Epitaph of Arata


Trismegistos ID: 738898

Source Description


Limestone stele surmounted by a pediment with acroteria (out of which two are now lost) and projecting moulding below it; a hole on the front face does not affect the inscription (0.30; 0.69;0.075).


Inscribed on front face on 2 lines with axial layout, then 2 groups of 4 lines aligned at left and separated by a vacat (width 0.30).


Lines 1-2: 0.023; l. 3 on: 0.008-0.015; no serifs, smaller round letters, slanting sigma.

Place of Origin



Late fourth or early third century B.C. (lettering)


Found before 1935 at Ptolemais , at the time port of Barka: plausibly from the West Necropolis .

Present Location

Not seen by GVCyr team; studied from photograph.

Text constituted from

Transcription from editor.


Oliverio, 1933-1936 , pp. 257-258 fig. 102-102a and De Sanctis, 1937 , whence SEG , 9.362; Peek, 1955 , n. 1912; Peek, 1960 , n. 444 and p. 321; Hansen, 1983-1989 , n. 680. Cf. Bazama-Reynolds, 1978-1979 , p. 260, whence SEG , 37.1714.


Ἀράτα ⋮ Καλλικράτε[υς] Ἑσπεριτίς.

| [Π]ορθμίδος εὐσέλμου μεδέων γέρον, ὂς διὰ πάν[τα] | νυκτὸς ὑπὸ σκιερᾶς πείρατα πλεῖς ποταμοῦ,

| (5) ἆρά τινα Ἀράτας ἄλλαν ἀρετὰν ἴδες, εἴ γε | τάνδ’ ὑπὸ λυγαίαν ἄγαγες ἀϊόνα; (vac. 12 lines)

5 | [Ο]ὐκέτι τὰν ἁβρόπαιδα πάτραν σὰν Ἑσπερ[ίδ’ ὄψ]ηι, | [οὐ]δὲ τὸν ἕστεργες σὸν πόσιν, οὐδὲ τέκνωι

| στρώσεις νυμφιδίαν εὐνὰν τεῷ. Ἦ μάλα δαίμων, | (10) [Ἀ]ράτα, κρυερὰν σοί τιν’ ἔδειξεν ἀράν.


3 Peek, 1955  ὂς : Oliverio, 1933-1936  ἇ̣ς̣ || Oliverio, 1933-1936 , Peek, 1955  πάν[τα] : De Sanctis, 1937 , SEG 9  πάν[τᾳ]

6 De Sanctis, 1937 , SEG 9 , Peek, 1955  ἄγαγες : Oliverio, 1933-1936  ἄγαγ'ἐς

8 τὸν ἕστεργες : Oliverio, 1933-1936 , SEG 9  τὸν Ἑσπερίδ̣ο̣ς̣ : Peek, 1955  τὸν ἔστερίσ̣α̣ς

French translation

Arata fille de Kallikratès, d'Euhespérides.

Vieillard, maître de la barque aux bons bordages, qui dans ta navigation

franchis les limites du fleuve sous la nuit ombreuse,

as-tu jamais vu une vertu surpassant celle d'Arata, s'il est vrai que

tu l'as débarquée sur la rive sinistre?

Jamais plus tu ne verras ta patrie aux enfants délicats, l'Hespéride,

ni l'époux que tu chérissais, jamais pour ton enfant

tu ne prépareras la couche nuptiale. Ah vraiment, la divinité,

Arata, a fixé pour toi une glaçante malédiction!

English translation

Arata daughter of Kallicrates, from Euesperides.

Old man, master of the well-planked boat, who sails

through the limits of the river under the shady night,

did you ever see a virtue higher than that of Arata, if you did

bring her to the gloomy shore?

Never will you see again your country with delicate children, Hesperis,

nor will you see your beloved husband, nor will you for your child

prepare a bridal couch. Truly, a deity,

Arata, decided for you an icy malediction!

Italian translation

Arata figlia di Kallikrates, di Euesperides.

E tu vecchio, signore della barca dal robusto fasciame, che nella notte fosca

da una sponda all'altra percorri il fiume,

hai mai visto una virtù superiore a quella di Arata, se davvero

l'hai condotta alla riva oscura?

Né più mai la tua patria vedrai dai delicati fanciulli, l'Hesperis,

né il tuo sposo che amavi, né a tua figlia

preparerai il letto nuziale. Ah davvero, la divinità,

Arata, ti ha destinato una maledizione di ghiaccio!


Oliverio only mentioned Ptolemais as the provenance of the stele. Bazama-Reynolds attributed the stele to the small necropolis developed along the road issuing from the Northern gate of the city-wall at West, where they found a number of similar steles. Ptolemais was at the time not yet a city of that name, but only a harbour for Barka. The stele should be the most ancient inscription from this site.

This well made epigram develops the theme of malediction by playing on the name of the deceased woman 'Arata', which etymologically means 'accursed', directly through the use of ἀρά and indirectly through two puns based on the assonance with the interrogative particle ἇρα and with ἀρετά 'virtue'.

This woman was from Euesperides and died at Ptolemais, where she was buried.

Metrical analysis: after a title (ll. 1-2), eight text-lines, which are so many verse-lines, forming four elegiac couplets. The space on the stone marks the limit between the two pairs of couplets, which is also the limit between two enunciation modes, the first part addressing Charon the ferryman, the second addressing the deceased Arata.

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