Egyptians: Lykeas of Naukratis on Egyptian kings and meals (first century CE or earlier)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Egyptians: Lykeas of Naukratis on Egyptian kings and meals (first century CE or earlier),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified April 26, 2024,

Ancient authors: Lykeas of Naukratis (first century CE or earlier), Egyptian Matters = FGrHist 613 F2, 4, as cited by Athenaios (early third century CE), Sophists at Dinner 14.616de and 4.150b-c (link to FGrHist).

Comments: Below are two of the mere five citations that exist of Lykeas’ Egyptian Matters, so we know very little about him, besides that he wrote after the time of Artaxerxes III (after 338 BCE) and before the mid-first century CE, when Pliny the Elder also referred to Lykeas’ work (Natural History 1.36).

In both cases Lykeas is focussed on the relationship between an Egyptian king and another ruler.  In the second passage (attributed to Lynkeus, but likely meant to be Lykeas), the presumption is that Egyptian meals are superior to Persian ones in terms of luxury. Athenaios, of course, is against luxury and cites Lykeas to support that tendency. It may be that Lykeas thought otherwise and is suggesting Egyptian superiority on this matter.


(F2) Tachos the king of Egypt [reigning ca. 365–360 BCE] ridiculed Agesilaos king of Lakedaimon when he came to him as an ally (because Agesilaos was a very short man), and Tachos lost his kingdom as a result since Agesilaos abandoned his alliance. And the expression of Tachos was as follows: “The mountain was in labour; Zeus / was greatly frightened: Look! A mouse was born.” After Agesilaos heard this and was indignant at it, he said: “I will one day prove to be a lion to you.” So afterwards, when the Egyptians revolted (as Theopompos relates, and Lykeas of Naukratis confirms the statement in his Egyptian Matters), Agesilaos refused to cooperate with Tachos. In consequence, Tachos lost his kingdom, and fled to the Persians.

(F 4) In Egyptian Matters, Lynkeus [likely Lykeas] considers the banquets of the Egyptians more highly than the Persian, and says: “The Egyptians engaged in a military campaign against Ochos [Artaxerxes III, reigning ca. 340–338 BCE], king of Persia, but were defeated. Their king was taken prisoner, but Ochos treated him kindly and even summoned him to dinner. But though the arrangements for the dinner were sumptuous, the Egyptian laughed at them, feeling that the Persian lived very frugally. The Egyptian king said: ‘If you would like to know, oh king, how a rich king should eat, allow the cooks who were once mine to prepare for you an Egyptian dinner.’

The order was given, and when the dinner had been prepared, Ochos was delighted with it, but said, ‘May the god, oh Egyptian, bring you, evil man that you are, to an evil end, because you turned your back on amazing dinners like these and developed a desire for cheaper food.'” What Egyptian dinners were like Protagorides shows in the first book of his Games at Daphne,​ when he says: “A third kind of dinner is the Egyptian, where no tables are placed beside the guests, but platters are carried around among them.”


Source of translations: B. Gulick, Athenaeus: The Deipnosophists, 7 volumes, LCL (Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1927-41), public domain (passed away in 1962 and copyright expired), adapted by Harland.

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