Stele. These parallels, and a hieroglyphic sign for 'stela' on the Stone itself (Gardiner's Sign O26) suggest that it originally had a rounded top. 7][13] The height of the original stele is estimated to have been about 149 centimetres (59 in). [13] [edit] Memphis decree and its context The stele was erected after the coronation of King Ptolemy V, and was inscribed with a decree that established the divine cult of the new ruler. [14] The decree was issued by a congress of priests who gathered at Memphis. The date is given as "4 Xandicus" in the Macedonian calendar and "18 Meshir" in the Egyptian calendar, which corresponds to March 27, 196 BC.

The year is stated as the ninth year of Ptolemy V's reign (equated with 197/196 BC), and it is confirmed by naming four priests who officiated in that same year: Aetus son of Aetus was priest of the divine cults of Alexander the Great and the five Ptolemies down to Ptolemy V himself; his three colleagues, named in turn in the inscription, led the worship of Berenice Euergetis (wife of Ptolemy III), Arsinoe Philadelpha (wife and sister of Ptolemy II) and Arsinoe Philopator, mother of Ptolemy V. 15] However, a second date is also given in the Greek and hieroglyphic texts, corresponding to 27 November 197 BC, the official anniversary of Ptolemy's coronation. [16] The inscription in demotic conflicts with this, listing consecutive days in March for the decree and the anniversary;[16] although it is uncertain why such discrepancies exist, it is clear that the decree was issued in 196 BC and that it was designed to re-establish the rule of the Ptolemaic kings over Egypt. [17] The decree was issued during a turbulent period in Egyptian history.

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Ptolemy V Epiphanes (reigned 204–181 BC), son of Ptolemy IV Philopator and his wife and sister Arsinoe, had become ruler at the age of five after the sudden death of both of his parents, murdered, according to contemporary sources, in a conspiracy that involved Ptolemy IV's mistress Agathoclea. The conspirators effectively ruled Egypt as Ptolemy V's guardians,[18][19] until, two years later, a revolt broke out under the general Tlepolemus and Agathoclea and her family were lynched by a mob in Alexandria.

Tlepolemus, in turn, was replaced as guardian in 201 BC by Aristomenes of Alyzia, who was chief minister at the time of the Memphis decree. [20] Political forces beyond the borders of Egypt exacerbated the internal problems of the Ptolemaic kingdom. Antiochus III the Great and Philip V of Macedon had made a pact to divide Egypt's overseas possessions. Philip had seized several islands and cities in Caria and Thrace, while the Battle of Panium (198 BC) had resulted in the transfer of Coele-Syria, including Judea, from the Ptolemies to the Seleucids.

Meanwhile, in the south of Egypt, there was a long-standing revolt that had begun during the reign of Ptolemy IV,[16] led by Horwennefer and by his successor Ankhwennefer. [21] Both the war and the internal revolt were still ongoing when the young Ptolemy V was officially crowned at Memphis at the age of 12 (seven years after the start of his reign), and the Memphis decree issued. [19] [pic] [pic]

Another fragmentary example of a "donation stele", in which the Old Kingdom pharaoh Pepi II grants tax immunity to the priests of the temple of Min The stele is a late example of a class of donation stelae, which depicts the reigning monarch granting a tax exemption to the resident priesthood. [22] Pharaohs had erected these stelae over the previous 2,000 years, the earliest examples dating from the Egyptian Old Kingdom. In earlier periods all such decrees were issued by the king himself, but the Memphis decree was issued by the priests, as the maintainers of traditional Egyptian culture. 23] The decree records that Ptolemy