The Seleucids Displeasure The Canon
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The Seleucid Demetrius was displeased
to learn that a Ptolemy had arrived
in Italy in such a sorry state.
With only three or four slaves;
dressed like a pauper, and on foot.  In this way
will their name be reduced to a joke,
an object of fun in Rome.  That they have, at bottom,
become like servants of the Romans,
the Seleucid knows; and that these people give
and take away their thrones
arbitrarily, as they desire, he knows.
But at least in their appearance
they should maintain a certain splendor;
shouldnt forget that they are still kings,
that they are still (alas!) called kings.
 
This is why Demetrius the Seleucid was annoyed,
and straightaway he offered the Ptolemy
robes all of purple, a gleaming diadem,
costly jewels, and numerous
servants and a retinue, his most expensive horses,
that he should appear in Rome as was befitting,
like an Alexandrian Greek monarch.
 
But the Lagid, who had come a mendicant,
knew his business and refused it all:
He didnt need these luxuries at all.
Wearing faded clothes, he humbly entered Rome,
and found lodgings with a minor craftsman.
And then he presented himself to the Senate
as an ill-fortuned and impoverished man,
that with greater success he might beg.

Translated by Daniel Mendelsohn

- Original Greek Poem

- Translation by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

- Translation by John Cavafy

- Translation by George Valassopoulo