The messenger from Philippus appeared in the afternoon. It was the young hipparch who had studied in Athens and accompanied the commandant of Pelusium to Tennis the year before. He came charged with the commission to convey the artist, in the carriage of the gray-haired comrade of Alexander, to the neighbouring city of Pithom, where Philippus, by the King’s command, was now residing.
On the way the hipparch told the sculptor that the Lady Thyone had recently done things unprecedented for a woman of her age.
She had been present at the founding of the city of Arsinoe, as well as at the laying of the corner stone of the temple which was to be consecrated to the new god Serapis in the neighbourhood. The day before she had welcomed her returning son before the entry of the fleet into the canal, and to-day had remained from the beginning to the end of his reception by the King, without being unduly wearied.
Her first thought, after the close of the ceremony, had concerned her convalescing young friend. New entertainments, in which the Queen commanded her to participate, awaited her in Pithom, but pleasure at the return of her famous son appeared to double her power of endurance.
Pithom was the sacred name of the temple precincts of the desert city of Thekut—[The biblical Suchot]—near Heroopolis, where the citizens lived and pursued their business.
The travellers reached the place very speedily. Garlands of flowers and hangings adorned the houses. The sacred precinct Pithom, above which towered the magnificently restored temple of the god Turn, was also still adorned with many superb ones, as well as lofty masts, banners, and triumphal arches.
Before they reached it the equipage passed the sumptuous tents which had been erected for the royal pair and their attendants. If Hermon had not known how long the monarch intended to remain here, their size and number would have surprised him.
A regular messenger and carrier-dove service had been established between Alexandria and Pithom for the period of Ptolemy’s relaxation; and the sovereign was accompanied not only by several of the chief councillors and secretaries, but artists and some of the Museum scientists with whom he was on specially intimate terms, who were to adorn the festival on the frontier with their presence, and cheer the invalid King, who needed entertainment. Singers and actors also belonged to the train.
As they passed the encampment of the troops who accompanied the sovereign, the hipparch could show Hermon a magnificent military spectacle.
Heroopolis was fortified, and belonged to the military colonies which Alexander the Great had established throughout all Egypt in order to win it over more quickly to Grecian customs. A Hellenic phalanx and Libyan mercenaries formed the garrison there, but at Pithom the King had gathered the flower of his troops around him, and this circumstance showed how little serious consideration the cautious ruler, who usually carefully regarded every detail, gave to the war with Cyrene, in which he took no personal part. The four thousand Gauls whom he had sent across the frontier as auxiliary troops promised to become perilous to the foe, who was also threatened in the rear by one of the most powerful Libyan tribes.