The Displeasure of Selefkidis The Canon
Dimitrios Selefkidis was displeased
to learn that a Ptolemy
had reached Italy in such a squalid state:
poorly dressed and on foot,
with only three or four slaves. This way
their dynasty will become a joke,
the laughter of Rome.
Selefkidis knows of course
that basically they have become something like servants
to the Romans; he also knows
that the Romans give and take away
their thrones arbitrarily, as they please.
But they should maintain a certain dignity,
at least in their appearance;
they should not forget that they are still kings,
are still (alas) called kings.
This is why Dimitrios Selefkidis was displeased;
and right away he offered Ptolemy
purple robes, a magnificent diadem,
precious jewels, numerous servants and retainers,
his most expensive horses,
so that he might present himself at Rome as he should,
as an Alexandrian Greek monarch.
But Ptolemy, who had come to beg,
knew his business and refused it all:
he didn’t have the slightest need for these luxuries.
Shabbily dressed, humble, he entered Rome,
put himselft up in the house of a minor artisan,
and then he presented himself
as a poor, ill-fated creature to the Senate
in order to make his begging more effective.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

(C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992)

- Original Greek Poem

- Translation by John Cavafy

- Translation by Daniel Mendelsohn

- Translation by George Valassopoulo