What Does the Rosetta Stone Say?

The Rosetta Stone contains a decree delivered in the city of Memphis in 196 A.D., which outlines various achievements of Ptolemy V. It declares the divinity of the cult of the new King, as well as his dominion over all of Egypt.

The Rosetta Stone contains the names of priests who were present at the declaration ceremony in Memphis, and whose names corroborate the date of the tablet's carving. In addition to granting blessings upon these priests, the stone's text declares that the new Ptolemaic king intended to levy a number of new taxes, as well as a number of tax exemptions, for the old and new ruling classes.

Such decrees were common during the reign of the Ptolemaic Kings. They also were used as means to convey a number of the King's good deeds done on behalf of the people, a trend found on the Rosetta tablet. The decree on the Rosetta Stone, and others like it, provides insight into the allegiances, structure and organization of the priesthood and ruling classes in Egyptian society.

The inscription on the stone is in three languages, presumably so that the text was accessible to various members of the Egyptian society. The Hieroglyphics were common to the Egyptian priests, the Greek was common to the administrative classes, while the Coptic script was the most commonly spoken native tongue.