I Don't Like Ancient Greek Translations
Reading Plato’s various Dialogues, I’ve come across a few very strange choices from the translators.
Firstly, a pig could be dedicated as a ‘sacrifice’ to a god. I’ve read that people would then eat the ‘sacrifice’, and initially thought this was a cop-out - if you eat the meal, then you’re not really sacrificing anything. It might make sense when someone sacrificed a pig by giving it to a temple, after which those at the temple eat it, but if one ‘sacrifices’ at one’s own dinner table, this looks like clear cheating. I wonder why translators didn’t simply use the word ‘dedication’.
I dedicate this handsome pig to Zeus. Tuck in everyone!
Makes perfect sense, and requires no explanation about different standards of sacrifice.
Then I read about Socrates asking about ‘if God could tell a lie’. This reeks of monotheism, but Socrates and those around him were not monotheistic. And ancient Greeks did not use capital letters to show names, and if I remember my ancient Greek properly, I don’t think they had an indefinite article. So while they could say ’the god’, they would not say ‘a god’, but just ‘god’.
So it sounds like the original passage would have read ‘if a god could tell a lie’. Why rephrase this as if Socrates were speaking about capital-G-god?
Finally, every English translation I’ve ever read had archaic English - not quite King-James-Bible English, but notably old, which makes the books feel bizarre. It feels like the translators had said ’this is an old book, so I should translate into old English’, which makes no sense - when Plato penned Euthyphro, he wrote it in language which seemed natural and modern to his readers. Translating into modern English seems like an obviously better translation.
Perhaps translating the Euthyphro into pure Glaswegian would represent the original feel better.
Imagine the scene: Seamus (Socrates) sits outside the Sheriff’s Court, when Ethan (Euthyphro) walks up to him.
“Wot’re you in for?”, asked Seamus.
“Ah’m no gettin’ prosecuted, ah’m here proescutin’ ma da’”, replied Ethan. “He’s actually murdered ma mate”
“Best be sure of yerself before you go prosecutin’ yer da’”
“Listen, Seamus. Ah know what’s right an rang, okay? He’s murdered someone”
“Well apparently ah don’t know wha’s right an rang, coz they got me on some weird charges about givin’ young people ideas. So mibbe you could explain right and rang fer me…”