There was one circumstance which led Ptolemy to imagine that the Jews
would, at that time particularly, be averse to granting any request of
such a nature coming from an Egyptian king, and that was, that during
certain wars which had taken place in previous reigns, a considerable
number of prisoners had been taken by the Egyptians, and had been
brought to Egypt as captives, where they had been sold to the
inhabitants, and were now scattered over the land as slaves. They were
employed as servile laborers in tilling the fields, or in turning
enormous wheels to pump up water from the Nile. The masters of these
hapless bondmen conceived, like other slave-holders, that they had a
right of property in their slaves. This was in some respects true, since
they had bought them of the government at the close of the war for a
consideration; and though they obviously derived from this circumstance
no valid proprietary right or claim as against the men personally, it
certainly would seem that it gave them a just claim against the
government of whom they bought, in case of subsequent manumission.

Ptolemy or his minister, for it can not now be known who was the real
actor in these transactions, determined on liberating these slaves and
sending them back to their native land, as a means of propitiating the
Jews and inclining them to listen favorably to the request which he was
about to prefer for a copy of their sacred writings. He, however, paid
to those who held the captives a very liberal sum for ransom. The
ancient historians, who never allow the interest of their narratives to
suffer for want of a proper amplification on their part of the scale on
which the deeds which they record were performed, say that the number of
slaves liberated on this occasion was a hundred and twenty thousand, and
the sum paid for them, as compensation to the owners, was six hundred
talents, equal to six hundred thousand dollars.[1]

[Footnote 1: It will be sufficiently accurate for the general
reader of history to consider the Greek talent, referred to in
such transactions as these, as equal in English money to two
hundred and fifty pounds, in American to a thousand dollars.
It is curious to observe that, large as the total was that was
paid for the liberation of these slaves, the amount paid for
each individual was, after all, only a sum equal to about five
dollars.]

And yet this was only a preliminary expense to pave the way for the
acquisition of a single series of books, to add to the variety of the
immense collection.

After the liberation and return of the captives, Ptolemy sent a splendid
embassage to Jerusalem, with very respectful letters to the high priest,
and with very magnificent presents. The embassadors were received with
the highest honors. The request of Ptolemy that he should be allowed to
take a copy of the sacred books for his library was very readily
granted. The priests caused copies to be made of all the sacred
writings. These copies were executed in the most magnificent style, and
were splendidly illuminated with letters of gold. The Jewish government
also, at Ptolemy's request, designated a company of Hebrew scholars, six
from each tribe--men learned in both the Greek and Hebrew languages--to
proceed to Alexandria, and there, at the Museum, to make a careful
translation of the Hebrew books into Greek. As there were twelve tribes,
and six translators chosen from each, there were seventy-two translators
in all. They made their translation, and it was called the _Septuagini_,
from the Latin _septuaginta duo_, which means seventy-two.

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