The Displeasure of the Seleucid The Canon
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Demetrius the Seleucid was displeased
when he heard that a Ptolemy
had come to Rome in such an evil plight;
accompanied by three or four servants only,
meanly dressed and on foot. Their races would thus
become a laughing stock and a byword
at Rome. The Seleucid knew quite well
that they were really a kind of dependants
of the Romans; that it was the Romans who gave them,
and who deprived them of, their thrones
at will, arbitrarily.
But at least in their appearance
they should retain some kind of splendour;
they should not forget that they were still kings,
they still were called (alas!) kings.
 
That is why the Seleucid Demetrius was upset;
and he hastened to offer Ptolemy
purple robes, a fine diadem,
costly jewels, numerous attendants,
and most expensive horses,
so that he appear at Rome with proper decorum,
like an Alexandrian Greek monarch.
 
But the Lagid, who had come to beg,
knew better, and he refused all the offers;
he had no use at all for this finery.
He entered Rome in humble manner, and meanly dressed,
and stopped at the house of a modest artist.
And then he attended the Senate,
like a poor man, like a beggar,
thus to beg with greater effect.


Translated by George Valassopoulo

(Unpublished draft from the Cavafy Archive)
Transcribed and edited by Katerina Ghika

- Original Greek Poem

- Translation by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

- Translation by John Cavafy

- Translation by Daniel Mendelsohn