Translations of Hellenistic Inscriptions: 258


Text:   Cairo CG 22183   [ TM 58344 ]
Provenance:   Heroonpolis
Date:   c. 264 B.C.
Tags:     elephants
Format:   see key to translations

This long inscription provides some unique information about the internal history of Egypt during the first half of the reign of Ptolemy II, and about the role of of his sister-wife ArsinoŽ, who is described in the scene at the top as "the royal wife, the royal sister, the princess queen of the two lands, Khnum ab en Shu mer neteru, ArsinoŽ, the mighty Isis, the great Hathor". The translation mostly follows the English translation by E.Naville ( 1903 - ), but in parts it is indebted to Naville's French translation and to the more recent translations by M.Nillson and K.MŁller.

The inscription is one of the primary sources of evidence for two issues that have given rise to much debate in modern times:
  - the route of the Ptolemaic canal from the Nile to the Red Sea, and indirectly the route of the Exodus of the Israelites ( for which, see R.Gmirkin, "Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus", especially p.236 - Google Books )
  - the date of the death of ArsinoŽ II ( for which, see the long discussion by Chris Bennett ). The dates in the translation assume Year 1 = 285/4 B.C.

Scene from top of Pithom Stele
Ptolemy II (left) facing Atum, Isis and ArsinoŽ

The living Horus, the victorious child, the lord of Upper and Lower Egypt, the very valiant, the golden Horus who has been crowned by his father, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, the lord of the two lands, Userka Ra mer Amon, the son of Ra, the lord of diadems, Ptolemy, living like Ra eternally; who worships Atum the great living god of Tekut, the first of the living on earth, like Ra eternally; all life is derived from him; he worships the gods and goddesses of Heroöpolis, and lives eternally;   [2] the living and beautiful god, the child of Atum, who united both thrones, the image of the living god, the illustrious issue of Onnophris, who lasts like Atum for ever, the living image of Atum the great god of Tekut, the admirable offspring of Harmachis, the divine blood of Atum the lord of the two lands of On, the glorious descendant of Khepri; he has been suckled by Hathor the lady of Ant. When he was born, the atef crown was on his head;   [3] the two snakes are on his brow, when he receives the atef crown, for he has been nursed from the first moment to be lord of the land, born to be king for the periods . . . standing in his place like a king, like a prince in his palace, like his son Hor-sam-taui, the great god, the protector of Tekut. It is he who joined the thrones of the two gods, who honoured his father Atum above millions, he who has averted the enemy from this land, and he who enriched his abode with hundreds of thousands of weights of silver, following the instructions of Thoth.   [4] He is excellent when he fights on behalf of Egypt, and protects its children; he is the good guardian who rescues Egypt, who makes his horses graze in the plains and on the mountains, who constructs fine vessels on the sea; it is he who by his skill repels the Desheru, and he who makes justice reign in the two lands, and he who makes foreign lands (?) submit to Egypt. Fear of him prevails on water and on sand, and his virtue rules over all peoples on land and sea; they come and follow the steps of the (?) king, the protector, the young man, the lord of foreign lands, whose arm is raised . . .   [5] It is he who declares war, and chases the rebels, and repels the enemy, and strikes the adversary of the two sides, and massacres them in crowds, and tears the heart out of their body . . . { line 6 is too indistinct to translate }

. . . in the sixth year {280/79 B.C.} [7]   under the reign of His Divine Majesty; when it was reported to him that the abode had been finished for his father Atum, the great god of Tekut { Pithom }; the third day of the month of Hathyr, His Majesty went himself to Heroöpolis, the throne of his father Atum. Lower Egypt was in rejoicing . . . on the anniversary of his birth. When His Majesty proceeded to the temple of Pikerehet, he dedicated this temple to his father Atum the great living god of Tekut, in the festival of the god.   [8] He furnished the house of . . . with the necessary objects; his servants carried them to his father Atum . . . His Majesty made this fine abode, which was erected by the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ptolemy, to his father Atum. There was no fine abode like this in the time of the kings of Upper and Lower Egypt. He who built it to his venerable father, it is the golden Horus, Userka Ra mer Amon, the son of Ra, the lord of thrones, Ptolemy, who lives eternally. Again His Majesty proceeded to the house of (?) Thoth, in order to do the business of his father   [9] Atum. His Majesty made offerings to him like those that one makes to a king who is living on the earth, living eternally. The king then instructed that the revered god, the living one should be made (?) to pass in his place . . . and an image was made for him of a king in his palace, in his country; his horse were assembled according to his wish from the divine land { Punt }; for the inhabitants of the divine land honour him, bringing him their tribute . . . the king raised an edifice . . . for his provision, making [10]   the (?) Nile enter . . . by his word. His Majesty washed the god because of his wish . . . He then instructed them to make a gift at Pithom . . . to its western and eastern entrance, toward the Lake of the Scorpion, until one arrives . . . His Majesty made this for his father Atum, the chief of chiefs . . .

[11]   His Majesty went from there to Teshiit, at the entrance of the South. The king went to the region of Asia and he reached Persia { or Palestine}, finding the gods of Baket {Egypt} there all entirely. He brought them back to Egypt. They came together with the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Ptolemy to Khemtit { (?) Sinai } and they protected (?) His Majesty going to Egypt. They were received by the inhabitants of Egypt, full of joy at the arrival of these gods. After these things His Majesty was exalted, because he brought back   [12] the gods of Egypt. It pleased all of them to come with His Majesty, in order to confer honours upon him. Atum will increase his reign to an eternal duration. And when he made them navigate through their sands, on the great canal on the East of Egypt, as far as Ro-zau all the land was in joy; they praised his divine will because of what the king had done to these gods. Never was done such a thing from the time of the fathers unto this day. May he go to the throne of Ptah and rest on the . . . of the house of Duat eternally.   [13] His Majesty went to his palace, close by, and an order was issued to tha temples of Egypt that the servants, the priests should assemble . . . the gods of Egypt. They came to the place of His Majesty, in the presence of these gods, all of them . . . of Ro-zau of the East. Success was granted to His Majesty by the gods of Egypt. They came before the gods of Pithom, of Tekut, and they rested in their eternal abodes; the heart of the king   [14] was highly pleased because of that. Afterwards the king issued a decree concerning the gods, when they approached . . . this land their king in his boat. They sailed and came to Tekut, where is his resting-place for ever of the kings of Upper and Lower Egypt. His Majesty stopped before his father Atum, the great God of Tekut, as a king living eternally. Egypt is in his hand, all the foreign lands are under his feet. His son is well established on the throne of Ra, on the throne of Horus the first of the living, like Ra eternally. The king   [15] Userka Ra mer Amon, the son of Ra, Ptolemy, abides on the throne of his father Atum, the lord of all lands.

Year 12 {273 B.C.}, the first month of the flood, day three of His Majesty's rule, the king pronounced his wish and he travelled through Egypt together with the queen who is Great of Praise, a Lady of Loveliness, Sweet of Love, King's wife, Mistress of the Two Lands, ArsinoŽ, Daughter of the king of Upper Egypt, Lord of the Two Lands, Ptolemy, the divine Philadelphus. They arrived in the Eastern Nome of the Harpoon; it was the city of their father Atum.   [16] The king discussed with his sister, the wife and sister of the king, to protect Kemet {Egypt} against enemies.

In the year 16 {270/69 B.C.}, the third month of . . . of His Majesty, they dug a canal, to please the heart of his father Atum, the great god, the living of Tekut, in order to bring the gods of Khent-ab { the Sethroïte nome }. Its beginning is the river arm north of Heliopolis, its end is in the Lake of the Scorpion, it runs towards the great wall on its eastern side, the height of which is hundred (?) cubits verily, in order to drive away the rebels from these gods. They departed . . .   [17] towards the royal storehouse, in order to look after the property of their father, themselves, namely . . . { lines 18 & 19 are too indistinct to translate }

[20]   After these things, His Majesty went to Kemuer; he founded there a large city to his sister   [21] and gave it the great name of the daughter of King Ptolemy { ArsinoŽ or Philotera }. A temple was built in honour of Queen ArsinoŽ Philadelphus. He placed images {statues} of his divine sister in the temple. All the ceremonies were practiced by the priests in connection with the building of the Temple of their father Atum, the Great God, who dwells in the city of Tekut, like it is made in all the Temples of Upper and Lower Egypt.

At the first month His Majesty called for transports,   [22] ships . . . laden with all the good things of Egypt . . . to the first general of His Majesty { (?) Eumedes } . . . they sailed from Kemuer . . . the storm. He navigated towards the coast of the Red Sea; he arrived at Khemtit,   [23] the end of the land of the negroes . . . he brought provisions to the king . . . on his return he steered towards the island in the Lake of the Scorpion. He brought all the things which are agreeable to the king and to his sister his royal wife. He built a great city { Ptolemais Thērōn } to the king with the illustrious name of the king, the lord of Egypt, Ptolemy.   [24] And he took possession of it with the soldiers of His Majesty and all the officials of Egypt and the land of . . . (?) ; he made there fields and cultivated them with ploughs and cattle; no such thing took place there from the beginning. He caught elephants in great number for the king, and he brought them as marvels to the king, on his transports on the sea. He brought them also on the Eastern Canal; no such thing had ever been done by any of the kings of the whole earth. There came ships and more ships to Kemuer-ma . . . there was abundance after scarcity   [25] for mankind ; there was music, drink, ointment, and fine clothing . . . They know in their hearts the admirable qualities of the king. Their chiefs go down to him and bring him their tributes; for they honour the king in their hearts; they pay taxes to his storehouse. The harbour where the king has done all these things is the harbour of his father Atum, the great living god of Tekum. It is Ra who made it, in order to do all that he desired. He has done it for his son who loves him, the son of Ra, the lord of thrones, Ptolemy. After these things, the king honourod Apis and Mnevis,   [26] the motley bull, and he made the consecration of the pair of gods {the two bulls} so that they might enter again their abodes. His Majesty and his Royal Consort were with them. Never had such things been done before, by any of the foregoing kings.

The account of all the taxes which His Majesty has given as revenues to the temples of the two divisions of Egypt as their income of each year. Instead (?) of gold, His Majesty gave 150,000 weights of silver.

The account of all the taxes which His Majesty has given as revenues to Pikerehet, taxes due by the houses of the city and taxes due by the inhabitants, [27] as income of each year: 950 weights of silver. His Majesty has given them in the first festival to his father Atum, of whom are born all his limbs, and who gave him life, while it was provided for his needs, by the hands of Isis and Nephthys; and on the thirtieth day of the month of Hathyr.

Year 21 {264 B.C.}, the first day of the month of Pharmuthi, under His Majesty: list of things, which his majesty gave as provisions to the temples of Upper and Lower Egypt:
  revenue extracted from the houses of Ta-Meri {Egypt} : 90,000 weights of silver
  revenue extracted from the people as tax on every first day of the year : 660,000 weights of silver.

These revenues which have been given to his father Atum and to the gods of Egypt have been inscribed [28] on this tablet before his father Atum the great living god of Tekum, on the anniversary of the coronation of the king, when he dedicated the temple which is there, so that this day might become the day of festival of this city. The gods and men who are within the city are in joy and celebrate him because of those great deeds in all times, in order that may last the illustrious name of His Majesty in this land for ever. He shines on the throne of Horus the first of the living, for he is his son who abides on his throne; Egypt is in his power; all the lands bow down before his will, and all strange nations are united under his feet as to Ra, for ever, eternally.

inscription 259

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