We're not, I think, un-Hellenized

7. We’re not, I think, un-Hellenized

Constantine P. Cavafy


Make sure the engraving is done skilfully.
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 or pompous–
we don’t want the proconsul to take it the wrong way;
he’s always smelling things out and reporting back to Rome–
but of course giving me due honour.
Something very special on the other side:
maybe a 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 add “Philhellene” in elegant characters.
Now don’t try to be clever
with your “Where are the Greeks?” and “What Hellenism
here behind Zagros, out beyond Phraata?”
Since so many others more barbarian than ourselves
choose to inscribe it, we’ll 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’re not, I think, un-Hellenized.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1912)

Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrand