Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Breaking Away

On the day Hosni Mubarak stepped down, I got to wondering about the Rosetta Stone: what does it actually say? Here's an excerpt:

Since King Ptolemy...being benevolently disposed towards the gods, has dedicated to the temples revenues in money and corn, and has undertaken much outlay to bring Egypt into prosperity, and to establish the temples, and has been generous with all his own means, and of the revenues and taxes which he receives from Egypt some (he) has wholly remitted and others has lightened, in order that the people and all the rest might be in prosperity during his reign ...It seemed good to the priests of all the temples in the land to increase greatly the existing honors of king Ptolemy, the everliving ...

It is, in short, a decree to deify the Pharoah, Ptolemy V. In an earlier time, the Pharoah would have issued such a decree himself and not needed the endorsement of the priesthood. But since the age of the pyramids, Egypt and its Pharoahs had been conquered and reconquered by, among others, Persia (Iran), and Hellenized Macedon under Alexander the Great. Hence Ptolemy V was a Greek and that's why the Rosetta Stone bears a Greek translation of its ancient and demotic Egyptian texts. And hence, the decree extols Ptolemy for cutting taxes, a nod to the good opinions of those he governed.

Actually, Ptolemy V was just a child when he became Pharoah, and probably knew little of what was done in his name. Real power in Egypt was seized by the general Tlepolemus and his army.

Egypt may soon have an opportunity to install a freely elected leader for the first time in its five and a half thousand year history. Selection of that leader will determine with whom modern Egypt will ally itself: Iran and the Islamists in the East; or the democracies of the North and West. But all this depends on whether Egypt truly breaks from its past and establishes civilian control of its army.

Ptolemy V Epiphanes offering the spiritual inward eyes to the first Pharoah/God, Horus. These eyes represent the sun and moon. The Eye of Horus can also be seen on the back of our dollar bills, floating above a pyramid. This relief, along with the Rosetta Stone and many other Egyptian antiquities, is now in the British Museum. Egypt has sought to repatriate the stone and other artifacts of its glorious past. Click on the picture for a closer look.

1 comment:

DUTA said...

I've always been fascinated by historical and cultural relics of ancient Egypt and Greece displayed in museums.

The story of the Rosetta Stone is very interesting as it is this stone that helped decoding the egyptian hieroglyphics and thus uncovering Egypt's ancient civilization.

Nowadays, what draws the attention to these two nations are, sadly, frequent protests in Greece (a democracy) and the recent protests in Egypt.

Nepotism and corruption prevail in both countries. Egypt has an additional problem - an alarming birth-rate which makes it difficult for any government to rule and feed its population.

Anyway, the eye of Horus (Horus - the sky God) is very popular in the jewelery of the Middle East; also in tattoes and pictures. It is named "the all seeing eye" and is said to protect its bearer from evil.

Whether one believes in it or not, everybody, including myself, owns at least a keyring with the eye of the Horus.