Of Demetrius Soter (162-150 BC)

All of his hopes had come to naught!

He had imagined deeds of great renown,
ridding his homeland of the humiliation
that ranked since the battle of Magnesia.
He imagined Syriaagain a formidable power,
with her armies and her fleets,
with impregnable castles, and great wealth.

In Rome he suffered, growing bitter
at the conversation of friends, the youth
of the great houses of that city,
who showed such tact and courtesy to him,
the son of the great King Seleucus
Philopator – bitter at what he thought was their secret
contempt for the Hellenizing dynasties,
believing them absolete, unfit of any real undertaking,
totally incapable of governing their own people.
He’s sit apart, fume alone and swear
the way they saw things would not long stand;
just look at his determination;
he will strive, he will act and rise up.

If only he could make his way to the East,
be free of Italy finally –
then all of the dynamism
in his soul, all of that initiative,
he would transmit to his people.

Ah, if only he might find himself in Syria!
He was so young when he’d fled his homeland
that he barely remembered her.
But in his mind he dwelt on her always,
as if it were some holy icon approached only in pilgrimage,
the dream of a beautiful landscape, a vision
of Greek cities and Greek harbors.

And now?
Despair and helpless longing.
They were right, those youth in Rome.
The dynasties that rose from the Macedonian conquests were unsustainable.

No matter: he did his best;
he fought as long as he could.
But in his dark chagrin
there is one thing alone that he still contemplates
with pride: that even in this, his failure,
he showed the same indomitable bravery to the world.

As for the rest – they were mere dreams and futile diversions.
And Syria – it almost doesn’t seem like his homeland any more;
now it’s the land of Balas and Heracleides.