Saturday, May 24, 2008

oratio, sed non Ciceronis...

A speech, but not of Cicero...

The following is the beginning of Barack Obama's “Speech on Race,” delivered in 2008, which perhaps like the great speeches of Cicero, can survive the test of time. And, of course,---Latine scriptus.

I welcome translational comments from the Latin readers of the blog. For the rest, try reading it out loud. It still sounds pretty spectacular.

Nos Populi, ut perfectiorem societatem statuamus.”

abhinc ducenti unetviginti annos, in illa basilica iam stanti in adversa via, his claris dictis illi conventi incepere suum democratiae inauditum experimentum. agricolae et docti, senatores et studiosissimi patriae, qui iter trans marem fecerant ut tyrannidem persecutionemque effugerent, tandem in eo conventu qui usque per verem in anno MDCCLXXXVII Philadelphiae constat suam veram declarationem libertatis effecere.

haec tabulae effectae demum insignatae sunt sed non ultime confectae sunt. has servitus, nostri populi nefas princeps, foedavit; cuius consultatio omnes provincias divisit dum patres decrevere ut liceat commercium servorum viginti quidem annos permanere et ullum ultimum consultum sequentibus saeculis relinquatur.

inerat enim resolutio de servitute consultationis iam in nostra Constitutione, quae civitatem sub lege aequam maxime habuit ac pollicita est suis civibus libertatem iustitatiamque et societatem quae possit et usque per temporem perficiendum sit.

And the English text (NYTimes):

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

I would eventually like to try my hand at the rest of this speech. Could there be a better way to spend a Sunday morning than with an exercise in Latin composition...?

Also, I apologize for the light blogging. I am making the great trek back across the country, and will return as quickly as I can.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

πάλιν εἰς πᾶσαν παιδείαν ἀνηκέτω.

Let it come back into every education.

Xenophon's Cyropaedia frames the life of the Persian king with a discussion of the education of Persian boys. According to Xenophon, the emphasis of the Persian education system was on justice. Boys spent long hours training in the art of judgement, participating in trials of sorts in which they brought one another up on various charges. But one particular charge leaps out, perhaps a testament to the erosion of certain values in today's culture.

Xenophon Cyropaedia

δικάζουσι δὲ καὶ ἐγκλήματος οὗ ἕνεκα ἄνθρωποι μισοῦσι μὲν ἀλλήλους
μάλιστα, δικάζονται δὲ ἥκιστα, ἀχαριστίας, καὶ ὃν ἂν γνῶσι
δυνάμενον μὲν χάριν ἀποδιδόναι, μὴ ἀποδιδόντα δέ, κολάζουσι
καὶ τοῦτον ἰσχυρῶς. οἴονται γὰρ τοὺς ἀχαρίστους
καὶ περὶ θεοὺς ἂν μάλιστα ἀμελῶς ἔχειν καὶ περὶ γονέας
καὶ πατρίδα καὶ φίλους. ἕπεσθαι δὲ δοκεῖ μάλιστα τῇ
ἀχαριστίᾳ ἡ ἀναισχυντία.

They bring [others] to trial on a charge, one for the sake of which men hate one another most of all, but are the least prosecuted, that of ingratitude; and he whom they know capable of returning a favor, and yet is not returning it, they punish this man strongly. For they believe that ungrateful men live their lives neglectful of the gods and parents and homeland and friends. It seemed, most of all, that shamefulness followed on the heels of ingratitude.

Gratitude is sorely neglected as a virtue these days. As a student, I can recognize the enormous debts I've piled up to certain individuals in my academic career, and yet, the chances to recognize them are all too few. Today, at least, I can discharge one such debt. Strangely enough, Brad DeLong was directly responsible for my introduction to blog reading, and in turn, to participation in this sphere. He was also kind enough to cite my fledgling blog yesterday, and greatly add to the trickle of readers coming this way. So do me (and yourself) a favor, and check out his latest amusing not-quite-ancient dialogue.

Thanks Professor DeLong.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

τὸ λεχικόν ἀναχρονίζεται.

The dictionary is anachronous.

H.G. Liddell and R. Scott's Greek-English Lexicon (more fondly “The Big Liddell”) was first published in 1843, and the ninth and most recent edition in 1940. As such, this necessary tool for translators contains more than a few words with definitions that feel...more than a touch out of date. These have set many a novice student translator stumbling and mumbling through a “yea, verily” or three. But while interjections and transitory particles may be the most conspicuous culprits, there are other words which lie beneath the surface, awaiting the unwary.

I wrote a short piece on one such word a year or so back. Entitled a “Rarely Udder-ed Word,” it takes a look at a particularly rare word in the ancient Greek corpus. I would like to initiate what I hope to become an ongoing theme here at DeGrypis with my take on this word, revamped a bit for clarity and brevity.

εθηλος, εθηλον- adj. with distended udder

This word is rare in the Greek corpus. In fact, in all its forms it appears only four times in all Greek texts according to LSJ and the Thesaurus Linguae Gracae. However, because of its slightly strange definition, when I first came across it in Euripides’ Bacchae in line 737, I was mystified, at a loss for a good way to render the word in English. The presence of ε at the forefront indicates it as a positive quality. Research on distended udders reveals that a distended udder is both a sign of the udder being full of milk and the approach of birthing. However, the top Google returns for “distended udder” are almost uniformly negative (almost uniformly-one result is a cheerful classicist directly rendering Horace's Odes). In these unfortunate cases, it is a painful symptom of mastitis, which stems from negligence in a farmer’s milking and thus of the brutality common in the beef and dairy industries. The overhwelmingly negative modern connotations alone suggest that it the implications of word to Mr. Liddell and Mr. Scott must be reconciled with those of the modern reader. But further issues arise.

It can be found in the Greek corpus as follows:

1) Euripides’ Bacchae line 737
καὶ τὴν μὲν ἂν προσεῖδες εὔθηλον πόριν

2) Euripides’ Ipigenia Aulidensis line 579
εὔθηλοι δὲ τρέφοντο βόες

3) Anthologia Graeca Book 9 epigram 224 line 1
Αἶγά με τὴν εὔθηλον, ὅσων ἐκένωσεν ἀμολγεὺς

4) Lycophron Alexandra line 1328
Μύστῃ Τροπαίας μαστὸν εὔθηλον θεᾶς

All four appearances are in poetry, three of these in tragedy. In translation, “with distended udder” seems terribly awkward in translating poetry (especially in the final example, in which it describes the breast of a goddess, no less!), which leads me to search for a more colloquial or at least, verse friendly, translation. In pursuit of this end, I look to the origins of this word.

LSJ places the adjective under the verb εθηλομαι- “to be well-suckled, to be fatted up”. The participial form of this verb appears earlier in tragedy:

5) Aeschylus Fragmenta Tetralogy 44.A.616a line 2
‘ἐγὼ δὲ χοῖρον καὶ μάλ' εὐθηλούμενον
τόνδ' ἐν νοτοῦντι κριβάνωι θήσω.

The participle refers to a young pig here, and well-suckled seems to fit in this description. “Well-suckled” implies having spent a great deal of time at the mother’s teat until it has become “fatted up,” and thus the secondary meaning of the verb. However, while these may present more aurally pleasant options in translating εὔθηλος, referring either to cows or goats, it still fails to provide an adequate translation in the final context, that of the breast of a goddess, or in the description of the mother animal, as opposed to her young. Nevertheless, the verb does yield some clues. The next step is to break down the word further:

ε- well adv. + θλη, - n. teat, nipple

The most basic convergence of the meanings of these two words yields something along the lines of “well-nippled” or “nicely-nippled.” Such a translation is quite effective. A “nicely-nippled” cow or goat has fine udders, full of delicious milk and an indicator of joyous birth impending, and from the verb, a plump youngling is "well-suckled." These definitions also avoid all the negative animal cruelty connotations of “distended udders” which seems to arise in modern discourse. Furthermore, now there is a far more fitting way to describe the “nicely-nippled” divine breast of a goddess in Lycophron’s Alexandra, for should a poet dare to describe a heavenly teat (even of ox-eyed Hera---the adjective is surely a pun, but the Liddell translation would still not do) as “well-uddered,” surely he would bring down the wrath of gods, or at least literary critics, upon himself.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Σωκράτης περι πολιτικῶν νέων

Socrates on recent politics.

caveat lector---for the politically inclined only.

A hypothetical dialogue via Berkeley economics professor Brad DeLong:

A conversation in Brewed Awakening this morning:

Thrasymakhos: Why are you chewing your tie?

Glaukon: I made the mistake of reading Joe Klein this morning...

Sokrates: How can listening to what somebody has to say ever be a mistake?

Glaukon: You'll see. The structure of Klein's argument was roughly as follows: (1) Hillary Rodham Clinton has been demagoguing the gas tax holiday; (2) I know it's a bad and stupid idea; (3) but my small unevolved journalist lizard-brain was excited and enthusiastic; (4) but she lost; (5) so I will kick her when she is down; (6) and I feel somewhat guilty; (7) and I will be a more substance- and less spin-minded journalist in the future...

Sokrates: But this is a story of self-development--of someone acquiring knowledge through experience. Why should that make you chew your tie?

Thrasymakhos: No, Sokrates, you are wrong. This is a story of someone pretending to acquire knowledge through experience--it is a false repentance narrative, a la Elmer Gantry. But did you expect any better?

Glaukon: I was not finished. Then there is: (8) John McCain is an honorable man; (9) if Barack Obama "wants to maintain his reputation for honor, he'll have representatives from his campaign sit down with McCain's people to work out a sane, equitable campaign-financing mechanism for the general election — and a robust series of debates." The fact that the initial gas tax holiday demagoguer was John McCain is not mentioned--Joe Klein hides it from his readers. If he meant his pledge to do better, the fact that the gas tax holidy was McCain's idea first would have made it into the column...

Sokrates: Your logic is irrefutable, Glaukon.

Thrasymakhos: You are correct, Glaukon. If I were as ill-mannered as Duncan Black, I would award Joe Klein yet another "wanker of the day" prize.

Sokrates: I do wish you wouldn't chew on your tie, however. It sends the wrong message...

Thrasymakhos: This is Berkeley. Why are you even wearing a tie?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

hodie miror quid heri “heri” appellaretur.

Today I am wondering what “yesterday” was called yesterday.

Reading a bit of fake Ciceronean Latin---the product of the esteemed W.H.D Rouse---I stumbled across nudius tertius, a temporal expression which translates to “the day before yesterday.”

But how did it come to mean this?

Adam's Latin Grammar, 1833, p.124:

nudiustertius, of nunc dies tertius.

So literally, “now the third day.” The Romans, of course, count inclusively: today is 1, yesterday 2, and “the day before yesterday” 3.

nudius is also combined with other ordinal numbers. The expression seems to be most beloved by Plautus. He demonstrates its flexibility in the following passage:

T. Maccius Plautus Mostellaria 956:

PHAN.: Habitat profecto, nám heri et nudius tertius, quartus, quintus, sextus, usque postquam hinc peregre eius pater abiit, numquam hic triduom unum desitum est potarier.

Phaniscus: Certainly he dwells there, for through yesterday and the day before yesterday, and three days ago, and four, and five, and six, and all the time since his father went off abroad, at no point for a span of three days has this man ceased to be drunk.

Now that you have this expression tucked under your belt, you are well-equipped to tell your friends oppressively dull stories about your daily life (in Latin!).

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

“haudquaquam similis,” inquam.

“Not at all similar,” I say.

Philolog wonders:

Have you ever noticed how similar the words agnostic and antagonistic are?

Just a thought from me as I write an article about spirituality and somehow type antagonistic instead of the word agnostic. A Freudian Slip perhaps?

Agnostic comes from Not know, in Greek, of course.

Antagonistic comes from Latin? I'll look it up and let you know.

Let's not hold our breath waiting for the response. Rather, a very quick look allows us to begin by saying that the two are in no way etymologically connected. We must secondarily observe that this is a pretty poor etymological analysis of these two words.

Agnostic does indeed come from Greek. And while such words as the verb ἀγνοέω- “to fail to know, to be ignorant” have evolved, the more basic predecessor is the negative prefix α- + γνῶς, the aorist participle of γιγνῶσκω- “to know.”

Antagonistic can be traced to Latin anti- “against” + agere- “to lead, to drive.” But it goes back to Greek as well. Much as γνοω, the verb ἀνταγωνίζομαι- “to struggle against” developed. The root is found in ἀντί- “against” + ἄγω- “to lead, to drive.” Thus the Latin came directly and virtually unaltered from the Greek, and then, perhaps, we borrowed it from them.

I also stumbled upon this interesting bit, albeit strictly for my fellow serious nerds. At Living Epic, a classics professor explores connections between video games, gamer culture, and the world of classical antiquity. The hot topic of late has been Grand Theft Auto 4.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Redibo quam celerissime

I shall return as quickly as possible.

I am going home to New Jersey for a few days and, as Cicero once said:

Cicero de Oratore 2.24.10

cum huc veni, hoc ipsum nihil agere et plane cessare me delectat.

When I come here, the very act of doing nothing and being completely inactive pleases me.

Therefore, there will likely be a brief respite in blogging through the weekend.

Until then, valete.