Translations of Hellenistic Inscriptions: 259


Text:   Cairo CG 31088   [ TM 2985 ]
Provenance:   Memphis ,   Heroonpolis
Date:   217 B.C.
Tags:     divine_honours ,   elephants
Format:   see key to translations
Translated by: E.R.Bevan

This decree reports the reaction of the Egyptian priests to a great victory over the Syrians in 217 B.C. The Macedonian king Ptolemy IV is described in terms reminiscent of the conquering pharaohs of the past.

The translation has been updated in one place to suggest that Laodice, Antiochus' wife, was present at the battle of Raphia - based on a new examination of the hieroglyphic text by David Klotz, "Who was with Antiochos III at Raphia?" ( ).

Scene from top of Raphia decree
Ptolemy IV attacks Antiochus III (not shown),
while ArsinoŽ III watches.

On the 1st of Artemisius, which, according to the Egyptian calendar, is the 1st of Phaophi, in the 6th year of the youthful Horus, the strong one, whom his father caused to be manifested as King, Lord of the asp-crowns, him whose strength is great, whose heart is pious towards the gods, who is a protector of men, superior to his foes, who maketh Egypt happy, who gives radiance to the temples, who firmly establishes the laws which have been proclaimed by Thoth the Great-great, Lord of the Thirty Years' Feasts, even as Ptah the Great, a King like the Sun, King of the Upper and Lower Countries, offspring of the Benefactor Gods, one whom Ptah has approved, to whom the Sun has given victory, the living image of Amen, king Ptolemy {Ptlumis}, living-forever, beloved of Isis, when Ptolemy son of Aeropus was priest of Alexander, and the Gods Adelphoi, and the Benefactor Gods, and (?) Rhoda daughter of (?) Pyrrhon was kanephoros of ArsinoŽ Philadelphus,

Decree made this day:

The chief priests and the prophets and the priests who enter the inner shrine for the robing of the gods, and the writers of the Divine Book {i.e. the 'feather-bearers'} and the sacred scribes, and the other priests who have come together to the king from the temples throughout Egypt to Memphis, at the time when he returned to Egypt, in order to present to him the flower-bunches and the amulets, . . . and to make the sacrifices, the burnt offerings and the libations, and perform the other things which are customary on such an occasion, being assembled in the temple in Memphis, declare:

Whereas the beneficence of king Ptolemy, son of Ptolemy and queen ArsinoŽ {Berenice}, the Benefactor Gods, has bestowed benefits onto service of the gods, by reason of the concern which he has shown at all times for that which pertains unto their honour, it came to pass that all the gods of Egypt with their goddesses went before him and directed him in the way and protected him, what time he went forth into the land of the Assyrians and the land of the Phoenicians. They bestowed on him revelations, and declared unto him, and gave him an oracle through dream, saying that he would conquer his enemies, and that they themselves would not depart from him in hours of peril, but stand by him to protect him.

In the year 5, on the 1st of Pachon, he moved out from Pelusium and fought with Antiochus at a city called Raphia, near the frontier of Egypt, to the east of Bethelea and PsinŻfer (?). On the 10th of the aforesaid month he conquered him in great and noble fashion. Those of his enemies who were able to come near him in the battle, he stretched out dead before him, even as HarsiÍsis slew his adversaries in old time. He compelled Antiochus to fling away his diadem and his royal hat. Antiochus fled with his (?) wife ó there being but few that yet abode with him ó in pitiful and sorry fashion after his defeat. The most part of his troops endured grievous distress. He beheld the choice of his Friends perish miserably. They suffered hunger and thirst. All that he left behind was taken for spoil. [Only with difficulty] was he able to regain his home, sore grieved at heart. Then the king took as prey much people and all the elephants. He took possession of very much gold and silver and other precious things, which were found in the several places, which Antiochus had held, brought thither under his dominion. He caused them all to be conveyed to Egypt. He made a progress through the other places which were in his kingdom. He went into the temples which were there. He offered burnt offerings and libations, and all the inhabitants of the cities received him with gladness of heart, keeping holiday, and standing in expectation of his advent with the shrines of the gods (in whose heart is strength), crowned with wreaths, bringing burnt offerings and meal offerings. Many caused a wreath of gold to be made for him, undertaking to set up a royal statue in his honour and to build temples. It came to pass that the king went on his ways as a man divine. As for the images of the gods which were in the temples, which Antiochus had defaced, the king commanded that others should be made in their stead and set up in their place. He gave much gold, silver, and precious stones for them, and also to replace the vessels in the temples which those men had carried away. He took thought to replace them. The treasure which had aforetime been given to the temples and which had been diminished, he ordered that it should be restored to its former quantity. In order that nothing might be wanting of that which it is proper to do for the gods, so soon as he heard that much injury had been done to the images of the Egyptian gods, he issued a beautiful rescript to the regions whereof he was lord outside Egypt, ordering that no man should do them further injury, desiring that all foreigners should understand the greatness of the concern which he had in his heart for the gods of Egypt. The mummies of the sacred animals which were found [in Palestine] he caused to be transported to Egypt and caused them to have an honourable funeral and be laid to rest in their sepulchres. Likewise those which were found injured he caused to be brought back to Egypt in an honourable manner and conveyed to their temples. He took earnest thought for the divine images which had been carried away out of Egypt into the land of the Assyrians and the land of the Phoenicians, at the time when the Medes devastated the temples of Egypt. He commanded that they should be diligently sought out. Those which were found, over and above those which his father had brought back to Egypt, he caused to be brought back to Egypt, celebrating a feast in their honour and offering a burnt offering before them. He caused them to be restored to the temples whence aforetime they had been carried away.

He had a fortified camp made for his troops and abode therein, so long as there was a desire . . . to come and fight against him. When they were good again (?), he let his troops go. They plundered their cities. Since they could not protect themselves, they destroyed them, whereby he made evident to all men that the might of the god and that it profited not to fight against him. He moved out of those regions when he had taken possession of all their places in 21 days.

After the treachery (?) which the commanders of the troops perpetrated, he made an agreement with Antiochus for two years and two months. He arrived again in Egypt on the Feast of Lamps, the birthday of Horus {i.e. October 12}, after the course of four months. The inhabitants of Egypt welcomed him, being glad, because he had kept the temples safe and delivered all men who were in Egypt. They did all things needful for his reception, sumptuously and splendidly, as matched with his heroic deeds. The inmates of the temples awaited him at the landing-stages [of the River] with the proper appurtenances and the other things, which it is customary to use for such a reception, wearing wreaths and keeping holiday and bringing burnt offerings and libations and many gifts. He went into the temples and offered burnt offerings and assigned them many revenues, beside those assigned to them before. The divine images which were wanting of old time, amongst those in the inner shrines, and also those which needed repairing, he renewed, even as they were before. He gave much gold and precious stones for this and all other things which were needful. He caused much temple furniture to be fashioned out of gold and silver, notwithstanding that he had already taken on him huge expense for his military expedition, giving golden wreaths to his army to the amount of 300,000 gold pieces. He bestowed many benefits upon the priests, the temple-inmates, and all the people who are in the whole of Egypt, rendering thanks to the gods that they had brought everything which they promised him to fulfilment.

Therefore be it decreed with propitious fortune:

It has come into the hearts of the priests of the temples of Egypt: to increase the afore-existing honours rendered in the temples to king Ptolemy, the ever-living, the beloved of Isis, and to his Sister, queen ArsinoŽ, the Father-loving Gods, and those rendered to their parents, the Benefactor Gods, and those rendered to their forefathers, the Gods Adelphoi and the Saviour Gods.

Also a royal statue shall be put up of king Ptolemy, the ever-living, the beloved of Isis, which shall be called the statue of 'Ptolemy, the Avenger of his father, him whose victory is beautiful,' and a statue of his Sister, ArsinoŽ, the Father-loving Goddess, in the temples of Egypt, in every several temple, in the most conspicuous place in the temple, fashioned according to Egyptian art.

Also they shall cause an image of the local God to be shown in the temple and set it up at the table of offerings at which the image of the king stands, the god giving the king a sword of victory. The priests who are in the temples shall offer homage to the images three times each day and set the temple-furniture before them and perform the other things for them, which it is proper to do, as is done for the other gods on their festivals and processions and special days. The figure of the king painted upon the stele [above the inscription shall show him mounted upon a horse], dressed in a coat of mail and wearing the royal diadem. It shall be so designed that he shall be in act to slay one kneeling, figured as a king, with the long spear in his hand, like the spear which the victorious king carried in the battle.

There shall be celebrated a festival and a procession in all the temples throughout Egypt for king Ptolemy, the ever-living, the beloved of Isis, from the 10th of Pachon, the day whereon the king conquered his adversary, for five days each year, with wearing of wreaths and offering of burnt offerings and libations and all the other things which it is proper to do, and it shall be done according to the beautiful command. . . .

The shrines of the Father-loving Gods shall be brought out on this days and a bunch of flowers shall be presented to the king in the temple on the aforesaid. . . .

Also the first ten days in each month shall be kept as a festival in the temples, with burnt offerings and libations and [the other things which it is proper to do in other festivals] on this day in every month. That which is prepared for burnt offering shall be distributed to all who do service in the temple. . . .

inscription 260

Attalus' home page   |   25.04.19   |   Any comments?