A philhellene of an earlier age, and from east, not west, of the Hellenic world. More cringing than any from the west.
“Make sure the engraving is done skillfully.
The expression serious, majestic.
The diadem preferably somewhat narrow:
I don’t like that broad kind the Parthians wear.
The inscription, as usual, in Greek:
nothing excessive, nothing pompous –
we don’t want the proconsul to take it the wrong way:
he’s always nosing things out and reporting back to Rome –]
but of course giving me due honour.
Something very special on the other side:
some discus-thrower, young, good-looking.
Above all I urge you to see to it
(Sithaspis, for God’s sake don’t let them forget)
that after ‘King’ and ‘Saviour,’
they engrave ‘Philhellene’ in elegant characters.
Now don’t try to be clever
with your ‘where are the Greeks?’ and ‘what things Greek]
here behind Zagros, out beyond Phraata?’
Since so many others more barbarian than ourselves
choose to inscribe it, we will inscribe it too.
And besides, don’t forget that sometimes
sophists do come to us from Syria,
and versifiers, and other triflers of that kind.
So we are not, I think, un-Greek.”
Philhellene, from Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, translators; George Savidis, editor, CP Cavafy, Collected Poems, revised edition, Princeton University Press, 1992, at cavafy.com. Spelling anglicised.
We had something similar to “nothing excessive” in Julian Seeing Contempt.
Phraata had been a capital of the Median Empire. It is now in Iranian Azarbaijan. This imaginary client, somewhere between Roman and Parthian (Arsacid) territory, is “out beyond Phraata”. Zagros refers to the mountain range.
I haven’t otherwise been tracking the revisions in this 1992 edition, but in my paperback of Keeley/Sherrard, a reprinting of the original 1975 edition,
“nothing excessive, nothing pompous” is “nothing excessive or pompous”,
“he’s always nosing things out” is “he’s always smelling things out”,
“some discus-thrower” is “maybe a discus-thrower”,
“they engrave ‘Philhellene’” is “they add ‘Philhellene’”,
“what things Greek” is “what Hellenism” and
“So we are not, I think, un-Greek” is “So we’re not, I think, un-Hellenized”.