aleator classicus

Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 4.17.2-3

with one comment

Spartan envoys apologise in advance for not living up to the national stereotype of ‘laconic’ speech.

τοὺς δὲ λόγους μακροτέρους οὐ παρὰ τὸ εἰωθὸς μηκυνοῦμεν, ἀλλ’ ἐπιχώριον ὂν ἡμῖν οὗ μὲν βραχεῖς ἀρκῶσι μὴ πολλοῖς χρῆσθαι, πλέοσι δὲ ἐν ᾧ ἂν καιρὸς ᾖ διδάσκοντάς τι τῶν προύργου λόγοις τὸ δέον πράσσειν.

We shall prolong our words at some length, and this is not contrary to our custom; rather, it is way of our country not to use many words when few would suffice, but, whenever the occasion requires us, to use more words for something of consequence, to explain what needs doing. 

I hope my attempt at wrestling Thucydides’ Greek into English has been reasonably successful; Jowett was in two minds about the second half and even Grote misunderstood it…

Written by aleatorclassicus

July 17, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Thucydides

One Response

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  1. My own translation of this sentence is as follows:

    ‘We shall be speaking at some length, not in contravention of our usual practice, but because it is our country’s custom not to employ many words when few will suffice, but to use more when there is occasion to give instruction on some matter of importance in order to achieve by means of words what is required.’

    Clearly there are differing views as to the construction of the second half of the sentence, and I may yet change my mind on this point!

    Best wishes,


    John Winterton

    July 22, 2013 at 9:16 AM

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