each phyle, the Councillor Priests shall be 25 in number, an additional five being chosen from the fifth phyle of the Beneficent Gods; and that the members of the fifth phyle of the Beneficent Gods shall share in the holy rites and everything else in the temples, and that there shall be a phylarch of this phyle, as is the case with the other phyles.

And since feasts of the Benefactor Gods are celebrated every month in the temples, in accordance with the previous decree, on the 1st and 9th and 25th days, and national feasts and festivals are performed yearly for the other supreme gods , { 35 H } there shall be kept yearly a national festival both in the temples and throughout all the land for king Ptolemaios and queen Berenike, the Beneficent Gods, on the day when the star of Isis { Sothis } rises, which is held in the sacred books to be the new year, and is now in this 9th year kept on the 1st of the month Payni, on which the little Boubastia and the great Boubastia are celebrated, and the gathering of the crops and the rise of the river takes place; but if it happen that the rising of the star changes to another day in 4 years, the feast shall not be changed, but shall still be kept on the 1st of Payni, on which it was originally held in the 9th year, and it shall last for 5 days { 40 H } with wearing of crowns and sacrifices and libations and the other suitable observances.

And in order that the seasons may correspond regularly according to the establishment of the world, and in order that it may not occur that some of the national feasts kept in winter may come to be kept in the summer, the sun changing one day in every four years, and that other feasts now kept in summer may come to be kept in winter in future times, as has formerly happened, and now would happen if the arrangement of the year remained of 360 days, and the five additional days added; from now onwards one day, a feast of the Beneficent Gods, shall be added every four years to the five additional days { 45 H } before the new year, in order that all may know that the former defect in the arrangement of the seasons and the year and the received opinions concerning the whole arrangement of the heavens has been corrected and made good by the Benefactor Gods.

And since it happened that the daughter born of king Ptolemaios and queen Berenike, Beneficent Gods, and called Berenike, who was also forthwith declared queen, being yet a virgin, passed away suddenly into the everlasting world, while the priests who came together to the king every year from the country were yet with him. The priests forthwith made great lamentation at the occurrence, and having petitioned the king and queen, persuaded them to establish the goddess with Osiris in the temple { 50 H } in Kanopos, which is not only among the temples of first rank, but is among those most honoured by the king and everyone in the country - and the procession of the sacred boat of Osiris to this temple takes place every year from the temple in the Herakleion on the 29th day of Choiach, when all the [priests] of the first-rank temples offer sacrifices upon the altars established by them on both sides of the dromos - and after this they performed the ceremonies of her deification and the conclusion of the mourning with great magnificence and care, just as is customary for Apis and Mnevis.

It is resolved: to perform everlasting honours to queen Berenike, daughter of the Beneficent Gods, in all { 55 H } the temples of the land; and - since she passed away to the gods in the month of Tybi, in which also the daughter of the Sun in the beginning departed this life, whom her loving father sometimes called his "diadem", and sometimes his "sight", and they celebrate for her a feast and a boat-procession in most of the first-rank temples in this month, in which her apotheosis originally took place - [it is resolved] to perform for queen Berenike also, the daughter of the Beneficent Gods, in all the temples of the land in the month of Tybi a feast, a boat-procession for four days from the 17th, in which the procession and concluding of the mourning originally took place; also to fashion a sacred image of her, in gold and set with jewels, in each of the first and second rank temples, and set it up in the inner shrine, which the prophet or those of the priests who enter { 60 H } the sanctuary for the robing of the gods shall bear in his arms, when the going abroad and feasts of the other gods take place, in order that when it is seen by all, it may be honoured and worshipped under the name of Berenike, Mistress of Virgins; and that the royal headgear placed upon her image, differing from that set upon the head of her mother queen Berenike, shall consist of two ears of corn, in the midst of which shall be the asp-shaped crown, and behind this a suitable papyrus-shaped sceptre, such as goddesses are accustomed to hold in their hands, around which also the tail of the asp-crown shall be wound, so that the sign marking the name of Berenike, according to the symbolic system of the sacred script {hieroglyphs}, shall be indicated by the design of her royal headgear.

And when the Kikellia are celebrated in the month of Choiach before the second voyage of Osiris, { 65 H } the maiden daughters of the priests shall prepare another image of Berenike, Mistress of Virgins, to which they shall perform likewise a sacrifice and the other observances performed at this feast, and it shall be lawful in the same way for any other maidens that choose to perform the customary observances to the goddess; and hymns shall be sung to her both by the chosen sacred maidens and by those who are in service to the gods, and they shall put on their heads the characteristic royal headgears of the goddesses, whose priestesses they are accounted to be; and when the early harvest is at hand, the sacred maidens shall carry up ears of corn which are to be set before the image of the goddess; and the singing men and the women shall sing to her daily, in the feasts and festivals of the remaining gods also, whatever hymns the sacred scribes may compose { 70 H } and hand over to the teacher of choirs, of which also copies shall be entered in the sacred books; and since rations of corn are given to the priests out of the sacred revenues, whenever they are brought into the community of priests, there shall be given to the daughters of the priests out of the sacred revenues, counting from the day when they are born, the rations that are determined by the councillor priests in each of the temples, in proportion to the sacred revenues; and the bread served out to the wives of the priests shall have a distinctive shape, and shall be called the bread of Berenike.

The appointed overseer and high priest in each of the temples and the scribes of the temple shall inscribe this decree on a stone or bronze stele in hieroglyphics, in Egyptian, and in Greek, and shall set it up { 75 H } in the most conspicuous place in the first, second, and third rank temples, in order that the priests throughout the land may be seen to honour the Beneficent Gods and their children, as is right.

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