The Vexation of the Seleucides The Canon
Demetrius the Seleucides was vexed
when the news reached him that in Italy
a Ptolemy had landed in sore plight:
with three or four slaves only, — no equipment,
dressed poorly, and about to take the road
on foot. In this way they would soon be made
a butt for irony and jest in Rome,
they and their kindred. That they had indeed
become a sort of servants of the Romans,
he the Seleucides was well aware;
that as things were, these people held the power —
to give to them and take from them their thrones,
and used that power most arbitrarily, —
he knew. But let them none the less keep up
a certain majesty in their appearance,
remembering that they were kings as yet —
that they were yet described (alas!) as kings.
Wherefore Demetrius the Seleucides
was troubled, and at once in person brought
and offered Ptolemy expensive robes
all purple; and a splendid diadem;
and jewels of exceeding rarity;
and many attendants, many followers;
and the most valuable horse he owned;
that Ptolemy might show himself in Rome
as it behoved a Ptolemy to appear,
even as an Alexandrian Greek monarch.
The Lagides, however, who was come
intent on begging, understood his business
and smiled away those offers, one and all:
he had no use for such magnificence.
Humbly, in shabby clothes, he entered Rome,
and stayed with a small painter in a garret.
An afterward, he went before the Senate
as one ill-used by fortune and a pauper,
that so his begging might have more effect.

Translated by John Cavafy

(Poems by C. P. Cavafy. Translated, from the Greek, by J. C. Cavafy. Ikaros, 2003)

- Original Greek Poem

- Translation by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

- Translation by Daniel Mendelsohn

- Translation by George Valassopoulo