A numismatic dream from ancient Egypt

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Nathan B., May 31, 2020.

  1. Nathan B.

    Nathan B. Active Member

    Did you ever wonder what those ancient Ptolemies, the millionaire rulers of Ancient Egypt, dreamed about? I got this little jewel from John Melville-Jones' book Testimonia Numaria (vol. 1), which I managed to borrow a while ago. It's a recorded dream of Ptolemy VI Philometer. (Note for non-ancient-coin readers: chalkoi were the lowest denomination bronze coins.)

    The dream of
    Ptolemaeus on the
    15th of Pachon.
    There stood by
    me two men,
    saying to me,
    take the chalkoi
    of the blood.’ They
    count out to me 100 chalkoi,
    and to my twin sister
    Tages (they give) a purse
    full of chalkoi, to the value of
    a stater. They say to her,
    ‘Behold, the chalkoi
    of the blood.’ I said to them,
    ‘She has more chalkoi than I.’

    When I got to that last line, I laughed my head off! ;-D
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  3. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    I laughed big time, too. Kinda just says that we are all human beings, no matter what. Period. :)
    Nathan B. likes this.
  4. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Interesting little historical vignette, thanks for sharing. Does it go on to say how Ptolemy or his advisors interpreted this dream?
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  5. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Volume 1 is the texts and their translations. You need volume 2 as well to get the commentary. Both are only about Latin or Greek texts that refer to Greek coinage (not Roman coinage). It took me a while to find the original quote, #505 on page 343 (the index is not thorough). From volume II:

    "The text will be of interest to interpreters of dreams and to students of sibling relationships. The stater may have been a gold stater, or less probably, a silver tetradrachm (but in that case, this would be the only example of the use of this word to describe a silver coin in Egypt). The value of a gold stater would be very much greater than the value of 100 chalkoi. It is possible that we have evidence here for the practice, which was certainly followed in later times, of making up a purse or follis with a standard number of coins in it."

    Many comments in volume II are more interesting than this one.
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  6. Nathan B.

    Nathan B. Active Member

    No. The way the Testimonia Numaria works, the texts are in volume 1, and the commentaries on the texts are in volume 2. I have never seen volume 2, but I would like to.

    I think we are limited in terms of what we can infer. I would start with the fact that the king had his dream recorded, and preserved. That indicates that he thought it was important. Given the way the way so many monarchist families tend to murder siblings and parents and even children for the throne, I would guess that he felt threatened by the fact that his sister got so much more value than he did.

    The Ptolemaic dynasty, as you probably know, was extremely inbred. In fact, the wife of Ptolemy VI was also one of his sisters, Cleopatra II. (I don't know if she was the same as "Tages" or not. "Cleopatra" and "Ptolemy" were throne names, I believe.) After Ptolemy VI died, then she married their mutual brother, Ptolemy VIII. Then Ptolemy VIII married her daughter from Ptolemy VI, whom we know as Cleopatra III, so he was married to his sister, and he was also married to his niece. This eventually caused a civil war, which was followed by a public reconciliation.

    Ptolemy VIII and Cleopatra III had a son, Ptolemy IX. Imagine being him and trying to figure out how everybody was related to each other!
  7. Nathan B.

    Nathan B. Active Member

    Yes, that comment more or less states the obvious. I have heard about the follises elsewhere, but I hadn't really thought of them in connection to this dream, though. That said, I'm not sure it really adds anything.

    I do very much believe you that much of the commentary in Vol. 2 is highly interesting. I've never seen it, but I hope to read through it one day.
  8. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    joined issue of Ptolemy VI and Ptolemy VIII :

    Ptolemy VI-VIII diobol (2).jpg
  9. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    I've always found it particularly fascinating how history has captured the content of a particular king's dream on a specific date, whereas we know almost nothing with certainty about Roman emperors like Quintillus and Marius. And further, how after the collapse of Rome, places like Britain lapsed from history back into the age of myth (read: King Arthur, Beowulf).
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  10. Nathan B.

    Nathan B. Active Member

    Yes, they reigned together--with Cleopatra II, actually, before the first civil war fought by that part of the family. Interesting coin.
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