Monday, October 27, 2008

No Tomb for Ptolemy

Ptolemy's barq cavorted
upon a stormy river,
lithe chameleon's future genesis
yawned a chasm in response
to thunder clapped
mountain's exhortations.

Pyrrhonic revelations'
misspent tear torrents -
Pythia's Delphic lament -
foretold an unnatural, native-born,
mercenary, Mephistophelian vehemence,
fester ridden, within expanding continents
suffocated by a sweltering
ghetto screamed din.

"I live within the sarcophagus
and awaken in Necropolis,"
Ptolemy wailed from clutch's grasp -
Cleopatra's poisonous asp's pointed
fangs. Sirens' hymns for martyred,
seafaring Phoenicians epitomized
a Saracen sacrifice to satyr's satiety.

The sky flamed with summer
sunsets on coastal plains -
and Alaskan winter night
Northern Lights. Earth Mothers
wilted in Persephone's ignored gaze.

Meanwhile, Prometheus stole
another great fiery lick
from Olympus to re-temper
the Phoenix in its forge.

When, at last, will time
release Prometheus
from slavery to god?

A Horus-eyed hawk soars
over summits, sharing vestigially
glimpsed, tethered rings. Tolling
bells peal out Pharaoh's lineage
in mourning for Egyptian willful
abeyance to Cleopatra's ambition.

Dionysian rites never sprouted
their grape in Kem. So,
Augustus crushed rebellion
into a bitter flavored whine.

In earlier, still-more-ancient,
Egyptian dynastic reigns,
every citizen joyfully contributed
to erecting Pharaoh's majestic resting
edifices. Each Pharaoh's Ka redeemed
everyone within the realm during
his reign. By Pharaoh passing Maat's
test, a whole society found
its motives and merits judged
on Pharaoh's weightless heart.

Re-enacting Osirian rites
opens Abydos only to those
whose culture reveres harmony
with nature and all other cultures.

Cleopatra denied homage
to her brother and Pharaoh,
Ptolemy, like her time's Tut.
Her hand bore his blood's seed
even as she opened lotus
petals before laurel
wreathed Julius.
International ambition's lure
amid imperial design's
honeysuckle scent
and Roman luxuriant excess
turned Egyptian hearts away
from Ptolemy, who would have
gladly borne their sins.
Abydos' gates sealed.

No tomb was built for Ptolemy.
No funerary scrolls were written.
The teenage Pharaoh had no barq
to sail the river Styx.
He was not mummified - no canopic
jars bore his organs. Lost, eternally,
Ptolemy never found Maat, his Ka
forever unjudged. His soul,
together with the collective
Egyptian soul, like the Sphinx,
became entombed
by perpetually
shifting Saharan sands.

I'll provide some historical background, and a few bits of information below:

Many famous men named Ptolemy have walked eastern Mediterranean lands. The Ptolemy to whom this poem refers was the Pharaoh, Ptolemy XIV of Egypt, brother and husband of Cleopatra VII.

It was customary in Egypt during their time period for Egyptian rule's vesting to pass to the previous Pharaoh's eldest daughter's husband, and that the siblings would marry and the two would reign together. At the time of his marriage to Cleopatra VII, Ptolemy XIII (her first husband) was about 12 years old and Cleopatra about 17 or 18. This marriage was one of convenience (assisting Cleopatra to consolidate and validate her ruling position) and in name only (with Ptolemy so young, the marriage was never consummated).

Their rule's first three years issued from Cleopatra’s sole authority and policies. By 48 B.C., Ptolemy’s advisers sought to wrest power from Cleopatra, so they stripped her of power and forced her into exile in Syria. This occurred contemporaneously with the struggle between Julius Caesar and Pompeii for control over Rome. Pompeii sought assistance from his presumed ally Ptolemy XIII. However, the Pharaoh, almost literally, stabbed Pompeii in the back, as he sought to form a new alliance with Caesar. However, Caesar was appalled when presented with Pompeii’s head on a platter as a gift.

Caesar seized control of Alexandria, took command of the government, and demanded both Ptolemy and Cleopatra to appear before him. Cleopatra, knowing that Ptolemy’s men would kill her on sight, had herself smuggled into Caesar’s presence (legend has it, Cleopatra was rolled in a rug given to Caesar). Civil war arose out of the jealousy and greed for power. Ptolemy XIII ultimately died in the struggle.

Cleopatra then married her next-oldest, younger brother, Ptolemy XIV (who was 11 or 12 at the time), in order to re-legitimize her right to the throne. Cleopatra soon bore Julius Caesar a son (Ptolemy XV, aka Caesarian). Later, Caesar brought Cleopatra, Caesarian and Ptolemy XIV to Rome. After Caesar’s assassination, all three returned to Egypt. Wearied from her regal legitimacy being tied to men she could not control, Cleopatra had Ptolemy XIV assassinated by poison after their return to Egypt and married her very young son, Caesarian (Ptolemy XV), to permanently seal her legitimacy.

Pyrrhonism has to do with the doctrines established by Pyrrho, who founded a school of thought in ancient Greece which maintained radical skepticism as the attitude and posture toward offerings of answers to all questions.

Pythia was a priestess and prophetess dedicated to Apollo at Delphi.

Prometheus, in Greek mythology, was a Titan who stole some divine fire which belonged to Zeus and was kept on Olympus. Prometheus gave that fire to humanity. In punishment for this audacity, Zeus decreed first that humans would be forced to endure a love of and for pain embodied within the newly created Pandora.

Pandora possessed great beauty. However, she carried with her beauty's charm a box containing grief. Pandora’s beauty seduced humanity into accepting her presence as a gift from Zeus. Up to this time, humans experienced no evil upon Earth, they resided in a Utopian garden. However, when humanity accepted Pandora, she opened her box and unleashed all forms of evil and suffering upon everyone living or yet to be born.

Prometheus, though a Titan, was subservient to Zeus. Zeus was enraged that his sacred fire had been shared with humanity. He wanted to punish Prometheus in a manner guaranteed to deter any other immortal from aiding the mortal humans ever again by sharing with them godly gifts. So, Prometheus was chained to the Caucasus Mountains' highest point, had a vertical pillar driven through his body's center, and left there for an eagle to eat his liver by day, which would grow back at night in order to facilitate its being eaten again with each new day. The punishment was to last for 30 thousand years (the longest time period conceived by humans in the era when this legend originated, so essentially, for eternity). [Notice how the legend reveals a god who presented humanity with a great gift and was made to suffer for humanity upon a kind of crucifix of those times.]

Zeus, however, at a later time decided he wanted to bestow fame upon his son Heracles. So, Zeus awarded Heracles the office of releasing Prometheus. Heracles shot the eagle with a poisoned arrow and released Prometheus from the chains and pillar.

The Phoenix was, to ancient Egyptians, a legendary bird which lived for five or six centuries. The bird submitted to fire by an act of its own volition and arose from the ashes refreshed by new youth.

Dionysian rites were sensuous, frenzied and orgiastic, and devoted to Dionysus, the youngest of Zeus’ sons (Dionysus, it was said, was conceived during Zeus’ rape of his own daughter, Persephone). Dionysus later took Ariadne as his wife. Dionysus was also the Greek god of wine, salvation and redemption, and death and rebirth, and the Greek god who assumed the mantle of reign over the gods after Zeus’ reign ended.

Ancient Egyptians called their homeland by the name, Kem.

Augustus Caesar was the name taken by Octavian after defeating Marc Antony and enthroning himself as Rome’s Emperor.

The Egyptian lineage of Cleopatra's time belonged to descendants of Alexander, and elements from Greek culture encroached into Egyptian royalty. The traditional Egyptian gods held too strong of a hold on the people for them to ever worship gods and goddesses from the Greek culture.

1 comment:

Monique said...

That was a lovely read, thank you. The explanatory below the poem was very helpful.