May 15, 2015
The Rosetta Stone, created in 196 BC during the Ptolemaic era under the reign of King Ptolemy V, is an archaeological gem for history buffs, documenting a decree in three ancient scripts: demotic, hieroglyphics, and ancient Greek. It is credited as the key to understanding the language of the ancient empire. But it was also key to their economics: the Stone was a virtual tax agreement granting mega exemptions to priests, military and other elites, and in the process, shifting the tax burden to the poor and the slaves. Operationalising poverty required governance: it would fall to the priests and other philanthropists to provide carefully managed 'relief' when things became unbearable. The purpose, of course, was maintaining the system rather than changing it.