Orophernes The Canon
He who on the tetradrachm
appears to be smiling,
with a delicate beautiful face,
is Orophernes, son of Ariarathes.
A child still, he was exiled from Cappadocia,
from the great ancestral palace,
and he was sent to grow up
in Ionia, and to be forgotten among strangers.
In the exquisite Ionian nights
fearless and in genuine Greek fashion
he gained the full knowledge of pleasure.
In his heart he still remained an Asiatic,
but in his manners and his speech he was a Greek;
he wore rich turquoises, he was dressed in the Greek garb,
and among the handsome young men of Ionia
he was the most handsome.
Later, when the Syrians invaded Cappadocia
and made him king,
he clung to the throne
to enjoy every day in a different manner,
to amass rapaciously gold and silver
and to rejoice and boast
watching the glitter of his hoarded riches.
The Cappadocians speedily drove him out;
and he drifted to Syria, to idleness
and pleasures in the palace of Demetrius.
But one day unusual thoughts
interrupted his gross idleness;
he remembered that through his mother Antiochis,
and through his ancestress Stratonice
he too had a claim on the crown of Syria,
that he was almost a Seleucid.
For a short time he emerged from debauchery and drunkenness;
feebly and half-dazed he tried to intrigue,
to do something, to plan something;
and he failed most ignominiously.
His end may have been told somewhere,
but the record is lost; or perhaps History passed it by,
and, very rightly, did not condescend
to record such a paltry subject.
He who on the tetradrachm
has left some of the charm of his comely youth,
some lights of his poetic beauty,
an artistic remembrance of an Ionian youth,
is Orophernes, son of Ariarathes.

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(Unpublished draft from the Cavafy Archive)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