Three in number were the Graces,
those beautiful Goddesses of blooming flowers and soft gowns
handmaidens of the Paphian Queen who adorned her at her birth
when she rose lovely-shaped from the waters of the primeval ocean
and stepped onto dry land,
already wielding power over the hearts of men and Gods alike.
But now they are four, since the radiant Arsinoë has come to join their ranks.
Mortal-born was she, with good blood of the Lagides in her veins.
When she came forth from her mother’s lucky womb,
no Gods stood in attendance to ease the pangs of labor
or wash the babe clean,
but none were needed for Arsinoë’s nature was so pure,
her temperament so sweet,
that the Queen was delivered of her in ease
and wept only at the sight of her beauty.
The charm of the Golden One was about her from the first,
and her nurses counted themselves uniquely blessed
to be charged with her care.
Is it any wonder then that her brother fell
under her spell even in their youth,
and followed her about like a love-sick puppy
wherever she went?
Her father, too, was wrapped around her dainty finger,
and never could say no to what she wished.
Therefore he gave his consent to let the siblings wed,
though this had never before been the custom of their people.
But they lived in Egypt now, not mountainous Makedon,
and it was common practice for the Kings of that land
to share the holy bed with their sisters.
Nor did Hera refrain to bless this happy union
– and how could she when it was her brother Zeus and no other
that she saw fit to take to her bosom in loving embrace?
Arsinoë made her Ptolemy happier than any man
who had ever walked the earth before him,
being modest and always pleasant-natured,
seeing to his every want and bearing him
many fine sons and daughters to carry on his name.
She was wise as well,
and gave him advise in running the country,
sage counsel worthy of any philosopher.
Her chief virtue, however, was that she showed
a special concern for the Gods of her country,
going out of her way to keep their solemn festivals
and build fine houses for them.
In fact, she excelled all others in her pious deeds,
like an athlete competing in the arena of religion,
and she showed especial care for the worship of love’s Goddess.
Never did a day pass by without a prayer to Aphrodite on her lips,
and always she brought costly offerings to the altar,
pleasing to the Kytherean’s heart.
More than Queen, Mother or Wife
– titles dear to Arsinoë –
did she pride herself on being the Goddess’ slave,
serving her in every way possible
and with all that she had at her disposal.
And so it was that when Arsinoë’s allotted number of days
had reached their end,
Aphrodite took it into her mind to reward this exceptional votary
for a lifetime of faithful service.
She sent the Sons of Zeus,
horse-taming Kastor and Polydeukes, strong of arm,
down from the heights of snow-capped Olympos
to snatch Arsinoë up before she could taste the bitter wine of death.
She then bathed her in the waters of the sacred river
that flows through the heavens,
removing the wrinkles that marred her face
so that once more she appeared a maiden
flush with the ripeness of youth.
And she dressed her in the gowns of her attendants,
which gleam like the fire-pulsing stars,
and she crowned Arsinoë with a crown
like that which Dionysian Ariadne wears,
making her one of the Gods in heaven
with a share of Aphrodite’s own power,
to revel in her company for all time.
And men on earth worshiped her as a Goddess too,
building a resplendent temple for her at Zephyrion
where she could watch the waves crash against the rocks
and guide sailors away from all danger.
Nor did Alexandrian wives neglect her cult,
supplicating Arsinoë often to bless their marriage
so that it might have even a small part of the happiness
that she and her Ptolemy once enjoyed.
So hear my prayer, O Arsinoë-Aphrodite,
and smile upon me for this heartfelt hymn,
composed for you out of the best that I have to offer,
like the gifts you once made for the Heavenly Queen.
And grant that my soul will not be tossed about
on the mad sea of love,
but that I always find my way safely
into the arms of the one I hold dear,
each of us experiencing unmeasured joy
in the other’s company!
Hymn to Arsinoë-Aphrodite Zephyritis
Three in number were the Graces,