While many people discuss "The Rosetta Stone" as a historical artifact, few take the time to read the story that it tells. Since childhood, I wondered about what was really written on "The Rosetta Stone." What was of such great importance that it had to be recorded in 3 languages to insure its survival? What was it that Champollion and Thomas Young discovered?
After waiting 45 years, I finally discovered a translation of its text published by E. A.Wallis Budge in the 1929. "The Rosetta Stone," is a remarkable story, a recounting of the many decrees of Ptolemy V Epiphanes (203-181 B.C.) upon the 9th anniversary of his reign.
Ptolemy V had succeeded during the previous year in subduing a rebellion by a certain temple and priesthood. The priests of the Temple of Lycopolis had refused to pay tithes and taxes to the Pharaoh in the VIIIth year of his reign. They occupied the fort-like temple on the banks of the Nile. Rather than attacking the temple with his army immediately, Ptolemy diverted the Nile River around the Temple by damming, digging trenches, mounds and canals around it, depriving them of water.
When his earthworks were complete, the Nile rose in its yearly flood cycle but the Temple of Lycopolis was isolated. At that time, Ptolemy V laid siege to the Temple to overcome the rebel priesthood.
The following excerpt relates the account of his strategy and victory:
"… [Ptolemy V Punishes the Rebels of Lycopolis]
(18) And having gone to Lycopolis, which is in the Busirite nome, which had been occupied and fortified against a siege with weapons of war and supplies of every kind ---now of longstanding was the disaffection of the impious men who were gathered together in it and who had done much injury to the temples and to all those who dwell in Egypt - and having encamped against them, he surrounded it with mounds and trenches and marvelous engines; and when the Nile had made a great rise (i.e. inundation) in the VIIIth year, and being about, as usual to flood out the plains, he (i.e. the King) held [the river] in check, having dammed up in many places the mouths of the canals, and in carrying out this work spent no small sum of money; and having stationed cavalry and infantry to guard [the dams] he took by storm the city in a very short time, and destroyed the all the impious men who were therein, even as HERMES (TOTH), and HORUS, the son of ISIS and OSIRIS, in those very same places, reduced to subjection those who had rebelled." (1)
After putting down the revolt, Ptolemy decreed the following:
A general amnesty for the rebels (except for the ringleaders)
Ptolemy V allowed many of the priests to retain their homes and wealth,
Ptolemy V decreed a national celebration of the jubilee of his reign.
Ptolemy V gave the people a tax break (really).
Then Ptolemy V also declared himself a deity:
|To be worshipped in all temples of Egypt;
With a facsimile of himself carved in stone to be the object of highest veneration;
Accompanied with the burning of incense and prayers to him;
...3 times per day.
In our "politically correct" age of equality, the common man and the lowest common denominator of culture or religious beliefs, this would appear to be neither very laudable nor a fashionable aspiration. But it was this Pharaoh's final proclamation, The XVIIth Decree of Ptolemy V, which would rewrite the history of the Western World.
We cannot understand today the immense void of human knowledge and understanding of history, religion and politics that existed before the discovery and translation The Rosetta Stone.
In the 54th line of the Rosetta Stone inscription (corresponding to the XVIIth Decree in another similar but not identical stele found at Canopus), Ptolemy V Epiphanes commanded that the entire record of this campaign and adventure be inscribed on stelae, engraved in stone, in the 3 major languages of the kingdom. He furthermore decreed that this proclamation, rendered to begin the jubilee of his reign, should be placed prominently in all temples in Egypt and other important sites and shrines, thus insuring its wide distribution and dissemination. Most importantly, the decree stated: