Friday, September 30, 2005

Ithaka post update

Here's the full citation for the article on the excavations of the mask and the tripods & cauldrons at Ithaka:

Benton, Sylvia. BSA (The Annual of the British School at Athens) 35 (1934-1935): 45-73.

(It was actually published in 1938 by Macmillan & Co., and 1934-1935 marks the session, but it should be catalogued under the latter.)

The description of the mask is on page 54, with a plate on 55 showing a black and white photograph and a line drawing.

The top of the mask reads horizontally

while the lower portion, of which the surface is completely gone, yields only Η and Ν at the ends of two vertical lines.

Based on this the following was proposed:

εὐχὴν Ὀδυσσεῖ, [ὁ δεῖνα ἀνέθ]η[κε]ν.

i.e., 'Votive offering to Odysseus, so and so dedicated it.'

It seems to me a poor translation. If the reconstruction is at all correct it should say, '(so-and-so) set (this object) up (as) a vow to Odysseus.'

Anyone with anything to contribute? An updated bibliography? Thoughts on the controversy?


Coke said...

Are you identifying the difficulty we as English speakers have with translating Greek and Latin (word order)? I think that's what you mean by correcting the translation given. And if so, I agree with you whole-heartedly. We need to stop being lazy with these languages. Let's agree (all of us, everywhere) to translate our subjects (from Greek or Latin) into English as the first words of our English sentences. Let's agree to make our verbs come second and let's be sure that everything else comes after. It makes me NAUSEOUS sometimes, seeing this kind of base translation. I suppose it is a sign of these declining times.

dennis said...

That's part of it.

The translation tries to be faithful to the 'text' by retaining the word order, but wholly ignores the syntax.

It's a small thing to keep in mind that Latin syntax is largely morphological (i.e., in the endings), while English syntax is largely positional (i.e., in the order of words).

But the translation gives the impression that the two parts are syntactically independent, as though εὐχὴν Ὀδυσσεῖ were an independent statement (which it could only be with εὐχή in the nominative). The use of 'it' obscures the fact that εὐχήν must be construed as the object of the verb.

If the reader of this article has any Greek, then the translation is superfluous. If the reader hasn't any, then the translation is terribly misleading.