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Headword: Πτολεμαῖος
Adler number: pi,3040
Translated headword: Ptolemaios, Ptolemy
Vetting Status: high
The king of Egypt.[1] [It is recorded] that when Hyrcanus[2] was dining with King Ptolemy[3] and all the other guests were eating their meat and piling the bones up in front of Hyrcanus, Tryphon, the king's jester, said: 'Master, do you see the bones lying around Hyrcanus? From that, you can guess that his father, too, stripped the whole of Syria,[4] just the way this fellow stripped these bones bare of meat.' The king laughed at Tryphon's quip, and asked Hyrcanus why there were so many bones lying around him. 'It's quite simple, master,' said Hyrcanus. 'Dogs eat the bones along with the meat -- as these ones have (this was directed at the other guests, since they had no bones in front of them), 'but human beings eat the meat and throw the bones away -- and, being human, that's what I have done.' He (the king[5]) was astonished that he had given such a clever answer, and approved of his sense of humour; he commanded everyone to applaud.[6]
Greek Original:
Πτολεμαῖος, ὁ βασιλεὺς Αἰγύπτου. ὅτι Ὑρκανοῦ συνδειπνοῦντος Πτολεμαίῳ τῷ βασιλεῖ καὶ πάντων τῶν συνανακειμένων τὰς σάρκας ἐσθιόντων καὶ τὰ ὀστᾶ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ Ὑρκανοῦ σωρευόντων, Τρύφων ὁ γελωτοποιὸς τοῦ βασιλέως, ὁρᾷς, εἶπεν, ὦ δέσποτα, παρακείμενα Ὑρκανῷ ὀστᾶ; ἐκ τούτου στόχασαι, ὅτι καὶ ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ τὴν Συρίαν ἅπασαν περιέδυσεν, ὡς οὗτος ταῦτα σαρκῶν ἐγύμνωσε. γελάσαντος δὲ πρὸς τὸν τοῦ Τρύφωνος λόγον τοῦ βασιλέως καὶ ἐρομένου τὸν Ὑρκανόν, πῶς τοσαῦτα αὐτῷ παράκειται ὀστᾶ: εἰκότως, εἶπεν, ὦ δέσποτα: τοὺς μὲν γὰρ κύνας τὰ ὀστᾶ σὺν τοῖς κρέασι κατεσθίειν, ὥσπερ οὗτοι: πρὸς τοὺς συνανακειμένους εἰπών, ὅτι μηδὲν ἔμπροσθεν αὐτῶν ἔκειτο: οἱ δὲ ἄνθρωποι τὸ κρέας ἐσθίουσι, τὰ δὲ ὀστᾶ ῥίπτουσιν: ὅπερ ἄνθρωπος ὢν κἀγὼ πεποίηκα. θαυμάζει τὴν ἀπόκρισιν αὐτοῦ σοφὴν οὕτω γενομένην καὶ πάντας ἐκέλευσεν ἀνακροτῆσαι, τῆς εὐτραπελίας ἀποδεχόμενος αὐτόν.
[1] This is Ptolemy V Epiphanes, king of Egypt 205-180 BC. See generally OCD4 p.1235, and (on the House of Ptolemy in general) web address 1.
[2] Hyrcanus, son of Joseph the Tobiad: see Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 12.210-214, of which this anecdote is a lightly paraphrased and abbreviated version. Josephus adds (210) that Hyrcanus had been seated at the foot of the table, 'as he was still a boy'. See already alpha 1919 and epsilon 3771.
[3] Josephus says (Jewish Antiquities 12.196) that Hyrcanus' visit to Alexandria took place in connection with the birth of a son of Ptolemy V -- either Ptolemy Philometor (born 187/6 BCE) or Ptolemy Euergetes II (Physcon), born after 185 BCE.
[4] On Hyrcanus' father Joseph, see Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 12.160-189. For debate on the dating of his time in charge of tax collection in Coele-Syria (perhaps approximately 229 to 207 BCE) see Roger S. Bagnall, The Administration of the Ptolemaic Possessions outside Egypt (Leiden 1976) 20-21 and n.42.
[5] Other codices do not supply a subject for the verb, but ms V (Codex Vossianus Fol. 2) gives 'the king', as does Josephus in the source (Jewish Antiquities 12.214).
[6] Cf. alpha 1919 and epsilon 3771.
Dov Gera, Judaea and Mediterranean Politics 219 to 161 BCE (Leiden, 1998) 36-58
Associated internet address:
Web address 1
Keywords: biography; children; economics; ethics; food; geography; historiography; history; imagery; zoology
Translated by: Paul McKechnie on 9 April 1999@00:32:48.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (supplied headword; added note and keywords; cosmetics) on 31 March 2001@05:17:14.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 16 September 2008@00:59:02.
Catharine Roth (tweak) on 13 August 2013@01:59:04.
David Whitehead (tweaking) on 23 October 2013@05:12:28.
David Whitehead (updated a ref) on 10 August 2014@07:22:23.
David Whitehead (headword cosmetic) on 31 May 2015@03:56:43.
Catharine Roth (cross-references) on 8 October 2018@20:10:00.


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