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Egyptian Texts:  8.10


THE CANOPUS DECREE: HIEROGLYPHIC VERSION


Text:   Cairo CG 22187   [ TM 55659 ]
Provenance:     Tanis
Date:   238 B.C.
Language:   Hieroglyphic
Translated by:   E.A.W. Budge

This is a copy of a page by André Dollinger, which used to be on the   reshafim.org.il   website; but the translation of the decree has been replaced by a slightly more recent translation.

A translation of the Greek version of the text can be found in   OGIS_56 .


1 On the seventh day of the month Apellaios, which [corresponds] to the seventeenth day of the first month of the season Peret of the Egyptians, [in] the ninth year of the reign of [His] Majesty, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ptolemy, the ever-living, the beloved of Ptah , the son of Ptolemy and Arsinoę, the two Brother-Gods; [when] Apollonides, the son of Moschion, was priest of Alexander, the justified, and of the two Brother-Gods, and of the two Beneficent Gods ; 2 and when Menekrateia, the daughter of Philammon, was the bearer of the basket before Arsinoę Philadelphos: [on] this day [was passed the following] Decree.
 
The chiefs of the temples, and the servants of the gods, and those who are in charge of the secret things of the gods, and the priests 3 [who] array the gods in their ornamental apparel, and the scribes of the divine books, and the learned men, and the divine fathers, and the priests, according to their various classes and grades, who were accustomed to come from both groups of sanctuaries of Upper and Lower Egypt on the fifth day of the month Dios, whereon is celebrated the new year {the birthday} of His Majesty, and also on the twenty-fifth day of the same month, whereon His Majesty received 4 his exalted rank from his father - they gathered themselves together in the temple of the two Beneficent Gods which is in Peguat, and they declared :-
Since Ptolemy, the ever-living, the beloved of Ptah , the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, the son of Ptolemy and Arsinoę, the two Brother-Gods, and Queen Berenice , his sister and wife, the two Beneficent Gods, are performing many great 5 and benevolent deeds for the temples of Egyptians, and are on every occasion sanctifying the words of the renown of the gods exceedingly ; and behold, at all seasons they provide for the needs of Hapi and Merur {Apis and Mnevis}, and for all the other animals who reside in shrines and are venerated in Egypt; and they supply the things [they need] in large quantities, and provisions in overflowing abundance 6 in order to ensure their performance of the proper service;
- Family tree
Simplified family tree of the first five generations of Ptolemies
 
-Ptolemy: Ptolemy III Euergetes, r. 246-221 BCE
-Apellaios: a month of the lunar Macedonian year; the date here is 7th March.
-First month of the season Peret: Tybi.
-Beneficent: or Benevolent. Euergetes {pl. Euergetai} in Greek.
-Bearer of the basket: The 'bearer of the basket' was called 'kanephoros' in Greek. She was leader of the processions, an important social position. cf. The Rosetta Stone
-Peguat: Canopus, a town on the westernmost (Canopic) branch of the Nile in the Delta.
-Apis, Mnevis: These bull cults, minor under native rulers, took on an ever increasing importance in the Hellenist world.
and in the matter of the divine images which the vile men of Persia carried off to [a country] outside Egypt, His Majesty set out on an expedition to the lands of Asia, and he recaptured the images and brought them back to Egypt and set them upon their thrones in the temples wherein they had stood originally; -vile men of Persia: Unfavourable references to the Persians are common in Ptolemaic documents.
and he has made Egypt safe and secure 7 exceedingly by fighting outside of it, in the valley, and on the plain, and in many foreign desert and mountain lands, and [he has vanquished] the wicked chiefs who were their overlords ; and (the King and Queen) have made safe and secure all the living people of Egypt, and the inhabitants of all the lands which are subject to their Majesties; and behold, when during their reign there came a year with a very low Nile (water), 8 and the hearts of all men and women in Egypt were smitten with grief, because there came into their minds the memory of the misery and deprivation which had come upon the Egyptians during their own time when a low Nile came in the reign of former kings, -He has made Egypt safe and secure: Civil unrest was widespread throughout Egypt during much of the Ptolemaic Period, above all during the reigns of Ptolemy III's successors. Military campaigns abroad did not prevent the natives revolting.
His Majesty himself and his sister were exceedingly careful in their thoughts 9 for every one of those who dwelt in the houses of the gods {temples}, and for the [ordinary] inhabitants of Egypt, and they took great and exceeding forethought on their behalf, and relinquished much revenue [due to them] in their desire to keep men and women alive; and they caused corn to be brought to Egypt from Retenu, and from the Land of Keftu, and from the Island of Nebinai, which is in the middle 10 of the Great Green Sea, and from vast foreign lands, and they expended much gold in purchasing the grain at a high price, being anxious only to keep safe the men and women who were living in the Divine Land: [hereby] making their beneficence, which is everlasting, and their virtues, [which are] many, clear to both those who live at the present time, and those who shall come after them; and in return for these [deeds] the gods have given stability to their exalted dignity of sovereignty over Upper and Lower Egypt, 11 and they shall reward them with good things of each and every kind for ever and ever. Strength and health ! -Much revenue: a large proportion of their taxes was paid by Egyptians in corn, i.e. in wheat or barley.
-Caused corn to be brought: The countries on the Levantine coast were not known for abundant wheat production, but, belonging to a different climatic region, droughts there rarely coincided with crop failure in Egypt. Egypt was generally an exporter of corn, i.e. of wheat.
-Retenu, Keftu, Nebinai: Syria, Phoenicia and Cyprus. Cyprus is called 'island of Salamina' in the demotic version.
-Great Green Sea: the Mediterranean.
-for which the gods grant them ... rule over Upper and Lower Egypt: One of the pharaoh's main duties was to care for his people and keep them fed.
And the priests of Egypt have set it in their hearts to augment in many respects the honours [which are paid to] the King of the Upper and Lower Egypt, Ptolemy, the ever-living, the beloved of Ptah, and to Queen Berenice, the two Beneficent Gods, in the temples, and that which is paid to the two Brother-Gods their parents, 12 and that which is paid to the two Saviour-Gods their parents; and the priests who are in all the temples of Egypt of each and every kind shall be enhanced, and, in addition to the honourable priestly titles which they now bear, they shall be called "Priests of the two Beneficent Gods"; and their title of priests of the two Beneficent Gods shall be inscribed upon all documents, and cut upon the rings which they wear upon their hands; and there shall be formed another phyle 13 among the priests who are now living in each and every temple, in addition to the four phyles of priests which exist at the present day, and it shall be called the "Fifth phyle of the two Beneficent Gods," -phyle: Priests had previously belonged to one of four phyles ('tribes').
since there happened the most auspicious event, with strength and health, that the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ptolemy, the ever-living, the beloved of Ptah , the son of the two Brother-Gods, was born on the fifth day of the month Dios, and this day was, in consequence, the beginning 14 of great prosperity and happiness of all living men and women; and the priests whom the King made to enter into the temples in the first year of His Majesty’s reign, and also those who have entered [them] until the fourth month of the season Shemu, and also their children, shall be in this phyle for ever; and the priests who existed before these up to the first year [of His Majesty’s reign] shall remain in the phyles 15 to which they formerly belonged, and their children likewise, from this day forward and for ever, shall be written down in the phyles to which their fathers belong; and instead of the twenty Councillor Priests who are elected at a certain period each year from the four phyles, five from each phyle, the Councillor Priests shall be twenty-five [in number], 16 and the five additional priests shall be brought from the fifth phyle of the two Beneficent Gods, and the priests of the fifth phyle of the two Beneficent Gods shall be permitted to have a share in all the appointed ceremonies, and they shall go into the temple to assist in the services of libations and in all the other duties which (the priests of the four phyles) have to perform in them; and a prophet in the fifth phyle shall be Phylarch as in the other four phyles. -Fourth month of the season Shemu: Mesore, the last month of the Egyptian year.
-Phylarch: the head of the phyle; literally, 'chief of the tribe'.
And moreover, because 17 a festival is celebrated in honour of the Beneficent Gods in all the temples in the course of every month, on the fifth day, and on the ninth day, and on the twenty-fifth day, according to the decree which has previously been set down in writing, and because the festival which is made in honour of the great gods is observed universally as a very great festival throughout Egypt at the proper season of the year, in like manner there shall be celebrated a great festival at the proper season of the year in honour of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ptolemy, the ever-living, the beloved of Ptah, 18 and Queen Berenice , the two Beneficent Gods, in the sanctuaries of Upper and Lower Egypt, and throughout all Egypt, on the day when the divine star Sothis makes its [first] appearance, which is called in the Sacred Books 'the opening of the year', -the decree: This previous decree has not survived.
-Sothis: Sirius
-the opening of the year: the New Year
which corresponds to the first day of the second month of the season Shemu in the ninth year, on which shall be celebrated the festival of the New Year, and the festival of Bast, and the great festival of Bast in this month, because it is the season of 19 the harvesting of fruits of all kinds, and the increase of the Nile. Now behold, although it happens that the festival of the divine star Sothis changes to another day every four years, the day on which the festival of Ptolemy shall be celebrated shall not change also because of it, but the festival shall be celebrated on the first day of the second month of the season Shemu even as it was celebrated on that day in the ninth year ; -second month of the season Shemu: Payni. The date is 19 July 238 B.C.
-Bast (or Bastet): A cat goddess, worshipped especially at Bubastis.
-increase of the Nile: The heliacal rising of Sirius coincided with the beginning of the season of inundation.

20 and this festival shall be kept for five days, and [the people] shall wear garlands of flowers upon their heads and ornaments, and they shall lay offerings upon the altars, and they shall make drink offerings, and shall perform all things whatsoever it is right and proper to do. And thus it shall happen that they shall do whatsoever it is their duty to do, and their seasons of the year shall at all times be in accordance with ordinances on which the heavens are founded to this very day ; and it shall 21 never once happen that the general festivals, which are celebrated throughout Egypt in the season Peret, shall be observed in the season Shemu because of the change of the festival of the divine star Sothis one day every four years; for, behold, the other festivals, which at the present time it is customary to celebrate in the season Shemu, will be observed in the season Peret in the times to come, just as has already happened in the times 22 of our ancestors, and it would happen again if the year consisted [only] of 360 days and the five days which it is customary to add to them at the end [of them]. And moreover, from this day onward, one day, a festival of the Beneficent Gods, shall be added every four years, in addition to the five additional days, at the beginning of the New Year, so that it may be made known to all men that the arrangement of the seasons of the year was somewhat defective, 23 and that the year [itself], and the rules which exist as to the laws of the science of the ways of heaven have now been set right, and [what was lacking] has been supplied by the two Beneficent Gods. -divine star Sothis: Sirius
-one day ... shall be added every 4 years: This is the beginning of the introduction of a leap day, resulting in a year of 365¼ days. In fact, this new rule was not followed, and the leap year had to be reintroduced under Augustus.
-somewhat defective: with the year a quarter of a day too short, the New Year wandered through all the seasons and coincided with the sothic rising only about once every 1460 years.
And in respect of the daughter who was born to the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ptolemy, everliving, beloved of Ptah, and the lady of the Two Lands Berenice, the two Beneficent Gods, whose name was called Berenice and who was straightway appointed Queen, since 24 it has happened that this goddess, being (still) a virgin, has entered heaven suddenly whilst the priests who came from Egypt every year to the King of Upper and Lower Egypt were in the house with His Majesty, they made a great lamentation immediately because of that which had happened. And they made supplication before the King and Queen, and put it into their hearts to allow 25 this goddess to rest with the god Osiris in the temple of Peguat, because it is among the temples of the first rank, and because it is held in very great honour, both by the King and by all the men and women who live in Egypt - behold, now the god Osiris makes his entry into this temple in the Sekhet Boat at the stated time each year from the temple 26 of Aker-Bemret, on the twenty-ninth day of the fourth month of the season Akhet, when all those who are in the temples of the first rank make offerings by fire upon the altars of the temples of the first rank on the right and left hand sides of the courtyard of this temple - -Peguat: Canopus.
-Aker-Bemret: in the demotic version, 'the habitation of Amun of the town of Karb'; in the Greek version, 'the Herakleion'.
-fourth month of the season Akhet: Choiak
-courtyard: 'dromos' in the demotic and Greek versions.

and after these things they performed everything which it was right and proper to do in respect of making her a deity, and in concluding the mourning [which was made] for her, and they did it with 27 the same readiness of heart and warmth which it is customary to show to Apis and Mnevis. And moreover, they passed a resolution to make the words of everlasting renown of Queen Berenice, the daughter of the two Beneficent Gods, to be [known] in all the temples of Egypt. And since it came to pass that she entered among the gods in {demotic: 'on the first day of'} the first month of the season Peret, which is the month 28 wherein the daughter of Ra entered into heaven, and he called her name the "Eye of Ra,” and the “Mehen Crown on his brow,” because he loved her, and [since] festivals of procession in the great temples of the first rank in this month, wherein her majesty was made a goddess, originally are celebrated in her [honour], -Mehen: a snake-god.
there shall likewise be celebrated a festival and a procession for Queen Berenice, 29 daughter of the two Beneficent Gods, in each and all of the temples of Upper and Lower Egypt, in the first month of the season Peret, and this festival and procession shall begin on the seventeenth day of the month, wherein her procession and the purification of the mourning for her were made originally, and shall last for four days. And moreover, a divine image of this goddess, made of gold and inlaid with precious stones of all kinds shall be set up in each and every temple of the first and second rank, and the statue shall be placed 30 upon its pedestal in the temple, -first month of the season Peret: Tybi
and a servant of the god {prophet}, or one of the priests who has been chosen to make the great libation and to array the gods in their festal apparel, shall carry it in his arms on the day of the great and general festival, on each and every one of the festivals of the god, so that all people may see that it is adored according to its sanctity, and the statue shall be called "Berenice, 31 mistress of virgins." And behold, the crown which shall be put on the head of her divine image shall not be [similar to those] which are on the images of her mother, the goddess Berenice ; for there shall be made [for it] two ears of corn, between which shall be an uraeus, and behind this uraeus there shall be placed, in an upright position, a sceptre of papyrus plants, similar to that which is in the hands of the goddesses, and the tail of the uraeus shall be twined round 32 this sceptre, so that the construction of this crown shall proclaim the name of Berenice according to its symbols in the sacred writing {hieroglyphs}.
And moreover, at the festival [which takes place] in the days of Kaaubekh, in the fourth month of the season Akhet, preceding the procession of Osiris, the virgin daughters and wives of the priests shall provide another statue of Berenice, the “mistress of virgins,” and burnt offerings shall be made to it, 33 and there shall be performed for it every other thing which it is right and proper to do on the days of this festival, and the other virgins shall be at liberty to perform for this goddess in this respect whatsoever is customary, according to their desire. And behold, hymns of praise shall be sung to this goddess by the qemāt priestesses [and by those who are] chosen to minister to the gods and [to place] the crowns of the gods [on their heads], and who are therefore their priestesses; and behold, when there are first-fruits of the crops, ears of corn shall be carried by the qemāt priestesses into the sanctuary, 34 and presented to the divine image of this goddess; and the companies of the singing women [of the temple], and men and women [in general] shall sing to her image at the festivals, and [during] the processions of the gods, the hymns of praise which shall be composed by the learned men of the temple, and which shall be given to the choirs of singing men; and copies [of the said hymns] shall be inscribed in the books of the temple; -Kaaubekh: In the demotic version, 'the days of the regulations (?) of the goddess Isis'.
-fourth month of the season Akhet: Choaik
-the procession of Osiris: In the demotic version, 'the procession by water of Isis'.
and when the priests are made to enter into the temple by the King, when the divine offerings of the priests are made in the temples, 35 food shall be given to the daughters of the priests, from the holy offerings which are made to the gods from the day when they are born, and the amount of this (food) shall be determined by the priests who are the Councillors in the temples, each and all of them, in proportion to the [amount of] the holy offerings. And the bread which shall be given 36 to the wives of the priests shall be distinguished by being made in the form of the qefen loaf, and shall be called by name the "Bread of Berenice." -when the divine offerings of the priests are made in the temples: in the demotic version, 'since it happens that the food of the priests is to be provided out of the revenues of the temples'.
And the Councillors in the temples, and the governors of the temples, and the temple-scribes shall set this decree in writing, and it shall be cut upon a stele 37 of stone or bronze in the sacred writing, and in the writing of the books, and in the writing of the Greeks, and it shall be set up in the hall of the congregation in the temples of the first, and second, and third rank, to inform every person of the honour which has been accorded by the priests of the temples of Egypt to the two Beneficent Gods, and to their children, according to what is right and proper to do for them. -And: this final paragraph is missing in the demotic version.
-a stela: The copy of the text found at Tanis was inscribed on a 2 metre high limestone tablet, 37 lines of hieroglyphs, 76 lines of Greek and 74 lines of demotic text.
-the writings of the books: demotic

Translated from the hieroglyphic version by E.A.W. Budge
"The Decree of Canopus"
(O.U.P., 1904)



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