Orophernes


He, who on the four-drachma piece
seems to have a smile on his face,
on his beautiful, refined face,
he is Orophernes, son of Ariarthes.

A child, they chased him out of Cappadocia,
from the great ancestral palace,
and sent him away to grow up
in Ionia, to be forgotten among foreigners.

Ah, the exquisite nights of Ionia
when fearlessly, and completely as a Greek,
he came to know pleasure utterly.
In his heart, an Asiatic still:
but in his manners and in his speech a Greek,
bedecked with turquoise, yet Greek attired,
his body scented with perfume of jasmine;
and of Ionia’s beautiful young men
the most beautiful was he, the most ideal.

Later on, when the Syrians came
to Cappadocia, and had made him king,
he threw himself completely into his reign,
that he might enjoy some novel pleasure each new day,
that he might horde the gold and silver, avaricious,
that over all of this he might exult, and gloat
to see the heaped-up riches glittering.
As for cares of state, administration–
he didn’t know what was going on around him.

The Cappadocians quickly threw him out.
And so to Syria he fled, to the palace of
Demetrius, to entertain himself and loll about.

Still, one day some unaccustomed thoughts
broke in on his total idleness:
he remembered that through his mother, Antiochis,
and through that ancient lady, Stratonice,
he too descended from the Syrian crown,
he too was very nearly a Seleucid.
For a while he emerged from his lechery and drink,
and ineptly, in a kind of daze,
cast around for something he might plot,
something he might do, something to plan,
and failed miserably and came to nothing.

His death must have been recorded somewhere and then lost.
Or maybe history passed it by,
and very rightly didn’t deign
to notice such a trivial thing.

He, who on the four-drachma piece
left the charm of his lovely youth,
a glimmer of his poetic beauty,
a sensitive memento of an Ionian boy,
he is Orophernes, son of Ariarthes.

–trans. Daniel Mendelsohn

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