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Ancient Egypt: The Great Mendes Stela
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The Great Mendes Stela

Long live the Sun-Horus, the strong youth, the Lord of the diadems, the glorious, the golden Horus, who has crowned his father, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, the Lord of the country, the friend of Amen, to whom the Sun has granted victory, the Son of the Sun, the Lord of the diadems, Ptolemaios, who loves the Ram, who is the Lord of the city of Mendes, the Great God, the Life of Ra, the Generator, the Prince of young women, the Only God, the Original male power of gods and men, who reveals himself in the region of light with four heads, (that represent him as) the illuminator of heaven and earth by his solar splendour, as the one coming in the Nile-stream, as the one granting life to the terrestrial world, and as the air for all men: whom the gods praise, whom the goddesses praise in his form of the Living Ram, who is rich in male power, who is the Prince of the Deities. - The Mendes Stela
Source: Selden, Alibis [1]
-Ptolemaios: Ptolemy II Philadelphos, 284-246 BCE, married to Arsinoe II (278-270)
-Ram: Banebdjedet, an early fertility god.
Since the Old Kingdom rams have been kept at Mendes and buried in a hypogeum, an underground burial site.
In Graeco-Roman times animal cults became more popular than ever.
This excellent god the image of the divine Ram, the living portrait of him, who dwells in the region of light, the divine efflux of the prolific Ram, the generator of ///////// (was anxious) to preserve the temples, and to adorn the sacred landscapes with edifices, he the eldest son of the Ram, the creator of that which exists, who is enthroned on the seat of the Prince of the gods, the splendid symbol of the divine throne-heir of the nomes, who was received through him, to become Lord and King, the son of a King, born of a Queen, to whom was given the royal dignity over the land, when still in the maternal womb. Before he was born he had already become possessed (of the rule). On the day of his election he became King, resting on the breast of the beauteous and amiable Mistress. His father's manly power, of the holy Ram in the meadows of Mendes, was equal to that of the King. For he is victorious, a master of strength, strong of hand. When he takes his (sword), he combats in the open field, strong amidst the battle fray. With victorious hand he conquers his adversaries. He is of shrewd spirit, of virtuous heart, repelling repulsive things, full of truthfulness, and a friend of legal order. Thoughtful of (bringing back) quietude to Egypt, he protects the holy houses and is an iron protector of her natives. Powerful in virility, universally adored and feared in all lands, (adoration is granted to him) and all men shout at his appearance, he being their (protector) loving (to execute) his (good intents) for their welfare. All sanctuaries are filled with his gifts, and both parts (of the country rejoice in his special kindnesses. This King therefore turned (his cares to) the holy Ram, the Lord of the city of Mendes, since he knew it is this god that is invoked for the kingdom, which is in his hands. On account of his predilection for the royal holy rams, there should be elevated to the throne a (new appearing) live Ram, as it occurred from the beginning of his royal accession. The holy animal was to be elevated on his seat and his accession solemnized in the way as for former Kings. Ptolemy II and Arsinoe worshiping the Ram
Ptolemy and Arsinoe worshiping the Ram
-This excellent god: The king
-The divine ram: Herodotus: Now the reason why those of the Egyptians whom I have mentioned do not sacrifice goats, female or male, is this:--the Mendesians count Pan to be one of the eight gods (now these eight gods they say came into being before the twelve gods), and the painters and image-makers represent in painting and in sculpture the figure of Pan, just as the Hellenes do, with goat's face and legs, not supposing him to be really like this but to resemble the other gods; the cause however why they represent him in this form I prefer not to say. The Mendesians then reverence all goats and the males more than the females (and the goatherds too have greater honour than other herdsmen), but of the goats one especially is reverenced, and when he dies there is great mourning in all the Mendesian district: and both the goat and Pan are called in the Egyptian tongue "Mendes". Moreover in my lifetime there happened in that district this marvel, that is to say a he-goat had intercourse with a woman publicly, and this was so done that all men might have evidence of it.
-received: conceived (Birch)
-Mistress his mother (Birch)
Thus began the (festival) of accession. His Majesty occupied the fore part of the Ram-boat of this god, descending the great stream, and upwards on the canal Aken, just as his royal predecessors did, to complete all things customary in the accession, as it is prescribed. On arriving in the city of Mendes and in Anep, His Majesty ordered him to be led forth to his throne chamber. And behold, he was behind this god, thus showing his love to his Lord. -Aken: of the Mendesian nome (Birch)
-Anep: the Ram quarter (Birch)
-ordered him: ordered the Ram (Birch)
(Thus did they arrive at) the holy place Ap-Nuterui, the seat of his enthronement from oldest time. His Majesty visited the edifice of the holy Rams, finding the ram-temple still building as His Majesty had ordered. Excluding the foreign workmen His Majesty ordered the edifice, for eternal use, to be completed (speedily). His Majesty {besides) inspected the inmost dwelling chamber of the splendid Ram, which was also to be renewed. And he ordered one (of the superior Officers of his retinue to execute all the work in the best manner) for the Holy Ram: in Anep, where he is enthroned on his seat. His Holiness then went through all the prescribed customs in the temple, desiring to show in every form honour to the holy Rams, corresponding (to the ceremonies as ordered) by the god Thoth. This being finished, His Holiness went to his residence, and his heart was overjoyed on all that he had done for his father the royal the dignified the living Rams of Anep; may they grant him a long life and a joyous reign. -Ap-Nuterui: Undetermined site in the Mendesian nome (Birch)
-His Holiness: the king
When His Majesty (returned home, he wished to unite) the first of his (consorts) Netef-Ankh with the goddess Ba-Abet. And he gave her the following tide of honour "The amiable Princess, the beauteous, loveliest, fairest, the crowned one, who has received the double diadem, whose glory fills the palace, the friend of the holy Ram and (of the name of his Priestess) Uta-Ba, sister of the King and wife of the King, who loveth him, the Princess of the country, Arsinoe.
In the year 15, month Pachons (the 10th day was appointed for the Queen's holy consecration and her introduction into) the temple after the divine Lady had received the holy anointing, during an interval of four days, she reappeared as a consecrated soul, and there were rejoicings for her in Anep, when Her festival was solemnized, to enliven, her holy soul at the place of the living Rams, as was always customary to the Rams of all gods from ancient times unto this day. -year 15: 270 BCE. Year of Death of Arsinoe II.
-Pachons: 9th month of the year, June/July
(Thereupon another ceremony was performed in honour of the Queen, in the form granted) to all goddesses, who there received life a second time, scattering the fumes of incense over her and each first day of the ten-day week. His Majesty (further) commanded that her Ram-image should be placed in all temples. This was very pleasing to her Prophets, that she should be found like the deities on account of her benevolent thoughts for all mankind. And (she) was crowned (in the presence of the assembled crowd, and rejoicing in her) were the women who were amongst them, and she received the name of "The Beloved of the Holy Ram, Goddess, The Beloved of her royal brother (Philadelphus) Arsinoe." As for His Majesty, he chose out of his suite the fairest youths amongst the children of the Egyptian guards, (but chose) their Captains from the children (of the warrior caste) of the Mendesian nome.
Further the King showed his favour to the same nome after this manner (as regards namely) the navigation-toll of all Egypt, which they had to pay to the royal house: His Majesty ordered, that no ship-toll should be demanded on the vessels of the Mendesian meadow in its entire extent, since they (its dwellers) had spoken before His Majesty, that they had never paid the toll from the times {of the god to the accession of His Majesty. Further) corresponding to what had been done by his father, the Divine King, in former times as regards the apportionment of bread of all the cities to be sent as tribute to the royal house. His Majesty ordered that no bread-tribute should be paid as regards the Ram-temple and its district, nor in its name, just as was done by Thoth (the model) of the Kings. And see, they had spoken (fuller to the King regarding the revenues of the temple of Mendes, serving to pay for) the sacred offerings to extend the district of its sanctuary, and to complete all that was needed for its temple. If there was a deficiency in its products for a long time, sorrow prevailed amongst the people: if there was plenty of provision, joy prevailed amongst them.
For the entire wealth of the soil rests on the inundation of the Nile that brings its products (therefore His Majesty ordered, that the inhabitants of the Mendesian nome should not pay more than) 70,000 (pieces of money} at the beginning of each year, to be their tax to the royal house for ever afterwards. Such a thing never happened in the time of any of the Kings who lived before him. The whole country rejoiced unto heaven, and burst into hymns of thanks at the royal name of His Majesty. And another proof (of his favourable care for the temple of the Mendesian deity was exhibited by His Majesty in this deed. Namely) in the year 21, it was announced to His Majesty, "The temple of thy father, of the Holy Ram, of the Lord of Mendes, is completed in all its edifices. It is much fairer, than it ever was before, in compliance with the orders of Thy Majesty. The inscriptions were chiselled in thy name, in the name of thy father and in that of the Divine Lady Philadelphos Arsinoe. (May it please Thy Majesty, to execute the solemnity of consecrating the sanctuary to the god.)" -(pieces of money}: drachmas
-year 21: 264 BCE
In the year 10 of the month 4 of the 10th day occurred the festival in the temple till the 16th day. Then did heaven and earth rejoice. The holy royal Ram was led into his temple, to be enthroned in his place of honour. And all the other (deities) assembled in their chambers in their Ram-shapes, for the whole country had for each town its Ram-deity, and every vale had its Ram-headed hawk shape ///////// Thus was the command ordered by His Majesty. -year 10: 275 BCE
And the rest of the festival was solemnized in the presence of the officials) of His Majesty. When the temple was thus most solemnly handed over to its divine possessor, and when they had left for the royal residence, to rejoice the heart of His Majesty, and in their suite the Prophets, who carried flowers pleasing to His Majesty, then His Majesty presented to the temple much native gold, wheat, robes (and with all other good things, to dignify the god and his sanctuary.) -they: the officials
In year 10 and month 4 it was announced to His Majesty in these words: "Please to let the Living Holy Ram be brought from the field in the West of the city of Mendes. The place where it was found, is in the neighbourhood of the pylons, lying near the place ////// that Thy Majesty may place it on its throne. Let the sacred scribes oF the temple approach (from certain places of the country that they may examine the holy animal. And there assembled) five Kem-sep from their cities. After the sacred scribes of the temple had inspected the animal, they acknowledged its symbolical meaning, after the rules of the divine prescriptions, and it received the following title: "The Ram, the Life of Ra, the Ram, the Life of Shu, the Ram, the Life of Set, (the Ram, the Life of 0siris." After this was done. His Majesty's officials came, to tell him that) "Given to him are his holy titles by Thy Majesty's scribes of the temple, his dwelling is entirely completed according to Thy Majesty's orders. May Thy Majesty order the Holy Ram to be placed on its throne." -Kem-sep: experts. (Birch)
Then did His Majesty think like the god Thoth. He thought over by himself of a plan regarding the King of royal animals (and came to this decision. There should be placed next to the divine Ram-images a portrait of the Queen) Arsinoe, holding in her hand an ear of corn, and the holy animals should be known thereby, by the symbol of life on their necks for the Lords of the country. And His Majesty commanded, that these deities should be led in procession to the city of Mendes by the hand of the Prophets who had devoted themselves to them. And the Captains of the warriors Nefami of His Majesty were to he in their suit (and complete all presented customs) just as His Majesty would do from the moment, when he would embrace the animal, as soon as it had taken its place on its father's throne.
It was on the 16th of the month Mechir, when these deities entered the city Mendes: the consecrated Prophets, His Majesty's grandees, and the Captains of the Nefami warriors were in their suite, and they fulfilled all the customs (prescribed in the sanctuary of the Holy Ram. After this occurrence) happened on the 18th of the month Mechir, the fête of the transference {of the edifice) took place in his temple and they remained united there with him for four days. And the city of Mendes solemnized her new birth and Anep was in festive adornment. Its inhabitants were jubilant, and all hearts were overflowing with song, the Mendes-mead was full of ecstacy, and jubilant were (all its inhabitants, they crying out:) "The city Mendes is born again, may the Holy Ram of all Gods recompence what His Majesty has done, by prolonging his years as King for a long period. May the Divine Horus improve alway the kingdom which is placed under his name, may his son take the throne to all eternity, may destruction never find an entrance thither, since (the King has on the God) believed." -Mechir: 6th month of the year, Julian month of April

S. Birch, after a German translation by Brugsch-Bey, 1875
Records of the Past, Series 1, Vol. 8

 


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-[1] D.L.Selden: Alibis
-Erman: The Hellenistic Period
-Bennet: Arsinoe II
-Banebdjet
-J.A.Tunny: Ptolemy "the Son" Reconsidered
-Mendes - Bibliography
 

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