Philo, On Joseph 27
Philo is retelling the Biblical story of Joseph, whom he sees as the model of a true statesman. Here is part of the lamentation of Joseph’s father Jacob on hearing the false report of his son’s death and seeing the bloody clothes which ‘prove’ he has been eaten by wild animals.
τί γαρ μεῖζον ἢ οἰκτρότερον πένθος; ἡ μὲν ἐσθὴς τοῦ παιδὸς διακεκόμισταί μοι τῷ πατρί, τοῦ δὲ οὐ μέρος, οὐ μέλος, οὐ βραχὺ λείψανον· ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν ὅλος δι’ ὅλων δεδαπάνηται μηδὲ ταφῆς δυνηθεὶς μεταλαχεῖν, ἡ δ’ οὐδ’ ἂν εἰσπεμφθῆναί μοι δοκεῖ τὸ παράπαν, εἰ μὴ πρὸς ἀνίας ὑπόμνησιν καὶ ὦν ὑπέμεινε καίνωσιν, εἰς ἀλήστους καὶ συνεχεῖς ἐμοὶ συμφοράς.
For what grief is greater or more pitiable? My boy’s clothing has been brought to me, his father, but no part of him, no limb, no tiny remnant. Yet, while he has been thoroughly consumed and can have no portion of burial, nonetheless I think his clothing would not have been sent to me at all, unless to remind me of my sorrow and to repeat what he suffered – as misfortunes, unbearable and unceasing, for me.