An Immortal Soul and a Pious Poet: Another Poem by Julia Balbilla

Julia Balbilla, Epigram 991 [from Kaibel 1878 with supplements from Rosenmeyer 2008]

In Memnonis crure sinistro. C. I. 4730 coll. Add. III p. 1202 sq.

“When I was near Memnon with August Sabina:

Child of Dawn and noble Tithonos,
Seated before Zeus’s city of Thebes
Or, Amenoth, Egyptian King, as the priests name you
The ones who know the ancient stories

Greet us and speak out to show your welcome, Memnon,
To the revered wife of Lord Hadrian.
A barbarian man lopped off your tongue and ears
That atheist Kambyses, but he paid the price
With a painful death under the same pitiful blade
He used to kill divine Apis.

But I do not believe that this statue of yours could ever be destroyed
And I cherish in my thoughts a soul immortal for all time.
This is because my parents and grandparents were reverent,
Wise Balbillus and the king Antiochus.
Balbillus was my Queen mother’s father
And King Antiochus was my father’s father.

I too have been allotted noble blood from their people—
And these are the words from reverent me, Balbilla.”

῞Οτε σὺν τῆι Σεβαστῆι Σαβείνηι ἐγενόμην παρὰ τῶι Μέμνονι.

Αὔως καὶ γεράρω, Μέμνον, πάι Τιθώνοιο,
Θηβάας θάσσων ἄντα Δίος πόλιος,
ἢ ᾿Αμένωθ, βασίλευ Αἰγύπτιε, τὼς ἐνέποισιν
ἴρηες μύθων τῶν παλάων ἴδριες.

Χαῖρε καὶ αὐδάσαις πρόφρων ἔμε [δέχνυσο, Μέμνον,
τὰν σέµναν ἄλοχον κοιράνω ῾¬Αδριάνω.
γλῶσσαν μέν τοι τ[μ]ᾶξ[ε (καὶ ὤατα βάρβαρος ἄνηρ
Καμβύσαις ἄθεος–τῶ λύγρῳ θανάτῳ
δῶκέν τοι ποίναν τῶ σῶ οἰκτ[ίρματος ἠδ’ ἇς
τῷ νήλας ῏Απιν κάκτανε τὸν θέιον.

ἄλλ’ ἔγω οὐ δοκίμωμι σέθεν τό [γε θῆον ὄλεσθαι,
ψύχαν δ’ ἀθανάταν, ἄ[φθιτε], σῶ[σδες ἄι.
εὐσέβεες γὰρ ἔμοι γένεται σέ[πτας ἀπὸ ῥίσδας
Βάλβιλλός τε σόφος κἀντίοχος [προπάτωρ·

Βάλβιλλος γένετ’ ἐκ μᾶτρος βασιλήιδος ῎Ακ[μας,
τῶ πάτερος δὲ πάτηρ ᾿Αντίοχος βασίλευς·
κήνων ἐκ γενέας κἄγω λόχον αἶμα τὸ κᾶλον,
Βαλβίλλας δ’ ἔμεθεν γρόπτα τόδ’ εὐσέβ[εος.

Colossi of Memnon

Rosenmeyer, P. (2008). Greek Verse Inscriptions in Roman Egypt: Julia Balbilla’s Sapphic Voice. Classical Antiquity, 27(2), 334-358.

Brennan, T. (1998). “The Poets Julia Balbilla and Damo at the Colossus of Memnon”. Classical World, 91(4), 215.

Plant, I., & Plant, Ian Michael. (2004). Women writers of ancient Greece and Rome : An anthology (University of Oklahoma Press ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

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